Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tour de Cure 2011

I am currently in the mad rush to raise money for the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure. 16 days left! Curse my procrastinating ways!

Last I checked, I have $30 in donations so I need $120 left to raise. If 24 people each donated $5 that would do it. Or 12 to donate $10. In my mind $5 is the cost of a combo meal which will probably only take you closer to diabetes. So, give up the burger and fries this week and donate to a good cause.

Here's some scary diabetes facts from the ADA (they have solid sources for all their stats, I checked before reposting).

  • 25.8 million (8.3%) of the US have diabetes

  • 79 million are pre-diabetes

  • 215,000 people younger than 20 years old have diabetes (type 1 or 2)

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower limb amputations, blindness, heart disease, and stroke.

  • It is the 7th leading cause of death in the US

That stats that really scare me are the 79 million people on the verge of full blown type II diabetes. Wondering if you are at risk? Are you overweight (they specify BMI above 25) and not active? Are you thirsty often and have a hard time sleeping? The best thing you can do to prevent diabetes is get active. Start today but just going out for a 30 min walk. You can get away with being a little overweight if you active.

Also, type II used to be called "adult onset diabetes" but that term has been losing popularity because so many kids are getting type II now. There are almost as many cases as type II in kids as type I. In some race groups there are more cases of type II than type I.

Here's a link to my personal Tour de Cure page. You can donate online or get me cash/checks (written to the American Diabetes Association).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Yellowstone adventure

May has been a very good month to me. I went on yet another adventure this past weekend. This trip was to Yellowstone. It struck me how opposite it was to the Zion's trip. By opposite, I mostly mean temperture. The landscape was starkly different as well. It was good and cold though. I brought lots of layers and wore most of them all at the same time.

Jake, Tony, & Veronika went up earlier on Friday. Kelly & I took off after work. It’s about a 6 hour drive. It was pretty dark by the time we got close to the park. About 20 miles from the inn, we saw a lumbering shadow. I think we both realized it was a bear about the same time. We squealed like little girls and held hands for about a mile. The bear was just walking on the side of the road but it couldn’t have been more than 5 to 10 feet from the car. That’s the closest I’ve been to a bear in the wild for sure. I said a prayer, talked Kelly through some breathing exercises, and then we sang primary songs for most of the rest of the drive.

We stayed at the Old Faithful Inn. Normally I prefer to tent camp, however this trip was different than other trips. Also the cold and the bear sighting had me very happy to be indoors. Plus the inn was really cool. It’s been around for a really long time. It’s a legitimate log built building. The main part of the building/lobby is open all the way to the ceiling which is really high up. I was fascinated by the architecture and original hardware of the building.

Our room was about the size of my bedroom and had 2 queen beds and a sink. Our room was a great deal because it didn’t have its own bathroom. There was a community bathroom with showers down the hall. The tiling in the bathroom was very cool. The real gem for me was one an employee showed us a room with two big, old soaking tubs. Each had its separate room off the main hall.

Saturday I took a peak out the window and saw a geyser going off and assumed it was Old Fiathful. It turns out it was actually Beehive which is rare cause it goes off when it wants to and only once or twice a day.

We got up and went exploring around the upper geyser basin. That’s were Old Faithful is located (hence Old Faithful Inn). Jake made exploring that area even better by sharing his vast knowledge about not just each geyser or pool, but the processes that create them.

I realized how amazing that whole area really is. Also, I realized what a dynamic and living environment it is. Part aesthetics, part science, all awesome.

We brought our own breakfast and lunch stuff, but ate dinner Saturday night in the dining room at the inn. The food was pretty good. I tried everyone’s meals of course. I liked everything. We took our time and had a great meal and conversation. Right after we ordered a couple of desserts, the fire alarm went off and the inn was completely evacuated into the chilly night. I think some other guests were irritated but our group and some others had fun with it. Several of the dinner groups took the opportunity to dine and dash apparently. We went back, got our dessert, and even paid for our meal.

We played a little “durak “ on the balcony to the lobby on our floor. This is a Russian card game Veronika taught us. It was fun. I was beat and went to bed around 11:30.

Sunday I was first up at about 8:00 am. I went and used one of the soaking tubs. It was fabulous. It was so nice. Some day I will have a deep tub. In my dream home, I don’t need a big bathroom; I just need a deep tub. I was still the only one up so I went around the inn and outside and took some pictures, made friends with a little family from Bombai, and learned about the skeletal structure of bison (very interesting, don’t irritate them, they will mess you up).

I'll share with you a little something I picked up about the naming of geysers and hot pools. If it's named after you, you're either really rich or you died in it. I think I'll play it safe and just hope I never have one named after me.

We packed up and headed out first to Upper Geyser Basin. It think that is where Celestine Pool is which was our first tale of death took place. The pools may look clear and cozy, but they are so hot they will kill you, so don't jump in them.

I like my brother.

We then headed to the Grand Canyon (of Yellowstone). The upper and lower falls there were amazing and beautiful, but as I mentioned the trails we wanted to go on were closed. Jake and Tony were there last year and able to access all the trails. So our plan for Sunday constitutionals turned into more of a car tour of the park. I’ve been to Yellowstone in the summers so it was kind of fun to see the spring (late winter) landscape.

We went home by way of the Tetons. My favorite stop was Jenny Lake. I think we camped there when I was a kid. The Tetons are amazing mountains. They are so steep. The snow on them made them even more majestic.

Just like the previous weekend, what made this trip really amazing was the people I was with. It was fun to get to know Veronika even better. If I could monopolize all of Kelly’s time, I totally would. I love to learn from Jake, joke around, and share “feelings”. Tony is not just my brother but one of my best friends. He is happy, positive, and just a good man.

It was really a quick trip, but it has me hungry to go back to Yellowstone and the Tetons. The next camping trip planned is in Ogden Valley. The crew is going to try and climb all the way to Ben Lomond Peak. I actually have a bike ride that morning, so I don’t know if I’ll make the whole trip with them. I’m planning to get to the trail after the ride and at least catch them on their way back down. We’ll see what happens. Last year they didn’t make it to the peak because of the snow. This year we’ve had even more snow, so it will be interesting.

Animals we saw: Bears, Elk, Bison, Marmot, Squirrel, Chipmunk, Giant Crows (one we named Candik), and Moose.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quest for the Barracks: Day 3

The last day of any camping trip is sort of sad. You are secretly dreaming of flush toilets and showers, but part of you would like to stay in the wilderness forever.

I slept in much later than the previous day. The sun was up already, civil sunrise I believe. I went for a little morning walk-about. I did some sun salutations on my flat spot from the day before. It felt glorious to stretch my body out. Then I wondered what was just a little further up. And kept wondering until I reach the cliff face of the mesa we were camped below. I sang hi-ho and some other stuff into the rounded curve of the canyon and went back to camp.

Breakfast consisted of apples and oatmeal. Passable but appropriate for the last day. The hike back out was so much harder than the hike in. We followed nearly the same line but each step in the sand was labor. I was still enjoying the challenge. I knew I had lived and hiked for two glorious days and I was going to enjoy the last march out of Checkboard. We paused at the saddle and gazed fondly at the land behind us and the final short canyon ahead that would take us back to civilization. Beautiful views.

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been reading books & magazines and watching documentaries on explorers—Shakelton, Sir Francis Drake, Edmund Hillary/Tenzing Norgay, Marco Polo, Harriet Chalmers Adams, Indiana Jones (ok, not factual or realistic, but it still piqued my desire for adventure), etc. Even though I’m not exploring any new frontiers, I love it when I can live my dreams.

I can’t over emphasize the beauty of the land, the excitement of the physical challenge, or the elation in completing the quest. However, in the end probably the best part of the trip I haven’t even gone into in detail. The best part was spending 2 ½ days with Casey, Pete, and Jake. Three people I love dearly and all the more dearly now. Even despite group consensus if we were stranded, we’d eat me first, and how I would be prepared (roasted, maybe with a little rosemary). All the more for it really.

We sang, and laughed, and joked, and philosophized, and witnessed each other's calamities, and laughed all the time. I have the best friends. They put up with my silly musings and dropsy’s and incessant chatting and even seemed to enjoy it most of the time. All of my friends are amazing, but I’m glad I can take a moment to spotlight these three.

I will hike the Barracks some day. There are many lessons learned this trip but my final words will be this. Don’t hold on to plans or goals to the point that you miss out on the wonderful detours life has for us. If we had attached ourselves to only hiking the Barracks, we would have been bitterly disappointed. But also never let go of your dreams. I’ve been dreaming of this kind of adventure for 20+ years. It was better than I ever imagined thanks to 3 wonderful people. So dream, surround yourself with wonderful people, and gratefully take whatever life actually gives you. And I continue to dream and plot my next trip. Epic Adventure II: Return to the Barracks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Quest for the Barracks: Day 2

I am not a morning person, but when I’m camping I tend to wake up around the crack of dawn-ish. Once I’m awake I’m usually uncomfortable enough to just get up. That is not a bad thing because mornings are beautiful. Camping is one of the rare opportunities I get to admire their beauty.

Base camp was in a sandy spot, so found some fairly flat sandstone nearby that I could do some sun salutations. I love doing yoga when I’m camping. It totally warms up the muscles, increases energy levels, and helps stretch and work kinks out of tight muscles. Also, there is something more energizing in nature than on a sticky mat in a studio. Love both, but maybe I just get the synergy from my love of nature and yoga at the same time.

Breakfast consisted of formerly frozen toaster strudels. Delightful when warmed by pan frying in the wild. We made a bunch of bagel sandwiches. Joked about rolling them (inside joke that will go on forever probably). Then we set off to find the barracks.

You may recall that I originally said I had been dreaming about hiking the barracks for 2 years and thought this trip was all about the barracks. Like all good plans, sometimes you have to make changes. Due to the generous amounts of precipitation Utah has received this year, the river levels were higher than usual. That’s why we hiked into Checkerboard Mesa from Zion’s. So, the adventure changed from exploring the barracks to reaching them.

The first big challenge was finding our way across the first slot canyon on our way there. We had a topo map and an expert guide, but it can still be tricking finding the right spot to get in and out. We were only interested in non-technical canyoneering (that means without ropes, if you need ropes and stuff it’s technical). We thought we had found a spot and I went ahead and threw my backpack over the side at about a 20 foot drop. Then we inched further down the sandstone slope and realized one or two of us were not “comfortable” with the steepness of the rest of the route. We backed it on up and headed further up the canyon.

We found a better spot and got down in the canyon. During this interlude was when I remembered I had left my camera in the belt of my backpack. I had time to imagine the various states it might be in before we got to the spot where my pack and Jake’s poles were. Camera had bounced out onto the one small patch of sand in a pile of rocks my pack rested on and continued working like a charm until the batteries died about an hour later (note to self: check batteries in camera before beginning epic adventures).

We went up and down a couple other more friendly canyons until we came to Poverty Flats. From our approach it looked fairly flat. Then you get to the first rise in Poverty not-so-Flats and it is much more rolling that it seems from afar. Not complaining, just setting expectations for anyone who goes there after me.

In Poverty Flats we entered Poverty Wash. We ate our then amazingly sticky PB & J bagel sandwiches that were slightly smashed when “somebody” dropped them. “Somebody” dropped a lot of stuff. So, anyhow, sticky sandwiches. Delish. The first part of the wash was a long sandy riverbed like terrain. It’s never all that easy though. We would occasionally come upon drop offs that we would have to get out and find a way down to.

Then we came to the slot canyon part of the wash. Laaaaaaa (choirs of angels). Slot canyons are magical. I’ve been through a couple of small-ish slot canyons before. This was so much more amazing though. It was remoter and taller and just incredibly beautiful. Jake and I had a discussion about how it’s really just like walking through a hallway, so what’s the big deal. Ok, it’s not really like a hallway at all. The shapes of the canyon walls and the way the sun shines in through them is art. There’s also the adrenaline rush of jumping over and down off of boulders. Shimmying over dank, dirty pools of water. One cess pool had some kind of tapeworm thing in it. So disturbing.

Where we left the love birds with the last of the chips and water

At a certain point in the day we realized we were running out of time and just about to run out of water. 3:00 was our cut off time for when we needed to turn back to base camp to beat the twilight (didn’t bring headlamps, so there were no other options). Our first time backpackers were really doing super well, however Jake knew the final ascent was going to be tricky. We climbed out of the slot canyon and left the couple under a shady V-shaped tree with the last of our water and took off with increased determination to reach at least the portion of Poverty Wash with flowing water. We could have filtered the cesspools if we had to, but only if we had to. A discussion about that was when the word a-money was born. Basically you can filter nasty water and it will be safe to drink but it will still taste bad.

We got out of the canyon because of a major drop off. Below this drop off is where the fresh flowing water was. We could see it and hear it, but we were having a hard time finding a spot to get to it. This was probably the most challenging part of the whole hike. The walls of the slot canyon were just so much higher here. Jake eventually found a possible descent and we went for it. Ask me sometime about the difference between possible and passable.

When we got to the bottom it was like choirs of angles from the first slot canyon times 10. The water was bubbly and clean and I’ve never been so aware of how life giving water is. I want to point out that we were not in danger of dehydration at this point, but the risk of it in the desert is so high. Mostly I was just really happy we didn’t have to drink water the rest of the trip that tasted like a-money (if you’re not sure what a-money stands for, put a couple of money signs after the a). We filtered enough for all the containers we had and drank our fill. It was so clean, crisp, and cool.

At this point, we were about a half mile, as the crow flies, from where the wash enters the Barracks. We had told the happy couple we’d be back in 60-90 mins but decided to risk making them nervous by finishing the quest. My camera battery was dead at this point so I have not pictures of this part of the journey. It was just incredible. The vegetation was incredible. We even past the biggest patch of poison ivy I’ve ever seen. Gotta keep your wits about you at all times in the wilderness.

We finally made it to the Barracks. If you’ve seen pictures of the Narrows in Zion’s you can imagine the Barracks. What makes it a little more awesome than the Narrows is it’s remoteness. Just getting to it is so difficult that that accomplishment alone makes it feel more amazing. Usually the water in that canyon is more like a creek. We came upon a river. The entire canyon was full of rapidly flowing water. Based on some pole poking, it was probably about 3 feet deep.

The last real noteworthy adventure was on the final descent before ascending to camp. Right near the bottom Casey sat on a cactus. She says she slid into it. I say she did it on purpose. Just kidding. I already told them the advice from the Zion’s guide, “Cacti. Don’t sit on them.” Eh, that’s what it said more or less. So, within sight of camp we were all gathered around Casey’s bottom trying various methods of getting most of the tiny but annoying spines out of her jean's. We got enough of them to finish the final ascent. Lovely bottom.

We made creamy cheese and broccoli soup and instant potatoes for dinner. Everything got a sprinkling of bacon. Just after dinner at about 9:30 PM our tuckered out first-timers went straight to bed. I played a little game called Satisfaction for a bit before I headed to bed. Satisfaction is a lovely game. You take dried out branches of juniper tree and break off pieces and then burn them in the fire. It may not sound like much, but it is soooo satisfying. We ended the night listening to Pumped Up Kicks on Jake’s iPod and visualizing someone we know as the protagonist of the song. Fabulous day.

I think we all slept like the dead that night. Until you have pushed yourself like that, you will never know the sweet, deep sleep of the bone-weary hiker.

Quest for the Barracks: Day 1

I first heard about the Barracks 2 years ago and I’ve been dreaming about going there ever since. So, the venerable guru of bushwhack hiking himself and I planned a trip. Our hiking team also included first-time backpackers Pete & Casey. I’m so glad they came because they only fed my already ridiculous excitement with their eagerness for a new adventure.

Friday we drove down to Zion’s, registered or checked in (you have to get permits for back country hiking), then ditched the car on a pull off next to your entry canyon. That was at about 6:30 pm. This was a nice little narrow canyon. We heard and even saw some bullfrogs in the water pools embedded in the sandstone. The temperature was just about perfect for hiking. The end of this canyon is a steep sandy ascent to the “saddle”. I called it the gateway because it was kind of the gateway between the more populated Zion’s Canyon area and the more desolate back country. You look ahead and it’s just vast, rolling desert.

Bark on a Ponderosa Pine, looks almost like lace

Side note here. Zion’s Canyon is incredible. Love it. Its beauty is nearly unmatched. On the other hand the back country has its own awesomeness in being so desolate and feeling so untouched. We heard a couple of hikers pass by our camp below, but the only people we actually saw the whole hike was right at the end when we were coming out of the final canyon. Two friendly, portly gentlemen asked if we made it to the saddle. Ha! Yes, and about a million steps beyond. There is a deep sense of adventuring that is not equaled in a highly populated trail. If you know how much I love adventuring, you may understand me when I say I was saturated with bliss the whole weekend.

Bobcat and a squirrel were playing tag

We came into a stretch of land called Checkerboard Mesa. Our first adventure was getting to a location to make camp before the daylight hours were spent. When night hits in the wilderness the darkness is much more intense than in the city. We wanted to get past the border of Zion’s park. I think the only time Jake came close to even ruffling his calm patient demeanor was when he announced we had 7 minutes left of civil twilight and needed to pick up the pace a bit.

Twilight has levels. Twilight is when the sun is even with the horizon (0 degrees). Civil twilight last from 0 degrees to 6 below horizon, approx 50 mins. Nautical twilight is 6 to 12 degrees, about 50 mins. Astronomical twilight is from 12-18 degrees, another 50 mins.

Seed pod of a yucca, I love all the textures and designs in nature

We had to put our headlamps on but the guru found a perfect spot to make camp and we were able to set up and cook a feast of sweet and sour and orange chicken worthy of PF Chang’s. Packing tip—take frozen food for the first night. It will defrost by the time you make camp for dinner and is infinitely better tasting than the dried out (and expensive) pre-packed backpacking foods.

The white speck in the middle is our base camp

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weight update

About when I got my RMR results I changed my mind about trying to lose more weight right now. Not really related to the RMR test, but it had been on my mind that it would be ok to just celebrate the weight loss I had and maintain it for a short period. This actually seemed prudent and healthy, but my Type A personality wanted to push on.

It's been about a month from the end of the weight loss challenge I did and I'm basically the same weight give or take a few ounces. Hurrah! That is a victory in my mind.

I actually feel good and healthy right now. I had begun to feel a bit run down and burnt out but I was trying to push through it. Why do we do this to ourselves. At least I am better at listening to my body than I used to be. That is one of the greatest benefits I've gotten from practicing yoga--mindfullness in body, thought, and actions. It seems the more I'm in touch with my body and listen to it, the healthier I end up. Hmmm. Wish I had realized that like 10 years ago. Or 30.

So, I'm feeling good and refreshed and restored and ready to really move forward again. Seriously, why was I forcing it before. Patience grasshopper. I'm back on my plan with the whole meditation/visualization thing, tracking calories (and knowing the right amount to be tracking now), and increasing my strength training. I'm in a bootcamp and a TRX class this summer so that will help me be consistent with the strength training.

So the moral of the story is, listen to your body and know how to tell the difference between "laziness" and burn out. How will you be able to tell the difference? Well, if you are avoiding burn out, you'll probably feel healthier and as long as you keep the eating and moderate amounts of activity, you'll maintain weight. If it's burn out, you'll probably get sick and/or tired all the time and gain weight back because you finally break down and eat lots of Easter candy (see previous post).