Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 6 : last day of this first leg

Day 6: Gladys Lake to Devil’s Postpile National Monument: 7 miles

We awoke to a pleasant nip in the air that triggered some discussion of the unusually chilly and windy days we were having.  We’d find out later that a near record breaking cold front in California was passing through. 

Today we’d step on brand new trail to us that would connect the dots between the areas that we had hiked over the years. We’d be hiking out today, concluding our first leg of our trek. 

We hit the trail and quickly began to see trees blown down, everywhere.  One massive tree after another, ripped out at it’s roots and toppled over on top of other massive trees like Lincoln Logs.  We marveled at the intense work the Forestry  crew must have put in to clear the trail of thousands of down trees spread over 40 miles  of trail. 

All this catastrophic damage happened in 10 hours on November 30, 2011 where the forest sustained winds of 100 mph with gusts topping 190 mph.  To make it worse, 90% of the winds through the area blow in one direction, so trees develop their root structure to defend against what they know – the familiar.  A surprise attack of hurricane force winds blew through this one day from a completely different direction then the familiar.  Root structures holding down 400 year old trees lost the fight that day.

At times the tone of our hike turned somber as we quietly walked through a historic, living (or not living any longer) museum.  Awe at the massive level of destruction mixed with sadness as we walked through this silent graveyard of sage old trees that had weathered hundreds of years of storms to be caught off guard on one fateful day.

But perhaps sadness is misplaced.  In my human lifetime I will not see this forest return to what it was before Nov 30, 2011 but the beauty of the wilderness is that it changes by it’s own forces that can look like death at first but really are opening up pathways for new life.  Landscapes changing over the millenniums is what shapes the land beneath our feet and the soaring peaks that line the horizon.  By the time we exit the trail, I have made peace with the epic storm of Nov 30. 

Day 5

Day 5 Garnett Lake to Gladys lake: 8 miles

Wake up time
On trail time
Total time
 Morning 1
2 hrs, 50 min
Morning 2
2 hrs
Morning 3
2 hrs 20 min
Morning 4
1 ½ hrs

We are on vacation after all, so it’s not like we are running a military boot camp each morning.  However, it is nice to see wake up to trail times tighten up as it’s a good indicator of teamwork and that individual contributions are stepping up. 

It’s hard to believe how fluid our team has become in just four mornings.  I feel much more confidant today than I did four days ago.  Each summer I have to be reminded of what works.  I’ve settled, for now, on putting on my contacts first, stuffing my sleeping bag and mat into their stuff bags, packing my backpack, leaving the tent to brush teeth and then I greet the day.  Some mornings, Cade or Bekah choose to stuff their own bags and their sibling’s bag, just to help the family team out.  We emerge to the breakfast rock with most packing done except for the tents being done (which we will later change).  Hungry hikers devour homemade granola full of nuts and seeds, cereals, and occasionally hot oatmeal.

Children do like to work and help and contribute.  This is yet another key pull to getting children outside.  It connects them, like it connects adults, to the basics of survival.  Maybe they drag their feet at home because they aren’t able to connect themselves to the big picture as well there.  Emptying the dishwasher is such a small part of accomplishing a meal, and that doesn’t even explain how the mortgage gets paid!  In contras, from the moment the stove gets lit until the last dish is cleaned, they are part of the process.  Bekah marvels every morning at how we are able to carry all that we need (a tangible amount that they can wrap their minds around) on our backs and even she, at nine, and Cade, at eleven, knows how to set the tents up, pack and unpack their bags, keep clean, light the stove to boil water, i.e. survive.  How could a 9 year old comprehend all that it takes to have a house full of stuff?  The beauty of when we remove ourselves from all of that is the leveling effect it has – where 7, 9, and 11 year olds can become aware of exactly what is needed to get through each day, happy.  It makes sense that within a few days of watching us and being coached through procedures that their confidence propels them to eagerly step up to the plate and work hard, with excitement for each task.

As we sit tonight in the trees, near Gladys Lake en route to The Devil’s Postpile National Monument, where we will put out for this section, Bekah is cheerfully massaging the dinner bags to rehydrate them while Cade is lakeside with Daddy getting water.  We all like to be part of projects (like setting up a home as newlyweds) where we are instrumental in making decisions from the beginning to the end.  We insert kids in the middle of that and expect them to feel motivated and automatically understand their place in OUR big picture.  How I love seeing all of the stuff that creates our adult world stripped away and replaced with dirt, rocks, trees, warm sun, and lakes and watching our kids come to life as they see how their efforts make a big difference in our daily to do lists.  Their chores are directly linked to our survival and that is empowering to a young child.  And here’s the thing we’ve noticed over the years: the confidence and work ethic gained out here as we work through each day as a team transfers to life.  Boy scouts to outdoor camp counselors can all attest to the same.
Now some motivators are beyond our control.  We had little to do with the record breaking 1 ½ hour time from wake up to hitting the rail that we set this morning.  After spending 16 hours in a dust bowl of howling wind, we awoke to more of the same.  We were dusty, cold, and ready to hit the trail in search of warmth, quiet air, and granite slabs.  So for a morning we looked like a well-oiled machine in action with all four of us staying busy until the last boot was secured.

Despite the incessant and relentless wind, we all fell in love with Garnett Lake as we cross country trekked from the western edge to the actual JMT trail.  We walked past flowers, and waterfalls, and White Birch Pine that spoke of a Master Gardner.  We walked along the banks of Garnett Lake with a sunlight dance on its surface that sang of 1000s of diamonds glistening in the morning sun.  Once we crossed the bridge at the outlet and headed up the pass on the other side of the lake the roar of the wind finally gave way to a warm, friendly sun that smiled on us as climbed through flower lined trails to the 11,000 ft pass. 

Garnett Lake always charms but the strong winds that blew were a clear reminder that we are but visitors in a wild land that will do what it does without any care to our comfort.  We need to always be prepared, always be alert, and always remain respectful of this wild place we find ourselves in, no matter how charmed we become. 

Day 4 on the trail

Day 4: Easy day – Thousand Island lake xc to Granite lake.  3 xc miles, 500 feet elevation change

Over breakfast, Cade irritated, snapped at Bekah for not “listening well the first time”.  Cory gently reminded him that when he feels frustrated, he should still be careful with his tone. 

“But Daddy, when I ask you things over and over again, that’s how you sound when you talk to me!” 

Cory paused before responding, “Hey, we are all in process over here.  It doesn’t make it right even if I do it sometimes.  I’m still learning and growing too.”

After breakfast, Cory doctored Bekah’s blisters.  The soaking/drying duo had successfully started hardening her skin.  The cries from yesterday’s soak were replaced with smiles as the cream, band-aid, surgical tape trio did their magic.  The singing from our Boo resumed and led our way to an adventurous cross-country traverse around the western end of Thousand Island Lake.  We traveled under the massive nearly 13,000 foot Banner peak through green and purple grassy fields, tarns of water surrounded by red and orange Indian Paintbrush.  We marveled at how few people leave the trail to ever see places like this.  It’s the route finding over rock tallaced slopes that provides unique opportunities to challenge the kids to stop and determine the safest and most efficient route.  After the route was determined, we headed up the slope, boulder hopping until we reached the top.  We let Cade lead the way to give him experience at leading and route finding. 

With my eyes focused on each boulder, I heard a familiar mantra from Cory, “Go slow and make every step count.” Great advice for the trail, yes, but I decided today as I clambered up the tricky slope, that I’d take that one with me.  Moving with intentional purpose promised fewer sprained ankles, broken bones, as well as fewer hurt relationships or missed opportunities.  God can move in our lives if we SLOW down and let Him!  But we can sure mess things up when we move fast and don’t make every step count!

The relentless wind of the last 24 hrs continued to pummel us, so we took cover behind tall willow bushed on the top of the pass to eat some freeze dried organic pineapples, Lara bars, and our personal favorite, Pistachio nuts.  Ferocious appetites being staved off until lunch, we ventured over the pass to traverse down the backside to the charming, sparkling Garnett Lake, one of my personal favorites.

Without leaving the trail, we’d never have witnessed the quintessential shot that Cory has dreamed of for years.  As we descended on the Garnett side of our traverse.  We paused and turned around to see where we came from (hint: always pause and look around!) and saw for the 1st time a stair stepped, granite shallow waterfall, with bright red Paintbrush flowers and plush grasses lining the banks, culminating at the horizon with the massive Banner peak.  It made me wonder how often in life I get too comfortable on the well worn route I am on and refuse to try the unknown, venture off the path and blaze my own trail.  And do I allow time in life to pause, look behind me to where I’ve come from and marvel at the view? 

We set up camp early, right after lunch, and had an intentional easy afternoon to continue to acclimatize and not overdo it on this first leg of our 200-mile summer journey.  However, after five hours of “hanging at camp”, I began to get restless.  As fun as it is to relax, I am still too fresh from the city to be able to really do it.  After two “easy” days I can definitively say, our muscles are not tired, we appear acclimatized to 10,000 ft my book I brought is ready, the chores are done, and I’d like to move on, thank you very much!  I am not yet good at long stretches of nothing.   We seem to be able to sit around for hours, when it’s warm, but for 24 hours we have been living in high winds and cold air so sitting around is more laborious for me.  I need to hold it together but with dust blowing in the tent (and my eyes, come to think of it, it’s in my mouth too) and the lack of movement since lunch, I am feeling blown down, cold, and dare I admit, done. 

Even so, kids still live in that idyllic land of simplicity that us adults have to work so hard for.  We surround ourselves with catchy phrases about living in the moment, remind ourselves with books that now only happens, well, now, so don’t miss it! We take ourselves on elaborate getaways to experience the easy road but we can’t turn back the clock and simply live simply, like kids can effortlessly do. 

In-between walks to the lake to soak my feet and walks back to camp to read my book, I actually had time to make a bit of a scientific observation of my kids, in the same empty agenda predicament as I was in.  They were not aware of a predicament at all.  I am fairly sure that, like God, kids don’t live inside our time driven paradigm.  They don’t have to fight so hard against the pesky, fast-racing forward click of time because they are doing exactly what they’d be doing if they had 2 minutes, 20 minutes, or 9 hours (like we had today).  This might explain why getting to school on time is prefaced with many “Hurry ups!”.  They do each moment what feels right to do that moment, without the burden of what they should be doing and for Cade, that meant spending half his time carving a miniaturized boat from a willow branch and half his time swinging rocks into the lake with his handmade by Papa sling.  Bekah choose to spend hours at the lake soaking her feet and creating random works of art with Garnett lake silt and water and half her time writing the story of her life on the train into her journal (I tell you, she has decidedly determined she is the author of a new best-selling book starring her beloved family, and she just might be!).

When dinner time rolled around I was excited for two reasons, A) we were starving and shepherd’s pie full of an organic veggie blend of potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, green beans in a creamy seasoned tofu sauce sounded unfathomable to our continuingly famished family and B) there was something to do!  Eating something that good, when starving, doesn’t actually take up much time so we quickly finished promptly ending that entertaining diversion.

On to getting our Tents set up and free of any bear attractors (aka de-bearing the tent), brushing our teeth and then diving for cover from the dust and wind assault into the tents to play blackjack. 

Thankfully every day out here isn’t this “relaxing”, for lack of a better word, but days like this provide he necessary ebb and flow, the ying and the yang, that brings acute awareness of simple joys as we live in the contrasts.

Day 3 of the John Muir Trail

Day 3: to Thousand Island lake, 5 ½ miles, 2500 elevation change

Truly unbelievable site – granite slabs, trees for hanging laundry, stream gurgling to sleep by, warm evening and morning, rugged skyline of Banner, Ritte1000 r and glaciated Mt. Davis. 

The morning quiet was broken with an awe struck girl skipping across the granite declaring with all her being, “This is absolutely the most amazing thing I have ever seen”.  She had discovered a whirlpool created by the flow of the river that split flowing half the water below the rocks half over the top of the rocks.  A little hole between the rocks created a strong down suction through that hole that no ant, pinecone, or twig placed near it by curious kids could escape. 

While we could have stayed at this idyllic spot for hours more, after Cory doctored Bekah’s heels, we began our gentle morning hike of 3 ½ miles with a ft elevation gain to Thousand Island pass.  As we hiked and passed like minded sojourners with jolly good morning and smiles, I thought to myself, “These people don’t seem extreme to me!” sporting various sized packs, a variety of Patagonia/Merrell/North Face hats, shorts, and polyprop shirts, everyone shared one thing in common – we embrace simplicity and find solace in the quiet.  My mind wandered back to work where a co-worker, surrounded by the din of the city, remarked, after hearing of our plans to hike the JMT, that, “Well, you are quite extreme though.  What’s it like to interact with such extreme people all summer?”
            It’s only day 3 and slowly an answer to her question is emerging.  Here’s a bit of maybe not what it’s like, but instead, what it is to be so “extreme”.  Every moment is powered by me.  I am fully engaged in every moment.  Instead of starting my work day by powering up the computer and waiting for it to warm up, I am fully responsible for and part of my own warm up to the days work.  Each step of the day is powered by me – not a car I sit in.  Each sound I hear is not muffled or shut out by walls.  These are sounds that normally the roar of the city shuts out, but now they are the backdrop to our day.  I am, we are as a team, part of making every moment happen.  Extreme means life is not happening to us anymore but we are pushing into life, actively engaging in the present.  Seems to me that this is the closest I can get on earth to how God intended for it to be.

At lunch, I did a reading of my journal so far.  We sat under Banner peak on a granite island near a reflective lakelet as I read.  Of course, it’s fun to star in your own story so the family loved it.  But Bekah’s eyes were wide as she asked, “ Could I write a story like that?  How can I write like that?”  She immediately pulled out her notebook, which at this point contained more, a bulleted list of the day’s events versus a narrative story.  She went at it right there beginning at day one, writing a story of our trip thus far, asking every minute or so, “Here’s what I wrote…Is that Ok to write that?” For the rest of the day, whenever there was a down moment, out came her journal.  
 I blew it.  As I walked down to Thousand Island Lake from our more remote campsite on the Northern edge of the lake, I caught a scene that caused me to pause.  Side by side they sat on the lakes edge, quietly talking.  Her pink bonnet danced with the wind in perfect synchronization with her daddy’s hat.  I couldn’t hear their voices but I teared up as I watched a daddy and his little girl catching a priceless moment together.  Oh how easy it can be to get caught up with emails and to do lists and miss times to just sit together, soaking tired feet, in the afternoon sun.

Why I was walking the path and only observing the bonding of two souls and not sitting there with her was why I was silently berating myself.  A half hour earlier I had volunteered to take our Boo down to the lake to soak her feet.  So far, every other time she soaked, she just enjoyed being lakeside, chatting with her visitors.  So, I grabbed my mat and book and prepared to enjoy some peace and quiet, until she started crying, loudly, because her heels burned in the water.  My reactions were at first sympathetic but when she wouldn’t stop, my fears that our trip was in danger (Shocking to realize that’s what I thought) and my frustrations that I couldn’t just relax with her made me miss a chance to guide her through this.  At least I admit that I’m still in process and have a lot to learn (and always will).  Seeing her daddy patiently sitting with her on the lake’s edge gave me the full contrast of a different outcome. 

Amazingly, as I sat back at camp sadly reflecting on my missed chance, Bekah came skipping up the hill proclaiming, “I’m getting so much wisdom from that guy!”  Further inquiries revealed how her Dad taught her that her blisters will heal after explaining to me that every time she dips her heels into the cold water, the cells will get tighter to finally make the skin tougher and turn into superskin. 

“What are you learning from me?”

“Oh, you’re teaching me how to be a mama!”

Precious words from a babe, shook me into reality and I joyfully determined to spend the rest of the afternoon with her.   We spent the entire rest of the afternoon side by side, writing in our journals, reading parts to each other, giggling about memories.  Thank goodness kids are forgiving, especially when they are on the receiving end of genuine effort, a simple, “I’m sorry” and love through togetherness.

We sat on a delightful (giggly so!) grassy ledge that jutted out from a tall granite rock that provided the perfect back support.  With our ribbed sleeping mats beneath us, we had discovered a perfectly ergonomically cushioned wingback chair at 9,800 feet.  For hours we sat in our luxury chairs, writing in our respective journals, interrupted by an occasional check for spelling or an excited updated reading. 

Children are watching us – for better or for worse – and they do what we do.  The pride Bekah has in her version of the narrative story of our trip is now weaving together our time as she diligently is writing everything she experiences and then reads to us as she progresses.  She is taking her book project dead serious because she could see that I am. 

Tonight cheers were loud as we ate our rehydrated pasta and meatballs.  A resounding score of 10 echoed off the granite slabs.

Day 2

Day 2: Waugh Lake up to Donuhue Pass (Yosemite) (With packs to camp: 2 to 3 miles, day hike to Donahue pass: 5.2 miles)

Waking up at Waugh Lake to kids in the tent, fighting caused Cory and I to take a collective deep breath.  The joy of spending every moment together is not realized in these first days that I like to fondly call the ocean bar.  In our frequent visits to the Pacific Ocean, I have often marveled at how rough the bar can be on the calmest of days. That spot on the ocean where the river pours into the open sea is very rough and boats have to deal with this transition area of rough water before they can enjoy the calmer ocean.  We are in the bar – relationships, chores, hiking, routines – it’s all rough water now.  We are experienced at this but even so, there is always a bar that divides the river from open sailing, and we are not sailing free yet. 

Everything I did this morning felt awkward.  In my warm sleeping bag as I realized I needed to use the “ladies room” at the exact time that I also need to put on my contacts so I could see past my nose, put on warmer clothes to take on the morning nip in the air, I had to figure out which order makes the most sense.  I walked around in circles for an hour, inefficiently accomplishing each task.  No one knew who was taking tents down or getting water.  Cory quietly went about his business and produced some hot water for breakfast.  I do marvel at how easy he makes it look. 

Cade’s comment was the most honest of all and was so accurate.  Upon getting up and lying in the tent thinking about all that he should/needed to do, his first morning thought was, “I don’t wanna do it!”  House routines are easy and mindless – wander down to the bathroom, do your business and emerge with teeth brushed, hair combed, and ready for the day.  Out here, every detail takes effort, effort we are not used to giving and there is no way to fudge, as you can’t leave your bed unmade out here!

Two hours later and we are still at camp, but the tents are packed (it took Bekah and I 3 attempts – but then we celebrated with a hi-five victory slap) and water is almost pumped. 

Happy chirps from Bekah as she tosses rocks with Cade at Waugh lake shore tells us her blisters, for now, are not hurting too bad.  I gave up my liner socks so she could have two layers of socks and one of my hiking sticks and daddy covered them with surgical tape and tied her shoes tighter. 

Blister tips: 1. Wear 2 socks!  2. Catch them early

The soundtrack while in this ocean bar is what settles me and propels me forward with hope – the lake lapping the shore and the breeze in the trees all have a powerful effect against the edginess of the kids with each other and the hours it takes to accomplish breakfast and perk up. 

I know this, something good is happening as Bekah has found her song again as she has not stopped humming and singing all morning. 

With a casual pace, we hiked towards Yosemite and Donahue pass, stopping halfway up the pass to make camp for the night and eat lunch.  Bekah’s blisters both popped and she really struggled prompting us to pause to increase the 1st aid protocol.  Thus began her long foot soaks in the healing waters of the Sierras. 
Donahue Pass - boundary of Yosemite National Park

We day hiked to Donahue pass to touch Yosemite and then returned to camp.  The beauty from these mountain peaks brings an undeniable feeling: peace.  The naturalist E.O. Wilson gave a name to this cozy feeling I’m experiencing: biophilia.  He asserts that our connection to nature is deeply ingrained in our genes.  This could be why more people visit zoos each year than attend all sporting events combined. 

A psychologist named Roger Ulrich studied patients recuperating from gall bladder surgery at a Pennsylvania hospital in 1984.  In comparing patients with rooms that overlooked a brick wall versus those that overlooked a strand of deciduous trees he noted of the patients with the park like setting to gaze at, “shorter hospital stays, fewer negative comments in nurses’notes…and they tended to have lower scores for minor post-surgical complications such as persistent headache or nausea requiring medication.  Moreover, the wall-view patients required many more injections of potent painkillers.”

This obscure study brings enormous implications.  The peace I felt today at Donahue pass is more than just “cozy” feelings.  Proximity to nature really affects our physiology, in real, measurable ways.  It really does make us happier, more peaceful, clearer minded.  It really does detoxify us.

 Despite her setback, I do not think she stopped humming and singing all morning.  Such content spirts out here, we all are.  Today was our 1st full day, of hopefully many, without a single quarrel. 

Our 1st 24 hours has offered many opportunities to teach and reteach giving purpose and eventually independence to the daily tasks.  It’s slower now, but in no time, they will have it down – how to set up and tear down the tent, how to get water for dinner, how to clean the dishes, how to bathe in a stream.  We have had an entire day of conversation, among just the four of us, with occasional stops to chat with a fellow sojourner.  Even so, as dinner cooks (sunny day pasta last night, chicken pasta pesto tonight) they are loudly playing Rummy in their tent. 

We’re eating so well out here thanks to our dehydrator providing morsels like swiss chard chips for dinner and pear and nut bars for lunch. 

Day 1

Day 1: Rush Creek Trail Head
“If you take any pictures you will be arrested.  Do you have a camera or a tripod?”  After years of dreaming and a year of planning, this was the greeting we had as we started our 200+ mile summer trek, following the JMT through the high Sierras in California.  My brain raced for understanding, though the dark haired, sober faced security guard stationed ½ mile in from the Rush Creek Trail head was giving away no clues for clarification.  Is there a wanted criminal hiding up the trail?  Did WE do something wrong? 

We came out here to escape the trappings of man, experience freedom – what does a guard mean that my photographer husband will be arrested if he takes a picture?  Did God pull out a copyright license on His creation? 

My husband, Cory, and I let out a few nervous laughs and tried to probe for more information but the tight lipped guard held his ground and repeated his warning: “Don’t even pull the camera out.  It’s illegal.” 

OK. Maybe there’s a hidden camera?  This couldn’t be right.  A few more nervous banters with the stoic Security guard began to reveal the details.  “They’re filming a movie today.  You’ll see the set clearly up the trail.  Absolutely no pictures of the set.”  The film was “Oblivion” starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and Universal Studios had indeed set up camp in sharp contrast to the natural setting and the camps we like to set up.

Such an unusual start to the day caused trail talk to switch to who these actors were, how much money they make, what their lives must be like being multi-millionaires.  I wondered how many trees we’d have to pass to work this out of the system.  But instead of just passing trees, we were passing cable railroad tracks running up the mountain, huge dams, electric wires, massive pipes, and dammed lakes surrounded by stumps. 

Day 1 all things feel like rusty machines turning on after lying dormant for a while.  The legs feel unlubed.  The procedures are all foggy.  Case in point, when we showed up to camp at Waugh Lake, the kids just pulled out mats and flopped down on the ground.  Gently, we prodded them off the mats and let them in on the to do list.  Who’s setting up our tent?  Cade, our 11-year-old son, reluctantly agreed to.  The unknown is hard to sigh up for and it’s been nine months since setting up a tent was part of the days flow.  Quickly, he warmed up to it as with teaching and space to try, confidence was gained.  Like a ball falling, gaining momentum, he could see the tent taking shape and his grumpy reluctance turned to creative energy.  “So this pole goes into this slot, right?”  In a half hour, our two tents were set up.  This is bound to get faster, but for now, as pesto chicken pasta rehydrates for dinner, Bekah, our 9 year old daughter, and Cade are reminding themselves how to play Blackjack in the tent as the sun sets over Waugh Lake.
            It took us longer to get to our destination than normal, as Bekah was moving very slow.  She occasionally complained of sore feet but having never had any problems, didn’t recognize the signs of a real problem.  We are kicking ourselves for not noticing the symptoms, but she is not a complainer so we’d just stop and adjust her shoes but never took her shoes off to double check.  We showed up at camp to discover two huge heel blisters on our Boo.  So now, plans are completely up in the air and dependent on our 1st aid and how she heals. 

Lesson #1: Always double check!

Really?  This is just night 1!  Because things are sore, procedures are rusty, and life with cushions is too easy to remember, the 200-mile stretch that lays before us seems looming.  But as is characteristic of me, I take on the whole and try to wrap my mind around the 200-mile trail that lies ahead.  Instead, I need to learn the art of NOW.  Today we hiked and that prepared us, exactly, for tomorrow.  We are not prepared, right now for day 16, 23, or 31.  We are only prepared for tomorrow.  Each day, each step, makes us stronger, just enough, for our next step. 

Our John Muir Trail Memoirs

The next chunk of blog posts are memoirs from my journal that will hopefully, someday, form the backdrop to a book intended to inspire families, emptynesters and anyone else to get on the trail, and how to do it.

Pre trip thoughts

As much as the rat race stresses and consumes us, it also provides a comfort, a sort of familiarity that I found myself clinging to as time ticked us forward.  On the precipice before we began a 6 week, 200 + backpacking trip following the majority of the John Muir Trail, I was surprised at my own feelings that wanted to cling to what’s comfortable instead of embracing the unknown.  As challenging as it is to juggle due dates, deadlines, staff meetings and emails, it’s also safe and it comes with cushioned seats.   But I know that as I sit here typing this, the challenge to transition to a summer of walking will pale in comparison to the challenge to transition back.

Trading in hot showers for cold mountain lake plunges and cushions for tree snags will be necessary for our family to experience the deep toxic cleanse of city life.  Taking our 9-year-old girl and our 11-year-old boy on our journey is as natural for us as loading up a mini van and heading to Disney Land is for others.  For the countless of people who have passed us on the trail and asked us (as they snap a picture of our kids for proof), “How do you get your kids out here?” we write this book. 

We have arrived at our staging area for the summer that is having it’s therapeutic effects of pulling me away from a manic desire for doing into a place of just being. These pages will contain our stories from the trail, how it shaped us, the people we encountered, and how you could join us out there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Eating can be such a drag!

Some live to eat...I eat just so I can live, and not pass out, and keep going.  Imagine if we were designed like plants or Wall-e - we just head outside, get some sun, and we are set to go.  Imagine all the money we'd save at Costco!  Imagine all the time we'd save  - not having to eat all day long!

Imagine how much lighter our packs would be without all that food to carry for a 6 week thru hike?

But then,  imagine all those fun times gathered around the dinner table with friends and family.  Or eating a homemade snack at a 10,000 ft mountain lake.  Or BBQs!  Or Greg's Grill in Bend, OR!

In these weeks preparing for our epic hike, the dehydrator runs 24/7 with dinners and snacks. Currently it is turning swiss chard into yummy chard chips (so good it'll be hard to get them into the ziplock bag without eating half of them) and pasta with a honey mustard peanut sauce into a crispier version of it's former self.  We'll be eating stews with kale and sweet potatoes, soups with beef and cabbage, bakes with sauerkraut and tamari all thanks to my dehydrator and a copious amount of time! We have packed 5 orange Home Depot buckets and drop shipped them ($55 a piece not including postage) to future drop spots that remote services will store for us so that we can hike ourselves to their location to resupply for the days ahead.
(Gosh, he's cute!)

As I spend thousands of dollars and months of time handling two months of food that we will eat,  I have realized that God, of course, Has a good plan going making us eat every day.  It's these necessary rest stops throughout the day that provide us (force us) to STOP, have some conversation, reflect on the day (what's to come at breakfast, how's it going? at lunch, how'd it go at dinner), and Thank Him, once again for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the people we get to share it with.

But man - it's ALOT of food!!  (This is not even close to all of it!)