Back to Blazin’…Well, not Exactly


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.


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.


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!



An Unplanned Labor Day Weekend Staycation

This is a really hard post to write. Not because it’s some gut-wrenching memoir about an experience I had on a hiking trail, but because I’m trying to type this on my phone while lying in a hospital bed. It’s not as easy as typing on a laptop, which is what I’m used to.

My thumbs have been getting quite a workout this weekend. I guess that’s a good thing since my legs aren’t and won’t for a while. It’s been three weeks since my feet have been on a hiking trail. When I take a rest, it’s normally for two weeks max. However, this rest isn’t by choice.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to wear a pair of 5-inch wedge heels that were a gift to me from someone I knew. I don’t normally wear heels, but wanted to do something different and spruce up my look a bit.

I wore the shoes to work and did quite a bit of walking and standing in them throughout the day. I felt a bit of a stretch in my left calf, but didn’t think much of it. I went on a stroll through the mall that weekend and noticed a slight pain in my calf as I walked, but still didn’t give it much thought.

The next day, I wore the cute wedges again to church where I do a bit of running around as I am a volunteer who delivers the CD and DVD masters of the sermons to go and duplicate. I do this for both morning services. As I moved about to and fro, I noticed much more pain in my calf, to the point it was difficult to walk at times.

As I walked back into the office to copy the CDs from the first service, I felt a snap in the back of my calf and almost screamed from the shooting pain that ensued. I mean, it literally felt as if someone had taken a pencil and jabbed it into my calf. It freaking HURT.

After that, the pain was pretty excruciating, but I put on my strong face and couldn’t wait to get to the car to change into my flip flops. But even when I did put the flat shoes on, I got little relief. I managed to attend lunch with some friends, but could barely walk or stand.

I went to the gym afterwards to do my usual Sunday routine of soaking in the jacuzzi thinking that would help alleviate the pain, but it did very little to help. In fact, later that night, the pain in my calf intensified. I winced in pain with each step as my cat, Mr. Frodo, observed, helpless. I knew he could sense something was wrong.

I went to work the next day, despite the severity of the pain in my leg which crippled my walk. I set my face like a flint and went about the day, even though I wanted to cry with each step.

I thought it was just the usual muscle cramp, like the ones I’m used to from returning to hiking after a period of inactivity. According to my experience with muscle cramps, it would be healed in a couple of days. Little did I know, this pulled calf muscle opened a whole new can of worms.

The next day, as I sat at my desk at work, I began to notice some tingling in my foot. It started around the heel and then expanded into my toes. This occurred for about fifteen minutes or so until I noticed that my heel was numb on the inside. I could feel the rest of my foot and could wiggle my toes, but something still didn’t seem right.

I had tried to avoid it, but the next day, I went to urgent care. The doctor basically looked me over, asked a few questions and measured my calf, confirming that it was swollen. He mentioned the slight possibility of a blood clot, but determined that since I didn’t have any of the risk factors there was no need to run this rather expensive (a whopping $125!) blood test. He told me to take some Advil for the pain and sent me on my way.

I thought the issue would get better and it did as long as I took the prescribed six Advil pills each day (three every 6-8 hrs.) What I didn’t realize was that the high dosage of ibuprofen might have been causing a different problem, while the catalyst to all of this was causing an even bigger issue beneath the surface.

Because my calf still hurt pretty badly going into the next weekend, I went to see another doctor. This doctor looked me over, and although he was a little more thorough than the previous doctor, he didn’t run any tests, but only pressed on different parts of my leg asking if it hurt. Since it didn’t hurt when he squeezed my calf, he ruled out a tear and said my calf was most likely pulled or strained.

The doctor did mention that my calf was tight, but didn’t do anything beyond that. I even told him that my heel was numb and my ankle was swollen. He just said it was part of the calf injury and it would get better.  I asked if he thought it could be a blood clot and you know what he told me? He said it wasn’t a clot because I had hair on my legs. No, I didn’t shave that week, in case you were wondering.

I left the office, still not satisfied with the diagnosis, which I now know was a huge MIS-diagnosis. There was a bigger issue going on in my leg than I ever thought and not one, but TWO doctors dismissed me and sent me away without performing any tests.

A few hours after I left that second doctor’s office, I began experiencing pain in my heel that expanded throughout the afternoon and evening. I knew I could only continue taking Advil for three more days as suggested by the second doctor because the high dosage was apparently (according to the second doctor) spiking my blood pressure. I had never heard of that.

The pain in the bottom of my foot worsened each day. At times, I literally had to fight for each step and hold into something, almost hopping on my good leg. It was excruciating. There were days when I would leave work and just sit in the car and cry for a few minutes before driving home. I had never felt so helpless. Every day, I cried out to God to take the pain away, to just heal me, but instead of getting better, the pain only intensified.

Patient, heal thyself.

Those words came to mind from a book I read years ago called “The Maker’s Diet,” by Jordan Rubin. I left work on Friday and high-tailed it over to the ER down the street, which happened to be at a highly esteemed medical center.

I was checked out by two assistants and they were on it. The minute I told them the story of my calf injury and began explaining the symptoms I’d had since, they immediately ordered my bloodwork done. In the bloodwork, they found an indication of a possible clot, so they sent me for an ultrasound. That’s where they confirmed my biggest fear. An extensive blood clot that runs from my thigh down to my calf.

I was shocked, not only because I had a clot, but because of how easily I was brushed off by the other two doctors who saw me. If I had taken their word and went on waiting for things to improve, I would have had an more serious problem on my hands. Thankfully, I went to the ER and received the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Which brings me to where I am now, sitting in a hospital bed on the cardiac floor of the hospital. I was told I’m the youngest patient here. That doesn’t mean younger people can’t have these issues. It can happen to anyone at anytime.

The doctor here at the hospital believes this clot was a result of my calf injury. It’s so important to pay attention to our bodies. They were designed with an alert system that tells us when something isn’t right. If I hadn’t heeded those warning signs, who knows what would have happened? Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is serious and should not be taken lightly.

Thank God I’ll be going home soon with a prescription that will help me get on the road to complete recovery. I’ll hit the trails again, but it will have to be baby steps at first.

Robert Frost said it best, “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”

Happy trails!


Beautiful in Time

Being involved in outdoor adventures has helped me gain a better perspective on personal aspects of my life and that’s how this blog, and now web series, was started. I’m sharing this little piece of my personal and professional life because it may speak to someone who needs the encouragement, on or off the trail.

Joyce and Queen LatifahI remember the first time I worked with Dana Owens in 2010 on a Cover Girl commercial shoot. It was my second year in LA and I was in the middle of my studies at California State University. Because my course load didn’t allow time for a full-time job, I continued doing background work for income. It was during that time when I came across a casting notice to be a stand-in for an actress in a cosmetics commercial. The notice didn’t specify what commercial it was or who the actress was, but based on the stats of the actress, I had a feeling it was Queen Latifah. People had always told me that I looked like her, but I didn’t believe it. Not because I didn’t quite measure up to her 5’10 height (I’m 5’7,) but because I didn’t feel I measured up to her beauty. After all, she is a Cover Girl model.

I always thought that I was ugly. I was bullied from a very young age because I had buck teeth, because I had long hair, because I talked differently, because I was just different. I grew up hating the way I looked and I hid my smile from everyone. When I was in high school, a classmate stopped what he was doing, looked me right in my face and told me that I was hideously ugly. I did absolutely nothing to provoke him and didn’t understand why he said it, except that it must have been true.

That was it for me. Instead of firing back, I turned the other cheek and walked away. I had been walking away ever since. Away from opportunities to go out into the world and let my light shine. I relegated myself to a lifestyle of fear, timidity and shyness because I didn’t want anyone to see me for what I believed I was, hideously ugly. Yet for some reason, I decided to submit my “ugly” headshot to be considered for this cosmetics gig. If they didn’t like my submission, I wouldn’t hear anything back. That’s how Hollywood operates. I had nothing to lose, not even self-esteem because I didn’t have much of it to begin with.

To my surprise, I did get a callback from the casting agency. However, they wanted to see a different picture. Not another professional headshot where all the hideously ugliness of my face was covered up by the skillful application of makeup and touch-ups by the photographer. They wanted a “selfie,” a real-time picture of what I looked like at that moment. The moment where I had that just showered, washed and blow-dried, non-styled hair look and NO makeup on. I would have NEVER sent a selfie to anyone looking like that, let alone a casting agency. I just knew that if they saw what I looked like in that moment, what I really looked like, they would never call me back.

Preparing for a huge disappointment, I snapped the picture and reluctantly sent it. They called back and I booked my first gig with Queen Latifah. That led to other Cover Girl gigs, a TV show and a two-year stint on her daytime talk show. The future is on the horizon and the best days are yet to come. I shared this story because somebody needs to hear it. These pictures, along with everything I’ve been blessed to do over the past few years, is proof that God makes everything beautiful in its time.

Beautiful in Time~Joyce

Jackson Lake Walkabout (Video)

This is the latest episode of “Tales of the Trails,” last weekend’s hike, the Jackson Lake Loop. At about 10 miles with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, this scenic trek involved some cross country hiking, a stint on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT,) as well as a side trip to Pinyon Ridge, one of the Sierra Club’s “100 Peaks.” This was a bit of a trial run with my new GoPro action cam, so I didn’t do any talking except at the beginning, which was shot with my Sony. Enjoy! 🙂

Hiking to Piute Pass

A lush aspen forest, multitudes of wildflowers, pristine alpine lakes, all leading up to a pass overlooking an alluring backcountry. Piute Pass provides the quintessential Sierra experience. The elevation gain is gradual enough that anyone in relatively good physical condition can accomplish this hike in a day. The hike is 10.3 miles round trip with 2,300 feet of elevation gain, so it should take anywhere between 5 to 8 hours to complete.

This hike had been on my list for a long time, so I set off on the adventure on the last day of August when summer was still in full swing. Come along on the journey with me and see why you should add Piute Pass to your list of Sierra destinations.

Hope you enjoy this latest episode of Tales of the Trails!  🙂