A Baldy Bust and a Few Blessings

On Friday, I hiked Mt. Baldy with a few of my co-workers who had been wanting to climb that mountain for a while. I was super excited to join them as I had hiked Baldy something like 40 times and was very accustomed to the terrain. I consider it my favorite mountain in Southern California. Sharing the experience with my co-workers and celebrating with those who would reach the summit for the first time would have been a real treat and I was looking forward to it.

The morning started out early. We hit the trail around 7am and the first half-mile was fairly easy and we were able to hike as a group. When the trail got steep, I fell behind as I was really beginning to feel the altitude. I hadn’t climbed Baldy since May and hadn’t spent much time at altitude at all this year, so my body wasn’t as acclimated as it once was and I had to shake off that rustiness. I also had to push through some things that weighed heavily on my heart and mind.

The bigger issue was the altitude. Although I was quite a ways behind the group, I was making good time toward the ski hut, the halfway point to the summit. As I huffed it up the steep, rocky trail, I heard someone come up behind me. When I pulled off to the side to let him pass, he said my name as he greeted me, and I realized it was my friend Patrick who I know from a mountaineering group. He gave me a hug and told me that some of our other friends were right behind him. They were going to hike up to the summit and descend the same way. I greeted them and let them pass and noticed that they weren’t hiking much faster than me. However, I knew they would summit and be on their way down before I reached the top.

Patrick at the creek near the ski hut.

When I reached the ski hut and met up with my group, I didn’t want to stop, but they were just relaxing and enjoying the surroundings. I wanted so badly to be fully present with them, but knew that the toughest parts of the hike were just ahead, so I was anxious to get going. I didn’t want to admit that I was experiencing the onset of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) for fear that they would worry, so I told them that if they reached the summit and saw that I wasn’t there after a while not to wait for me because I would probably descend with my friends who had passed me earlier.

I took off and headed up Baldy Bowl through the pine trees. Before long, the group caught up to me. I had gotten a pretty big jump on them, so I was kind of surprised that they caught up so quickly. As I neared the top of the ridge, I could feel my lungs and legs beginning to struggle and weaken, but I was determined, so I pushed myself. I figured I’d take a good rest at the top of the ridge and from there, it was another steep climb to the summit, but I knew I could do it as I had done so many times before.

Steep ascent.

When I reached the top of the ridge, I got hit pretty hard. I had felt the effects of altitude sickness before, but the symptoms were usually mild and came in the form of a headache, which I was usually able to ease with ibuprofen. But this time, it wasn’t a headache. I felt lightheaded and my pulse wouldn’t slow down, even after resting a few minutes. These were classic symptoms of AMS. I tried my best to smile through it while conversing with the group so that they wouldn’t suspect anything. I had already let them know that I might be turning back before reaching the summit, so at least I was in the clear.

The group continued up the mountain and I stayed behind and pulled out my oxymeter to check my O2 levels. I was unable to get a reading because my fingertips were cold, so I had a snack and then tried to continue the uphill slog at a slower pace. Then the ringing in my ears started. I decided to sit down on a rock for a few minutes and try to check my O2 levels again. This time I got a reading and it was normal, but my pulse wasn’t slowing down. I was probably at an elevation of 8700 feet at this point. Though I really wanted to continue, I felt that if I did try to push through, I would have hurt myself and had a miserable experience. So I gathered my pack and began the steep trek downhill.

The Devil’s Backbone Trail.

When I reached the ski hut, Patrick was there sitting on a bench. I asked how he managed to make it back there without me seeing him and he said he descended via another route that led him straight there. It was a steep scree-laden route that a lot of hardcore mountaineers take and not something I would ever do since I’m afraid of heights and of falling.

Patrick was waiting for the other guys, James, Jeff and Shin. I sat with him and had another snack, but I could still feel the effects of AMS and wondered if I should just begin the descent on my own. The best thing to do when you’re hit with AMS is to descend immediately. Since we were still at high altitude (the ski hut is at 8200 ft), I knew the symptoms were going to linger until I got lower.

It wasn’t long before the guys joined us and we began our trek down the rugged trail. On the way down, we met up with some other friends, Hikin Jim and his sweet daughter Joycie, who were on their way up to the ski hut. It was great to see them as I hadn’t seen Jim since 2014 when I did the Rae Lakes Loop backpacking trip. I hadn’t seen Joycie since she was 2 and she’s now 8.

With Jim, Shin and Joycie. Photo credit: James Ledbetter

So this trip didn’t end up a total bust. There were blessings along the journey and I embraced those special moments. I normally don’t do two big hikes back to back, but the next day, I hiked to Strawberry Peak with a big hiking group. I had done Strawberry Peak several times before and knew it was a challenging hike, but since it was at a lower elevation, I wanted to give it a try to redeem myself from the day before.

Strawberry Peak.

It’s always disappointing when you have to turn back from summiting a peak, even though you know it could be detrimental to your survival if you continue. But we have to be wise and set pride aside to do what’s good for us, regardless. I walked away from that Baldy hike filled with disappointment, but there were angels along the way who showed me love in the midst of that and made me smile and laugh again.

Instead of staying home on Saturday, I decided to get up and give it another go. It wasn’t Baldy, but another very challenging hike that involved a bit of rock scrambling. During that second outing, I found that I have become a much stronger hiker, and even though I took many pictures along the way, I wasn’t the last one of the group as usual. It was a fairly large group and I was able to stay in the middle section of the group. I even passed a few people along the way. One of the highlights of that trip was getting to catch up with my friend Jane who I hadn’t seen in a while. Normally, I’m not even able to hold a conversation on the trail, so this was pretty big for me.

Jane in love with the outdoors.

 

When I signed the summit register on Strawberry Peak, I wrote the words, “Never give up! Conquer your peak!” I wrote it so that those who came behind me and examined that register would be encouraged in whatever they might be going through. I went from disappointed to inspired in just 24 hours. I decided not to quit on myself, even though my ego was pretty bruised after I couldn’t climb Baldy the day before. But the story wasn’t over.

My summit register entry.

Sometimes things don’t work out or go the way we expect them to and we’re tempted to lie down and quit, giving in to the pain of discouragement. It’s okay to feel that pain and take some time to shake it off. Do whatever is needed in that moment, but don’t stay there. Get up, lace up those boots and get to walking. There is always a peak to conquer and in conquering that peak, you will find that you are truly conquering yourself.

Hike on!
~J

Miracle on the Mountain

Mt. Baldy PlaqueI set my alarm to wake me up early because I knew it was a long drive. I also planned to stop at the nearest Starbucks to fuel up before I hit the road, so I was going to need extra time. Waking up so early to a screaming alarm on a Saturday is hard, but for Mt. Baldy, it’s always worth the sacrifice of a few winks.

The alarm went off as scheduled and after hitting the snooze button a time or two, I sat up on the bed. Instinctively, I opened Facebook to see what kind of news had occurred during my slumber and the first thing that popped up was and engagement announcement. My friend Chelsea was getting married. My heart sank and all of a sudden, I didn’t want to go to Baldy anymore. I was hurt and I was angry.

Why would such happy news cause me so much heartache? Well, I wasn’t angry at Chelsea. Deep down, I was truly happy for her and wanted the best. My anger was directed at God. It was God who offended me so unbearably and in that moment, I didn’t want to do anything. The one thing I did do was cry. Then a scene played out in my mind.

Just less than ten years before the engagement announcement, Chelsea and I had become acquainted in Oklahoma when I was a student at Oral Roberts University. While she wasn’t a student there, we met at a church some of my friends and I attended across the street from campus.

One Sunday, Chelsea and I met up at church and sat together in our usual spot. We were minus our other friends that day because they had school projects to work on. After the service, I suggested that we go up and meet the pastor since we had never met him before. As people milled about in the sanctuary, we walked down to the front where Pastor Billy Joe was talking and praying with people.

Pastor Billy Joe was just as down to earth, kind and friendly as he seemed from the pulpit. He greeted us both with a smile and got to know us. We enjoyed speaking with him. I can’t remember all the details of our conversation with him, but one thing will always be engraved in my heart and mind. As we wrapped up our visit with Pastor Billy Joe, he offered to pray for Chelsea and me.

He prayed a general prayer for our well-being and success and then his prayer took an interesting turn. He laid a hand on both of us and then prayed for each of us to be blessed with a good man who will cherish us and love us. It was interesting because neither of us mentioned anything about our love lives. That didn’t even come up at all. I thought that he must have heard specifically from God to pray that over us. I felt peace and assurance that the prayer was going to come to pass.

So when I woke up to that engagement announcement, I was overcome with many emotions. Sadness, anger, bitterness, resentment, you name it. I’m sure it all boiled down to plain jealousy. I have to be real here. I was jealous of my friend. She’s a few years younger than me. I had been praying that prayer for marriage and a family since I was a little girl. How could God give it to her and not me? We were standing side by side and had the same prayer prayed over us by the same pastor at the same time.

I thought about the biblical scripture I had always heard about God not being a respecter of persons; what He does for one person, He is obligated to do for another. Those words were shattered in my heart because I had clung to them for so long and now felt betrayed by those very words. Maybe I didn’t get it right or something. It was obvious to me that something was way off and it left me feeling beside myself.

As I sat on the bed that morning, I felt this deep inner nudge to get up and get moving. I knew God wanted me to move forward with my plans to climb Mt. Baldy that day and that’s why I no longer wanted to get up. I didn’t want to do anything God wanted of me that day. I just wanted to stay home and sulk about the great and holy injustice I was experiencing.

My bed was a great comforter and I just wanted to sink deeper into it’s loving embrace. I felt the nudge again, this time stronger than before. The more I felt it, the more I resisted. Whenever I get into a struggle like that with God, He always wins, so needless to say, I ended up going to Baldy that day. There are times when God wants me to hike and there are times He wants me to do something else, or just stay home and be still. I was supposed to hike that day.

SONY DSC

Before I knew it, I was on the Ski Hut Trail, boots grinding gravel, with a serious grudge. I wasn’t there because it pleased God. I was there because I was angry. I had purposed in my heart to not smile or greet anyone on the trail. I didn’t even make eye contact with anyone, a departure from my usual good trail cheer. I just wanted to hike and be left alone. At times, I found myself fighting back the sting of tears. It was fairly warm and I was sweating with exertion, so I felt it blended in and no one would notice.

No one did. For the first two miles, I hiked with my head down looking at the dirt and avoiding eye contact with everyone I passed. Some may have said “Hi”, but if they did, I didn’t notice. I looked up only occasionally to see how close I was getting to Baldy Bowl. On one of those occasions, I saw a familiar face coming toward me. It was a friend from one of my hiking circles, someone I admire and have great respect for. I felt busted. There was no way I could get past him without exchanging pleasantries, no matter how painful.

Baldy Bowl

At our intersection on the trail, he came toward me with a big smile, arms wide open for an embrace. He told me I looked like I could use a hug. I couldn’t help but smile and allow myself to be swept into the embrace. We talked for a bit and then he mentioned that a group of consisting of him and some other friends were getting together that evening for a Dodgers game and he extended an invitation for me to join them.

I said I wasn’t sure if I’d be off the mountain in time to go home, get cleaned up and get to the game on time. He said for me to send him a message when I was finished hiking and let him know if I could make it. Then we parted ways. He had already been up to the top of Baldy and was on his way down as I was on my way up.

I didn’t really think I would make it off the mountain in time and I didn’t try to. The last thing I wanted to be that day was social. I continued climbing and when I reached the summit for the umpteenth time, I began to feel a release. I hung out on the summit for a bit and had a snack, then descended the very scenic Devil’s Backbone Trail. About halfway across the Devil’s Backbone, I stopped to hug a tree. Yes, I hug trees. Don’t judge me.

Approaching the Devil's Backbone Trail

As I wrapped my arms around the tree and let my head rest gently against its maple-scented bark, the rain of saltwater came and there was no stopping it this time. I didn’t want to stop it. I just let the tears flow for as long as they needed to until there were no tears left. After I had that cry, I finished the hike and realized I had just enough time to go home, shower and make it to the game, although I would be a few minutes or so late.

My friend held a ticket for me and I went to enjoy the game. The Dodgers won! But not only that, I also came out victorious. I realized that had I stayed home that day, I would have allowed negative feelings to fester inside me and they would have eventually destroyed me. Maybe not completely, but bit by bit anger, bitterness and resentment would have chipped away at my joy, my character, my hope.

Nothing has changed for me, at least externally. I’m still on this journey, still questioning things, still wondering if I’ve gotten it all wrong, still wondering if something is ghastly wrong with me. My friend Chelsea is now expecting her first child with her amazing husband and I am thrilled for her. I don’t have all the answers to my heart’s deepest questions or the remedy for its deepest of wounds. Yet I will still trust hope in the One who met me on the mountain that day and comforted me in my time of sorrow.

Hike on!

~J

It’s OK to Date a Girl Who Climbs Mountains

When most people see me, they view me as someone who has my head in the clouds. Most of my posts on social media feature breathtaking scenery of outdoors adventures and, yes, of course, mountains. Like most people, and not just women in particular, I can’t explain what it is about mountains and adventure that keeps me coming back for more.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I don’t like crowds and enjoy going to places where (for the most part) I don’t have to deal with them. Or maybe it’s because the once sheltered little girl in me has finally realized that the roof has come off and she’s free to fly wherever the wind takes her. Maybe I just love the idea of exploration and taking pictures of pretty things to quench my insatiable longing for something more out of life. Maybe I just feel most beautiful when I’m standing among the trees, rocks, creeks, crags and hills. There is no way to pinpoint any one reason.

One thing I know for sure is that what John Muir said about climbing the mountains to get their good tidings is absolutely true. There are plenty of good tidings to be received in the mountains, and those tidings should be shared with someone special. It’s just that many of us women who fancy ourselves as climbers aren’t viewed as date-worthy or marriage-worthy material. While we may in fact be considered crush-worthy, there’s just something about us that keeps potential suitors at bay. We find ourselves caught in this weird conundrum where we are viewed as both too much and not enough.

In this sense, we are too much because we can go out into the wilderness for days and take care of our needs for survival. We can be totally okay whether we’re alone on the trail or with others. We’re too much because you can always find us standing on top of another high peak looking large and in charge, having conquered the greatest mountain of all: ourselves. We’re too much because we can fall multiple times, scrape our knees, get a black eye (which happened to me once), get back up, dust ourselves off and keep trekking. In the sense of being not enough, we’re not enough in that we aren’t needy enough or vulnerable enough. We’re not pretty enough or tall enough or skinny enough. We’re basically just not good enough.

Two years ago, I went on a backpacking trip with a group of men. I had only met two of those men in previous encounters but I still didn’t know them very well. I wanted to do this trip because I knew it would be a great adventure on a very scenic portion of the John Muir Trail and it would challenge me to bring my hiking to a higher level. I had never backpacked before this trip, so I did all that I could to research ahead of time, yet I also went prepared to learn some things by trial and error as I went along with it. I knew it wouldn’t be a cake walk, but I was up for the challenge.

Things didn’t go perfectly as there were some hiccups along the way. There were also places where I had to really pray and seek direction to discern which way to go. On the first day of the trek, I fell way behind from the group and ended up hiking solo. I thought I would eventually catch up to them at the first camping spot before sunset, but became very concerned as I noticed it getting darker and there was no sign of any of the guys. Just as I began to panic, I saw one of them hiking down the trail toward me. He said he was getting tired and had to slow down, so he turned around to check on me. This was one of the guys I had never met before the trip. I encouraged him to have a snack and rest for a bit.

It was getting dark fast and we knew we’d have to make a decision soon. We never caught up to the rest of the guys that evening, so we decided to stop and set up camp just off the trail. On the other side of the trail was a small open space with the remnants of a fire pit and the creek flowed nearby so we had access to water. Together, we set up our tents and later built a campfire for warmth while preparing dinner in his Jet Boil. I brought my own but left it at the trailhead in my car to save weight as my pack already weighed 40 pounds. I cringe to think of what would have happened had no one come back for me.

Many of my friends have had similar experiences on the trails and find themselves in the same boat, feeling like they are too much and yet not enough. Whatever that invisible wall is that’s causing so many of us to not connect needs to come down. Yes, we love the outdoors. Yes, we are adventurers who believe we can succeed at whatever we set our minds to. Yes, we love climbing big mountains. Yes, we can trek along in the wilderness for five days or more carrying our homes on our backs. Yes, we are pretty darn fierce.

Yet, we’re the ones who know how to live happily with plenty and with little. We delight in the simple things in life. You don’t have to go out and buy us a $50 bouquet. A wildflower that you picked out of the ground means just as much, if not more. We love just as fiercely as we pursue the trails we venture onto. We never give up on our mountains. We will never give up on you.

It’s okay to date a girl who climbs mountains.

~J

Mid-Week Wanderlust: Corral Canyon and Jim Morrison’s Cave

We had seen the incredible rock formations along the Backbone Trail during last year’s 67-mile section series. This time, we made it a point to go and explore Corral Canyon in Malibu and take a side trip to the Jim Morrison cave. We had the perfect weather; it was neither too hot or cold. Of course, you don’t want to be on those rocks on a hot day as the heat reflects off the rocks and makes it miserable. We had a small group and that made it easy for us to stay together and take time to help each other up and down the rocks. There were some additional rock formations we spotted from afar that we will go and explore on a future adventure.

Anza-Borrego Desert Adventure Part 1 – The Slot

This is the first part of our series of adventures in the Anza Borrego Desert. On this first day of the adventure, we caravaned from our campground at Borrego Springs and explored a narrow slot canyon that featured some extraordinary geological formations, such as a huge balanced rock and a cave.

 

For more information on hiking The Slot, visit hikespeak.com.

To find out how you can join a domestic or international adventure with 1000 Treks, please click on the following link: 1000Treks.

For updates on new videos as they are uploaded, please follow this blog. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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.

An Unfair Exchange?

San G PeakI haven’t shared this story with many people, but I think this is a story that needs to be told because it might help somebody who’s struggling with a decision, feeling like they’re being pulled in different directions.

Last summer, I was a hiking fool. I felt greater than ever before and I was on fire. So when the opportunity came for me to climb Mt. Whitney with a friend and some of his co-workers, I jumped on it. I was feeling kind of bummed from the year before when I led my own group to Mt. Whitney and ended up not summiting due to a rookie mistake regarding my camera. (See prior post.)

Not long after I committed to this climb, I received a call from a casting agency that I had previously worked with asking if I would be available to do a commercial shoot as a hand double for a celebrity spokesmodel representing a major cosmetics company. Of course, they wanted me available on the dates I was planning to be at Mt. Whitney.

Reluctantly, I told them I was available, knowing there was the possibility of the dates getting bumped or the shoot getting canceled altogether. I kept my fingers crossed and told my friend leading the Mt. Whitney trip that I might have to cancel on the trip due to work.

Within days of the possible shoot, I hadn’t heard anything from the agency, so I told my friend that it was most likely a no-go on the commercial and that I was committed to the trip. Since permits are required to climb Mt. Whitney, I wanted to give my friend ample notice of my cancellation to give him enough time to find a replacement.

The evening before the proposed commercial shoot, which was a day before we were to leave for Mt. Whitney, I received a call from the agency asking me to report to set the next morning. I was torn because I was looking forward to climbing Mt. Whitney with my friend and his co-workers. I also knew that the commercial shoot was a great opportunity. What to do?

Commercial Shoot 2

Commercial Shoot Day 2

I almost turned down the shoot, citing plans already established, but I knew that would have been very bad. I realized I was already committed to the shoot because I had previously told them I was available on the dates they quoted. Never mind that they called me at the last minute to confirm.  That’s Hollywood for you.

I called my friend to tell him I couldn’t go to Mt. Whitney and, as expected, he was very disappointed. Because of the late notice, he was unable to find a replacement for me, so his permit went to waste. I offered to pay him for the cost of the permit as I really wanted to make the situation right. I was disappointed in myself for letting him down, and I was equally disappointed that I wasn’t going to climb Mt. Whitney.

Commercial Shoot 1

Commercial Shoot Day 3

The last day of the shoot, I was approached by the hair stylist to the spokesmodel I hand doubled for. She remembered me from the previous shoot I did with them 2-1/2 years prior. She asked for my number so that she could pass it on and keep me in the loop for other opportunities with this celebrity. I gave her my number, but took it with a grain of salt because I know how things can fall through for various reasons.

Some time after the shoot wrapped and things returned to normal again, I found myself facing scary thing, a weekend without plans. One evening, I had a sudden desire to take a trip to the Sierra. I remembered a hike that I had wanted to do in the Horseshoe Meadow area to a place called Chicken Spring Lake. I packed my bags and hit the road on Friday morning. I had no reservations anywhere, just a tent and some gear.

Campsite

Cottonwood Pass Campground

I knew I could probably nab a campsite at the walk-in campground at the Cottonwood Pass trailhead, so I took the chance and it paid off. The next morning, when I unzipped the door of my tent, the first thing I saw when I looked outside was three familiar faces at a nearby picnic table enjoying breakfast together. I was initially shocked to see them, but then realized they were with a group that was to hike Mt. Whitney the next day.

My friends were surprised and excited to see me. I explained what I was doing there and told them what had happened with my failed plan to climb Whitney with my other friend. That was when they mentioned that a person in their group wasn’t going to be able to climb, due to a knee issue, and had a permit available.  They encouraged me to take the permit.

I was unsure if I was ready to take on Mt. Whitney on such short notice.  It was the furthest thing from my plans that weekend.  However, I was prepared for the most part, and anything I didn’t have could be easily acquired in Lone Pine.  I went on my planned hike to Chicken Spring Lake and mulled it over.  When I returned to the campground, I told my friends I would take the permit to climb Mt. Whitney the next day.

CS Lake 2

Chicken Spring Lake

I climbed the mountain and did it in 4 hours less time than my first trip in 2011.  All of the circumstances came together to create the right opportunity.  The entire month of July, I climbed big mountains.  The first weekend, I climbed Mt. Baldy (10,064 ft.)  Then I climbed Mt. San Gorgonio (11,503 ft) and the next weekend, I climbed a fourteener, White Mountain (14,252 ft.)  The following weekend, it was Mt. Whitney.

Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney Summit – elev. 14,508 ft

Because I had spent so much time at high altitudes, my body was well acclimated and ready to take on Whitney.  Perhaps if I had attempted Mt. Whitney during the time of the commercial, I wouldn’t have been in such good shape, or I might have had to cancel my trip to White Mountain since the climbs would have been only within two days of each other.  It could be a number of reasons.

Looking back, I realized that if I had canceled on the commercial shoot, I would not be in the position I’m in today.  Because of the connection I made with the spokesmodel’s hair stylist who asked for my number, I am now the stand-in double for the model/actress on her popular TV talk show.  I have been able to gain valuable experience on camera, learn the inner workings of production and interact with the various celebrities that come through the doors every day.

This past year has been amazing and the best is yet to come.  The experience I’ve gained from working on the show has given me the inspiration and skills to produce and host the web series version of this blog.  (By the way, you can click the “Episodes” tab to view the videos.)

I heard someone say, “Opportunity doesn’t knock.  Instead it stands by silently, and normally goes unnoticed because at first it seems like an unfair exchange.”  I was bummed when I got the call for the commercial and asked to be available for the dates I was going to climb Mt. Whitney.  You have to be a climber in order to understand why I was torn about it.  If they had asked for my availability on any other dates, I would have been ecstatic, but I really had my heart set on climbing Mt. Whitney and, at the time, didn’t foresee any other opportunity to do it that summer.

The chance that I thought I was giving up was given back to me and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  Maybe you’ve missed an opportunity or traded in an opportunity for something else that seems like an unfair exchange.  Don’t be moved by what it looks like on the surface.  You may not see what lies far beyond where you are currently standing, but just trust the path in front of you.  Your steps will be made clearer as you move forward.  I know this to be true because I’m walking this journey right now.

Hike on!