Hiking Modjeska Peak

After going on two 12-mile back to back hikes in the Redwoods last week, I hadn’t planned on hiking over the weekend. But when my friend Danielle suggested I check out the group hike posted for Saturday and mentioned that my other mountain sisters, Aida and Ava were going, I decided that maybe another hike would be in order. That is, until I saw that it was listed as 17 miles. I immediately thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I can do that!’ I hadn’t done an 17-miler since last year before my calf injury.

Silverado CanyonI looked up Modjeska Peak in Orange County and tried to acquire all the details I could find on the hike. I hated to miss an opportunity to hike with my “tribe.” (For more on finding your hiking tribe, see my article for Oboz Footwear coming soon.) Since Danielle mentioned that the hike was all on a fire road, I figured it was doable, and that it was worth it to hike as far in as I could and then I could easily turn around if I didn’t feel up to hiking the entire distance. Plus, Danielle said that she and the others would probably not go all the way to the peak anyway.

Hiking into the ForestThe group met at the trailhead to start the hike at 7:30am. I didn’t arrive until 8:00 and my boots didn’t hit the pavement until 8:15. My bed was so comfortable and I thought of a million other things I could do that day, but I pushed myself and dragged my body to the car to hit the road. I texted Danielle to let her know I’d be late and told her not to wait for me. She said she would start hiking, but go slow and wait at the major junction so I’d know which way to go.

Out of the CanyonI hiked most of the way alone, except for all the vehicles on the road. Oh yes, this fire road is open to jeeps and other off-road vehicles which I wasn’t aware of before the hike. It was like walking on a busy country road. At times, I didn’t even feel safe and contemplated turning around early on. The road ascended gradually up the canyon for about three miles on pavement before it turned into a dirt road and started climbing out of the canyon to some nicer views.

Climbing HigherOnce I began the climb out of the canyon, I felt like I was making progress and was motivated to continue. I gave up on hiking with my tribe and figured they wouldn’t wait for too long before heading up the mountain, so I took my time and focused on taking pictures, experimenting with a real camera. This was my first big hike in Orange County and I wanted to take it all in, fully immersing myself in the experience. I only saw a couple of other hikers on the trail. Everyone else was either in a jeep, truck, or riding a dirt bike. There were also only a couple of mountain bikers on the trail.

My TribeWhen I finally reached the Main Divide, I was surprised to see three familiar faces hanging out there. I was greeted and met with open arms by Aida, Danielle and Ava, who had waited for me like they said. They hadn’t planned to hike any further and decided to wait for the rest of the group to return from the peak, which was in plain sight at this point and only about 1.5 miles away. I was feeling great and ready to take on the peak, so I talked them into it and we got back on the trail.

View from the Top

Modjeska Peak

Another View from the TopAbout halfway to the peak, we met the group on their way down and Ava and Aida decided to turn around and go with them, leaving just me and Danielle going for that final push to the summit. We had the mountain all to ourselves for a while, until a few bikers rode up on their “street legal” dirt bikes. It was a nice time up there with our new adventurous friends who were astounded that we walked all the way up to the top. We finished the hike just before dark. If Danielle’s GPS was accurate, the hike ended up being more like 18 miles. What a day!

Hike on!

~J

Of Trails and Sunsets

This was my first hike to lead since mid-August and it went very well. We hiked the 10-mile Sycamore Canyon Loop at Pt. Mugu State Park near Malibu and ended our beautiful day watching the sunset on the shores of the Pacific Ocean after a feast at Malibu Seafood.

I led this same hike three years ago for a team I organized to train to conquer Mt. Whitney. This was our inaugural hike in the training series. It’s a good hike for those who aren’t used to hiking long distances in that it begins at sea level and is pretty flat for the first few miles until is begins the 700-foot plus ascent to a breathtaking overlook of the ocean. For that reason, I knew it would be a good re-introduction to long distance hiking for me after my injury.

Our hike took us through a peaceful wooded canyon on relatively flat terrain initially, which provided a great warmup for us, as well as a chance to get to know some new friends. It was a pleasure having “Don Viejo” along on the journey. Now at 88 years young, he is quite a trooper and an inspiration to all of us.

After meandering through the canyon, we took a turn to the south, where the real hiking began as we ascended a fairly steep but well-graded path to a junction that provided access to nearby LaJolla Canyon, which is also a gem.

My friends, Danielle, Jeanette and I took our time on the steeper segment and just enjoyed the views around us. We were shocked when we saw Don (who had gone ahead) hiking downhill toward us and told him he was going the wrong way. He said he came to check on us to make sure we were alright. What a gentleman. He had already made it to the junction, backtracked downhill to check on us, and then went back uphill with us. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Don told us that there was a bench up ahead from where he had just come, which motivated us to get up the hill. However, we didn’t see that bench until about 2 miles later. But when we did, it was a great opportunity for me to take my boot off and rest my foot, which still sometimes swells up due to the effects of the DVT in my calf that continues to heal.

My Low Rise Trail Socks from Minus 33 were an excellent choice  for the day. Made of merino wool, these socks are comfortable, lightweight, and built to go the distance. Not only was there no swelling in my foot, but I also had no blisters or hot spots due to the full cushion of the socks. They were perfect for the 85-degree weather we experienced.

Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Sock

Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Sock

The Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Sock is thin and lightweight, but durable, providing me with great comfort over all 10 miles of this trek. Although there are other more expensive socks on the market, for half the cost, the Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Socks are solid performers. These will be my go-to socks from now on.

After taking in the beautiful ocean views at a popular overlook, we descended back down into the canyon and went to Malibu Seafood for a sunset dinner. After that, we followed a short path leading us through a tunnel that provided direct access to the beach. It was an unusually warm evening, so we were able to play in the waves a bit without freezing our little toes.

It was a fabulous day all around.

Happy Trails! 🙂

Back to Blazin’…Well, not Exactly

SONY DSC

Bottom of the Chair Lifts

I hadn’t been to the Mt. Baldy area for at least a few months as I was leading a series of hikes in the Sierra over the summer. While in recovery from my calf injury that occurred in late August, it’s been slow going, but I’m gradually assimilating into the outdoors again and this was the perfect opportunity to test myself at high altitude.

We took the ski lift up to the Notch, which is at 7,800 ft above sea level. As soon as I got out of the car at the bottom of the chair lift, I felt the altitude. I moved slowly, giving myself a chance to acclimate.

SONY DSC

On the Chair Lift Going Up

When we reached the top of the Notch, I had to take a minute to pause and take it all in, the pine trees, the surrounding peaks, the cool, thin air that gently caressed my face. Tears welled up in my eyes because I was so grateful to set foot on the mountain again. I was home.

SONY DSC

The Notch Burger

We ate a rather undeserved lunch at the Notch restaurant. I called it undeserved because usuallly when we enjoy a meal there, it’s after finishing the grueling Mt. Baldy hike. After burning 3,000-plus calories, it’s justifiable to indulge in a high carb meal and perhaps enjoy a beer afterwards.

This time, we did things in reverse and hiked AFTER we ate. We started up one of the gentler ski runs and made our way toward the Devil’s Backbone Trail. We didn’t have much time because I had a party to attend in the evening, but I just wanted to see how far we could get with the time we had. I was also wearing sneakers instead of hiking boots, so I didn’t plan to go far. Hiking on a steep, rocky trail in sneakers is a no-no for me.

SONY DSCI could feel the altitude with each step, but I paced myself and walked slowly uphill. It took a little getting used to, but I felt like I was being welcomed back to the wilderness. I came across multiple random hearts on the trail and took the time to cherish every one of them.

I hope you enjoy the pics!

SONY DSC

 

The Art of Doing

I’m a dreamer and I like to encourage others to dream. Dreaming is good. Well, it’s good until you get so caught up in dreaming that it begins to take the place of actually DOING something. What I mean by DOING is putting forth the physical effort necessary to see to it that what worked out so perfectly in your dream will come to fruition.

There are a lot of things floating around on the canvas of my mind, ranging from things I know I need to do, to things I really want to do, to things I’ve started but haven’t finished. For instance, I went on a desert trek in Israel a couple of months ago, volunteered at a youth camp, and toured the Holy Land. I took lots of pictures and recorded videos of the trek and the tour, but haven’t touched any of it. I know it’s going to make a great episode, or series of episodes (I haven’t decided) for the web series…

…if I could just bring myself to do it.

So what’s the holdup?

Well…I also have a ton of video footage to edit from a weekend adventure in the Anza-Borrego Desert here in California. I went there the week after I returned from Israel and had a blast. We caravanned on dirt roads while hanging out of the sunroof of an SUV, explored some really cool slot canyons, went spelunking in mud caves where it was pitch dark, and witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I had ever seen from the top of a peak above some other freaking amazing slot canyons. This would make a really awesome episode as well…

…if I could just put some action to all of that dreaming.

I also have an upcoming trip this weekend to a breathtaking lake in the Sierras where I’ll be filming another episode of the web series. I’ve got to write a script to break it up into segments like a show because I want this one done right. I’m organizing and leading a group for this hike, so I need to get a lot of things coordinated and I have a limited amount of time to do it.

And I still have the Israel trip and Anza-Borrego unfinished. I also have to do laundry and pack for the upcoming trip. I need to go to REI and pick up some last-minute camping stuff. I need to make sure I remember to pack all my winter clothing to sleep in because it’s going to be in the 30’s at night and I just can’t go out there and freeze. I need to be sure to provide my group with all the information they need regarding this weekend’s trip.

Yet I still need to do those episodes that are waiting in the wings. See what procrastination does? It makes us look busy, like we have so much on our plate, when all we need is proper planning. A good, well though-out schedule will surely solve my problem with ease. But then there’s the issue of keeping up with the schedule. The act of DOING.

Perhaps I should call it the ART of doing. After all, it takes great skill to successfully balance multiple tasks and see them through to completion.

The antidote for procrastination is accountability. Now that I’ve opened up about these things, I’m obligated to fulfill my role of the artist, so to speak, and see these dreams materialize.

I wonder what sort of a tale I will find myself in while taking on this mountain?

Strawberries, a Meadow, and a Peak

Tree on the Trail to Strawberry MeadowOn Saturday, we hiked to Josephine Peak via Strawberry Meadow, a 14-mile car shuttle that was supposed to begin at Colby Ranch. However, the gate to the ranch was closed for some unknown reason. At that point, we initiated Plan B, which was to go to Red Box Rd. and begin our hike on the Strawberry Peak trail. While we didn’t climb Strawberry Peak, our trail took us around the base of the north side of it where we were treated to some enchanting views.

It was a beautiful day, although there were periods of fog. When the sun was out, it was nice and warm, but when the clouds blew over, it got breezy and cold. During the first 6-7 miles of the hike, we had to dodge TONS of bikers on the trail coming toward us. As it turned out, they were doing some sort of marathon called Mud Foot and one biker told us that there were about 75 of them total, all spread out. One biker even suggested that we find a nice place to stop, relax and wait for all of them to pass. We decided to go on despite the warning, because we didn’t know how long it was going to take all of the bikers to go through.

SONY DSC

By the time we made it through Strawberry Meadow and into Strawberry Potrero, we had seen the last of the bikers and the trail was peaceful again. At the end of the day, we had hiked 14 miles with roughly 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Not too bad for a day’s work.

The tale of the trail?
Just because you find one door (or in this case, gate) closed on the way to your destiny, don’t give up and throw in the towel. Stay on the path and be open to other opportunities. There is always another–and sometimes better–way. You will get there. You will conquer your mountain.

SONY DSC

“I didn’t sign up for this!”

A lot has happened over the past couple of weeks and I have many stories to share, but I’m going to start off with this one tale of the trail from my most recent trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California. This is a place I had been longing to visit, so I was happy to see it posted with a group of adventure enthusiasts I’m familiar with.

Photo credit: Irina P.

Photo credit: Irina P.

Among the list of adventures planned, the big draw for me to sign up on this weekend getaway was the hike to the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge. I had seen various pictures and videos posted of the hike and of the bridge itself and had grown very intrigued. The prospect of finally getting to do the hike filled me to the brim with excitement. I set out with the group on Saturday morning, GoPro and camera ready.

As we started out of the campground in Borrego Springs, a brief check of Google Maps showed that the trailhead to the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge was at least 2 hours away and almost 100 miles. This wasn’t what we initially thought or planned for and it didn’t bode well for us since we had a caravan trailing behind. It probably would have taken us closer to three hours to get there, leaving us with less time for the other things we had planned for the day.

To my dismay, we had to axe the Goat Canyon Trestle idea and move on to Plan B, which in my mind wasn’t as spectacular. I was crushed since one of the main reasons I signed up for the event was to see that darn bridge and take tons of pics and video footage of it.

Thankfully, all was not lost. My disappointment over not getting to hike to the bridge almost rendered me unaware of the blessing of great friends and company by my side. We may not have had the bridge, but we still had each other, and there were adventures to be experienced.

The CaravanAs we approached our first destination under “Plan B,” we had a little fun in the truck by opening the sunroof and all the windows and hanging out of the car waving at the caravan of five or so cars behind us. Two people maneuvered up through the sunroof and climbed onto the luggage rack on top of the 4 Runner. It was quite a sight!

The slot canyons were pretty impressive. We started out heading the wrong way at first down a trail that led to a cliff where there was no way to proceed. After backtracking to the parking lot, we found the route leading down into the winding canyon. The canyon walls were steep and narrow and reminiscent of the Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah.

Slot CanyonIn order to make our hike a little more adventurous, we turned the hike into a loop and exited the canyon a different way. This required scrambling up some steep, rocky terrain and crossing over multiple washes before making our way back up the ridge to our cars in the parking lot. Once we made it back, we enjoyed oranges and ice cold water.

Gaining the RidgeWe stopped at a small general store on the way to fill up with gas to get to our next stop and spent a lot of time there just hanging out. We chatted with the store clerk, ate ice cream, checked out some local maps and educated ourselves a bit more on the area we were in. There was so much to be discovered in the desert and we knew we were at the brink of something great and spectacular.

Our next and final stop was the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves. The mud caves are found along the walls of a wash canyon and are one of the most extensive mud cave systems in the world. They contain approximately 22 known caves and 9 slot canyons.

Inside the Mud Cave

Photo credit: Irina P.

We somehow ventured into one of the most difficult caves in the park, according to a couple of people in our group who were familiar with the area. We basically parked, walked up and said, “Hey, that’s a cool hole in the earth! Let’s go check it out!”

So we proceeded to investigate and what struck us immediately was the air conditioning down there. It was a very hot day and being greeted with a burst of cool air on our faces was an invitation to explore further. What we discovered was a multi-level cave with skylights further in where a rope had been installed to assist the climb up a sheer rock wall about 25-30 feet high.

Slot Canyon LookoutAfter exploring the one cave, we went and found another one a short distance away. This cave started out dark and then opened up into an amazing slot canyon with beautiful geological features and several places for photo opportunities where we could look down into the canyon.

As the sun began to set across the horizon, we scrambled up to a high plateau that provided us 360-degree views of the Badlands of Arroyo Tapiado. It was totally worth the climb to watch the sunset from there, but to do it in the company of great companions was absolutely priceless.

Sunset on PlateauOn our last day, before heading back home, we hiked the Palm Canyon Trail to a refreshing desert oasis where we were able to cool off in the shade and soak in pools of water while reminiscing over the weekend’s events. We even saw quite a few bighorn sheep that happened to be very photogenic!

The tale of the trail?

I was disappointed when the plan to go to the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge fell through. It almost ruined the experience for me before it even fully began. But because I made a slight attitude adjustment, I was able to embrace what was ahead with open arms and I ended up having one of the most incredible and thrilling experiences of my life with some really amazing friends.

Sometimes, the plans we make in life fall through. I’m not at the place I expected to be at this point in my life and despite the endless fun I seem to be having, I’m working through a great deal of heartache over some broken dreams. Despite the heartache, I have decided to make that attitude adjustment and embrace the many blessings I’m able to enjoy. It’s given me so much freedom.

Do I still feel the sting of disappointment? Yes. Do I let it drag me into a state of despair? No, absolutely not. I have learned to embrace new dreams and thank God everyday for the ability to do what I’ve been given the privilege of doing. This isn’t the life that I signed up for, but it’s what I’ve been given, and it’s not so bad.

It’s not what you’ve lost that counts. It’s what you do with what’s left.
–Charlie McGonegal

Hike on!

~Joyce

Photo credit: Irina P.

Photo credit: Irina P.

Strawberries and a Peak

We hiked to Strawberry Peak from Colby Canyon, my first time hiking that route. This took us up a few sections of class 3 climbing that challenged my fear of heights and was pretty adventurous. The climbing part wasn’t half as bad as I expected it be; it was 3/4 as bad. I knew there was some rather tedious climbing involved but I thought it would be a little more straightforward than it was. Thankfully, we did this hike as a one-way car shuttle to Red Box so we didn’t have to down-climb those boulders. From the peak, we enjoyed amazing views in every direction and feasted on chocolate covered strawberries for a treat. It was a beautiful day with great company.

Time and Seasons

Joyce at the WaterfallsA few days ago, I went on a short hike to a hidden treasure. This wasn’t one of my typical shin-splitting assaults, but basically a walk in the park. I had been down with the flu all week and really needed to get out among nature and breathe some fresh air, so I went to Whitney Canyon, one of my local favorites.

The hike is a 4-mile out and back trail that ever so gradually ascends through a wooded canyon following a mostly dry creek bed that leads to a stunning series of cascading waterfalls. The falls have been dry for the past several years because of the drought we’ve been having, but I held out hope due to recent storms.

Water in the TreeI sauntered through the canyon, pausing to snap a few pictures here and there, feeling encouraged at the slightest indication of water. Patches of the trail were damp and I noticed that some water had pooled inside of a large tree beside the trail. My heart leapt with anticipation as I progressed deeper into the canyon.

A sudden change in the terrain confirmed the waterfalls were right around the corner, but it was eerily quiet. Then, I saw water. Not the kind of water I had hoped with great anticipation to see, but a stagnant pool of water at the bottom of the first waterfall. There was nothing running, not even the slightest little trickle.

Stagnant WaterI climbed to the top of the first waterfall, eager to see what awaited me at the next one. I was met with only another level of disappointment. I went further in and further up, but there was no running water. Everything seemed dead. I gazed up ahead at the large waterfall at the end, the one that I never had the courage to climb to, and decided I could go for it this time. But there was just another pool of stagnant water.

I paused and reflected on the first time I ventured out to Whitney Canyon a few years ago. I remembered how alive and beautiful and colorful that place was. It was as if the earth was singing and everything danced in unison to its beautiful melody. The waterfalls flowed majestically, endlessly with the heartbeat of the earth.

Whitney Canyon Falls Dec. 2009

Whitney Canyon Falls Dec. 2009

Today, that magnificent place seems to have lost its song. Everything is dry, barren, lifeless. Nothing is flowing. Nothing is moving. Nothing is happening. All appears to be dead. The heart of the earth beats no more. Everything has come to a dramatic end. Or so it seems.

But I know better. There are seasons to everything and seasons go through cycles. As we have seen throughout the history of the earth, cycles can sometimes get a little off. This can even happen to a woman’s monthly cycle. When a cycle is off, sometimes a little boost can get it back on track.

Our lives endure cycles, and for some of us, it’s looking more like the drought state where everything is barren, seemingly dead, nothing is happening and we’ve lost the song of our heart. It’s times like this where we need to reflect on those seasons of life where the water was flowing, so to speak.

If things are looking bleak and dried up at the moment, just know that a storm is coming and everything will be in balance again. You’ve seen it before, so keep that vision inside of you and let it encourage your heart. Times and seasons change, so don’t ever give up hope because the rain will surely come.

One day, I will return to Whitney Canyon and find that symphony playing once again. One day.

Whitney Canyon Falls Dec. 2009 (2)Hike on!

Joyce

Taylor’s Transcendent Trek

I had no idea what I was getting myself into on this one. All I knew was that it was an endurance trek. Thinking that it couldn’t be any worse than a Mt. Baldy snow hike, I saw it as a piece of cake. This ended up being 9 of the toughest miles that I’ve hiked on any trail. We started out on a real trail and then took a “use” trail shortly after that. This consisted of miles of bushwhacking while ascending and descending steep, rocky terrain. At times, we could feel the terrain collapsing beneath every step. I have learned to never trust the rocks in the Santa Monica Mountains. Most of them move. They move under your feet, and they break away when you grab them to try and keep your balance or prevent a fall. I witnessed quite a few falls during this adventure, and three of them were mine. Two of my falls were caught on video, which you will see here.