Training

Expect the unexpected

We sit in the parked car as Tam, Andrew and Rhea all begin to layer up I stuff another chip in my mouth delaying the inevitable- going outside. See, I convinced Tam to visit from the UK, hardly convinced but used the beautiful weather we've been having as an incentive to spend a few days in town. I eat another chip covered in hummus as my gaze continues forward, looking at what? I couldn't tell you. We were in the clouds, a dense white fog left us with zero visibility and a light shower to remind us of the current freezing temperature. It was 32 degrees parked at Vincent Gap. "At first I was afraid, I was petrified" Gloria Gaynor belts out in the background. No, girlfriend, I don't think I will survive, not this weather. Sawna is a sun child. 

The day we departed from Drakes Bay. 6 Days and 146 miles later...

The day we departed from Drakes Bay. 6 Days and 146 miles later...

Tam arrived from London the night before. We had spent 6 beautifully hard days in Costa Rica running the Coastal Challenge, what now seems like another lifetime ago and not just a mere 3 months. She had messaged me about visiting San Diego and had mentioned possibly hanging out. We quickly decided on her visiting for two days, some sunshine and warmth would do her good. What we didn't know was that the 80 degree weather we have been having would immediately disappear once she arrived, she didn't realize she had packed the fog with her. Thank you for that, Tam.

I was determined to make these two days incredible. If not for Tam, for my two days off from the stress of work. The last few weeks of working long hours at a bar has not been ideal, most evening spent coming home and melting into the couch unable to function. I had messaged Andrew, Rhea and Tony and we made fast plans on camping no matter the weather. We considered Horse Shoe Meadows but the weather nixed that immediately, the San Gabes seem to be the only place we'd be able to go. 

We all sit in the car, shivering, questioning our decisions. Tony decided to head back to Buckhorn and set up camp, it would be too difficult for Lou, his 14 year old dalmatian in this sort of weather. Thankfully I packed extra warm clothing for this unexpected temperatures. Tam had no idea what I was putting her through as we glance at each other with forced smiles, this will be fun, we reassure each other in a very unconvincing way. I stay positive and say things like "I'd rather be here than sitting at home" "better than working", but at the same time I was questioning my own choices. It was never the question of whether it was safe or not, it wasn't a huge storm we were walking into, but just an uncomfortable situation. After putting on what felt like a million layers we begin our trek up Baden Powell only to stop a few switch backs up and remove 999,999,999 of those layers. Although temps were in the 30's, the air was still and the more we hiked up, the warmer it got, and the more genuine our smiles became. We were deep in the clouds, unable to see around the switchbacks due to the thick fog. Despite the poor visibility and freezing temps we were having a great time! The dogs, Juniper and Lola, were running around, tongues out and chasing each other up and down the mountain as we all talked and enjoyed each others company. About three miles up we noticed the snow and icicles hanging from the trees. A round of a-paws for to the San Gabes for the ins-paw-rational snowy mountain views. Boy was this polar opposite of the 80 degree day I had on this mountain just last week, that day I could've definitely gone for a pupsicle. Get it, get it? Woof. 

We made our way to the peak of Baden Powell along with 10 or so PCT hikers. The hikers, hiking from the boarder of Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail, were carrying large packs to get them through the 2,650 mile quest, while we were carrying mere small vests. Reaching Baden Powell at 9,399 ft on clear days often grants you a 360 view of the San Gabriel Mountains, however, on a day like today we were lucky to see 5 feet in front of us. Despite the lack of view, I tried to illustrate the views as best as I could to Tam. We all took photos and hung around at the top long enough for some cloud breaks. There were definitely some screams of joy coming from our group. 

Our run down the mountain was exciting. Oh the joys of running in tights and it inevitably sagging off my hips. Saggy crotch syndrome I like to call running tights. We had spurts of heat and cold as we began our descent, running through flurries of snow, icycles dangling from above, spurts of open views of the desert below and soft moist dirt below our feet. I couldn't help but giggle from happiness. Today was a good day. 

Our drive to camp was a mixture of defrosting and delayering from the days adventure. We packed our packs as best we could and headed to post up our campsite. It was a surprise to stumble upon three PCT hikers with a fire going in the big pit, I immediately said hi, attracted to the heat they were creating, and offered the wood I brought as a donation if we could hang out by their fire. They quickly accepted. After setting up our tents, we grabbed our snacks and made friends with Captain America, Butcher, and Jukebox. 

The evening was spent making new friends and hanging with old friends. The pups were pooped out and hung by the fire while we enjoyed some beers and eat lots of food. Well I ate a lot of food. After what seemed like hours of talking, we snuggled up into our tents around a whooping 9:30pm. I woke around 3 am, trying to convince myself that I should go back to sleep and that the need to pee wasn't dire, but my bladder rejected my argument. I crawled out of my tent to a soft white carpet, a few inches of snow while snow floated around me. If the need to pee wasn't necessary at that moment I would've spent more time enjoying just being still. It's not everyday in the San Gabes that you get to camp while its snowing. Full of excitement I almost woke Tam to tell her it was snowing, then remembered, she lives in the UK- she see's fog, snow, and rain all the time. She was actually trying to get a vacation from that sorta weather. Surprise, surprise, here we are in sub 30 degree temps in what was supposed to be sunny Southern California. 

The morning was spent trying to keep our hands warm all whilst not getting falling snow into our coffee. Our coffee didn't stay very warm too long. That was our cue to pack up and head out. 

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I wanted to show Tam one last thing before she headed off to what will be sunny San Diego, Strawberry Peak. Oh the beautiful Strawberry Peak, views of the San Gabes and Los Angeles in the distance, but today, barely the trail infront of us was visible. Alas! I made my attempt but mother nature was not in our favor. We climbed and ran back to the car with a rumble in our stomach. We were in need of a hearty lunch, our last stop being my favorite, Cafe Gratitude. 

Since her visit, it's been nearly 80 degrees everyday while I've been enjoying it in the discomfort of work. I've surprised myself by waking each day by 6 and going for run in Griffith Park in order for Juniper, and myself, to get some exercise in before a long work day. 

T-minus 3 days till I'm on a flight to Seattle and reunited with some of my favorite people while running around ORCAS ISLAND. 

I've never been to Orcas when it wasn't in Feb for Rainshadows 50k... the STOKE IS HIGH. Will be in Seattle Sunday evening till Monday night if anyone wants to hang out. Literally, lets go climbing. 

Till next time. 

Thank you Tam for visiting <3

I have several similar photos and each one Junipers smiles is HUGE. &lt;3

I have several similar photos and each one Junipers smiles is HUGE. <3

Can we all admire how cool Andrew is with Lola who weights WAY less than Juniper.

Can we all admire how cool Andrew is with Lola who weights WAY less than Juniper.

My unsuccessful attempt to be cool like Andrew:

Ok, Ok, last thing.

Just wanted to wish Tony a happy 30th Birthday. HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BDAY!

Our adventures wouldn't be the same without him. He somehow knows how to make you smile a bit wider, laugh a bit harder and love way way more. We are all thankful to have you and your pups in our lives! I know Juniper loves me but lets be honest, she'd join your pack in a heartbeat! 

 

 

 

Lettuce taco 'bout Junipers Birthday

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As I sit here at a coffee shop at the airport in Mexico City, I look down and all I can see is Junipers hair. Its everywhere! On my tights, on my purse, on my sweater, my nose starts to tingle and my eyes begin to water, it's been less than 8 hours and I miss her with my entire heart. 

Yesterday myself and a few friends met at early at the dirt Mulholland trailhead for a sunrise run. Who cares about saying bye to me, really, they came to wish Juniper a happy birthday. On February 4th, Juniper turns 4. It's not her exact birthday, a date known only by who left her on the side of the highway at a few months old, but what the vet estimated would be her birthday. 

Someday's I catch myself staring at her, most of the time it's during a run, other times it's when she's curled up in a tiny ball sleeping. I think to myself "How did I get so lucky? What did I do to deserve you? Why do you love me so much?". There are days when she'll go out for a 30 mile run, no problem, stick by my side, and radiate with happiness the entire time. Other days she perfectly content sitting on my lap on my living room chair, just being cuddled like a puppy. 

4 years old.

Time does fly when you're having fun. She's my partner in crime, my baby girl and most of all, the love of my life. Despite not being there for her actual birthday, I celebrate her birth everyday. I thank the universe for the person who abandoned the sweet puppy, because it led her to me.

Here's to many many MANY MANY MANY MORE years of extreme amounts of epic adventures and endless cuddles. 

Here's some(lots) of my favorite moments shared with my lovebug!

 

Goodbye Flu, hello trails!

With the new year came a sickness that sidelined any prospective training that I hoped to achieve this month. I ran less and focused more on rest and the occasional hot yoga to stretch and sweat the tightness away. This last week, however, was heavenly. All of a sudden when Monday rolled around- POOF! My sickness had disappeared, I had finally two solid nights without the cough of death and I couldn't be more ecstatic! On Monday I thought it was merely a test from my body and had went for another hot yoga class and to work without even considering running. I thought to myself, maybe I can run this week. Perhaps this plague is finally gone and I can spend some quality time outdoors. The thought sent shivers down my spine, oh the outdoors! I look over to Juniper who was laying on her bed looking bored. We are going on some adventures! I stated as I picked her up, fumbled a bit, and hugged her so tight she started to lick me face to stop.

GRIFFITH PARK, HOLLYWOOD

Tuesday I woke up with excitement, another night of peaceful sleep. WHAT A JOY! Juniper and I managed to do a tempo run up to the Hollywood sign that left me smiling from cheek to cheek. I live about a mile from Bronson Canyon and the batcaves- you know, where the filmed batman, and it's normally my go to entry point for the Griffith Park trails. In Griffith Park it's a choose your own adventures trails, with immediate scrambles that take you straight to the Hollywood sign or pristine fire road that, although take a handful of miles, will also lead you to the Hollywood Sign and Observatory. There is also great opportunities to skip the fire road and head straight to lush single track, but today we stuck to fire road and were able to let Juniper off leash as we managed to keep a faster pace than normal.

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Afterward I recovered with a walk to the climbing gym to work on a few problems. As I sat in the Sauna afterward I pondered the rest of my week, I had some free time to devote to "time on feet" in the mountains and I wanted to choose it wisely with my Costa Rica trip approaching soon and with a nice little wind storm blowing our way Friday and Saturday. I giggle with excitement- the opportunities are endless.

BACKBONE TRAILS, MALIBU

Initially for Wednesday I figured I'd do a long run on Mt Baldy but with the current snow conditions I didn't think it would be quality training for the heat in CR, although, what in January would be? Instead I figured a good 'ol run on the Backbone trail in Malibu would suffice. This trail offers single track, fire road and ocean vistas in a 22 mile lolipop loop that is part of the Sean O'Brien 50 mile and 100k course. I have some fantastic memories with friends on this trail and one not so very fantastic memory of the actual race four years ago. Overall it's a great loop if you're looking for something that consist of more running and rays of sunshine.

We parked at the trail head and were ready to go by 8:30am. At first I had Juniper off leash but with a distance like this I quickly grabbed her raddog leash (that looks like just a collar) and kept her close- I didn't want her to get too tired too quickly. The first part of the trail is single track for about 3 miles and opens up to Zuma Ridge fire road for a small climb up to Buzzards Roost where you get a beautiful view of Malibu and sometimes, if weather permits, Channel Islands. Following the fire road down, it's hard not to focus on the ocean, a view I'm not accustomed to seeing on my normal long runs. Once we got to the parking lot at the bottom of the fire road, I was able to give Juniper lots of water and a few treats before heading back onto a single track to Canyon View trail- back up we go. At this point it was getting very warm and without having to hold onto Junipers leash she stayed right infront of me. She's pretty good at staying close to the person that will give her treats and water! I could feel my shoulders getting sun kissed as we continued to climb up the trail as my friend Phil commented that we'd be in polar opposite conditions on Mt Baldy. I didn't realize how hot it was going to get, both Phil and I were drenched as we hiked and jogged up the single track. During the climb I had picked a few ticks off that I notice had jumped on Junipers fur and I was instantly disgusted. Ticks give me the hibeegeebees. Blah. Excuse me while I go shower from disgust.

I kept Juniper on her leash closer to me, thinking that the farther away from the brush we were- the less likely she'd get ticked. Once we got the the fire road to run down I stopped to give Juniper water and there may have been 12 new ticks on her fur. Poor Juniper waited ever so patiently as I aggressively shook them off her in sheer frustration. About a few feet later she had 5 more jump on her. If there was a way to say "Hey trail, I'm done!" I wouldn't stopped running right there and then. The idea of having to constantly brush Junipers fur of ticks made me not want to continue- but what needed to be done, I realized, was to run faster. After 15 minutes thoroughly checking her back, neck and chest we started to run down the fire road. I found that if we didn't stop, the ticks would have the least amount of time to jump on her.

We ran down to the creek and as I sprayed some water on my neck, Juniper was able to cool her body in the cold water. I stared at the water, her fur and continued to stare at her fur the duration of the loop. I couldn't tell you how many ticks I flicked off despite having her close to me on lead.

We ran, when I say ran I mean jogged very slowly, back up to Buzzards Roost. With Juniper on leash and my water getting low, we flew down the fire road and jogged back to Kanan were the safety of the car and a coca cola waited. I then proceeded to pick more ticks off Juniper- OH THE JOY. This area isn't normally infested with ticks but we did just get our first rain storm last week and they are everywhere, not just on the Backbone trail. The best part was after all the time brushing the off Juniper I felt as though they were crawling all over me. A hair tickle- omg it's a tick, my backpack strap touched my arm- omg it's a tick, my shoe lace on my ankle- oh wait no, that's a tick crawling up my leg. I shivered with disgust as I flicked it off me. Giving my body another check of possible crawling monsters before I said farewell to the BB trail, it'll be a while before I return. Cue tick nightmares for the next week. 

WESTRIDGE TRAILS, SANTA MONICA

On Thursday I had initially planned to run with the Socal Coyotes at 6am in Santa Monica but ALAS! I had woke up at 6 am realizing I had forgotten to set me alarm. Whoops. I had an appointment to renew my passport and the office is located in Westwood. What a breeze that was- signed, sealed, delivered and I'm off to CR soon! Since I was already on the Westside I figured it was a great opportunity to run one of the trails in Santa Monica- Westridge trail being the closest. Technically the trail would be considered Los Angeles, with countless connectors it can take you to Topanga Canyon, The Valley, Brentwood, Santa Monica and if you want a really long run, Malibu. The best thing about these trails are that you choose your own adventure; single track scrambles, long fire roads, nice climbs or all flat- you choose. I stuck to the flat fire road and was able to lose track of time as I shook my heavy legs through Westride and to Topanga Canyon and back for a nice unplanned 16 mile. Once I arrived back at my car I realized it was 75 degrees out which made the exposed fireroad even more heated- not a bad heat training day! Pretty stoked with the days event I was able to chill for a few hours with Juniper and head back to the West Side for some recovery hours at the climbing gym with fellow coyote Pedro. Productive day indeed!

STRAWBERRY PEAK, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS

I woke up feeling a bit depleted. I knew I hadn't drank enough water- big NO NO, Sawna. I slept poorly as the wind roared against the window beside me. Juniper and I haphazardly collected ourselves and set out for another run, this time meeting in the San Gabriel Mountains. as I prepared to leave, ominous dark clouds blanketed the sky as the roaring wind whipped the palm trees from side to side, leaving me thinking that today may not be all that sunshine I was hoping for. As I exited the freeway and started up highway 2 my fears quickly disappeared as I drove out of the dark clouds and into a cobalt blue sky. Feeling like I just entered a Disney movie as birds began to sing, butterflies landing on my mirror, squirrels talking on nearby trees all welcoming me to paradise- you know, the whole shebang. Shockingly at 8am in Los Angeles, I cruised on the freeway and along HWY 2 and was parked at the trail head 30 minutes later- this must be a personal record. Andrew, Rhea and their paw-sitively energized furkid, Lola, showed up just a few minutes later. We ensured we had all the necessary gear as Juniper and Lola chased each other and then we were off on the trail that led us up Colby Canyon, one of the trails that connects to both Josephine peak and Strawberry Peak.

Our destination today was not Strawberry Peak itself but around it. With the winds being over 25 mph at the peak we figured we'd avoid the extra mile to the top and continued on, making a big loop. We began running on the trail, fur kids chasing each other up and down the trail as we crossed a few stream beds that led us to up the canyon. As we hiked up the switch backs to the saddle, we couldn't help but admire being above the marshmallow clouds. It had been a couple of weeks since last seeing Andrew and Rhea, we had spent those first few miles catching up, but at this point we couldn't help but talk about how beautiful the day was. As we approached the saddle we couldn't help but feel giddy for the day. There were two other guys who had just left the saddle and began hiking up the neighboring peak as we set out on the single track to Strawberry meadow. The single track runs along the canyon side as we loop around to the back of Strawberry peak and then proceed to go down to the Meadow before shooting back up to the Strawberry Peak saddle. Before we turned the corner I stopped to take a few photos of Andrew and Rhea together and noticed the two guys that had set out before us were standing on top of the peak looking over the blanket of clouds- it was a beautiful sight.  

As we turned to the backside of the mountain and began to run down into the meadow we couldn't help but admire the soft trail under our feet and beautiful sky full of cumulus clouds above us. Both Lola and Juniper continued to chase each other, back and forth, as we all stabilized ourselves trying to not get knocked over. Their happiness shown from the smiles on their faces to their tails wagging so deeply that their bodies moved along with it. 

Once we reached the Strawberry saddle we finally got a taste of the 25 mph winds, sending any warmth from the sun away. Both Rhea and I instantly put our windbreakers on as we stopped to take a few photos. We continued running along the single track toward Red box when I spotted a tick on Juniper. Not again! I thought. I brushed it off and we scanned both Juniper and Lola for any others. 'Tis the season. As we passed Red Box and continued down to Switzer Falls we began running into the clouds. The air moist and the blue sky quickly disappearing into the dense fog it was refreshing to be running in such a different range of weather. We finished the run with a jog down highway 2 to our cars and some quality time searching for my ticks, you know, my favorite. 

The day didn't end there. We left the San Gabes, back to the city, for some quality fuel at Vin Loh, a Vietnamese vegan joint that is located in an unassuming strip mall deep in the heart of Reseda. Kevin Tran, the owner, is know for his athleticism and good judgement, will suggest something better than what's on the menu. Tell him what flavors, textures you're in the mood for and he'll bring you the best dish in the house- the food is that good.  We picked up a few different dishes and headed to Andrew and Rheas house. As we sat in their backyard enjoying the food, both Juniper and Lola continued to play, unphased of the 14 miles ran earlier.

Afterward we hung around the climbing gym until our hands and arms too sore. It was a multi sport kind-of day!

MT WILSON, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS

I wake to hear the strong winds roaring outside. From my window in the loft I see the palm trees that line my neighborhood swaying side to side, looking as if they'll snap any minute. I look down from my pillow and spot Juniper passed out on her dog bed, unaware of me starring as I begin to climb down the ladder. I shoot Pedro a text about today's run, maybe altering our original course to something less exposed to the wind, he quickly agreed. I take Juniper for a quick jaunt before packing my things to leave. This week has been great for her, lots of time with friends and hours on the trails that deserve a nice day off to get some quality rest. She sits by the door as I continue to pack, her eyes begging me to let her join the party. Rest, Juniper, you need rest. She continues to plead with her eyes as I try to leave. I motion her to go to her bed as I quickly make my exit. 

I'm sitting in my car, as I turn the ignition to start Junipers eyes burn my mind. "Well, we have adjusted the miles today, so it's not too long", I think to myself. I've convinced myself. I turn my car off, run upstairs and grab a bag of her favorite Zukes treats and call her over- "JUNIPER, LETS GOOOOO!". Her face gleaming and her body shaking from not being able to contain the excitement. She wisps by me and almost slides into the hallway wall as she flies down the stairs and sits by the car door as if to say "Come on Mom, you're moving too slow- ADVENTURE AWAITS!"

We park about a mile from Chantry Flats trail head as the main parking area was completely full. Cars lined the side of the road in every which way possible in order to park as close to the main trail as possible. We jog our way up and begin running past Chantry parking lot up toward the winter creek trail to upper winter creek. I keep Juniper on leash the entire climb in hopes that she saves any energy she would normally use running circles around us instead of staying beside us. The weather was perfect, tucked inside the trees we could feel a slight cold breeze, but nothing of the 30 mph winds predicted. I kept my long sleeve on knowing that the peak was only going to get colder. We continued climbing, settling into a nice comfortable hike. We both agreed that we wanted to take the run moderately easy in order to have sufficient energy to spend at the climbing gym afterward. 

Our route led us to the Mt Wilson observatory. The peak was 32 degrees and windy. My hands and face frozen as Pedro and I began running, more like shuffling, trying not to step on any of the ice covering section on the ground. Of all the dozens of times I've ran around Wilson, I have never been to it's lookout. Shocked. Amazed. Baffled. Crazed. I don't know what I was thinking. Pedro showed me where it was and my mind was blown. 

The look out was shockingly warm and we embraced it's heat as we defrosted a bit before heading down the trail. I have to admit, I was uncomfortably cold. With gloves and a long sleeve, I could've definitely found comfort in one more layer. But ALAS! We focused on just moving to maintain heat.

 Both Pedro and I have yet to run Mt Wilson's rim trail and today seemed like a fitting day to both experience it's wonders. And boy was it wonderful. The air crisp, the ground soft and gentle yet offering a very thin single track that demanded attention. I lead the way as Juniper, now off leash, stayed between Pedro and me. Pockets of frigid air gave way to the warmth of the sun as we cruised down in a single line, passing several green patches of tall trees with leaves of orange, yellow and some bearing no leaves at all. As we approached Newcombs saddle we stopped to savor the moments passed, a trail I had failed to experience for years welcoming us with its beauty and minimal technicality. I take a glance at Juniper, happy as can be, ready for more miles as she smiles eagerly at me. "I can't believe you almost didn't experience this" I think to myself. Juniper, off leash still, leads the way. The excited pup begins to prance, soaking in the sun as her tongue flops to the side of her face, offering the trail a wide open smile as she gracefully glides down. 

As we continue running down, we pass several streams. With each stream passing, the water fueling Junipers energy as she speeds up and runs harder and faster through the canyon. This girl is unstoppable. After a long week outdoors I truly thought she would be tired, but her stamina and strength continues to surprise me. As we climb the road back to the Chantry parking lot we pass several dozen people and their dogs. Juniper, by my side, looks up at me with each passing dog- knowing full well she'll get a treat if she stays by my side instead of bolting to say hi to the dog. Not only is she fast and strong, she's one smart pup.

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Another day of adventuring in the mountains and then a few hours of bouldering at the gym is pretty much my favorite kind of day. I ended the night at a friends house in the hills for a get together with some fellow Team In Training teammates. Still to this day, I can't believe how far I've come. Training for my first marathon almost 6 years ago and then entering the Ultra community. How my life has shaped ever so differently than I expected, and how I'm so thankful for what I have and the beautiful people that surround me. 

Since this week of adventuring, Juniper and I have enjoyed several more outings with friends as I prepare to take off to Costa Rica. That's another story in itself. 

Alright, time for me to shower these stinky feet and head to the airport. Headed to Costa Rica for 6 weeks. 

Till next time,

Peace, love and happiness

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!&nbsp;

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.&nbsp;Although there was a clear path to cross, some hikers turned around due to how dangerous it seemed with the sound of water underneath.&nbsp;

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- &nbsp;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)

I drank the kool-aid from the Devils Punchbowl

I can feel the heaviness in my eyes as I tiptoe into my apartment.

My body begs for a good night's rest yet it's nearly 2 a.m. on Monday and I've just gotten off work.

Crawling into bed, trying not to make any movement that would wake Juniper.

And I'm out before my head hits the pillow.

Suddenly, and far from graciously, I'm startled awake.

Petrified at the feeling of something hitting my legs.

BAM.

BAM.

BAM.

BAM.

And then quickly it stops.

I've been asleep maybe 5 minutes and I notice Junipers tail is smacking my legs yet she is not awake.

I can hear her low grunting noises.

"Is she panting?"

I think to myself.

Her legs twitch and begin to move amongst the sheets.

Her tail begins to wag again.

She's dreaming, as she does often, that she's running.

Looking down at Juniper I think of the days events-

it was all worth it.

It's 4:55 Sunday morning.

WOW!

I'm completely shocked that I've woken up before my alarm clock.

I feel energized and excited for the adventure that is planned for the day.

Today Lani, Juniper and I will be running a loop in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Some of the trails I frequent often but more than half I have yet to experience.

The Devil's Punchbowl

Natural Area is a Los Angeles County Park, also within the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest. It is located South of the Pearblossom highway, about an hour and a half northeast of Los Angeles depending on how fast you drive.

Some background information if interested:

The most conspicuous features of the park are geological. 

The Punchbowl is a deep canyon cut by the runoff of large quantities of water from the higher San Gabriel Mountains occurring over a long period of time. 

These mountain peaks above the park are 8,000 feet in elevation while the Nature Center is located at 4,740 feet. 

The peculiar uptilted rock formations to be seen in the entire area are layers of sedimentary rocks that were formed long ago by the depositing of loose material in horizontal layers by water. 

Later they were squeezed into their present steeply-tilted form by continuing action of uplift along the punchbowl and Pinyon Faults and pressures along the the San Anderas Fault. 

Well you learn something new every day!

My goal was to leave my apartment by 6am, however when you are packing for two, time slips away far too quickly.

With the car packed and both Lani and Juniper ready to go, we left closer to 7am and began our drive to South Fork Campground.

South Forth Campground

is just a few miles past the Devils punchbowl and

 is a major trail head for exploring the north-facing desert slopes of the San Gabriel Mountain.

From the campground we will take a 5 mile trial to Islip Saddle. 

This, my friends, is all new to me!

I've ran in the San Gabriels religiously these last few years and it still amazes me that there are trails I have yet to experience still. 

The trail up to Islip Saddle is a 5 mile and change climb with 2100 in elevation gain. 

It started off pretty chilly as we entered the canyon but the sun slowly crept over the mountains blessing us with its warmth. 

Both Lani and I removed our jackets as we drooled over the view. 

The immense beauty of this landscape is nothing short of incredible. 

The tint of the trees changed a

s night left the sky

. When 

illuminated, the leaves exposed t

heir natural lime green beauty, simple but striking

You could see the change in color throughout the ridge lines as we headed toward Islip Saddle.  

The trees dazzling in their spotlight and pine-scented air. 

"I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees" Thoreau

"I LOVE this smell" Exclaimed Lani, throwing up her hands, as we pass a carpet of snow.

"Oh I just farted" I quickly responded. 

We giggle and proceed forward. 

The one thing you learn when you run with us is our nonattendance of any kind of filter. 

Diarrhea of the mouth.

Word vomit. 

It is what it is- and we like it like that. 

A mile and a half in, with the sun comes warmth and the removal of my jacket.

Closer to Islip- lots of snow.

Lani, who I met through Instagram two years ago, has been my partner in crime since. 

We connected through similar photos that were captured on the same trails.

"Who is this girl?"

I always thought. 

And one day (January 9th 2015 around 10 am...

but who remembers exactly

) we finally went on a run together

(Vasquez rocks)

- after chatting for months. 

Finding out we were:

1. Both vegan

2, Both ultra-runners

3. Trail enthusiasts

4. Crazy in all the right ways. 

It was ultralove at first trail run.

Backpacking Baden Powell for the Meteor Shower

Lake Tahoe shake out run (hobble for me with my sprained ankle)

Broken Arrow Sky Race June 2016. Both our booties captured

San Jacinto Cactus to Clouds- from the desert to 10,834 feet. Nov 2015

Vasquez Rocks+ PCT Fun run October 2015 (Week before JJ100)

Mt. Baden Powell twinning with our Boreas Pack

And here we are almost two years and countless adventures later.

Still bantering over who can burp the loudest and longest

(ahem- no contest there). 

And who can drink the most beer whilst eating vegan pizza

(Attempt made the night prior).

We reach Islip Saddle after several pit stops and hundreds of photos later. 

Nervous that the time has been passing too quickly, I convince Lani that we should skip Mt. 

Williamson and take the road to the PCT connection. 

With a little hesitation, Lani agreed.

We have a

"Go Big or Go Home"

policy but unfortunately I am scheduled to work at 7:30 pm and time isn't necessarily on my side today.

Overwhelmed with the idea of working till 2 am I try to brush it off, reminding myself that working late shifts allows me to adventure during the day.

We jog the road, cutting about a mile and some change from our loop.

We continued on the PCT and then hit the road again for 2.5 miles and change to Buckhorn

(BUCK-HORN)

Campground.

There was snow.

There was ice.

There were pee stops. 

There were gas leaks in high pitch sounds with absolutely no guilty looks given to possibly predict their visit. 

How many times can you hug a tree in one run? I lost count. 

Picnic table before the Buckart Trail begins

Dear Avocado... oh how I love thee.

We continued slowly, taking precaution on the rolling ice covered road. 

Finding a spot with sun, we stopped for some snacks. 

I packed Juniper some steamed sweet potatoes and myself some avocados and almond butter.

Tasty goodness!

From Buckhorn campground

(lets take note that I am spelling it BUCKhorn and not BUTThorn).

you proceed to buckhart trailhead, and then descend 1.5 miles to join the PCT.

Continue right toward the combined PCT/Burkhart trail, we 

passed the agreeably scenic Cooper Canyon Falls that were overflowing with snow melt. 

Legs for days

Lani and I won the #bestrunningbud contest from Ultra running mag

and got some awesome swag. The beanies are one of them <3

The gate into gnarnia must be broken.

We pass the time by telling stories, joking and making very inappropriate comments. 

Crossing Cooper Canyon stream we continue left on the Burkhart trail (PCT goes right).

As we continue to climb, as does the temperature. The trail begins to dry out in the exposed sun as we try to roll our sleeves up.

Lani truly enjoing the fart musical 

Such a babe here in the San Gabes

From here you commence a long climb toward Burkhart Saddle, reminding me of Trailapocolypse last April. 

The saddle is a gap on the high crest of Pleasant View Ridge, the desert-boardering ridge of the San Gabes.

From the Saddle it's as if you enter a door to another area completely, one less exposed to sun. 

The North side offers a welcoming descent carpeted with fresh snow rather than dry trail and warm sun. 

The trail was slightly visible, soft snow mixed with ice demanding one's complete attention.

SNOW on the Northface

Happy pup, hesistant Lani

Super sketchy spot. Lani was smart and put her spikes on- entire section was solid ice.

Lani put her spikes on as I stubbornly continued forward without mine- slowly, but safely as some parts were completely iced over. 

Juniper returning to us with glee, beckoning us to follow her. 

Her face portrays a look of

"I know the way- follow me!"

as we keep our grasps on the side of the mountain and balance on the icy section. 

Juniper's excitement and happiness was contagious as our fear slowly began to dissipate.

Oh 30+ miles... no big deal. 

We take the descent slowly and carefully until the snow disappears. 

From there we have a few miles of rolling hills to the intersection of the Punchbowl. 

The view now leading away from the Snow covered mountains and only of the Mojave desert with hints of the Punchbowl.

Here the clean, dry air bears the melded exudations of both pines and desert sage, a dramatic difference from just a few miles before.

Devils Punchbowl

Have I mentioned how much I love my new injini snow socks? 

I'm not here to necessarily give you a play by play of the trail

But an adventure of some girls in the mountains with only one main goal. 

To have fun. 

Doing what we do best- twinning.

No, we didn't get to go to the Devils Punchbowl Natural area but from the looks of it from the trail- it's beautiful and very different from just mountain views.

We weren't worried about pushing ourself or challenging each other. Instead we enjoyed eachothers' company as we were enjoying an activity we both are passionate about. 

We stopped, we enjoyed the views, we took photos- we basked in the gift of what surrounded us. 

On our descent toward the car, we were gifted with a goodbye worth a million smiles. 

I had to take a moment to pick my jaw up from off the ground. I was awestruck by the beauty that could be witnessed in every direction..

With it's snow covered trails, todays climb to eight thousand feet above the monotonous, flat grid of the San Gabe Streets to Mt Islip was a spectacle as the sun rose. 

And now- the sun sets as we bask in the cooler, drier, pine-scented air.

We celebrated with cold beers, chips and salsa at the car. 

Treats we had been dreaming of and singing about all day. 

After the 1.5 hr drive home, going into work I was still walking on clouds. 

The night passed by quickly despite my utter fatigue and body's demand to sleep. 

A

nd yet, I was beaming!

The following week Juniper and I attempted the loop once again. 

This time I was nervous about heading out on a 30+ run alone in a secluded area. 

I told a few friends where I was going, gave them a time to start worrying if they hadn't heard back from me yet.

Despite my nervousness, I was also excited to spend another day on an adventure with my baby girl, Juniper. 

To my surprise a lot of the snow had melted over the past seven days, allowing my stride to open up and my legs to fly through the miles.

Juniper and I started at Islip Saddle this time, a forgiving hour car drive with plenty of views along HWY 2. We also included the Mt. Williamson climb which added the extra mile to our loop.

It never seemed to phase Juniper.

I baked sweet potatoes, had packets of almond butter and also a Super Burrito to snack on.

We shared it all, just not the avocados.

Those are just for me. 

The miles flew by, and this time the conversation was one sided.

Only when I hold a sweet potato or half the burrito will Juniper chime in.

Gosh. The things I do for you and you can only converse with me on your terms.

Once we arrived at the intersection that veers off to the Punchbowl, I turned on my phone and was surprised to get reception.

I notified some friends that I had arrived at mile 20 of 31. (At this time Juniper's GPS watch said she had ran 22 miles).

Seeing that this will be Junipers longest run, I vetoed the notion of going to the Punchbowl.

My knuckles turn pink, I've never gripped my hands so tightly.

I'm running with my fists up as we entered South Fork Campground.

Juniper and I headed toward the trailhead that leads to Islip, which coincidentally is next to the red truck that had once contained 15 guys in orange jumpsuits. Community service I guess?

The truck reads a prison's name I'm not very familiar with and care far less to stop and ask.

The hairs on my arms strike up instantly and shivers shoot straight down my spine.

The one time I want Juniper to growl or bark- she doesn't.

She tried approaching the pack of jail-free-for-the-day men and I yell at her to return to my side.

I was scarred shitless as I hear men call from the group to come over.

Nope.

We run. 

Fist clenched.

Full sprint engaged.

I notice two of the men walking toward my direction and I grab Junipers extendable leash and we bolt for the mountains.

Oh Great. 

Heading straight into a canyon

scenes of a low-budget serial killer movie.  

Fuck that. I try to remember when I was 8 and my brother taught me how to box.

Juniper and I continue running deeper into the canyon and as I put some distance between us, the strangers easily lost interest.

But with my blood boiling with adrenaline, Juniper continue toward Islip on high alert.

The five mile climb consisted of me trying to lecture Juniper that not all people on the trails are our friends but she was too busy chasing squirrels.

Time clicks by as miles pass.

As the sun shifts locations, the shades of light through the trees were all it took to lift my fears.

What a different view from just a few days ago!

Jogging up to Mt Islip, Juniper and I hit maybe one patch of snow and that was it. Most of the snow already melted from the weeks heat. The comforts of my car and my last avocado awaited me as well as some stew I had made for Juniper.

Exactly 3:30pm and we arrive at my car.

I look back at Juniper, still playing in the snow while I prepare her food.

I took a moment to thank the universe for her gift of endurance.

I don't know where she came from, what exact breed she is but she is a mountain running machine.

That I know for sure.

Current situation:

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL RUFF HELP ME MEOW.

Till next time,

Peace, love and dog/kittie snuggles

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