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Pre-trail Thoughts

Many thoughts have been going through my head in the past few months as I’ve mentally prepared myself for leaving for the PCT. I often find myself thinking of what I am looking forward to, and also what I will miss. There were events that were created or thought up after I chose to commit to hiking the trail, so even though this is the opportune time for me, missing incredible get togethers or events was inevitable. I know that I will need to remember to just have as much fun as I can while I can, and soak in this experience. Oh, and of course: never quit on a bad day.

I will miss: my little family (my partner and my dog) and cuddles with them, my friends, most of summer in Washington, sporadic adventures with my friends, a couple of weddings, fresh local fruit grown by neighbors and friends, fresh fruit and veg in general, season 8 of Game of Thrones, chilling and eating popcorn while watching shows at the end of the day, comfy pajamas, centralized heating, and many of the things that bring convenience and comfort to my day to day life.

What I’m looking forward to: new friends, watching the landscape change every day, being less sedentary (more like not sedentary at all), fresh air, feeling a sense of accomplishment each day for making it just a little further, time to reflect with minimal distractions, getting more clear on what I’d like to do with my life after the trail (harvesting ideas), using food truly as fuel, eating a lot, not having to meal prep, getting to see the details of these states that I’ve called home, having this journey be a part of my life story, trail magic and trail angels, the beauty, the hard days that I will overcome and become stronger from, focusing only on one day at a time (and sometimes the next day)

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PCT 2019 Packing List

For my 2019 thru-hike of the PCT, my aim is to go as light as possible, with a base weight of under 10 lbs (ultralight). My base weight (pre-hike) is coming in at around 8.8 lbs. Base weight basically means everything in your pack that doesn’t fluctuate weight. So, this includes your big 3 (shelter, pack, sleep system), electronics, toiletries, and clothes that you aren’t currently wearing. I wanted to stay within a budget of $500-1000, especially if I decide to switch an item while out on trail. So, for some items, I decided to get the best option I could for a lower price, but still good quality. My most expensive items were my big 3. What I normally hear is the average thru-hiker can expect to spend between $2,000-$4,000 on gear, depending on what you already own (here’s one resource: https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/how-much-does-it-cost-to-hike-the-pacific-crest-trail). I am pleased that my expenses came in at around $850. Some things I received as Christmas presents (or by using gift cards) and some things I already owned. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to afford certain gear and I realize that everyone’s gear list will be different.

Here is my list:

Pack: Gossamer Gear Kumo 36

Shelter: Tarptent Protrail with trekking poles

Sleep system: Hammock Gear Econ Burrow 10 degree, with Wellax inflatable sleeping pad

Clothes: Darn tough socks, Injinji sock liners, ExOfficio underwear, Thinx, Avia sports bra, running shorts from Target, lightweight and quick drying pants from Target, Mountain Hardwear puffy, Frogg Toggs rain jacket, long sleeve polyester base layer, ExOfficio sun shirt, hat, sunglasses, buff, New Balance Minimus 10v4 trail runners with inserts

Small things: Sawyer Squeeze water filter, kid sized bamboo toothbrush with end of handle sawed off, baby wipes, 1.25 oz of face moisturizer, sunscreen stick, chapstick, hand sanitizer, trowel, anti-diarrhea pills, ibuprofen, multivitamins, nail clippers, safety pin, duct tape (wrapped on trekking pole), Rite in the Rain 3×4″ journal, permits

Electronics: Phone (Moto X4), Anker Powercore 10000 mAh, charging cords, earbuds

Snack tools: GSI Ultralight pot with grabber, compostable spoon, bandana, lighter, BRS ultralight stove

 

In the Sierra, I will be adding a bear can, microspikes, an ice axe, and possibly some leggings.

Break down of the weights: https://lighterpack.com/r/dux8i0

Featured image of me snowshoeing with my gear at Hurricane Ridge, taken by Michelle Kester.

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A New Chapter is on the Horizon

I will be hiking the PCT.

Let me expand on that in the order that I usually need to:

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California up to just past the Canadian border in Washington.

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California up to just past the Canadian border in Washington, starting April 14th.

I will be solo thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California to just past the Canadian border in Washington, starting April 14th. It is 2,650 miles long, which takes between 4 and 6 months to complete.

 

Something that I feel is important to mention is the amount of privilege I have that will allow me to hike the trail. I have enough financial support, I am able to take that much time off from a job, my body is capable of handling that much physical activity and challenge, and I had access to an education that made me aware of the trail in the first place. I am also able to budget for lightweight gear. I realize that the land I will be walking and sleeping on is stolen land. It will be an enormous privilege to be essentially homeless by choice for months, all while appreciating the nature around me. I am so very aware that this is an opportunity that not many people get to take advantage of and I often feel guilty about being able to go. But, I also know that this is a dream that I’ve had for several years and I don’t want to miss this opportunity. All I can really do is acknowledge the privilege I have and not take it for granted.

With that said, here are common questions I have gotten and my answers to them:

1. You’re going without your husband? 

or-

You’re going alone?!

Yes. I did say that “I” will be hiking the trail, not “we”. This is a trip for myself, a feat I have wanted to accomplish for several years now. It is not easy for many people to take 4-6 months off of work. I made a commitment at the end of my AmeriCorps VISTA year to make time on my calendar between April and September so that I had no other excuse but to hike this trail. Also, I get this question a lot from women, oftentimes followed by, “Wow, you’re so brave to go alone. I’m so afraid of hiking by myself.” I urge women to go on a day hike alone (which can include your dog). On my first solo hike, I realized just how silly the fears are, especially on trails that are further away from cities. The other people on trails are usually out there for the same reason as you- to enjoy the nature and to get some physical activity. The notion that some deranged man might leap out from behind a bush to attack you several miles out on a trail is really irrational. Media fear-mongers women into not going out alone. These are extremely rare cases. Statistics are on your side. You would be at a much higher risk of death or injury by driving your car down the street.

2. You’re bringing protection, right? (Some people have suggested a gun, a rape whistle, or bear spray)

I try to answer this very cautiously, but recently I’ve been a little snarky. First of all, have you met hikers? The hiking community is not a group to be afraid of, unless of course you bring up the controversial question of whether to wear boots or trail runners. The people to be most fearful of along the trail will be town or city folk. In the times that I’ll be visiting towns or cities, where I’m not a few miles out in the wilderness, I’ll most likely be with other hikers. To quell fears, I am bringing a little neck knife, which is pretty fool-proof (unlike a gun), and I would have less time spent fumbling around for my weapon, just in case I do get in a dangerous situation. Also, a neck knife can function as a knife for avocados, resupply boxes, and all sorts of survival situations. Bear spray, yes, can be used on people too, but is banned in many areas. It is also very heavy. I’m also pretty sure that I would just anger the bear that might be trying to attack me.

3. Are you taking your dog?

No, because she did not sign up for a hike of this magnitude. I am sure she would enjoy a lot of it, but it is my journey- not hers. To expand on that- I would have more responsibility than just keeping myself alive, which I think would take away from my overall experience of the trail. It would also be almost twice as much food to send in resupply boxes. There are also many national parks that do not allow dogs. I would also not want to risk her running off after wildlife that could potentially harm her.

 

If you are interested in hearing more about my preparation/training for the PCT or want to virtually experience the journey with me, this site will serve as the place where I write about it!

Countdown to leaving for Campo, CA: 10 weeks, 1 day

Perseverance

 

In high school, I won the “Perseverance Award” in cross country. Later, I won the “Sisyphus Award” in one of my college art classes, honoring my ability to push the boulder up the mountain, even after it falls down every time. Now, please don’t take this as bragging, because at the time, all I could see in those awards was some sort of joke. On one hand, I could look at these awards as typical millennial awards, where I received recognition just for trying. On the other hand, I could look at them as a reflection of my core character, where I have consistently pushed myself or stayed hopeful, despite obstacles.

Perseverance is an act of courage, confidence in oneself that everything will have been worth it in the end. Getting out of bed every day in itself is an act of courage, as we face yet another day and try our best to make the most out of lives, hoping that we can push ourselves enough that we progress as human beings.

Every winter, we are faced with challenges: formidable weather, coming inside and having to face our own thoughts, maintaining exercise habits, Seasonal Affective Disorder, etc. Winter is all about perseverance: testing our limits and hoping to make it through fairly unscathed. I think that we can often become emotionally stronger due to winter-time hardships.

With it being the end of February, we can start to celebrate coming out on the other side of winter! Let loose! Rejoice with the few flowers that have popped up from the soil! Even if there is another snow to come, what harm does celebrating a little early cause? Maybe listen to some music that makes you feel lighter or excited. Eat some raw fruit and veggies. Take some pictures of flowers. It’s the beginning of a new cycle.

As usual, the playlist I listened to while writing (suggested by my friend Michelle):

Rhythm and Flow

A thought that came to me recently while I watched my husband (still so new saying that!) jam on his guitar with our friend (who was playing bass), is that rhythm is one of the most effective ways to connect with someone. I think that I realized this before, but didn’t really have words to give to that blip of an idea.

I’ve always been filled with awe at how well music brings people together. Growing up, I played many instruments. I think the first one I played was the recorder in 3rd grade, then flute in 5th-6th grade band class, then ukulele with my church’s band. I went to church a lot in elementary and middle school. To me, music was an important part of church. In high school, I got to take a guitar class, as well as learn how to play the viola for a semester. Also in high school, I took choir and musical theater. As you can tell, creating music with others has been a recurring part of my life.

There is such synergy created when people use something so simple together: a time score. Not only does it create a coherent synced piece, but it seems to bring us constantly to the present moment, in a zone of focus and active listening. I think that this could also be called “flow”:

“In positive psychologyflow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.” The Wikipedia Article about Flow

I have found that this synergy and connection with others from being in the same rhythm occurs in so many other areas of life. Of course there’s dance and yoga, which are synchronized activities. But, there are also things like being synced with someone else through something as simple as the weather in your shared location. Or, if you connect with another because of similarly timed life events, crazy coincidences, or serendipity.

Time is what connects us all and it is beautiful when we get a moment to be truly present with someone else, not thinking about the future or the past, just realizing that we are alive together. Right. Now.

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As usual, I like to share at least one song I was listening to while writing: Ian Thornton- Do You Rise

Let’s Talk About Self-Care

Earlier this Fall, I overheard two women talking about wanting to make it to a specific  challenging yoga class every day. They talked about how they would come up with excuses for themselves sometimes for not going every single day. Like, “I’m in pain,” or “I need to rest,”, but they “knew that these were just excuses” and that it was essentially mind over matter. I had a big issue with this because what I have learned from teacher training and my own journey with movement/yoga are two things:

  1. You need a variety of movement: Yoga can at times be very linear or rigid. It’s important to find another activity or a class that uses different kinds of muscle engagement and keeps your mind alert. Perhaps bike riding, hiking, running, or strength training can provide a different pattern of movement. My teacher Annie made me realize through her Primal Vinyasa class that our bodies thrive on adapting to new environments and surfaces. Injury can come out of too much of the same repetitive movement over time.
  2. “Resting is Wisdom”: When a teacher tells you that child’s pose is a perfectly fine place to come to if your body is telling you that you need to take a pause, they mean it! Try not to take that as a challenging statement. Rest brings healing, a chance to reset, a moment to reconnect and reflect. 

Self-care is how we can keep balance in our lives and not get burnt out. Self-care is something that comes as a priority in the Fall because we finally get a chance to slow down after an ambitious summer. Let’s talk about some ways you can show yourself some TLC:

  1. Drink something warm. I’m doing so right now! Yes, it’s instinctual as it gets colder. It is comforting because it warms you up from the inside out. It can also feel nostalgic, bringing back holiday memories, a feeling of cherishing. It is also hydrating. While we are inside for a lot of the colder months, it can be harder to remember to stay hydrated. Tea can also bring different health benefits, depending on what tea you’re drinking. With drinking something warm, it also usually requires a little bit of patience for the drink to cool, which has us slow down a little bit.
  2. Go for a walk/exercise. I know that if I start to feel lonely while I’m inside, or cold, that even though it’s usually colder outside, the action of moving my body at a certain pace warms me up far more than I expect. A walk also revives that sense of gratitude and wonder for the world around me. I remember that I am a part of something bigger and that things are still cycling. Exercise and walking, besides bringing warmth, will help your body not be so stagnant and will get the blood flowing. Your body’s state will effect your mind. Of course, endorphins are important too.
  3. Keep up with your hygiene and maybe even pamper. Allow yourself to take time to nourish your skin, relish in feeling clean, and remember that you deserve to take care of yourself. Going a step beyond basic hygiene and moisturizing, it can be fun to sometimes make a face mask or take a bath.
  4. Nourish your body on the inside. Not only what we put on our bodies, but what we put into them, will effect how we feel. You know that clean, light feeling you get after a shower or brushing your teeth? Your mood can be uplifted like that by eating clean too. With eating healthy, it will reduce shame or any opportunities for negative self-talk.
  5. Tell yourself that you are loved and believe it. It is maybe the hardest self-care tip of all. It can be hard to remember that we deserve love and that we do have support somewhere. Imagine if we were to talk negatively to our friends or children the way that we may talk to ourselves sometimes. We are our worst critics. Loving oneself is a journey. But, it brings confidence and self-respect, which in turn can attract many loving and supportive people into our lives.

 

I Love

Many months ago, I wrote about how I was starting to feel like I am growing roots here in Olympia. Now, I most certainly have roots, but I don’t feel trapped. Instead, free. I love this place, I really really do.

I fit the stereotype for sure: I drive a Prius, I teach yoga, I help at a non-profit/farm, I’m vegan, I listen to folk/indie, I love to hike, I’m queer, I’m feminist, I care about the environment… The list could go on.

While I was visiting people in the midwest this summer, these stereotypes of myself became more apparent. But, I realized that they didn’t bother me too much, because I love my life! I love being surrounded by like-minded people. We just have to remember that the rest of the world sometimes isn’t as open minded or progressive (adjectives we may use for ourselves here), or sometimes we are less open minded than we think. We live in a beautiful bubble here in Olympia, and we have to remember that it’s a bubble.

I have been working as the Events Intern at GRuB (the non-profit organization http://goodgrub.org/) and have felt so at home and connected to the community. We can talk openly and vulnerably there, giving each other space or hugs or food, or just general support. I would love to continue to work in a place like GRuB, where I look forward to arriving and have a hard time leaving.

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This summer has also been about delving deeper into relationships, which has been both challenging and freeing. My wedding is in 15 days, ah!

I have embraced the go-go-go mentality of summer by going on many crazy hikes and seeing my physical strength as well as limitations. For a while there, I was worried about our Washington wilderness because of the terrible fires. What a strange and terrifying time for our climate. I will try to take my fear and turn it into passion to do my best for our world.

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Now, many leaves are on the ground, though it is not yet technically Autumn. The air has a distinct chill to it and we’ve pulled our thicker blanket out of the closet. I’m in cozy clothes with my cup of tea. I’m starting to slow down my chase of the sun and am getting ready to embrace this next season of my life.

 

Curious of what I listened to while writing this? It’s down below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key is to Find Grace in it All

My head is a whirlwind of thoughts, because summer has not brought focus to any one theme really, it has been so many things. So, I’ll use this post as a way to hone in by connecting the many elements that this summer has been into a more comprehensive picture and see how it relates to yoga, because really, things can always relate to the practice.

First of all, I’ve been training with my partner to run in a ragnar relay at Mount Rainier. Many people don’t know what a ragnar is. In fact, the computer is underlining it as a misspelling! It is a relay run, where either the team of runners cover up to 200 miles together on a road, splitting it up and taking turns, following each other in a van, or the team does trail routes that are set up in loops, each person completing the loops when it’s their turn. I’ll be doing the latter with my team. I was so excited in the beginning and I was making true progress with my speed, but something happened where my speed progress retracted, and so I’ve been a little discouraged with that.

On the topic of physical challenges, I’ve set my mind to hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail, going from Mexico to Canada) next spring. I remember hearing about it 6 years ago and my mind has come back to it a few times over the years. It wasn’t until recently that I really started getting into researching gear and getting into other peoples’ stories about their experience on the trail. It’s something in my heart, where I know that I will be faced with tremendous challenges (mostly mental) and I will ultimately be relying solely on my own preparation, knowledge, instinct, and body.

Soon before I plan on getting ready for that trip, I will be coming back from my honeymoon! I am getting married in two months and we plan on taking a round-the-world trip in the spring. Wedding planning requires so much more detail oriented thought than I anticipated! All of the things that have yet to be decided and bought are looming over my head all the time. I really just can’t wait to have so many loved ones around me, all meeting each other.

Though I live in an apartment, I have a small “garden” on my patio that I am proud of. I have a tomato plant, kale, broccoli, lettuce, celery, and potatoes. The lettuce, celery, and potatoes were started just by my leftover scraps and a single sprouting potato! I love giving life to my plants every day through water and making sure that they have enough space in their pots.

I feel like I learned a bit more about gardening at GRuB, a non-profit organization in Olympia. Every time I drop in during the volunteer hours, I feel so accepted and at peace knowing that I’m helping the community by taking care of the farm that feeds so many. I love the manual labor of it, digging my hands into the ground, pulling out weeds, all the while talking with a new friend or just hanging out by myself. I also take pictures for their events, which I love doing with my whole heart. I love seeing the people that GRuB draws in, because they are the people that want to give back. I have gotten a couple of thank you notes from GRuB for my pictures and help, and they made me feel more appreciated than I have in a long time.

At the moment, I’m reading the famous book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. My mom gave it to me a few years ago and I’m finally getting around to it. I like the lessons that it teaches, though I’m not totally keen on the writing style. I find it very repetitive and simple. But, the chapter I’m on right now is the one about not taking anything personally. It comes at a good time in my life because I have subconsciously been making assumptions about things, or having expectations, and the book explains how those things lead to disappointment and miscommunication. I know this too! I have a post-it on my wall that says “Expectation leads to disappointment”. But, sometimes we do these things without even realizing. The book explains that assumptions happen when we don’t have answers to things, so our brain just fills what we don’t know in with whatever information we do have. As humans, we want to understand things all the time. This is why open and honest communication is always key. Asking too many questions is better than asking none.

 

So, how does all of this relate to yoga? I think that my personal summer illustrates the pose Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose). It is a pose, that when broken down, is really a complex map of different actions (push, pull, lift, gaze, breathe) that come together to create this one intense balancing pose. A true balancing act, juggling all of the things at once. The key is to find grace in it, and often grace comes with not taking yourself too seriously and knowing when to laugh at your own mistakes.

[http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/natarajasana-lord-of-the-dancers-pose/]

Constantly Learning

First of all, here’s a song I found recently that I love:

I think I’ve written a lot about accepting and allowing on here. So often I find that I’ve just started chipping away at something bigger than I realized. And sometimes it takes so long to integrate lessons into daily life. I’ve gone in and out of my meditation practice, though I have moments of mindfulness every morning, it’s not quite the same as intentionally sitting down to relax and train the mind for 10 minutes a day. I’ve been feeling the need for more acceptance and allowance of certain situations in my life and remembering to breathe can help a lot with that. Why do we forget to breathe so often?!

Anyway, I’ve finally gotten the app that everyone’s been raving about: Headspace. I love it. I get excited about using it again every day. I really feel more content and relaxed after each “take 10” session. I love Andy’s voice and the visual aspect of the animations. I find that the app really drives home the message of allowing thoughts, sounds, and feelings, just noticing them without judgment.

I’ve been talking with someone recently about a relationship in my life that I tend to hold a lot of negative feelings around because it feels inauthentic. She advised me to go about the situation a different way: to hold compassion for the other, to keep their needs in mind as well as my own, and think about the interactions being genuine in that they are coming from a true place of compassion for the needs that exist. Basically, being accepting of it on a whole new level.

That’s essentially what love is, isn’t it? Acceptance? Right now, for me, it’s easier said than done. I find that it’s hardest to always be accepting and not critical of those we are closest to (e.g. our significant other, once we’ve lived with them for awhile), ourselves, and of course, those we don’t like so much. So, those are the people that are my top priorities right now. I am working on being more “watery”: neutral, flowing, giving, allowing. And I must say, I have been feeling a bit more “airy”: light, excited, new, clear.

 

Spring Cleaning!

A few recent things that tie together:

  1. I have been so inspired by minimalism the past few months. I generally consider myself an organized person to begin with, but I did have my closet and a few areas of boxed clutter that needed to be sifted through. It takes time, but it feels so good to let go of things that no longer have a function or you simply don’t feel as much attachment to anymore.
  2. I have also started a running training program that my friend (also a personal trainer) created for me. We will be running the Rainier Ragnar in August. So far it helped me get more ready for my annual tradition of doing the Shamrock Run in Portland, but it has also gotten me a little more familiar with things I need to work on with my form.
  3. I am feeling a bit more established in Olympia, especially since starting volunteering at GRuB (an educational community farm). I have what I need, and I can see staying here for longer. I have a feeling of fulfillment from bare necessities.

After a walk in the woods, these three topics came up in my mind. I noticed that they all shared a theme of clarity and being attuned. Once you sift through the static, the fog, the clutter, you can find underlying tendencies. I think it’s interesting that in the two definitions that come up for “attune”, there is “make receptive or aware” and “accustom or acclimatize”. It’s like the definition is set up in helpful steps: awareness, then adjustment.

The first step to solving an issue is to acknowledge and accept a tendency. It doesn’t do you any good to see the tendency, then deny it or to beat yourself up about it. Simply noticing a possible problem and being honest with yourself brings you closer to finding tools to help you when it comes up in the future.

Seeing tendencies using minimalism: When I sorted through my box of stuff in the closet, I noticed that I held onto a lot of sentimental things, especially if they were gifts. From there, I could ask myself if the gift was still relevant to my life or if the person would even care that I had kept it for years. I also found a lot of things that were simply remnants of who I used to be and what I used to care about. I was able to move on from a lot of those things.

Some other examples are when I go for a run with a clear mind, I am more able to notice what habits my body has. Are my shoulders stabilized? Am I running evenly on both feet? Are my feet flipping out behind me? On a similar note, when I still my body and only focus on my breath in meditation, I can notice thought patterns that constantly surface. Sometimes I’m planning. Sometimes I’m remembering events. Sometimes I’m being a perfectionist about my breathing or posture.

When looking at the seasons, we go through a bare winter, all the leaves have shed, we may even get the blank slate of snow. At that point, we can get attuned to what’s going on inside and perhaps adjust. Once spring comes, we are more able to grow, to build, to branch out, to blossom.

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