Archive for category: Health and Fitness

Silent Spring

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Buddhist Practice, Cancer, Conscious Living, Family, France, Health and Fitness, Horses, Psychology, Relationships, Travel

My life has been so blessed overall–but I/we surely got dealt our lifetime ration of yuck over the past six months!!

In January, my beautiful young Rocky Mountain Horse, Shambhala Sunrise, died ;  our local property “caretakers” did the opposite of taking care of us and our property, instead figuring out how to destroy our yurt, and bilk us and the state of California, no more said about them, but we don’t miss them; the son of a (unbeknownst to us uninsured) roofer fell off the roof of our ranch in the Sierras; my truck was vandalized and my wallet and ID was stolen by a ring of sophisticated identity thieves; we had to cancel our long awaited trip to visit our godson in South America when my beloved husband, Jim, was diagnosed (mis, fortunately) with colon cancer; my new horse bucked me off twice and fractured my collar bone.  I didn’t feel like talking much about it all!  IT seemed like a good time to observe “SILENT SPRING” and wait until the dark clouds passed over.

Today, in celebration of the end of that Silent Spring, we are back on track-marking the end of the winter of our discontent and celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a tandem bicycle trip following the Rhine and Moselle Rivers,  More to follow!

Looping Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Horses, Relationships, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wonderful opportunity!  Reservations for the High Sierra Camps are hard to come by.  You have to win a lottery and my psychoanalyst colleague Francine has been trying for years.  The appeal is enormous:  Yosemite National Park; beautiful trails high above the valley floor, some intersecting with the JMT (johnmuirtrail.org/) and the Pacific Crest Trail (www.pcta.org/); camps about every 8-10 miles with tent cabins, restrooms, and a dining/cook tent to prepare meals so you need only a day pack; you don’t have to carry a full backpack!

In 2012 Francine’s number came up for a group of six hikers and we were lucky to be among them.  Just try to imagine a group of (mostly office-bound psychoanalysts representing southern and northern California) planning a challenging 5 day hiking trip, then throw in the fillip of the hantavirus threat (http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hantafaq.htm), and you’ve got a guaranteed flurry of preliminary emails, a classically contagious mix, not of the virus, but of the sixty something and seventy something hikers’ anxieties.  What shall we  bring? Carry?  Wear? How much training had we better do? etc.

Fortunately for me, one of our number, Susan, recently married to John and new to distance hiking, was sufficiently worried about carrying a pack and her back pain (an occupational hazard for we of the seated psychotherapist set) that she called ahead and discovered, lo and behold, a mule could be arranged to carry any and everything a hiker didn’t need on her person during the day (i.e. dop kit, camp shoes, book, flashlight, sleepsack, extra clothes).  So, for a a fee, Roamer the mule freed us to hike completely unburdened by anything other than our 2 litres of water, rain gear, cameras and lunch. Thank you, Susan and Roamer and his charming mule skinner accompanist.

Jim, Francine, Mary, Harriet, Roamer, Susan and John and our lovely “muleskinner”s horse Ready to Roll On!

Day One:  After a good dinner and comfortable bed in our tent cabins in Tuolomne Meadows, inauspicuously visited by a deer mouse scuttling across our packs during the night, we loaded our packs. Just in case we sprayed them all with Lysol and gave Roamer what we didn’t need; we set off in high spirits to hike our “shakedown day” about eight or so miles to the camp at Glen Aulin.  We stopped for lunch overlooking Tuolomne Meadows, setting the bar for each days picnic as a site of beauty and welcome rest.  By late afternoon, we reached Glen Aulin Camp, situated at the base of a spectacular waterfall.  Out came the blister first aid, aspirin, some scotch, comfortable shoes–no showers because throughout the loop the water shortage this season was too extreme–handiwipes instead of showers, and in my case, my favorite “Ticket to the Moon” purple parachute silk hammock (ticketothemoon.com/).  I climbed in and, gently swaying by the waterfall, relished reading Caleb’s Crossing, Pulitzer prize winning author Geraldine Brooks’ story of life in the 17th  century colonial settlement on Martha’s Vineyard.

Day Two:  Setting out for Mae Lake Camp. With my Garmin GPS I soon learned that the old artistic rusted cutout trail marker signs underestimated distances by 10-20%, so we averaged 10 miles per day between camps and with detours for spectacular views and picnics.  Today we had a good long 1,600 foot climb up out of Glen Aulin with views of dark red Mt Dana and Mt Conness marking the Sierra divide.  Because of the drought and our September days, we missed seeing some of our favorite Yosemite wildflowers, Lemmon’s Paintbrush, sticky  yellow Monkeyflower and Sierra Gentian.  Another year!  By the end of the 10 mile hike, we were all sweaty and tired and so happy to come upon beautiful Mae Lake that we all stripped and dove in.  It felt fabulous.  Only later did we see the “no swimming” sign—it turns out in the drought, the lake is needed for the camp’s drinking water.  Tasty!

 

Two beautiful shots taken by Mary Herne of (L) the sunrise coming up behind Mae Lake, and (R) the shimmering reflection on Mae Lake’s surface at sunrise.  No evidence, fortunately, of our inadvertent rule breaking swim.  Just beauty.

 

Day Three: Mae Lake Camp to Sunrise High Sierra Camp, following the original Tioga wagon road to Tanaya Lake, we climbed up the trail on a series of steep switchbacks  to Clouds Rest Junction.  Other hikers coming the other way assured us we were almost at the top and we must NOT miss taking a cut off west from the junction to a perfect overlook site for lunch.  Jim, Mary and I did that and even though we were tired from the climb, were SO glad we did. The overlook provided a dramatic vista of the valley carved by the movement of Tenaya Glacier, formed when a portion of the Tuolomne Glacier overflowed its basin into Tenaya Lake and down Tenaya Canyon. Oohing and Aahing, munching on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we could look out over Half Dome and El Capitan from our perch. Returning to the trail inspired, we hiked the rest of another 10 mile day into Sunrise, a camp Jim and I had stayed at years ago, hiking from Vogelsang High Camp in the other direction.

Each tent cabin has a wood stove and bed space for six, but because several less-intrepid hikers than we had cancelled, we spread ourselves out nightly in two tents and kept cosy over the cold nights.

                                                                                           Jim, Stoking the Wood Stove at Sunrise

Day Four:  Sunrise is aptly named as it is situated on the edge of a huge meadow rimmed by peaks, a perfect place to get up early, which Mary and I did by starlight the next morning, the last morning on the trail, to meditate bundled up in parkas, long johns, blankets and booties, and watch in silent awe as the sun slowly lit up the peaks and crest, bringing in warmth and the day.  Sad to anticipate parting with our friends and the high Sierras, we set out on our last day’s hike back out to Tuolomne Meadows.  It was a gorgeous hike past Cathedral Peak and an opportunity for another beautiful side trip down to picnic on a huge granite outcropping overlooking Lower Cathedral Lake.  Switchbacking down the trail back to Tuolomne Meadows, another 10 miler, and we were thrilled to find the bus stop at the trailhead juncture with Tioga Road for the shuttle bus to save us an additional two more miles back to our starting point.  

The last  night over dinner and breakfast the last morning, we celebrated our friendship, our accomplishments, our courage in not cancelling the trip out of fear of a deer mouse, and our hopes to win the lottery another year for a return journey.

 

HOW I HIT THE JACKPOT!

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Dining, Gourmet, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Pets, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hiking High Above KESSLER CANYON RANCH, COLORADO

We have been book tour traveling off and on since Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom (http://www.pullingupstakesbook.com) was released in April.  This month we have dates at bookstore in Vail and Boulder, Colorado.  Of course, being savvy travellers, we’ve cherry picked our trips and it has really worked out well for us.  So when we were confirmed at Bookworm in Vail (http://www.bookwormofedwards.com) and Boulder Books Store (http://www.boulderbookstore.net)  in Boulder, I went on the web to find out what else we might do to light our fire while in Colorado.

One of my favorite websites is Luxury Links (http://www.luxurylinks.com). We’ve stayed at some amazing places all over the world during our sabbatical that we found, bid on and won at Luxury Links.  This time I found a property called Kessler Canyon (www.kesslercanyon.com) that looked like it might just be the spark to light our fire for the Colorado tour (oops, too many wildfires are burning right now in the west….anyway, you know what I mean).

It was a competitive bid, but luckily, this place must be the best kept secret in Western Colorado.  SO, drumroll….I won the auction—3 days and 2 nights, all meals and activities included.  But, we didn’t have a clue we had won the JACKPOT until we landed in Grand Junction, got a free upgrade to any car of our choice (a 4 wheel drive Jeep SUV) because they were out of compact cars.  We drove north to DeBeque and 17 miles west through high desert before we found the gates to Kessler Canyon and drove 4.5 more dusty dirt road miles into a canyon surrounded by rugged sandstone and shale peaks before arriving at the oasis that is this private resort.

Kessler’s Homage to the Wild Mustangs Greeted Us–6 Larger Than Lifesize Sculptures Galloping Across the Crest of a Hill

We were greeted like long lost relatives, I was immediately hugged and called “Lil Darlin’” by Chef Lenny, a generously proportioned cowboy (definitely gourmet) cook/chef.  They’d been waiting for us and couldn’t wait to welcome us, help us get settled in this amazing place. Our huge room has original old west paintings, leather easy chairs, hand carved wooden tables and chests and a gorgeous spa-like bathroom.

We soon learned that the Kessler family fortune was made in the 1970s with the establishment of the Days Inns along highway interchanges.  This canyon has been the family’s private 23,000 acre hunting and fishing retreat from managing over a dozen other boutique hotels throughout the south. We’re here, it turns out to our amazement and delight, with only two other guests and a hand-picked gifted staff of 19.  Oh, My!  If there were stars to award and five was excellent, this place would rate a ten!

 

 

 

 

Cowboy Chef Lenny in a Rarely Pensive Moment (He is Usually Laughing or Singing)


 

 

We have been treated like visiting royalty.  Encouraged to fish in one of the lakes, take lessons in shooting skeet (this is a private big game hunting lodge during hunting season)—both shotguns and high powered rifles.  Now as a Buddhist, I clearly clo not believe in killing, but I certainly don’t object to shooting skeet and tin targets at 250 yard, especially when a Navy sharpshooter who has been teaching for almost twenty years offers himself as your private guide and instructor.

We’ve also been mountain biking and this morning we took Tess, the family Springer Spaniel, a reportedly $10.000 dog who recently gave birth to eight wonderful puppies, on a challenging hike up to the top of the plateau overlooking this canyon (see above photo)—about a 3,000 ft climb.

 

Mama Tess, the Amazing Springer Spaniel

We really feel we deserve the phenomenal gourmet meals Cowboy Chef Lenny prepares for us each meal.

We also were invited to learn (fast) and take out our own ATVs —for someone who’s never done that, and always only hiked, biked or ridden horses, that’s another adventure into a testosterone-drenched world, like shooting guns,.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t flip our ATVs. But there were more than a few “Yee Haws!” as we swooped down through stream beds and up steep banks to gun it (lots of guns here) out the straightaway.

Well, all I can say, is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” has many unexpected, sometimes challenging, yet extraordinary meanings.  It does appear, for the price we paid and the amazing experience we have had, that we have surely hit the jackpot.

Llama Drama: An Opportunity for Practice

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Family, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Meditation, Mindfulness - Tags: , , , ,

All Black Llao Llao Grazing by Matlock Lake

Arriving in bliss with the llamas and our dogs, high in the John Muir Wilderness, we chose a relatively off the beaten path lovely lake to set up camp for our week.  While the Kearsarge Pass trail gives access to both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail and thus sees lots and lots of backpackers this time of the summer, Matlock Lake is a hidden gem.  We are the only ones here.  It is in a basin surrounded by gnarled weather bent White pines and granite outcroppings against a backdrop of jagged minarets.  From here we can explore Flower Lake,  Gilbert Lake, Heart Lake, and Bench Lake.

Packing with llamas gives us some luxuries backpacking must deny, such as a commodious tent, extra thick sleeping mats, a hammock, a table and two low Crazy Creek chairs, my small inflatable boat the “H.M.S. Sassenatch” launched summers ago on Crabtree Lake into Bench Valley, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables and other delectables.Feeling immeasurable gratitude for all their exertions in making this possible, I wanted to offer the llamas something in exchange.  Down by the banks of the lake I saw a wonderful garden of fresh green bunch grass, their favorite.  I could liberate them from their stake out line, up the required 200 feet from the lake, and let them enjoy an hour of grazing while I paddled across Matlock Lake in my little boat on a reconnaissance mission.

Paddling H.M.S. Sassenatch with Beau and Tashi on Matlock Lake

Jim had warned me that that he had seen Kalmia Polyflora,a toxic form of heather,  the same noxious neurotoxin that had killed Llao Llao’s grandmother Hopi on a pack trip many years ago.  I had seen a bit of that plant down by the lake but felt that there was so much good bunch grass available for the llamas that they wouldn’t eat it, especially if they were only allowed to graze there at the lakeside for an hour.

Last night we climbed into our tent early, read for awhile, buttoned Tashi and Beau into their bright red fleece sleeping jamis and fell fast asleep.  That is, until I was awakened by my muse to write ” The Zen of Llamapacking in the Wilderness” as Jim and the dogs snored on.   I finished writing just before turning out my headlamp to go back to sleep.  But not quite!  I heard a disturbing noise.  Was it a llama choking and sputtering?  I knew it could be the worst.  Terrified, I pulled on my camp mocs and jacket, and rushed out of the tent to discover my worst fears realized.

Llao Llao was frothing at the mouth, just like his grandmother Hopi had done before succumbing to paroxysms of neuromuscular trauma and death.  OMG.  At least this time I had fully stocked our llama emergency first aid kit and was prepared with activated absortive charcoal, a camelback and tube for intubating a poisoned llama, as well as an injectable bio-sponge to absorb toxins from the gut.

At first, so chagrined that I had not heeded Jim’s admonition, and dreading the inevitable “I told you so.” I hastily mixed the granulated charcoal in water in the camelback and tried to administer it by myself to the downed llama.  As soon as I approached Llao Llao with the hose to intubate him, he got to his feet and I knew I couldn’t wrestle 325 lbs of even a sick llama by myself.

I had no choice but to swallow pride and wake up Jim for help. Torn between terror about losing Llao Llao and dreading Jim’s reprisals, I called out imploringly to him.  Aroused, he snarled, “I knew it!” but pulled on his pants and shoes and came to my side.  Realizing we had to figure out a way to immobilize Llao Llao’s head and incredibly strong neck, I haltered him and led him to a large granite rock, pulled his head down onto it, wrapped the lead rope under and around the boulder and handed the rope to Jim to immobilize him while I tried to get the hose down his throat and into his stomach, not his lungs.  Not easy at all, as naturally he fought with all his might and when I did snake the tube in he tried to grind it up with his molars.  He didn’t try to bite my hand inside his mouth per se, but I did get some cuts but somehow managed to pump quite a bit of the bladder full of charcoaled waters into him.  We released his head and watched for awhile, until we figured there was nothing more to do for him but pray.  Charcoaled water all over my clothes and feet, I looked like a refugee from a coal mine.

Jim couldn’t resist telling me that I had shown way too much hubris.  Meekly, I replied that I thought it was misguided compassion more than stubborn pride. Nonetheless, deeply sobered, I realized it was definitely time to practice, to breathe, to meditate, to embrace humility and calm, not get feisty and defensive.  So, exhausted, we returned to our tent and fell back into deep slumber.

The following morning at daylight we checked on our patient and to great relief found him standing and even tentatively chewing his cud.  To be extra safe, remembering Hopi,’s prolonged fatal poisoning ordeal, we repeated the procedure this time with the orally injectable bio-sponge.  The whole drama was such a practice opportunity!  Breathing in my humiliation, breathing gratitude that a potential tragedy had been averted, and that Llao Llao would not die, I realized that compassion and gratitude must be tempered by good judgement and common sense.

Confirming the crisis had passed, I was able to feed and water the llamas then stake them out far from the lake and the heather.  Assured they were cared for, secure and safe, we were able to actually take a great day hike, climbing to the top of spectacular Kearsarge Pass at 11,804 ft.  Surrounded by jagged minarets, we found a new vantage point overlooking our breath-takingly beautiful high Sierra world!

Jim & Me with Tashi & Beau on Kearsarge Pass

 

 

 

A String of Pearls: Summer’s Beautiful Days

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Family, Gourmet, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Mindfulness, Self-Improvement, Spiritual, Travel - Tags:

After yesterday’s potentially life-threatening “Practice Opportunity” with our llama, which, gratefully he survived,  we have had day after day of bliss and beauty.  No Internet, no phones, no appointments , just clouds  to  watch forming and reforming across the Cerulean blue sky, hours drifting  lazily by. Nowhere to go.  Nothing to do.  Don’t do something, just sit there!

Beautiful Summer Days Roll By Like Pearls

Time in the high Sierras, for me, is like the most replenishing meditation retreat. I practically never look at my watch to see what time it is.  I find myself living solely following the rhythms of nature and of my body, awakening to the sun, we nap or rest or swim in the lake  when the sun is high and hot. We go to bed when it is dark, and find ourselves sleeping deeply, like hibernating bears, snug in our den (tent). I wake up, refreshed, remembering dreams more vividly, finding my dreams far more compelling and meaningful at high altitude.  I have time lying in the tent to reflect on them, adding the gift of reverie and introspection as the sun slowly rises.

Swiss Fondue and Fresh Veggies, anyone?

Because this campsite on Matlock Lake is so gorgeous and blissfully private, we decide not to pack up, pull up stakes and move on as we have usually done in the past, but we’ll stay here and take day hikes to the surrounding lakes and passes.  Thus days have a simple routine defined by carrying water for the llamas and the dogs, filtering it for ourselves,preparing meals (grain in each llama’s grain basket, dog food in the dog’s little bowls, making coffee, serving granola and fresh fruits in our breakfast bowls), sitting, meditating, then reading, talking softly, holding hands and intermittently smiling appreciatively, then washing the dishes, carrying more water, sitting again, watching cloud formations magically shift and observing the change of the light throughout the day from bright fresh dawn to the warm alpenglow following sunset.

We hike or fish when it is cool and we feel invigorated.  The days literally glide by according to our own bio-rhythms and the patterns of nature, stringing a sweet Sierra necklace of pearls of each present moment, one after the other.

                                                                            Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy...

 

The Zen of Wilderness Llamapacking

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Meditation, Mindfulness, Pets, Travel - Tags: , , , ,

This is our 21st summer packing with our Llamas into the High Sierras.  Over the years we’ve had ten llamas: Machu, Pichu, Hopi, Mica and Sierra all now walk the next world; Miwok and Jambo, the parents of Llao Llao and Zuni, and Tio Sequoia are with us now. 

Over the years we have packed into the Lost Coast of Northern California, all over the central Sierras including the Dinkey Wilderness, Black Cap Basin, Red Mountain Basin, Bench Valley, the Silver Divide, out of Florence and Edison Lakes and Courtright Reservoir, and into East Lake out of Bridgeport, commemorating the place Jim and I met 32 years ago, backpacking before we had our llamas.

This summer we decided to cross the Sierras and head in near Mt Whitney from the jagged and dramatic Eastern slope, planning to hike over 12,000 ft Kearsarge Pass into the Rae Lakes Basin.  It sounded fabulous until some of our llama buddies warned us that there is no grazing and no dogs allowed across the pass in Sequoia National Park, only in the Sequoia National Forest on this side of the pass.  We can get along with no grazing as we can carry sufficient food for our llamas, but no dogs?  No Tashi and Beau?  That’s a non starter.  So we decided to stay with the plan to drive from our ranch near Yosemite, south across the Sierras past Lake Isabella, to Lone Pine, boarding the llamas overnight at the Lone Pine High School as guests of the Future Farmers of America.  We would drive north next morning to the 9000 ft Onion Valley Trailhead out of Independence, and trek up toward Kearsarge Pass, but not across into the National Park.  That plan assured maximal happiness for us all: our five llamas, Jim and me, and our two athletic backpack-carrying  poodles, Tashi and Beau, a perfect recipe for the Zen of Packing with Llamas into the John Muir Wilderness!

So it was that we set out three days ago, and so it was that I am breathing and smiling  deeply and broadly here in the gorgeous High Sierras.  What is truly Zen about this experience is that packing up the llamas, each with their colorful packs is a meditative ritual, and setting out on the steep ascent is a devotional exercise.  Jim takes the lead with the two girls, Miwok and Zuni and Sequoia, followed by Tashi, with his own little “Search and Rescue” lime green pack.  I follow with the two boys, son Llao Llao and his father Jambo.  Puppy Beau elects to bring up the rear carrying his own small blue pack of dog food and toys.    Climbing ever higher, one step at a time, slowly, slowly into ever thinner air, we ascend 1600 feet, switchback by switchback over a beautifully maintained trail.  With each breath, I feel Llao llao’s gentle breath cooling the back of my neck.  As we fall into a rhythm, I turn on my iPod and listen to Buddhist chanting, the meditative strains of Avolokiteshvara, and fall into a perfect Zen reverie.

Matlock Lake/ Near Kearsarge Pass

We are back in the high country we both so love, this haven of natural beauty and restorative calm.

Peace Is Every Step.  I have arrived.  I am home.

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