Here We Go!
Or, what the hell have I gotten myself into and how can I arrange for sherpas to get me up this mountain?!
Hiking to Iva Bell hot springs has been on my list for a long time.
I first heard of it back in 2009 (?) when I went on a hiking trip in the Eastern Sierras and hiked my first "14er." I had signed on to the trip to see the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest; for me hiking White Mountain was merely part of the deal. I only later heard from others that I had officially summited a California 14er. Technically, I had been higher than 14,000 feet when I was in India, but I didn't actually summit the mountain that I was on at that time. So I am not sure that counts.
Anyway! One of the women on the hiking trip, a fellow NJGGW (nice Jewish girl gone wild) had heard of several amazing hot springs dotting the area along hwy 395 and we decided to scope them out on our way back to the Bay Area. We managed to locate one of them but much to our dismay, while we were relaxing in the crude pool in the middle of the field, a random cow meandered by and started slopping up the sulphur water we were immersed in. The thrill gone at that point, we climbed out and went to grab some food. She then told me about some "secret" hot springs she had heard about that were hidden deep in the Sierras and that we should plan a hike to find them. It couldn't be a day trip, she said - you had to hike in for at least an overnight trip, as it was miles in from the trailhead. At that time I hadn't ever done any backpacking, only long day hikes, and so I tucked the idea away for some future time. I became much more immersed in climbing, and eventually she and I lost touch.
Since then, I have thought about the hot springs, and even looked them up a few times online. But I didn't have the gear, and it looked to be beyond my reach.
In the past few years, climbing has not been available to me due to physical challenges, and I have slowly started doing more hiking and backpacking instead. So with my big trip to summit Mt. Shuksan looming, and needing to do more elevation training, last week I made the leap. I had already set aside a 4 day segment of time to get in a decent trip, and when I went online to check the backcountry permits that were still available, there was ONE left for the entry point I would need to get to Iva Bell hot springs. The permit purchased meant I was committed. Now. Let me add that at this stage I was still facing some serious challenges. Obstacles started piling up. For one thing, I have been having some foot problems. On a previous training hike a couple months ago, I found myself limping for several days afterward because my right arch collapsed. (This is MY diagnosis. I didn't go see anyone, but I do have lousy arches, and the pain was in the high point of my arch). I did some kinesiotaping, which seemed to really help a lot, and started doing daily strengthening and stretching. I also borrowed a golf ball from a friend to roll out the fascia on the soles of my feet, which is excruciatingly painful and simultaneously extremely gratifying. I doubt he will want the golf ball back...
Additionally, the timing was perfectly eye-rollingly matched to my cycle. Right. Heading into the backcountry while dealing with cramps and blood sounded like a recipe for this trip not to happen. But determination, a week to spare, and a knowledge of herbs came in handy. After a day and a half of drinking some herbal concoctions, I was able to spur my body into early action. Crisis averted.
Here is the thing. The views were amazing. There were birds and lizards and butterflies everywhere I looked. I had a lovely refreshing break by one of the many rivers, the flowers were incredible, and the smells, vibrant. But it was just hard. I am not used to carrying so much weight (I don't have a scale so I don't know how much weight I was carrying, but it was plenty heavy to me), and breathing was often challenging, especially if there was any sort of incline. I couldn't stop thinking – what the hell am I doing?? Why do I do this to myself? There is some compulsion that I have to get out into the wild, even when it scares me, challenges me, angers me (the damn freakin' bugs!), and practically forces me to my knees. And then I finally make camp, eat dinner, go to sleep, and wake up the next day so incredibly grateful to see the sunrise, smell the redwoods, hear the birds, and march off again into the woods. This is how it is. For now, anyway.
So, back to the trail … I did not hike the entire way to the hot springs on Friday. I realized that it would be foolish for a couple of reasons. For one thing, around 5:30 I was completely depleted of energy. There was still about 2.5 miles left but I could barely take another step. I had just crossed the bridge at Fish Creek and there were some perfect clearings to set up camp which meant that I could set up a base camp of sorts and make the hot springs into a 5 mile r/t day hike on Saturday. It also meant that I would be that much closer to the trailhead when I did the hike out on Sunday. It was decided. I forced myself to eat (for energy, and to lighten my pack!), and was totally passed out in my tent by 7:30.
Saturday morning I was up at 6:00. After a light snack for energy, I packed my stove and food for a brunch, my camp towel, and was on the trail to the hot springs. With temperatures reaching the mid-80s, I wanted to soak in the springs in the cooler part of the day which turned out to be a perfect plan. I soaked in the hot springs in the morning, and then jumped in the cold creek in the heat of the day after hiking back to my camp.
The springs were about 2.5 miles from my camp, and conjuring up my route finding skills, I managed to find a series of three wonderful pools with a phenomenal view overlooking the valley. After my soak, I climbed a little higher and found a shady spot near another small pool and ate lunch. Nearby was a Sequoia that called out to me, and I pressed my nose against the thick, soft, fibrous bark of the sierra redwood and smelled deeply of it's essence. Am I weird? Maybe. But I stood there, face pressed against the tree, and with each breath the smell deepened and revealed itself more fully. First breath, barely a scent. Second breath, a rich earthy smell. After that, there was the smell of smoke, the story of fires that this being had survived time and again stored deep within its core. And finally, a light fragrance of wood and resin, all it's own. An offering for which I am deeply grateful.
After relaxing in the area for some time, I packed up and head back to my base camp. I was camped next to Fish Creek, and by then I was hot and my feet and muscles were screaming at me, so I found a lovely place to dip in the icy water and wash off. It had been a fantastic day.
Sunday I was up early knowing that I had to not only hike out, but do the 5+ hour drive home from Mammoth as well. I mentally had been preparing myself. After the first mile there was a series of switchbacks heading up and out of the valley that I would be facing and I wanted to get it out of the way as early in the day as possible before the heat kicked in, and before my muscles staged a complete rebellion. It turned out that the hike out was much faster and easier than the hike in had been. I presume that for one thing, I was beginning to acclimate to the elevation. Additionally, I had eaten most of my food which lightened my load considerably. I don't know that I made incredible time, but I was back in my car at 4:00.
So there it is. In all it's grime, grit and glory. In less than a month I will summit Mt. Shuksan, which will be an entirely different sort of challenge. Until then, I will continue to work out, strengthen, and likely take one more trip to the high country to hopefully help with acclimating to higher altitudes.
It was my lucky day. Tuesday, May 17, 2016. I was aimlessly scrolling through facebook (why do I do that?!!), barely even watching as one post after another did their laps across my screen when a post by Yosemite National Park caught my eye. “The Tioga Road will open at noon tomorrow, Wednesday, May 18th!” Perfect. I was heading to Joshua Tree a day early anyway – why not go up and over the pass, taking advantage not only of the incredible drive through Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows, but also of the route down 395 vs. Interstate 5?
Couldn't be better. I have driven the stretch from the Bay Area to Yosemite enough times that I know almost every stretch of road and the familiarity of the ride out to Big Oak Flat has become second nature. Once I pass Oakdale I know I am well on the way, and when I glide through the National Park entrance gate, the blood pressure goes down (well, hopefully not too much as I tend to already have low BP). I am a proud, card carrying annual National Park pass holder and I can't imagine anywhere I would prefer my money to go. With few people on the road on a mid-week non-holiday Wednesday, it was even more pleasurable. I stopped a few times to look at the beautiful cascades of water that were flowing more strongly than I have seen in a lontime, but was mostly wanting to beeline up to Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows.
The scene never disappoints, nor does the fresh mountain air that I gulp deep into my lungs. It was chilly up at 9,000 feet, but the crispness only made the contrast from my everyday environment more delectable. It is up here, at elevation, feeling the power of the river, that I come alive. Sitting by the Tuolumne River, swollen with spring runoff, I was reminded that it is these precious places that our youth must experience and this is what drives my efforts to raise money for Bay Area Wilderness Training. As incredible and as rewarding as any life can be, I most fervently believe that getting into places such as these and experiencing the wonder, the power, and even the harshness, allows for a greater understanding of all that we encounter internally and externally in this existence.
Sunday I decided it was time for a more serious hike. Something that involved elevation changes, had some substance as far as distance, and would include carrying more weight than my typical day pack. I wanted something local, but away from the city streets. After a cursory google search, I settled on Redwood Regional Park right up the road from me in Oakland.
The park is 1,830 acres and includes a wonderful forest of redwoods (well durrr, Adina, just look at the name of the park), but also opens up at higher elevations to grassy overlooks. There is a total of about 36 miles of hiking with more narrow hiking-only trails criss-crossing between the wider biking and hiking East and West Ridge trails. This is perfect for my training because I can tailor any given hike to the amount of elevation gain and loss I may desire that day.
I did manage to haul out of bed at a reasonable hour for a hiking day, albeit not so reasonable for my preferred sleep schedule on a Sunday. I was at the park around 9:45, and laid out a cursory hiking plan, subject to change if needed. I wanted to make sure I got in some decent hills, and to push myself more than I had up to this point. I filled my hydration pack, which holds 3 liters of water, and filled an extra water bottle, to bring the total up to about 4 liters. No, I did not think I would be that thirsty! But water is a smart thing to carry when working up to carrying weight in a pack because if at some point it gets too heavy you can just dump some of it out. I also threw in a 5 pound weight. I debated putting 10, but decided it is still early enough in the game and my muscles really are not in great shape just yet. So with 4 liters of water at 2 lbs/liter, and the 5 pound weight, plus some miscellaneous items, I figure I was carrying about 15 pounds. Not much by backpacking standards, but more than I have carried in some time.
Turns out, it was a good thing I didn't carry more weight. More on that later.
My hike, in total, was just over 7.5 miles. Not as long as I had planned, but nothing to scoff at either. With the route I chose, the total elevation gain (and of course loss) was about 1200 ft. Some of the trails were incredibly steep, and others had a more easy grade over a longer distance. Overall a great hike!
So why would I say that it was a good thing I didn't carry more weight?
Well, what with not working out much in the past several years, the body finds ways to let one know, in a not so pleasant fashion. The first problem I encountered was expected. My left knee can sometimes get gimpy on downhill walks and this was no exception. Usually I can find a way to appease it by walking a different speed, or adjusting my posture. Unfortunately, my knee was in cahoots with my hip that day and they were having none of it. So what I had planned to be an 8-10 mile day quickly was adjusted to something more doable. Then my feet started complaining. This is also a new development. Oh boy. Isn't 50 going to be something ... anyway ... I sashayed and limped and awkwardly but carefully made my way back to the trailhead where I put my feet up and enjoyed the snack I had brought, before driving back home.
Now, it is two days later and I am pleasantly surprised to find that my legs are not really sore. Unfortunately, my feet did not fare so well and my right arch now finds it quite beyond it's ability to hold up under my weight.
Walking is a privilege.
Take care of your feet, people.
I like the alliteration so I left it, but to give myself a little credit I was making pretty good time! Yesterday I did a short jog (dang, my lungs are ridiculously weak), so I decided to do a brisk but longer walk. It was amazing outside; sunny, not too hot but warm enough to be out in a t-shirt and still work up a bit of a sweat. I head straight down Park Street to the waterfront, and then head up the boardwalk. Interestingly, Alameda surprised me today. One of the things that I had noticed several years ago when I was staying here was how mono-ethnic it seemed. Today, it was a beautiful colorful day on all fronts and that made me happy. On my way back along the beach I decided to walk in the sand to add a little more muscle power to my walk. As always, the view was splendid.
Just as I was leaving the beach, I noticed a fellow trainer who looks to be challenging himself a bit more than I am at this time.
I am hoping to get it done by the end of May so that I can focus on training for the last two months.
If anyone wants to plan a hike with me, feel free to message me!
At the end of March I went on a Death Valley adventure with several friends. It has been on my list for a long time, and this year was ideal with what was being touted as the "Superbloom" taking place this spring. From what I understand there was more hype than reality to the superbloom, but we were more than content with the display. The flowers that grow there persevere under the harshest of living conditions in Death Valley, only to show themselves when the conditions are right. It is incredible.
For the complete story and some fantastic photos, head over to my adventure page here.
As revealed by my scant entries, my training has not exactly starting off with a bang. Discipline is a word that ... well ... it's a word. Needless to say perhaps I should start a mantra that incorporates this concept into my life. Having said that, I did strap myself in and went running earlier this week. See here? Running shoes.
tracker of some kind - but it looks like it was about 2.5 miles in total. I am completely OK with that. Considering how sore I was in the moment I thought I might be hurting for days, but clearly I need to push a little harder if I want to have that "good hurt" going on.
I plan to get out this weekend for a decent hike. The weather is not supposed to be great, but at this point that is part of the deal. 5 months now!
So, these are my hiking shoes.
The Asolo Stynger GTX, which I thought were pretty heavy duty hikers but after looking them up have now learned that they are considered "light hikers." Huh. Well anyway, I have found yet one more thing to appreciate about these boots. They are providing foot therapy to my big toe joint.
It started several years ago, late 2012 early 2013. I suddenly started experiencing cramping and pain in my large toe joint after wearing my favorite boots and high heeled shoes. It got so bad that just trying to put my foot into the boot caused pain. But the denial would kick in, and the desire to wear hot shoes won out. For a while. It did take a while to exit the denial stage, but over the course of a few years (carrying around shoes I couldn't wear), I slowly started getting rid of my boots and shoes that had any heel over an inch.
This year, things took a turn for the worse. I started to find that even a day in my Danskos was extremely painful. I tried switching to my Merrell boots (so sexy), which have a wide toe box and although good for a while, that didn't last either. So when I head out for my first training hike a few weeks ago (see previous thread), I was a bit nervous. Would I be able to walk without pain? How could I set a goal to peak a mountain if I can't even walk without wincing every step of the way? And here was the big surprise. Not only did my toes not hurt while on the hike (well of course they did, but just the normal foot aches and pains of a nearly 50-year-old who hasn't been hiking enough), but for many days after I was able to wear my everyday shoes without pain. Somehow, the stiff shank with it's specialty support system (I was just reading about it's anti-pronation/ anti-supination/ anti-torsion qualities) put my foot in a position to give relief to my metatarsophalangeal joint. (Great word, right?)
Is it going to be a solution to my toe problem? Probably not, but it certainly gives me reason to get out there hiking more often.
Training hike #2
Need I say more?
Yesterday was gorgeous with just a hint of brisk in the air. Mt. Tamalpais never disappoints with it's views and forest scents, and our 6.5 mile loop, while strangely much less strenuous than either of us expected, left us both a bit stiff at the end of the hike. Going home with Steven to Bryan's tiramisu was an awesome treat, however it was that much more difficult to haul my a** off the couch once I had cozy-ed in with warm tea and the divine dessert. (I can't believe I didn't take a picture of said deliciousness!)
Unfortunately, I was also left with a bit of a chill, which still is knocking me out today. So rather than write, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
Heading out from the parking lot. Which, as I later discovered, was NOT the lot that I thought I was at. My wonderful mapping skills did get us back to a parking lot, just not the parking lot. Ooops.
The beginning of my confusion was when we saw this sign, which, according to my map, made no sense whatsoever. Oh wait ... it was ME who was making no sense.
Playing hide and seek. He had NO IDEA where I was.
Steven was trying out his new camera lens:
The end of the hike:
6. Hips. I need to train.
7. It is good to have a goal at the end of the hike. Ice cream does the trick quite well.
I went hiking at Mt. Diablo and drove in to the Regency Gate from Clayton. It's an entirely different world out there. In SF you don't typically see bumper stickers that say: "I don't believe the liberal media." Yes, a whole different world.
The hike was called Falls Trail loop, and I thought this time of year, and especially THIS year with all of the rain we have been getting, it would be a wonderful choice. And it probably would have been, but due to a navigational error, the best waterfall I saw was this.
Well, here I am just over 6 months out from my first ever mountaineering ascent.
Training must begin. And that magical time called "later" must be transformed into the other ambiguous moment called "sooner," which I then must comandeer into "now." I haven't been out hiking in a while, and for a number of reasons I am nervous. For one thing, I not only haven't been hiking, I haven't been doing any exercise whatsoever. I was doing a daily yoga practice, but fell off the yoga wagon when the rains began (I was doing my yoga outside). Now that I have moved, I have a designated yoga area and that has been wonderful, but the daily practice has not yet fully manifested. Walking up a flight of stairs gets me winded, so I have a lot of work ahead.
Additionally, I seem to have developed a toe problem. (If an old friend of mine, Bob, was around he'd yell out, "call the "toe" truck!! Aaagh) But seriously, this aging thing ain't for the faint of heart, let me tell you. And I am one of the lucky ones.
Look for my update this weekend. I am determined to get out for my first training hike this coming weekend and avoid the Superbowl insanity.