mountain running

Finding my groove

Photo by Andrew Tyler. On a snowy Strawberry Peak

Photo by Andrew Tyler. On a snowy Strawberry Peak

When I think about running I tend to think about rainbows, butterflies and cute puppies but it’s rarely the case. Although, I have experienced those things during both incredibly effortless runs and some amazingly dark painful ones too. Lately those runs have been of the latter. What I found out though, is that if I can smile through it, when times feel dark and difficult, I feel as though I gain a sense of invincibility through it all and become better for it. As I wobble, hobble and shuffle my way back into healthy running, I am overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude and appreciation toward my body for helping me do what I love. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about, right?!

I began running again toward the end of October, the main injury healed, however, because I hadn’t ran consistently in months, I had a few lingering pains. Being injury free I dreamed I’d jump right into where I had left off but of course, that was far from reality. I found that my once ‘easy’ runs around Griffith Park were slow with heavy legs and a pretty negative attitude. What I realize now is that as runners we all go through bad times, it’s inevitable. And as a runner, if you don’t experience that full range of human emotions, you never truly appreciate the happy moments. It may have taken a few weeks of lousy running to have a few incredible runs mixed in. What I needed to except is that these emotions are transient and I won’t always feel a certain way. Think less self loathing and more self acceptance, something I’m slowly grasping.

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
— Napoleon Hill

What truly lead me in the direction of ‘How Sawna got her groove back’ was when I decided to join the Salomon Run Streak that began on Thanksgiving and ended on New Years. When I think of run streaks I cringe, I’m a firm believer of rest and accepting what the body needs. However, this Run Streak seemed like something that called to me, a sense of motivation I didn’t have before but appeared suddenly and I took hold and I ran with it; literally and figuratively. The way it worked was you had to run at least one mile a day until New Years eve, 40 consecutive days. That’s more that I have run all summer and fall put together. Rarely did I ever run just one mile. What eventually occurred was that I would force myself out the door for that one mile and feel pretty terrible at first, a rickety machine barely able to function properly. But after a little wiggle, a little wobble and some happiness fuel to my bones, a majority of the time past one mile felt great and would opt to make those runs longer by, sometimes, hours. After the first week or so I found that the idea of running sparked excitement and joy and less force was made. I planned out new routes and longer days without even realizing the transition that was happening. I woke before my alarm clock with more pep in my step, if I had a tail I’d be wagging it till I was out the door on the trail in unison with Juniper. Tongue out, excitement running in my veins, slobber running down my face, the stoke was high. As much as I tried to stay present in the moment and in the run, I often found myself overwhelmed with gratitude, remember how terrible I felt a mere few weeks prior, a couldn’t help but run with a stupid grin across my face.

My partner in crime, Juniper. She didn’t partake in most of my training runs but she was so stoked nonetheless. My number one fan.

My partner in crime, Juniper. She didn’t partake in most of my training runs but she was so stoked nonetheless. My number one fan.

I may not have been the fastest or strongest but I appreciated where I was that moment in the runners spectrum and that in itself made me happy. What this Run Streak did for me was motivate me to get outside and move despite the emotions and mental barriers I had built. It slowly gave me the tools to break those walls down and be happy with where I was in the moment. Even if that present moment was a dirt road in Utah at 10pm in 20 degree weather running my one mile, it felt gosh darn good.

Fast forward to right here and now. Waving to you through the internet, HELLO! Currently packing my bags for a new adventure and race in Guatemala, UTX 90k this coming Saturday. It’s mind boggling how fast time flies. I don’t feel as though I had amble time to prepare, not for the distance, nay, but for the amount of vertical gain this race packs. With just over 25,200ft /7,682 meters in about 58 miles, this race called for quad busting training runs in preparation for what is to come.

4X Steep’n’cheap. Bahumbug.

4X Steep’n’cheap. Bahumbug.

After the Salomon Run Streak, I felt as though I had my base training solidified and could transition into more specific training for this race. This is all new to me, the idea of training for a specific race feels very foreign. Normally I’d just go out for fun runs, keep my distance relatively high and cross my fingers. Although I’ll definitely be crossing my fingers and toes for this one, I knew I’d have to incorporate some steep climbs into my runs if I wanted to survive this course. And that’s exactly what I did. It helped that on weekends my boyfriend Eamon would be doing these runs with me, keeping me accountable and motivated when I knew I wasn’t on my own.

Normal training runs consisted of Steep’n’cheap repeats which is the ridge west of Echo Mountain, 1 mile with 1,500 in gain, a ‘trail’ with almost 30% grade, the second incorporated Mt Wilson’s Jones Peak which is 1 mile with 1,781ft. Both trails are washed out deer trail that I wouldn’t normally suggest to run up and down. Mind you I DID NOT run down Jones, with its current trail conditions I do not have a death wish. Steep’n’cheap is runable, but safe? well that’s questionable. Incorporating both these trails into my weekly training was far from what I wanted to do. Back in October I had gone out for my first trail run since fully recovering and ended with a few somersaults onto a terribly rocky section of Mt Wilson. That day left me not only physically wounded but mentally scarred. I never wanted to return to that gosh darn trail. Unfortunately Mt Wilson is a connector to some pretty incredible trails in the San Gabriels and I couldn’t stay away too long. I used this race as a way to force myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and not letting my fears get in the way. After a few runs, and an incredible amount of patience and support from Eamon, I found that I was finally able to relax from all the stress I had built and enjoyed the trails again. I’m still not able to keep up with Eamon but let me tell you, trail running is so much more fulfilling and enjoyable when fear is not apart of the equation. With my fears finally dissolving I was able to spend more time in the front range, building my training intensity all while enjoying the process. With a handful of 20k vert weeks, mixed in with hot yoga and recovery days incorporating the most painful but necessary sports massages with VFE Julio I feel as though I did what I could. Yeah, I know I could’ve been doing more but with the limited time I had to prepare I’m quite happy with how far I have come.

Julio from is an angel! He deals with my squirming around the table during massages and gives me great tips to workout these tight muscles.

Julio from is an angel! He deals with my squirming around the table during massages and gives me great tips to workout these tight muscles.

It hurts so good!

It hurts so good!

So they say the hay is in the barn, right? All I can do is trust my training and my bodies ability to accomplish this goal and more importantly… have fun. I don’t believe this is a race that I am prepared to race but what I am prepared to do is give it my all, try my best to get the miles done and to have a little fun every step of the way. Results are this fleeting element of this long day I’ve signed up for, what I strive to focus on is enjoying the experience of this 90k rather than push too hard and struggle both mentally and physically just for a little faster result. I don’t know what to expect, nor do I know how my body will handle the terrain, weather, elevation but I am quite confident in my ability to adapt and roll with the punches. Weather forecasts predict a wet and probable thunderstorm during the weekend… I’m not crying, your’e crying.

I’m not ready, please don’t bring it.

I’m not ready, please don’t bring it.

Cross your fingers for me, Eamon and Len as we embark on this quest and send us all the good vibes because we are sure in for a long day!

A big fist pump and virtual hug to my peeps at Salomon, Suunto and GU Energy for being my biggest cheer leaders throughout this entire process. Social Media is definitely a highlight reel of peoples lives but with constant communication with these groups of insanely amazing people let me truly feel their love and presence throughout all the good times and not picturesque times! One day I’ll meet you all IRL but until then thank you all!

Procrastinating…

Procrastinating…

Ok, I guess I’ll start packing!

If you have a sec, send me your mantra, a positive note or some advice to keep with me during the race!














'Tis the season: Gift Ideas!

How did it get so late? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn! How did it get so late so soon?
— Dr. Seuss
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Where has the month go?

The real question I ask myself: Where has the year go? I’m not going to start talking about this past year, this post is far from a year in review. However, this month so far I can’t help but feel overwhelmed about what’s going to happen in 2019. Where will I travel? What races will I run? Will I even get into certain lotteries? Will I ever get myself some uphill skis? But before I go in full panic mode about whats in store for 2019, I need to wrap up this year first and with that comes the Howl’iday season!

If you’re like me, time flies too quickly to plan on gifts to allow for a stress free holiday. I like to make situations a bit more difficult than necessary and if there is a way to procrastinate- you bet I’ll find it! If you find yourself agreeing with me, or just need a few last minute gift ideas, this list is a mixture of things that are on my personal holiday list and things that I would recommend from personal experience as well as gifts for (a majority) trail runners, dog owners and maybe even non running related. Keep in mind I’m not a gear specialist, nor do I do any product testing for any of these listed here!

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  1. My experience from the spot device is getting nightly emails from my trail wife Lani as she was hiking the PCT, even when cell coverage was spotty or non existent- those nightly emails gave me piece of mind that she was ok and even sent her GPS coordination in order to track(stalk) her PCT trekking.

    As someone who tends to travel beyond the beaten path and do long adventures where cell coverage is non existent, this spot device when turned on will send an “OK” message to set number of people (dad, husband, bf, dogs personal mobile phone, whomever you want). Not only that but the “SOS” button would signal search and rescue if something lie-threatening should occur.

    I DO NOT HAVE THIS yet… (cough, cough) and I know I should have something like this for future adventures. It’s not cheap- you can purchase it from REI with a 50% rebate going on through December 31st. You do have to activate it and purchase a subscription but in the end, this could be a life-saving investment.

Did you know CORAL is the color of 2019… need I say more? ITS THE BEST COLOR

Did you know CORAL is the color of 2019… need I say more? ITS THE BEST COLOR

See both neckgaitors wrapped around my wrist… I tend to fall rather easily and have a lot of snot drip no matter the weather.

See both neckgaitors wrapped around my wrist… I tend to fall rather easily and have a lot of snot drip no matter the weather.

Because this beautiful color looks great on anybody and why wouldn’t you want to choose mountains! Right?

Because this beautiful color looks great on anybody and why wouldn’t you want to choose mountains! Right?

2. Neckgaitors are a great gift for any trail runner. These bad boys work as a drippy nose wiper, a hand protector, ear warmers, headband, face protector, and even feet warmers when you have a layover for a few hours and are wearing sandals in 30 degree temps… I speak from experience. Buy one, buy two- they WILL be used. I confess I have dozens, but the new Choose Mountain colors have me swooning.

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3. Last October I met Val as we were all traveling to Mexico City for UTMX. Val is amazing. Right there in the airport she gifted me a DOGDANA she made for Juniper. You read correctly, a dogdana! She is exceptionally creative and her items on her etsey store prove it. The dogdanas fit on your fur-childrens collars and will only add to the already cuteness. She even has small ones that fit purrrfectly for cats. This is a fantastic gift for any friend with a pup and if you visit her store on etsy she has other fun printed great gifts for baby and even flannel kid/adult pjs. Really, you need to get matching prints for the dog, the kids and the parents… if you ask me that would make any Holiday card paw-some!

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Get your/family/friends pup a myraddog retractable leash and make them just as happy as Juniper frolicking in the snow!

Get your/family/friends pup a myraddog retractable leash and make them just as happy as Juniper frolicking in the snow!

4. Another great gift idea for pet owners is this awesome collar by My Rad Dog! It’s designed for the mostly off-leash dog! The Release N Run is a collar with a built-in 4ft leash which automatically retracts into the collar when you let go of the handle. Juniper has been using the collar for years! It’s perfect for hiking, biking, camping, backpacking, mountain running- it’s the ultimate in gear for you adventure dog and it pairs PERFECTLY with the dogdana as pictured above with Juniper. I constantly get asked what collar she wears when trail running and this is it!


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5. An obsession I’ve had for the last few years is my Territory Run Co “Gorge” hat! The design of this hat has been like no other and is my go to for any adventure run! They have a plethora of beautiful hats but this one takes the cake. Territory Run Co also has a collection of mountain inspired clothing and running apparel for everyone. These jogger pants had be swooning with first touch. They’re fleece lined and fit to be snug, the perfect pre and post run pant and really the perfect winter warm pant! You gotta feel it to believe it! I’m a naturally cold person, so when I found out they designed a fleece line jogger, I jumped with joy! If I lived closer to Portland I’d give these guys a high five on product design. Check out their other product, they have a new beanie, cool socks and a backpack that’s on my personal XMAS list!

I love all these designs with all my heart

I love all these designs with all my heart

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If I didn’t buy this mug I’d get arrested for TREE-son

If I didn’t buy this mug I’d get arrested for TREE-son

6. Treet your friends to some tree mugs or tumblers that I love with all my heart. Another etsy shop that I absolutely love is 2232 Handmade Ceramics! These make great gifts! Perfect for the coffee or tea drinker, or even the succulent lover with her beautifully crafted succulent planters! I’m a huge believer in supporting small business and craftsmanship and my friend Brooke Martinez is one crafty lady! My only problem is that I don’t want to buy these for anyone else, I selfishly want them all to myself!

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STOCKING STUFFERS:

Need some last minute stocking stuffers, or just smaller gifts?

  1. Picky bars! You can never go wrong with nutrition, especially date bars. It’s only a plus that Juniper and I are pictured on them but they DO have other flavors. This one is just the best, if you ask me…

  2. BEER! I do love a good beer, running or not! So stuff a good beer in the stocking or a good kombucha! I do enjoy a good Sufferfest beer because 1. obviously the name is appealing 2. It is born out of the needs of athletes and adventures. 3. The gluten is removed so most gluten free-ist can also enjoy!

  3. I’m a huge Gu gel fan! It’s easy on the stomach and easier to just grab and go run.

  4. The amount of plastic that end up in our landfill is absurd. Straws are made in 10 minutes and are used in about 20 minutes and remain on earth forever since they are not biodegradable. I ask for no straws when ever the opportunity arises but help promote the ban on plastic straws with giving the gift of reusable straws! Amazon has a plethora to choose from!

  5. Give the gift of a good book! Happy Runner by David and Megan Roche. They point out the mental and emotional factors that will help you learn exactly how to become a happy runner and achieve your personal best. This book is on MY Christmas list but you don’t have to purchase a running related book. There are some pretty fantastic books out there- check out goodreads.com for some reccomendations. You can normally find some great books at the goodwill and used bookstores for a few dollars!

  6. SUNGLASSES! Goodr shades are not only FUN with their colors and perfect fitted shades, but they’re all polarized for only $25 bucks a pair. What a steal! These ones are my ultimate favorite!

  7. A great calendar! If you’re like me, a good calendar goes a long way. I like daily reminders and I look at my calendar every morning as it is on my way into the kitchen. My favorite calendar so far is of Howie Sterns two dogs Joey and Micki! I just bought mine! Message Howie and you give the gift of some cute dogs with beautiful mountainous backdrops too!

With that said, the most important gift of all in my opinion?

YOUR TIME.

The best gift in the world are not in the material objects one can buy from the store or online, but in the memories we make with the people we love. This Holiday hug harder, laugh louder, kiss deeper, smile bigger, shine brighter and love longer- be the reason other people smile more!

Be happy!

Happy Howl’idays!

From Juniper and me!

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New Year, same me!

Hello 2018! It's meeeee Sawna. 

Grand Canyon before R2R2R in October (first time visiting the Grand Canyon=Mind Blown)

Grand Canyon before R2R2R in October (first time visiting the Grand Canyon=Mind Blown)

Naturally I say that in the most annoying voice I could possibly muster. For some reason the last couple of years I have rang in the new year with NyQuil by my side or at least some kind of cold remedy. This year was no different. Despite having a race in about a month I've seemed to be taking a very long pause in training, and you know what, that's ok. 

With the holidays comes longer work hours and days spent with the family, things I can't really change and wouldn't even if I wanted to. Precious moments I'd never be able to get back and memories that will last me a lifetime have been made but also my good friend, the cold, was going around like the plague. Hello cold, it's good to see you again.  

During a less than 24 hour visit to Joshua Tree in December

During a less than 24 hour visit to Joshua Tree in December

Either way, its 2018 and I'm still here. I've never been huge on New Years resolution or trying to do something I'm not really motivated to do or inspired to achieve because if I was I wouldn't wait for January to do it. Looking back at the last 365 days, heck- even the last 90 days, I've snagged any opportunity available, sought out adventure, experienced life way outside my comfort level, and pushed my limits until my muscles and my tear ducts cried. This last 12 months have been one for the books, jam packed full of memories and experiences I'd like to remember to the fullest. In saying that, my goal for this coming year is to make a conscious effort to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard- however you'd like to see it. I want to use the thousands of photos I've taken of countless states I've driven through, nation parks I've visited and every possible facial expression Juniper may have that I've documented.  

Angels Landing, Zion NP in late November. The day after running Zion Traverse

Angels Landing, Zion NP in late November. The day after running Zion Traverse

I'm ending 2017 with an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, truly excited to see what is to come. 365 opportunities to be the best version of myself possible, to seek out opportunity for growth and overall any kind of experience that will make me happy. I don't know about you but I'm excited for 2018 and the opportunities and adventure that will come with it. 

With my mane girl Juniper. I'd be lion if I didn't say she's the love of my life! 

With my mane girl Juniper. I'd be lion if I didn't say she's the love of my life! 

Lets do this!

 

 

White Mountain Windy Wonderland

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I push forward with all my strength. In any other circumstance I'd completely fall over, however, with 35 mph winds- I can barely stand. I need to eat something, yet my hands are too frozen to open anything. I need to pee, but again, my hands are too frozen and the wind too strong to squat for a quick pee break. I don't think I've ever truly considered pee-ing my pants until this very moment. Lani, who's just ahead of me, is struggling to stay up straight against the wind. Juniper, who's behind Lani has her tongue out and tail wagging, icicles on her fur shimmering in the light, turns her head around each corner of the mountain, making sure I was still behind them. The thought of turning back never crossed my mind, but I questioned my sanity the entire time. Not just mine, but Lani's and Juniper's. This is something we chose; to be nearly frozen, to have all articles of clothing on and yet not warm, and to nearly be blown off a mountain- all for fun. I need to look up the definition of fun, because I think its somehow gotten lost in translation these last few years of adventuring. 

TYPE 1 FUN: Enjoyable while it's happening. Just simply fun! Good food, good company, good weather. When everything just works out. 

TYPE 2 FUN: Begins with the best intention but normally things get carried away. Miserable while it's happening, something to laugh about in retrospect. You can say it was "fun" once time has passed and your far from the moment. 

TYPE 3 FUN: "What the hell was I thinking?" actions. Not fun at all. Not even in retrospect. Wanting to cry but too scared and stirred up to actually muster the tears.

I don't really know where I would rate this particular event on this specific mountain. But I can honestly say it WAS NOT TYPE ONE FUN. 

Just two weeks before Lani returned home. She had spent 5 months on a very long walk along the Pacific Crest Trail. That's 5 months too long away if you ask me and I truly missed my friend. Since then I made a solid effort to spend quality time with her, if it wasn't on a mountain top, it was at home with our fur babies as we ate immense amounts of food while burping beautiful melodies and making the air around us smell like roses. Since then we ran along the streets of Hollywood, climbed one of our local mountains, Mt Luekens, conquered the C2C2C (Cactus to Clouds to Cactus) and now we were off to the Sierra for my two days off from work. What a weird feeling to drive somewhere that, just a few months ago, she had walked across. My mind still can't seem to grasp all that she had to endure. 

With the sun setting completely by 6pm, we were off to a dark start. We burped, she farted- it was all so wonderful and pretty smelly if you ask me. After some debate on where to camp we settled on a little hideaway spot in Alabama Hills. It was a little past 10pm and I was laying on the ground, fur baby in my sleeping bag, trail wife in the tent next to me, tons of cookies/beer in my belly, and a big on cheesy smile smacked on my face as my head it the... ground (at the time I didn't have a camping pillow). The moon was bright and lit the boulders surrounding our little nook as we slept our LA worries away. And boy did I sleep wonderfully. My eyes opened right at 6am, just about the same time my arm started tingling from loosing blood circulation from snuggling with Juniper too hard. As if that would really be an issue. We rose quickly in hopes to watch the sunlight give Mt Whitney a good morning kiss. I grabbed my camera, Junipers ruffwear jacket and we were off on a little hike.

Later that morning, after Lani got up, we packed up, made coffee and did an outfit change from the dramatic 30 degree weather shift... she showed me more of Alabama hills that I've never truly explored. See, Alabama Hills is the gateway to the Sierra, its what you have to pass to get up to the Whitney Portal and very close to Horseshoe Meadow as well, and it's a nice pit stop along the scenic 395. I never really stopped when I knew that mountains where OH SO CLOSE. 

After running around Alabama Hills we then headed off to our next destination, White Mountain. White Mountain Peak is located northeast of Bishop and is the third highest peak in California and is the highest outside of the Sierra Nevada. Part of the Inyo-White Mountains which have some of the oldest sedimentary rocks in CA with fossils nearly 600 million years old. The White and Inyo Mountains have a desert-like appearance and the perfect conditions for the world's oldest living trees, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. Some trees are over 4,700 years old! While en route to White Mountain peak, you can see the trees off the road. The most important part of this wasn't that it was another California 14er to climb or that we would be seeing the Bristlecone Pines but it allows dogs. That right there was why I was motivated to go. But sitting in the car an hour and a half later, still not there and on the verge of a heart attack- I was rethinking my motivation. You see, the drive to the trail head can actually take longer than the run itself. Neither Lani, nor I (and certainley not Juniper) did any research before saying, 'Yes!' to this trip. All we knew was this was a California 14er that needed to be crushed. She put the information into google maps and we were off- never really taking into account the estimated duration of time. The last 16 miles to the trail head is on a dirt road that normally you would want to have 4wd.  

Picture this: Sawna driving her non 4wd Ford Escape up a very steep one car at a time only road with a steep drop off on one side and VERY large rocks to go over while almost in tears, heavy breathing and about to scream while Lani eats popcorn asking to pull over because she has to pee all while Junipers head is out the window, tongue out, giving zero shits, probably wondering when we were going to adventure already. Finally, after a few miles of panic attack mode, the road widens and levels out for me to stop and let Lani pee while I just get out of my car and lay on the ground nearly in tears. The idea that just a few months ago my friends who drove on this road with their new Subaru and got a flat tire floating in my memory. 

We finally arrive at the trail head and I open the door only to get it immediately shut again. I attempt to open it again this time with more muscle and pushed it open while the wind made its best attempt to smack it right back closed. I run around the car and check every tire, just in case and proceeded to get back into the car. It's windy AF, both Lani and I give each other the "This is going to be fun" look as we realize our shorts and tanks were going to blow right off with this 35 mph freezing winds and we are not here to re-inact girls gone wild even though we are girls and lets be honest we are pretty wild... but ya'll know what I mean. 

About 20 minutes later we were dressed to impress and ready to rumble our way up White Mountain. 

Smile is completely forced. Articles of clothing included tank, long sleeve, puffy underneath the windbreaker, shorts, pants, beanie and gloves.

Smile is completely forced. Articles of clothing included tank, long sleeve, puffy underneath the windbreaker, shorts, pants, beanie and gloves.

Not only did Lani and I not really check how long the drive would take, we didn't really look at what the trail looked like. I had heard that it would be the easiest 14er you could climb considering the trail head spits you out at 12k. The area is essentially an exposed desert mountain, with no water or shade along the way to the mountain. This also means there are no trees or other natural barriers to block the wind as you follow the dirt road all the way to the summit. I would imagine this is what Mars would look like.

I think without the 35mph winds it would've been easy, but considering we had to struggle to stay up right it was pretty difficult. The sun was warm but the wind swept away any heat we may have enjoyed but we continued forward on the dirt road. I tried to run the first section of trail and quickly gave into a hike that planted my feet firmly on the ground, less likely to blow over. I brought my Sony A6000 to take photos but found that most of the time my hands were too frozen to bare the thought of taking off my gloves. I'd run a section of the trail to snap photos of the scenery and ofcourse of Lani and Juniper but that was the jist of it. I stopped a few times to give Juniper water and realized that any water that landed on her fur turned into icycles that shimmered as she ran along the trail. She was loving our time outside while Lani and I were enjoying our type 2 maybe type 3 adventure. 

The last mile of the trail was the most difficult as it was nearing the peak. Completely exposed to the force of the wind I push forward with all my strength. In any other circumstance I'd completely fall over, however, with the winds- I can barely stand. I need to eat something, I haven't managed to eat anything since the beginning, yet my hands are too frozen to open anything. I need to pee, but again, my hands are too frozen and the wind to strong to pause for a quick pee break. I don't think I've ever truly considered pee-ing my pants until this very moment. Considering that the pants had been borrowed from my friend Mike, I settled on holding my bladder until the appropriate time. Lani, who's just ahead of me, is struggling to stay up straight against the wind. Juniper, who's behind Lani has her tongue out and tail wagging, icicles on her fur shimmering in the light, turns her head around each corner of the mountain, making sure I was still behind them. Trying to capture the moment, I struggle to put the lens cap on my camera and fall behind yet again. The thought of turning back never crossed my mind, but I questioned my sanity the entire time. Not just mine, but Lanis and Junipers. This is something we chose; to be nearly frozen, to have all articles of clothing on, and to nearly be blown off a mountain- all for fun.

We stood at the top- attempted to snap a photo but with frozen hands barely managed. We quickly turned around- without any words I can see Lani's eyes and received the "Lets get off this mountain" look while Juniper was happy AF, it's as if she has her head out the car window, she couldn't be happier. 

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We run as fast as the wind, snow and ice would let us back to the car. The idea that all my tires are flat was constantly going through my head, but at this point, if I could survive that frigid wind, I could survive any sort of car issue. I felt unstoppable. We jumped into the car, took some layers off and just laughed. But we really didn't laugh, it was more of a moan because our faces were frozen, but the laugh was there, merely masked by frozen skin. I sat there for a few minutes trying to warm my hands, my frozen fingers unable to have the strength to turn the ignition to start and once I did we had the heater on full force and we were off- back to warmth and civilization and beer. The big old bad rocks that nearly gave me a panic attack on our way up seemed like mere pebbles now as I sped down the once frightening road. Remembering the last couple hours of torture we call fun as we drooled over the sunset.

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THE SUNSET WAS INCREDIBLE. 

(I somehow have only purchased Taylor Swift albums- so that will be the soundtrack to all my videos)

The sun quickly set as we drove passed the ancient Bristlecone pines and straight to Bishop Brewery were we met up with my friends Dave and Shauna visiting from Squamish, BC. They had just climbed Mt Whitney for the first time in the same weather conditions and we all sat there looking pretty beat up by Mother Nature. That night we decided to camp at the Buttermilks, we quickly set up camp and without a word everyone passed out. Well at least Lani and I set our tents right up against each other and giggled and munched on snacks before finally going to sleep. 

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The next day we took our time to pack up camp, eat breakfast in Bishop and explore Big Pines. We managed to wonder around Big Pines lake and North Fork Loop trail and we were glad we did, it was gorgeous. 

After parting ways with our Canadian friends we mustered the strength to drive back to LA. Back to our jobs, traffic and the sounds of constant sirens.

When I first started writing this post in November, I would've quickly exclaimed my feelings toward not attempting White Mountain again. Not because of the trail but because of the drive. Now that I've decided to finish this post, two months later, I've had time to simmer on my thoughts, our experience and my feelings about the entire trip and I think I definitely would go back. Preferably not being the one to drive, but I'd like to make more of a day out of it, visit the ancient Bristlecone forest and actually run all the way to White Mountain Peak. I feel as though it is definitely the easiest of any 14er I've done and would like to have the opportunity to enjoy it sans wind. 

Till next time.

Peace love and all the happiness,

Sawna 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild in Alaska

With recent fire devastation all throughout the west; LA, NorCal, Oregon, Washington and Montana. I can't help but feel a sense of guilt, guilt that I didn't appreciate the land as much as I should. Guilt that I didn't explore as much as I could have. Guilt that I may never get a chance to run, wander, see or just appreciate some of this gorgeous land again due to these horrific fires! It hurts my heart to see what beauty is now engulfed in flames. The trouble is- I thought I had time. This is a reminder that time is fleeting, our land- its beauty is fragile and constantly changing, mostly for the worst. I have a magnetic pull, stronger now more so than ever, to get out and explore deeper and deeper into our beautiful lands. I want to know more, I need to see more and touch what's out there! Now it's not about having time, but rather making time. I want to work hard but play harder. We do not have unlimited chances in life to have the things nor do the things that we want. I want to seize that opportunity when it knocks and be spontaneous when I can. Now is a pretty good time to start...

Photo: Kate Arnold

Photo: Kate Arnold

Sometime in September...

I'm sitting on the plane, two dark chocolate wrappers in hand- empty. 

Thinking about how I was brutally attacked in the airport and forced to buy these chocolate bars. When I say brutally attacked? I mean, my attacker was also female and her weapon- the cash register that stood behind the counter at the magazine stand. But same thing, right? How could she do this to me?

Really, I'm thinking about the last five days. Was it just a mere dream? A sick fantasy that seemed all too true? 

It was in fact, reality. I was alive- I truly lived the last five days... A thought I was still trying to grasp. 

How did this happen? How did I end up in Alaska? A place forever on my bucket list but so far from fruition, I never actually expected to visit. 

Let me tell you a story... I promise I'll give you the cliff notes version. 

It was a cold, dark and stormy evening here in Hollywood, CA. Last December I was drinking a few local beers keeping myself warm and toasty by my little space heater (pretty sure I was in a tank top and shorts). Skimming though social media, I come across a post by Run Like A Girl. It stated they were looking for ambassadors for the following year; 2017. They're a group of girls that inspire, motivate, encourage and give back to the community. After religiously loving all of Hailey's(one of the three awesome RLAG girls) posts, I eagerly filled out the application. 

I thank those couple I.P.A's I drank that evening because a few short weeks later, I was notified that I was one of a handful that were chosen to represent the RLAG brand. Cue "I've got the golden ticket" song from Willie Wonka!

One month later I was asked to help lead one of their Costa Rica retreats alongside Hailey, awesome right? Yes, yes and yes. I instantly fell in love with this group of girls, what they stood for and their community. I couldn't get enough! Along with the majority of quazi local ambassadors, we flew to Canada to participate in the Be Fearless Race held in Squamish, B.C.. A race in which the ladies of RLAG organize on the beautiful Squamish trails to raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. I ran the Trail Marathon with two other Ambassadors, Magen from Texas and Kate from Alaska. Although there were a slew of other runners, we stuck by each others side the entire time, we supported each other, got to know each other, took tons of photos and giggled our way to the finish! It was more a trail run together than an actual "race". I had met Magen in Costa Rica but that weekend the three of us connected on another level. It was a dream weekend spent with some incredible women, not just with Magen and and Kate but with all the girls. The community the RLAG girls have built is nothing short of inspiring. Their supporters, both men and women, radiate love for life; each other and their communities. I had planned to write about it but have yet to- it was an experience that truly touched my heart. I felt supported and loved by this group instantly despite my bad jokes, terrible boomerang dance moves, lack of showering and endless pit of a stomach.

Throughout the summer I kept in touch with the girls from RLAG along with both Magen and Kate through text messages and social media. Since then I had returned to Squamish to help on another adventure retreat with RLAG, but I'd still droll over Kates photos of her life in Alaska- it looked unreal. I had playfully asked about visiting and possible dates and shared the idea with Magen. A possible reunion? It wasn't reality until Magen booked her ticket for those exact dates... instantly my playful idea was coming to life. We're going to Alaska. 

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th.

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I ran out of the airplane in excitement. I'M IN ALASKA, I would've yelled it out but of course I didn't because I'm shy and instead preached it in my mind. I spot Magen near the exit and we give each other a grand hug and proceed to catch up on all the latest as we dance outside waiting for Kate to pick us up. We flew into Anchorage, which was only a three hour flight from Seattle, my layover. Kate lives in Palmer, a 45 minute drive away. During the drive we all talk feverishly. Its been three months since Squamish and there was so much to discuss. Kate talks about her life here in Alaska, and her latest adventures. I have to remind myself to wipe the drool off my chin as she describes the adventures her and her husband embark on.

Pick up jaw off ground, wipe drool from chin and repeat.

As we drive, I can't help but gawk at the local mountains as she names and describes each one out to us. Kate glows with happiness, her excitement over her home is contagious and I can't help but fell giddy to explore it with her and Magen these next few days. 

Our adventure begins with a local race Kate and her company put on every Thursday evening in September. We have been so lucky to arrive on the first Thursday of it to occur. It has a kids 1 mile race, 5 mile option as well as a double loop for a 10 mile option.  Starting the race my intention was to run the 10 mile route, however, my hunger got the best of me and Magen and I opted for the 5 miler instead in order to make in back in time for some fresh butternut squash soup before it disappeared.

We sat by a fire, beer in hand, soup in the other, overlooking the lake and the beautiful hues that engulfed our vision.

I sigh, this is the life. 

FRIDAY,  SEPTEMBER 8th

Eklutna Traverse

The next morning we wake to fresh brewed coffee, a heavenly scent. As we all pack our packs for the days adventure, Kate wins over my heart by making vegan pancakes. 

After packing for both worst and best scenarios, we shuffle in the car as Lance, Kate's incredible husband, drops us off at the Pioneer Ridge Austin Helmers Trail head. 

This trail begins with a 4 mile climb with over 1k ft gain per mile till we hit the ridge, and with heavy packs, we begin our crawl up. There aren't many people on the trail but whoever we did pump into during the day were friends of Kate. Despite it being a bit over 30 degrees out in the beginning of the morning, we begin to delayer as the climb begins to get tough. The sun was warm and our excitement for the days adventure was pouring out of our sweat glands. Mmmmhhh yummy.

I don't really know how to describe the moment. The moment we mustered our strength and climbed these ridge lines that made up our days quest. Deep breaths stung as the cold air hit my lungs yet I'm wildly invigorated by the freshness that surrounds me. I'm not in LA anymore and I couldn't be happier.

I trust my legs will walk properly around the technical terrain as my eyes shift all around me. These sights are incredible. I can't help but to stop and take photos; capture this moment I'd like to savor for forever. We continue along the ridgeline, over rock fields, down fields of grass and flowers toward another ridge to climb. Technical terrain to say the least as we all continue forward, smiles plastered on our face, eyes shimmering, hearts happy. We begin climbing another ridge that turned into a loose, rocky, razor blade thin "trail" to our next peak. I try to control my bodies will to shake, fear of the undeniably steep and slippery terrain that shot straight down on both sides. "Kate, what did you bring us on?" I whispered as I lead the group to the top, trying not to show how afraid I was and knowing the faster I climbed, the quicker I would be done. Magen, who lives in a place where there aren't any local mountains, climbed fearlessly. Conquering the mountain with each step and looked as though she's been climbing her entire life. These girls are something alright.  In Los Angeles I have a couple girls that I run with, but a majority of friends I've made in the mountains have been male. Because of RLAG, my strong women friends have doubled, nay tripled in just a matter of months. These girls breed mountain rockstars! As our climbs seemed endless, we approached the final climb of the day with tired legs and happy hearts. Each step up was made with intention as we knew our day was coming to a close. I ran ahead to snap a few photos as Kate and Magen mustered strength for the final push. What a view! Magens hands were on her quads as she pushes the finals steps to the peak. She stops. She looks around and lets out a deep scream that both Kate and I could feel deep in our heart and left me with goosebumps down my arms. We all conquered something within ourselves that day. And with tears falling from our faces we hug each other and take a look at what we accomplished. We, now, only have to run down. Magen bursting with happiness led the way down, in a direction that looked like we were heading right off the cliff. "Ay caramba," I say to myself as we descend. The cliffs edge was just a mirage and was really a technical scramble down to a quazi normal "trail" that lead us straight to the vast yellow and orange colored trees, endless blue berry bushes and finally a soft leveled trail. 

The entire day was filled with steep ridgelines, razor blade climbs, big horn sheep galore, terrible singing, endless pictures, sore bellys from laughing too much, and a little bit of running. We conquered fears, pushed our limits and came out stronger than we were a mere 10 hours and 18 miles before. 

Our day ended with Lance cooking us a feast as we sat around a big campfire surrounded by friends, drinking beer and liquor Kate brought back from Italy. Our bodies tired but our hearts were happy. 

Saturday September 9th

MATANUSKA GLACIER 

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Glacier isn't normally part of my vocabulary. Living in Los Angeles my vocabulary revolves around heat so when Kate and Lance said we'd be going to a Glacier; I was trying to contain my immense excitement. This is definitely my version of Disneyland! 

The drive to Matanuska Glacier is about two hours from Palmer however time is irrelevant when you're completely engulfed in fall colored trees and endless views of of white carpeted mountain tops. Alaska, you are INCREDIBLE. The idea that I'm actually sitting in this car, at this very moment, viewing these sights was completely mind boggling. Mind. Blown.

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We pass the Glacier entrance for a quick 1 mile hike that was basically straight up and back down. It was filled with roots, thick mud and rocks galore but once you reach the top, the entire glacier was in sight. The hike down was an adventure in itself, as Kate and Magen let me lead the way... I don't know why. Follow with precaution, folks. At one point I slipped and held onto two tree branches and was hanging- that's how steep it was. Shocked I didn't pull my arms out of the sockets, we all laughed it off, wishing one of us caught it on camera. 

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After our hike we met Lance for lunch and then headed straight for the Glacier. Words can not express how I felt when we arrived. I've never experienced such a sight so wonderful. We treked away from the crowds to fully appreciate the glacier, its beauty, the silence and all it's wonders. We ran, hiked, jumped, and took a plethora of photos. Lance had set everything up to ice climb and Magen was first to jump at the opportunity. Boy does it look scary, definitely pushing my comfort levels. I was silly to think I wouldn't ice climb as well. How many opportunities would I have to do this again, so I seized my opportunity, pushing my fears aside and was surprised at how liberating it was. Fear of heights aside, it was a magical experience. 

We played on the Glacier as long as we could before a storm rolled in and then headed back to town. As we drove home, we were hit with heavy rain for a few miles before the sky cleared up and a bright rainbow peaked through over the mountains. 

Sunday, September 10th

PORTER GLACIER

My quads burn, my body overheating as I try to keep my panting down. We are running, nay, sprinting up a very slippery trail. I look over to Kate and see her face is red from the intense climb mixed with freezing temperatures. Sweat is dripping off her fine blonde hair and we are intensely focused, you could almost hear the drip of her sweat escaping her face.  It was quite impressive how we managed to encourage each other the entire climb as we all were very short on breath. We were counting down the seconds, every moment mattered as we flew across the flat terrain and started the decent. We were moving fast, but not fast enough. I watched both Magen and Kate pick up their pace as the descent began steeper. This has been the fasted I've ran since spraining my ankle running down Upper Winter Creek a few months back. To say I was hesitant currently would be an understatement. Magen and Kate were in front of me as I overly focused on where my feet could possibly land. These girls are impressive, quite the strong duo and at that moment I forgot about babying my ankle and pushed harder to catch up. I could see my breath in front of me as I exhaled my exhaustion and inhaled the life around me. Grateful to be here. Grateful for these two girls. Grateful for this moment. But how did we get to this point? Were we being chased? Were we racing? The adventure in Alaska seemed to be endless, no doubt. 

Earlier that morning....

We were all quite tired, that was pretty evident. The last few days of adventuring were incredible but long and taxing. We woke with a hunger to continue exploring but were pretty indecisive on what that would entail. In Alaska, like Colorado I found, weather was always a factor. For me, living in Los Angeles I'd see that it was Sunny and 99.9% of the time it'll stay that way(for months). Where as in Colorado this last summer, the Sierra just a few weeks ago and currently in Alaska, it could possibly start of sunny and turn into a horrific lightning and rainstorm or vice versus in a matter of minutes and you don't truly know ow long they would last. Checking the weather forecast was merely a suggestion, mother nature always had a plan of her own.

Despite being tired, despite the omniscient cloudy sky outside, the three of us woke and dressed for a sunrise hike. With hopes the the sky will clear before the sunrise, we drove off, coffee in hand and eyes still filled with sleep. We parked at Hatcher Pass and the sky was gracing us with sweet, cold kisses. Maybe mother nature knew I hadn't showered since leaving LA and she was trying to give me a hint. I hear ya loud and clear. 

With freezing temps, very dark clouds hovering over us, and soft rain massaging our skin, we begin our hike up. Despite the temperature and early time, it was a gorgeous day. This last year of traveling more to the Pacific Northwest, I'm learning more that a gorgeous day doesn't necessarily have to mean a sunny day. Freezing temperatures, rain, snow, ice, really anything- its all perception. I don't think the morning could have possibly began any better. When we reached the top of the mountain, the rain turned to ice as we danced around and laughed till our face muscles and stomach hurt. After our boomerang trials, errors and successes, we made our way down a different trail. 

We stopped by a cute little coffee shop on the way back to Kates house that had the most incredible chocolate chip cookie! I almost didn't want to share it. We picked up groceries and Magen and I made us all a veggie stir fry to kick start the rest of our morning. We then packed our bags and headed out for Alyeska Resort to take a leisurely hike on the Winner Creek Trail. The drive was incredible. The dark clouds had cleared and replaced by fluffy white pillows in front of a cobalt blue sky. The water sparkled as a way to show off its beauty and vast energy. My face was glued to the window, not wanting to miss a thing. Hoping to spot a whale in the distance, I kept my eyes on the water but the mountains in the distance stole my attention. You could see spots of rain storms, sun rays bursting through marshmellow clouds as the water shimmered almost knowing how beautiful the moment was. I could jump up and give nature a high five for it's continuous jaw dropping scenery. In Alyeska we took a stroll on the Winner Creek Trail. It was nice to take a moment and just appreciate our surroundings. Although it's something we've been doing the entire trip, it a nice feeling to not feel stressed our overwhelmed by the city life and to really appreciate nature. The trail reminded me of ones I've ran in Portland or part of the Be Fearless Race in Squamish; Lush, soft, green and just overwhelmingly beautiful. We took our time here, savoring the moment, the beauty and each others company. 

We then headed to Whittier, Alaska. 

The clouds began to return, and it began to rain again as we arrived to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. This Tunnel is the longest (2.5 miles) highway tunnel in North America. It's a one-lane tunnel that must be shared by cars and trains in both direction and it's how you would get to Whittier if you're not traveling by boat. We toured the town, a town of population: 214. We waited for the rain to die down, the clouds to clear a bit in order to go on a hike. Destination, Porter Glacier. 

The hike is approximately two mile in length, one way (four miles roundtrip). The trail begins with 750 feet in elevation gain over fairly strenuous and rocky terrain and levels out at the top of the pass. From there the trail decends down past Divide Lake and ends at Portage Lake. Due to the rain early, the trail was completely muddy, slippery and hard to manage. Once we got over the pass, the sky finally opened up and gifted us with a pristine view of the glacier! HALLELUJAH! What a sight it was. We ran as fast as the muddy and slippery trail would allow and took a plethora of photos along the way and at the lake. It's incredible how accessible these glaciers are to the public! Years ago, this Portage was considered a roadside glacier, however it recedes an average of one foot a day and is now no longer visible from the road. IT's big blue icebergs are found along the lake and boy is it a sight! 

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With the sun setting so late in the day, time seemed to escape us. Several photos later, we realized we would need to get back to the tunnel to make the next opening by 8:15, but we would have to sprint. Which brings me back to the my earlier story. Sprint our littler hearts out we did. We huffed, we puffed, we ran our way back up the pass and down to our car, as if chased, but despite our grand efforts- we didn't make it. We waited the next 45 minutes, basking in the glory of the days events. Driving home late was a chore, difficult with how tired and far we were. A mission I was so thankful Kate accomplished with ease. Arriving back at the house, we all tucked away silently, smiles on our faces, thankful hearts, tired bodies from the wonderful journey the day provided us. 

When you "just can't"... You color.

When you "just can't"... You color.

Monday, September 11th

The Departure

We packed our bags in silence, sad that our time in Alaska a ending. However, with 1pm flights- it wasn't over just yet. The adventure continues till the very last second. We drove to the Butte for a quick hike where the sun was shinning, the air so crisp you could almost taste Fall approaching. My taste buds danced with excitement, my eyes gawked at the colors, Fall is a wonderful season and the city of Palmer was engulfed in it already. 

After hiking the Butte we walked the bridge tat connected between the Knik River before heading back to the airport. 

I can't quite explain my feelings at the point in time. I was excited to go home and see Juniper but at the same time I am not looking forward to re entering summers heat, the traffic and the crowds. The more I venture out of the city, the less willing I am to return to the chaos, the traffic and the immense amount of people. 

We say our goodbyes and we try not to get too emotional. It's never goodbye but a see you later sort of thing. When I met both Kate and Magen, I knew instantly that these two girls would be in my life for a long time, it may not be on a daily basis but our adventures will only continue. 

Here I am, two chocolate bars deep, on my way back to Los Angeles. Magen, on another flight, will be meeting me in LAX and our adventure will continue in LA until she flies home later that week. 

As I sit at my kitchen table typing, almost two months after visiting Kate, it still doesn't seem real. The adventures, the nature, the bond we all shared during those days is something I can not truly explain but the memories, oh the memories, will always put a smile on my face. I'M SMILING RIGHT NOW. I could almost cry, it makes me so happy. It's moments like these that make everything okay. I may not like where I live, maybe I don't like my job in particular, but gosh darn it, it allows me the time and the money to make these memories. 

If you ask me, you should go! Go somewhere, experience a different place, their climate, their nature. Live more, hug harder, laugh louder, smile bigger, love longer- you've got to take advantage of today because we aren't guaranteed that tomorrow will always come.

Till next time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in the Sierras

My first experience in the Sierras was the day after Broken Arrow as we parked at the Onion Valley campgrounds to hike up Kearsarge Pass. Broken Arrow had been difficult in itself, due to spraining my ankle a few days prior. The hike up Kearsarge Pass, although beautiful, was intensely painful as I cried silently to myself with each step forward.

Since then, I've been determined to return, mind you healthy and able to run these magnificent trails. And I have! Mind you, with Juniper it is difficult to go far but I've definitely gotten a taste of the mountains. Merely a taste- but I was thirsty. 

After returning from a few weeks in Colorado (blog post in process) I have been itching for another mountainous adventure, preferably closer than a 14 hour drive. 

Originally I had planned to camp at Horseshoe meadow over the weekend because I had Saturday off but due to longer work hours and just life- I was unable to go. Le sigh. 

I received my schedule that Sunday for the next week and realized I had two days off in a row, a rarity in the service industry. My mind started racing with possible plans. I figured a good Sierras trip would be in order and possibly my first California 14er of Mt Langley. I was checking feverishly for extra permits for Mt Whitney on Thursday, figuring a good nights rest the day before would be wise. However, any movement on the site for that day was scarce. 

On Tuesday two permits popped up for the following day, Wednesday, and I immediately reserved them. I then proceeded to call and have them saved in the overnight lock box. I instantly called Vince, best friend and mountain runner extraordinaire and asked if he was down for an adventure. 

The answer is always, YES!

All we had to do is get there safely. However, when we both get off work past 11pm- it's questionable. 

We arrived at the Sierras Interagency Visitor Center at 3am- after three hours of driving, windows down, coffee, singing loudly to Queen and a good few slaps to the face. We then continued onward to camp at Alabama Hills and finally able to sleep around 4am. We both woke up at 5:30 during the sunrise, bats flying overhead, and eventually rose at 6:30 with much anticipation for the day to come. 

MT WHITNEY

At an elevation of 14,501 ft, Mt Whitney is the tallest mountain in California, 11th tallest in United States, and the tallest peak in the Lower 48. Mt Whitney trail is pretty do-able for Southern Californians considering it's only a few hour drive to get to the trail head and has a well maintained trail that leads you straight up the mountain.

Because it is the most frequently climbed mountain peak in the Sierra Nevada, a permit system is in place to minimize impact of backpackers as well as day hikers in the backcountry. Everyone, backpackers and day hikers are required to obtain a permit. The shortest and most popular trail to the peak is a 10.7(17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal. If climber during the summer to early October you don't normally need any technical climbing equipment but it is necessary in late spring/early summer.

Keep close to Nature’s heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
— John Muir

Vince and I began our adventure at 8 am as we jogged away from Whitney portal, grin exposed from cheek to cheek unable to hide our excitement. Within a mile we crossed a flowing creek without a hesitation we both ran through it- a pattern that will quickly form in today's quest.

We joked, we laughed, we gagged at everyone's poop bags we ran by, we took photos and, yes, there was a bit of huffing and puffing running up the trail, but once that started we simply hiked. Today was to be fun. Vince, having Tushars 100k a mere three days from this adventure couldn't risk pushing to hard and I simply was enjoying my best friends company out in some of the most beautiful scenery. 

Fun is enjoyable because you don’t have to worry about results. You can strive for triumph, or you can putter around, tinker, and explore, without worrying about efficiency or outcomes

Both of us having never been on this trail were shocked at how well maintained and pretty straightforward it was. Yes, there were two snow crossings, but as long as you don't try to dance across- you were fine. For how difficult one strives to get a permit for this trail, to experience this beauty, we were both shocked at how much trash was left purposely on the side of the trail! COME ON GUYS! 

Crossing the snow on the top right. Although there was a clear path to cross, some hikers turned around due to how dangerous it seemed with the sound of water underneath. 

Crossing the snow on the top right. Although there was a clear path to cross, some hikers turned around due to how dangerous it seemed with the sound of water underneath. 

We continued across the 1,329 water crossings and then up the 99 switchbacks to the Trail Crest pass and continued to run along the ridge, laughing and enjoying the smooth ride with the best view.

The last half mile is a rocky, technical climb, straight to the peak where we enjoyed the 360 view along with the other 30 people around us. It wasn't even noon yet and we had reached the summit, shocked at how quickly time flew by and how happy we felt!

The air was crisp yet warm. The clouds looked as though they were marshmellows- soft to the touch and oh so sweet.

We savored the moment, sitting on a rock as I stuffed my face with half my SUPER BURRITO from Trader Joe's. My taste buds exploding with happiness. My stomach- happy at first, not very please during the run down. Instantly feeling nauseous, I slowed my pace until I had to stop to.... burrrrrp. 

Burped I did! I few times, hoping it wasn't going to lead to anything more severe I began running again. Instantly feeling better. We chatted with some girls hiking up, watched a nice fatty marmot try to get our attention and off we were. Down the switchbacks. 

Down the switchbacks. 

Down the switchbacks. 

Still... down the switchbacks. 

The never ending switchbacks.

And when you thought it was almost over...

It kept going. 

Both Vince and I were silent, hoping the end was near as we continued begrudgingly running forward. Finally, what seemed like forever, we were off the switchbacks and on, still technical and wet, but pretty straightforward. The time flew by and before we knew it we were back at the trail head. 

As we basked in how incredibly fun our day we hung around collecting ourselves before possibly eating. At the Portal market we ran into some guys we saw on trail and ended up sitting with them for lunch. They had just finished hiking the JMT and coincidentally two of them live within a mile from me... small world! It felt as though time had stopped. Here we were a group of strangers, wide grins chatting as if old friends. Sharing what we have in common- the love of fresh air, the trails and just these beautiful mountains and all that they offer. 

We parted ways and Vince and I were off to horseshoe meadow after a quick(not so quick) pit stop into town to find some kind of "fresh" food. 

Once camp was set up, (I was definitely very excited to not be sleeping in my car for once) we began making dinner- or should I say I began making dinner. 

Dirtbag dinner special: Spaghetti with the only fresh veggies we could find topped with pasta sauce, tahini, nutritional yeast and of course avocado!

If you want to start off somewhere (and on the cheap) go HERE.

We both fell asleep by 8 that night. Vince slept till 8am and I'd like to say it's because of the symphony of spaghetti farts that eased him to sleep, you're welcome. #fartbombs

 

MT LANGLEY

For people looking to explore the highest elevations available in the contiguous United States, Mt Langley offers a good introduction to thin air at 14,026ft without requiring any technical mountaineering skills. With it being 500 ft shorter than it's neighbor Mt Whitney, Langley's summit provides expansive views, solitude and a deep feeling of accomplishment. Langley is the 9th tallest peak in California and is considered one of the easier 14ers to climb.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity...
— John MF Muir

The sun's warmth on my face gently bekoned me awake to enjoy the nights end and the new days beginning. Sleep still hoovering I rise and sit outside- enjoying the silence and beauty of my surroundings. As other campers are already packed and heading off to the trail, I begin making coffee as I write in my journal, waiting for sleepy Vince to wake up.

Today's adventure is to run up Mt Langley. Since my first taste of the Sierras, more specifically Cottonwood lakes, I've had a thirst to run both Mt Whitney and Mt Langley on back to back days. Considering this being my last training week for Fatdog 120  what better time to quench that thirst than NOW?

Vince and I began running around 9am. He was only planning on running the first 5-6 miles with me and then turning around before heading to Utah for Tushars 100k skyrunning race.

It was gradual and we were basically gliding our way up. We had ran into some of Vinces friends from LA, chatted and continued forward. By 3 miles there's a fork in the road Old Army Pass to the left and Cottonwood Lakes to the right. Due to snow levels on New Army, it was reccommended I run up Old Army Pass. 

We continued running along, pass lakes, exposed rock fields and a few rock lake hoping later we stumbled upon a creek flowing down with snow completely overlapping it with a small tunnel underneath. 

It was magical.

"It's a difficult task, defining beauty, yet so obvious when you see it".

"It's a difficult task, defining beauty, yet so obvious when you see it".

At this point Vince turned around and I was on my own. 

Yesterday was cool, storm brewing in the distance with a cool breeze and today was far from the same. Continuing forward on an exposed trail, up switchbacks in what seemed like an oven. My breathing was light and my legs were moving. I was able to run every step to the top, passing a few backpackers on the way. Not knowing they would be the last people I'd see until the summit. From Old Army pass I accidentally ran on a trail downward until I realized the trail I was supposed to be on was above me. With the mindset of staying present and happy- I brushed off the extra time and climb I put on myself. If there's a wrong way to go, leave it to Sawna to take it! Because I took the wrong trail, however, I had the opportunity to watch a family of Bighorn sheep run by. I caught a glimpse of the last one running in front of me. I call that a win, thank you very much.

Once I got on the right trail pass New Army pass there's a worn path that makes its way up to a ridge line populated by rock towers. This section is exposed and the sun was wearing on me, with no on in sight, I was lonely and trying to remain happy in the moment. Beyond the towers, lies a berren slope of sandy gravel, yay. The Langely Plateau is much longer than it appears from down at the pass. Follow the massive cairns up the mountain as best as you can as this point, you're high, it's hot and extremely steep. I was hardly pushing, thinking this section was never ending. The option of turning around never crossing my mind when actually I was thinking I had all the time in the world to complete this task- as long as I get home to Juniper tonight! 

Above the climb, it "flattens" out for about half a mile until you reach the summit. 

The view was electrifying.

After spending some time taking photos and taking in the view, I began descending. 

This time I wanted to avoid Old Army Pass and try to go down New Army Pass. Yes, I was fully aware of the class 3 scramble and technical terrain- but by golly I was NOT going to go down the switchbacks of heated doom. No gracias!

I ran the entire way toward the pass, passed the same family of big horn sheep to my right as I danced along the ridge- excited for some new views of Cottonwood lakes. 

I ran up to the pass and began jogging down however a few feet down the trail dissapears under a sheet of white carpet. Snow. It's spotty and I was able to shimmy below the trail, seeing foot steps comforted me. However they could've been Chamouns from last Saturdays run (he did the same run). As much as I tried to follow the trail, it inevitably spit me into a chute and I had to go down a class 3 climb that led me to, surprise, more snow. This section was steep. 

My breathing was heavy, from fear of heights (shhhh don't tell anyone) and from this being possibly a very dumb decision. But I tied my jacket around my butt (my BOAUSA shorts are not good for 1. wind 2. butt slides down really steep snow chutes that I could possibly hurt myself but trying not to be scared of) and walked onto the snow, deep breath in hoping for the best, and proceeded to glissade/butt slide down then jumped onto the rocks. Few. That wasn't so bad. Not one point (maybe when I was hugging a rock with nothing but a cliff underneath me) did I think I should turn around or think I couldn't do it but I stood there looking up at what I just did feeling pretty confident but at the same time questioning my sanity. 

The adventure continued with two long snowfield to cross. I tug my feet in and climbed by way across, going slowly and cautiously until I realized what's the worst to happen? (Other than slipping and sliding straight into the lake) the snow was soft and if I slid, I'm capable of stopping myself. So I quickened my step, annoyed at how long this was taking me and probably looking like a buffoon, across the snowfields and finally onto the trail.  

rare images.jpg
Down the class 3 rock climb and then my butt got frisky on the snow. You can see my path along the snow in the bottom left. (The snow was REALLY soft or otherwise I wouldn't have done this route-  meeeh probably still would've)

Down the class 3 rock climb and then my butt got frisky on the snow. You can see my path along the snow in the bottom left. (The snow was REALLY soft or otherwise I wouldn't have done this route-  meeeh probably still would've)

I got on the trail and took a moment to myself. 

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Repeat

I loop up at New Army pass and remember my confidence and yet still question my sanity or lack there of. It was only a few years ago where I wasn't comfortable running Griffith Park alone then it was the San Gabes or Mt Baldy for that matter and now here I am.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. I didn't run into anyone else (because no one was on New Army) until the beginning of the lakes. Cottonwood lakes are beautiful and, yes, I was extremely thankful for new scenery and ALAS! Tree coverage! It's a few miles back to the car and everything was extremely runnable- for that I was grateful. 

I got back to my car, used my R8 Roller and was on the road back to LA- back to Juniper, beer, and a good vegan home cooked meal. 

The last 48 hours were a whirlwind of adventures- one for the books. I couldn't imagine a better ending to my last training week before FATDOG120. That, my friends, will be another story. 

Till next time,

Peace, love and happiness 

ADVENTURE GEAR:

Pack: Nathan sports VaporHowe 12L Vest (That Rhea and Andrew gave me for my bday!!)

L/S: Inov8 Long Sleeve half zip

Tank/Hat/Buff: Run highs tank by Territory Run Co

Windbreaker/Buffs: Inov8 Wind shell

Shoes: Inov8 Trail Roc 285

Socks: Stance run

Food: GuEnergy Gels FOR THE WIN and the Roctane drink is shockingly REALLY good. (if only the lemon berry wasn't backordered till after Fatdog 120... so sad)

(Trader Joes burrito made me sad- first time)