Hiking “The Wave”

When I returned to work and my boss asked me how the hike was, the first word out of my mouth was “extraordinary.” He was like, “Wow, extraordinary!?” That is the best way that I could sum up this experience with one word. It was the most amazing trip of my life because I had never seen such a terrain that was so historical and unique in every way. It was like stepping into a different age.

Heading toward the entrance to The Wave.
It had rained a couple days before, so there was quite a bit of standing water like this little pond.

I do admit that I was a little worried about doing this hike in the middle of August, but thankfully we were blessed with great temperatures. It only got up to about 91°, which is much cooler than it was when I went to Zion in June. When we started out at about 6 AM, the temperature was in the 50s. When we made it to the Wave there was a nice, cool breeze blowing and it wasn’t very hot.

Walking into The Wave.
This pond of water at the Wave’s entrance made for a cool reflection shot.
This feature had some amazing textures.
The Wave.

Beyond the wave, we explored Second Wave and the Boneyard, rounding out the loop with the dinosaur tracks, which were really cool and made me feel like I had gone back into the Jurassic Age. I opted not to go up to Top Rock, which I really wanted to see, but I decided that I just wasn’t up to that type of climbing and didn’t want to tire myself out. I just wanted to experience that beautiful place, live in the moment and enjoy just being there. I was in a constant state of awe the whole time.

Strange looking rocks in the “Boneyard.”
A #4-shaped rock in the Boneyard.

I had the pleasure of hiking with a professional photographer, Amy, from Action Photo Tours, who was very experienced with the terrain and knew all of the other sites outside of the Wave that I wanted to see. I also was able to learn photography skills and how to use the more advanced settings on my camera. Before this trip, I had purchased a new ultra wide zoom lens just for the landscape aspect of the trip and I was so excited to use it. I’m very pleased with the photos that I took.

Dinosaur tracks.
More dinosaur tracks.

Walking in the Wave itself was quite a trippy experience. It’s hard to describe the feeling that I had while being inside the Wave. It looks one way in the pictures and you think that the pictures online are all extraordinary, but there is nothing like actually being there and seeing it up close and in person.

A towering spire.
The features of The Wave may look soft and delicate, but they are actually quite sturdy and rugged.

I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude with each moment that passed and I just wanted to hold onto it and never let it go. I couldn’t help but remember what was going on in my life a year ago when I had my back issues and then the surgery and I just couldn’t stop giving thanks for the experience and for being able to walk this path and have this be a part of my life‘s journey. I’m just so grateful. I hope you enjoy these pictures and I also hope that you also get a chance to experience this wonderful place for yourself. It’s not easy to get a permit, but it is so worth the process.

Walking inside The Wave.
Photo by Amy O., Action Photo Tours.

Camelbak

All Aboard the Subway!

This hike was quite a doozy and at first I said I would never do it again. Now that some time has passed and my body and mind have had some recovery time, I would say I may do it again at some point. Just not anytime soon. That was one of the reasons I took so many pictures. I was of the mindset that I might not want to pass that way again. But we’ll see.

Starting our adventure.
It was a steep rocky path down to the creek.
It’s a tough hike, but the scenery is worth it.

I hiked with my friends Jodi and Neenah. Jodi charged ahead and left me and Neenah in the dust. Neenah could have charged ahead with her but I was glad that she stayed and hiked with me. I was grateful for the company. It was hot so we took our time and soaked in the creek a couple of times along the way to cool off. The water was great! We also observed quite a bit of healthy looking trout in the creek. Too bad I didn’t have a net. I felt like I could have scooped them right out!

Neenah cooling off in the water.
Trout swimming in the water.
Me cooling off in the waterfall.

When Jodi went to collect the permits for the hike, the ranger told her that it was bouldering the whole way and the hike was rated as “hard” on All Trails. I thought that was interesting because I didn’t remember the hike being super difficult with that much bouldering. However, my last time out there was nine years ago and I’m sure the area has endured its share of landslides and flash floods that have redesigned the terrain over time.

The closer we got to the Subway, the more the water flowed creating cascades like this.
Another cascade.
Neenah walking in the creek past some boulders.

The hike was nine miles and it took us about nine hours to complete it. We didn’t start until almost 10:30am but we should have started much earlier. Several people we met on their way out of the canyon said they had started around 5:00am, which was smart to beat the heat. We just didn’t want to get up that early.

The path goes right up the cascades, a welcome treat on a sweltering day.
Almost to our destination.
Another beautiful waterfall.

One thing I learned is that I should have either packed 4 liters of water instead of 3, or brought a filter to get water from the creek. Although, I’m not sure that even filtering water would have been a good idea with the high levels of Cyanobacteria in the water. Maybe North Creek is okay and it’s just the Virgin River that the warning is for, but we weren’t sure.

The entrance to the Subway.
The sound of running water was so relaxing.
There were lots of natural pools to soak in.

We were keeping an eye on the sky during the hike as some clouds started to build downstream later in the afternoon. I was also keeping an eye on possible escape routes in the event of a flash flood. There was no rain in the forecast, but storms can develop anytime in the summer, particularly in the afternoon. Thankfully, no storm materialized out of those clouds, but the cloud cover did provide some much needed relief from the brutal sun and heat for a while. By the time we left the Subway, the clouds had dispersed and the sun emerged with a vengeance.

Inside the Subway.
Looking back toward the entrance to the Subway.
Leaving the Subway, Neenah leading the charge.
The Subway.

All in all, it was a great day and we felt so accomplished afterwards. The Subway is a spectacular adventure.

Teva

Taylor Creek and Kolob Canyons

After finishing up our Kanarra Creek hike, we headed over to Kolob Canyons to do a second hike. It was fairly short at a mere five miles round trip, but it felt so much longer due to the heat. It was a little cooler up there but the temps were probably still in the 90’s. There was a creek, but it had very little water and it was nothing to take a dip in and cool off.

Wood log steps at the beginning of the hike.
A trickle of water in the creek.

I told my friends Neenah and Jodi to go ahead because I didn’t know if I wanted to go all the way. I didn’t research this hike much as it was one of Jodi’s suggestions, so I wasn’t sure if the Double Arches were a worthy payoff at the end. I trekked on figuring I’d just turn around when I met up with the ladies heading back from the arches.

Entering the Zion Wilderness, although not part of Zion National Park.
Neenah walking ahead.

The hike didn’t get that interesting for me until I arrived at the first cabin. I actually would have missed it had I not seen a guy coming from that direction as the cabin is situated slightly off-trail right at a turn. Had the guy not been there I would have just been focused on the trail sign that indicated turning right to follow the path.

Larson Cabin.

There was another cabin a little further up the trail. Both were cool to see and pretty interesting due to their construction and the fact that they were just out there in the middle of this canyon with nothing else around.

The further into the canyon we ventured, the more water we observed in the creek.
The Arch.
Cathedral.

I eventually made it to the arches where I met back up with Jodi and Neenah. It was absolutely worth it to keep going because the Double Arches were pretty spectacular. I’d love to go back and do this hike at a cooler time or when there is lots of water flowing in the creek. We crossed the creek at least 20 times during the hike, so with flowing water it would have been a lot of fun.

Women's pants banners for Fall 2022

Hiking Kanarra Falls

In June, my friends and I hiked Kanarra Falls near Zion National Park in Utah and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day. It was hot but the water was cold. This is now a permitted hike, which I am grateful for because it limits crowds on the trail. When I first did this hike nine years ago, no permit was needed, but that apparently led to the area becoming overcrowded and trashed since the hike became more popular.

Ready for a great hike!
Walking into the canyon.

One thing I remembered from doing this hike years ago is that the water was feet-numbing cold. This time, I came prepared with a pair of neoprene socks that I purchased from REI the night before I left for my trip. They really came in handy. When we checked in at the ranger’s station at the start of the hike, I asked him how cold was the water and he said 49°. When we got further into the canyon and my feet felt that water, I stopped to put on those socks and they made a huge difference.

Walls of fire.
The infamous rickety ladder.

This canyon was even more beautiful than I remembered it. It was also a treat to introduce friends to it that had never experienced it. Everyone enjoyed it. Afterwards, we went to the Snackery just up the road and enjoyed snow cones and root beer floats. Then it was on to our second hike of the day in Kolob Canyon.

My friends walking through the canyon.
The last waterfall where we stopped. No ladder here.
Me in front of the last waterfall.

A permit is required to hike Kanarra Falls and can be obtained at this link where you’ll find all the information that you need to do this amazing hike.

While I was on this trip and right before my friends and I did water hikes, I discovered that I left my water shoes at home. I had to go to an outfitter in Springdale and buy a pair of shoes. They didn’t have the brand that I normally wore and the ones that I liked best out of what was available were the Teva Women’s Omnium Sandals. Those sandals were so comfortable and performed so well on my adventures in and out of the water that they are now my go-to water shoes. I even took them on my recent trip to Brazil and wore them in the Amazon jungle. Check them out at the link below.

Teva

Exploring Hot Creek

Hot Creek near Mammoth, CA is a place to marvel at geology in action. Boiling water bubbling up from the creek bed, fumaroles and periodic geyser eruptions at Hot Creek attest to the chamber of hot magma which lies about three miles below the surface of the earth in this area.

Steam emitting from the pools at Hot Creek
There is a sign warning people to stay out

The steam you see along the Hot Creek drainage is created when water percolates deep into the ground and enters a complex underground plumbing system. The water is heated and pressurized before it rises to the earth’s surface. It is believed this journey takes around 1000 years.

Scalding hot pool
View of Hot Creek from the hiking trail

Earthquakes can cause sudden geyser eruptions and overnight appearances of new hot springs at Hot Creek. Water temperatures can change rapidly, and so entering the water is prohibited.

Some have referred to Hot Creek as a mini Yellowstone. I’ve never been to Yellowstone yet, so I can’t say whether or not I agree with that. I’d like to just appreciate this beautiful place for what it is.

ThermoFlask

Forest Lessons, “Tarzan,” and…a Caiman?!

Our second day at the jungle lodge was pretty busy. We started the day with a hike into the jungle led by our guides Lima and Rivelino, who we later nicknamed “Tarzan” due to his extraordinary strength and agility. During the hike, our guides taught us some survival skills and showed us how to make some crafts.

After the hike, we returned to the lodge for lunch and some relaxation before taking to the waters again to explore more of the igapó and watch the sunset at the end of the day. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, we took the boats out again after dinner and went out searching for alligators. We ended up with quite a surprise.

This is one of the longer videos in this series at nine minutes, but I hope you stick around until the end. With Halloween upon us, there are some elements that I find quite fitting. I had so much fun filming and editing this piece of a most extraordinary adventure. I hope you’re enjoying this series. The best is still yet to come.

Hiking the Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks was my first ever hike almost ten years ago and provided a friendly introduction into the hiking world. So any time I get to hike out there, it’s always a special occasion for me. This time was even more special because I got to hike with my tribe AND experience flowing water in the creek among the beautiful rocks. It was the first time I had seen any sort of moisture out there. The place is typically dry and barren and you can even walk in the creek bed. This time we had many water crossings where it was hard not to get wet. Yes, this actually happened at Vasquez Rocks and the following pictures prove it.


One of the best things about this hike is that it provided a great opportunity for me to test out a pair of new insoles from SoleStar. Crafted 100% in Germany, these hiking/mountaineering insoles give comfort, stability and support while traversing some pretty tough terrain. I paired my insoles with my go-to hiking shoes I’ve worn over the past several years on shorter day hikes and they fit like a glove. My old insoles that came with the shoes were starting to wear out, so I had been looking for a new pair with better support.


The SolesStar insoles were good to go right out of the box. They were very sturdy to the touch and I could tell they had quite a bit of well-designed support to them as well. The minute I slipped my feet into the shoes, I knew I had a winner. Just walking around the house initially, I could feel my feet molding to the soles perfectly. I couldn’t wait to test them out on the trails.

 


We started off
 with a bit of rock climbing and climbed up the famous rock outcropping that you may have seen in movies like “Star Trek”, “Planet of the Apes” and many other films that have been shot out there. At a distance, the rock appears to be at a 90° angle, but it’s really more like 45°. Many people climb to the very top of it, but we didn’t venture quite that far up. We parked ourselves on a ledge about 15 feet from the very top and that was good enough for me. I already challenged my fear of heights. I didn’t want to challenge my safety as well.

 


After pushing our limits on the rock outcropping (caused by the shifting of plates beneath the San Andreas Fault), we hiked a short loop trail that took us into a rocky, yet green, wonderland. Near the end of that first trip, we topped out at an area that provides amazing views of Vasquez Rocks, the surrounding Agua Dulce area, the 14 Freeway, and the backside of the snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains.


After we finished the smaller loop, we hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that took us along th
e creek and underneath the 14 Freeway via a rather lengthy tunnel. We stopped for a long break on the other side and then headed back the way we came. I had done that version of the hike with the Santa Clarita hiking group a couple of years ago, but it was completely dry and much warmer then.

 


The guys
 and I added on another mile to our hike by taking a larger loop around that had quite a bit of elevation gain, but eventually brought us back to the parking lot. It was such a gorgeous day out. The weather was perfect and it was so much fun to be on another great adventure with good friends.


As for my Solestar insoles, they are definitely keepers, and I highly recommend them for your outdoor adventures. The insoles are a high quality product that can take as much of a beating as you can give them witho
ut your feet absorbing the shock. If you are looking for stability and comfort while ascending great heights or traversing the deepest canyons, look no further than Solestar. I am happy to have found a pair of insoles that are crafted to go the distance.


Hike on!

~J

On the Road with Desert Dog

On Thanksgiving weekend, my boyfriend Bill and I took Cody on his first ever camping trip. From the moment we started packing up the car the night before, Cody was filled to the brim with excitement over what his new adventure had in store. He had no idea where we were going, but he knew we were going somewhere, and that was all it took. The next day, we were off to Death Valley for a weekend of camping and hiking with friends. Although this wasn’t my first visit to Death Valley, each experience is unique and special, and I was happy to share this one with Bill and Cody.

We weren’t sure how Cody was going to do on his first road trip, so Bill covered up the two large ice chests on the back seat with a comfy towel so he could relax and still be able to see the open road in front of us. First, he wanted to sit on my lap, but Bill nudged him to the back seat and he laid down on his towel. He looked so cute on his makeshift bed.

Death Valley is quite a drive from Long Beach. We decided to take the scenic route and drove in via the 190 from Olancha in the Eastern Sierra. It was a bit of a longer way in for us, but being that it was the more scenic route, we didn’t mind the extra time on the road. Plus, we got to see some of our beloved Eastern Sierra.

Upon our entrance into Death Valley, we stopped at our first vista point, Father Crowley Overlook. Bill, Cody and I got out to take a look and were instantly captivated by the majestic sight before us. I thought it looked like a mini grand canyon. Little did I know, we would see other places in Death Valley that were even more similar to the Grand Canyon. Cody was just as excited as Bill and I were.

Death Valley is on record as the hottest, driest and lowest place on Earth. The hottest rating doesn’t apply in November, though. However, the climate is so arid that it’s very important to stay hydrated, even if the cooler temperatures don’t make you “feel” thirsty. Bill and I made sure to bring plenty of water for ourselves and for little Cody.

I had been using this new Bubi Bottle and Bowl on some of my walks around town with Cody and was anxious to use them at Death Valley. Made from BPA Free Silicone, the Bubi bottle is ideal for kids, pets, work, travel, sports and adventures of all sorts. It was the perfect gear combo for our trip to Death Valley.

I’m so used to carrying plastic bottles of water on my adventures and they get to be pretty cumbersome after a while. When I’m out on the hiking trails, especially when doing long distance hikes, I drink a lot of water, and water sources along the trail are not always available. Carrying back empty bottles are quite a pain. Hydration bladders are more convenient, but they are hard to clean, as are the plastic 1-liter bottles. The Bubi Bottle is so soft and flexible that it can be cleaned inside-out.

When Cody and I took a break, I pulled out the Bubi Bottle and had a drink for myself, then attached his bowl to the top, unscrewed it and poured him some water. He gladly drank it as he was super thirsty from being exposed to such a dry climate. He loves his bowl so much. It wasn’t super warm or cold during the day, so we were fine drinking the water at air temperature. Since it cooled down overnight, the water had enough of a chill to keep us refreshed.

After we downed all the water, I scrunched the Bubi Bottle down, collapsed Cody’s cute little matching bowl and stuffed them into Bill’s pack. Even when the bottle was completely full, nothing spilled or leaked into the pack. The Bubi Bottle’s puncture-resistance withstood the beating that we gave it. I’m looking forward to using this bottle and bowl on future adventures. It’s so lightweight and portable that sometimes I forget I’m carrying it…until it’s time for a drink of water.

Cody enjoyed his first road trip/camping trip. There were so many sights and smells that he loved to explore and we had fun watching him. The smiles on his face were priceless. Cody did have a little scare the last night of our camping trip. He was sitting with Bill on a picnic bench near the campfire and a coyote approached. Neither of us saw it, but Cody did, and he freaked out and tried to go after it. Cody is a little dog, but very strong. It took Bill quite a bit of effort to restrain him. Thankfully, the coyote ran off into the night and we were all able to breathe a sigh of relief, but we remained on alert the rest of our time there.

On the drive home, we took a different route than the way we came in and stopped at the Trona Pinnacles, an area that sparked my curiosity a few years ago when passing through on the way to Death Valley. The Trona Pinnacles consist of an area of tufa formations, similar to those at Mono Lake near Mammoth Lakes, CA.

You have to drive five miles on a fairly well-graded dirt road to get to the Pinnacles. Then you arrive at the official entrance. Beyond that, you can drive in a loop around the Pinnacles or take the hiking trail and walk among them. There is a map posted at the entrance so you can easily familiarize yourself with the layout.

Bill drove us around, then we stopped for a break and had lunch. After walking around the Pinnacles and doing a bit of rock climbing, Bill, Cody and I headed home. What a fun weekend.

Kearsarge Pass and a Tale of Overcoming

Last weekend, I accomplished a great achievement and hiked to Kearsarge Pass via the Onion Valley Trailhead. This wasn’t my first time up to the pass, but it’s a big victory to me because it was my first hike above 11,000 feet in almost three years. I had hiked to this pass several times, but this was the most special for me because it was a comeback of sorts.

The group’s goal was to hike to Bullfrog Lake and back, but my goal was to just do the pass, which was quite a feat by itself. I backpacked the Rae Lakes Loop a few years ago, so I didn’t feel I was missing much of the backcountry scenery. My thing was, I didn’t want to tire myself out by having to go over Kearsarge Pass twice. Since the group went beyond the pass, I took my time on the way back and stopped at Heart Lake, then revisited Flower Lake and one of the waterfalls.

The group at the trailhead.

Wild onion.

A gorgeous waterfall just off the trail before Gilbert Lake.

Gilbert Lake.

While listening to my boots grinding rock and dirt underfoot, I couldn’t help but remember lying in that hospital bed, having been diagnosed with a DVT (deep vein thrombosis), frightened, thinking the worst and wondering if I’d ever hike again. The whole situation came out of nowhere.

Just a couple of weeks prior to my hospitalization, I was a healthy (albeit overweight) 38-year-old going about my adventures, traipsing across the Sierra, leading and inspiring others along the way. Then, I got blindsided and taken out of commission. I couldn’t even finish the last hike of the Sierra series I was leading, and that devastated me because I was really looking forward to closing out the series on a new peak that I had never reached before, Cirque Peak.

Flower Lake.

Heart Lake.

After a brief hiatus, I did start hiking again, but it wasn’t the same as before. I stayed away from high altitude hikes and did hikes that were closer to home and at a lower elevation. It took me a while to work up to doing long distance hikes again. I eventually began dabbling into the high altitude hikes, but only on occasion. The highest elevation I attained post-DVT was Mt. San Jacinto at 10,834 feet.

The final stretch to Kearsarge Pass.

Looking toward Bullfrog Lake and the Kearsarge Lakes from Kearsarge Pass.

The popular rock column at Kearsarge Pass.

A marmot taking in the scenery at Kearsarge Pass.

Looking down at Big Pothole Lake from Kearsarge Pass.

Last year, I mustered the courage to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in Europe, which was another big milestone. That gave me the confidence I needed to start pushing again. Gradually, I’ve made my way back to high altitude hiking and I’m feeling pretty good. I’d like to climb Mt. Whitney again, although I’m not sure I have another Whitney in me. Only time, coupled with a season of training, will tell. For the time being, I’ll continue enjoying the great outdoors while reconditioning my body to do what it was made to do. In the near future, I’d like to go and hike to Cirque Peak since the DVT stopped me in 2015.

Kearsarge Pass “summit” selfie.

Sometimes, we get blindsided and are tempted to give up on ourselves. In those dark and uncertain times, we have to look back and remind ourselves of why we started our journey to begin with. It’s always harder to restart something than it is to begin in the first place. The resistance feels even greater. But we have to show that resistance that we are more determined than it is. We have to stand strong and not let fear or trepidation intimidate us. We are more than conquerors.

Hike on!

~J