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! 🙂

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 14)

Years ago, my ballet instructor told me that the word “can’t” is non-existent in my vocabulary. I was 18 when I started taking ballet. Because I worked on Monday and Wednesday evenings, I was interested in taking a beginning adult class that was offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I called the studio and spoke with the owner, Ms. Warren, who was once a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet. “The only class that I have on Tuesdays and Thursdays is the Advanced Company Ballet class,” Ms. Warren said. She then went on to say that started off in that class and they both quit.

She welcomed me to come and observe one evening. I was like, okay, sure, I can do that. And that was despite the fact that I had never danced a step of ballet in my life. I didn’t even know the simplest things about ballet, such as the five basic positions. However, I went and observed the class.

Even though I was slightly bigger than the other dancers and not nearly as flexible (some of the dancers could stretch their leg above their head), I wasn’t intimidated. Everyone was nice and welcoming and I felt at home among them. I wanted to be a part of the Company.

Ms. Warren looked at me after the class concluded and asked, “Do you think you can do it?” “I think I can,” I replied. And I did. A year later, I performed in their production of Swan Lake.  When I stepped in and danced the Pas De Deux during a rehearsal in place of a dancer who was absent, Mrs. Warren was blown away.

I absolutely couldn’t give up on Half Dome, no matter what. Something miraculous awaited me at the end and I wanted to reach for it. I had to touch it.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 6)

We had just left the Happy Isles Nature Center and arrived at the trailhead. The steady incline began shortly afterward and, as I foreknew, I began to lose the lead. I had such a rush from being in front of the group that I hiked faster to try and maintain the lead. That was a bad idea. I was already tired from the lack of sleep and by exerting myself so much at the beginning, I used up what little energy I had in reserve and became instantly exhausted.

I’ll just stick with Ms. Rosemarie, I thought. Rosemarie is a beautiful woman in her mid-70s, who accompanied us on the hike. This was her fourth trip to Half Dome. She was my inspiration. I believed that if a 70-something-year-old woman could do that hike, then why couldn’t I,being less than half her age, do it too?

Rosemarie knew the art of pacing. She steadily walked at the same pace, using her walking stick, and never stopped. I also knew the art of pacing. I had trained for weeks at the gym on the treadmill with the incline as steep as it would go. I practiced my breathing technique as well. However, training doesn’t amount to anything if you don’t utilize the skills you learned.

There I was, keeping time with Ms. Rosemarie, and thinking of my mission to Half Dome. The trek was a mission for me. Other than food and water, my backpack contained another piece of precious cargo. Just as Frodo’s mission in The Lord of the Rings was to take the One Ring back to Mordor to be destroyed, I carried something that I wanted to leave at the top of Half Dome, which represented a piece of me that needed to be destroyed.