Sunday, December 04, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I know this blog has been dormant a bit lately, but stay tuned! I definitely have some good things in the works.

It's December, which means its my annual post of the best band on the planet doing their annual Christmas jingle:

How can you not be in a good mood after watching this!! Robots doing the robot? Seriously...

Have a great holiday season everyone!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Pohono Trail Adventure

We had permits to do the infamous Half-Dome hike on Sunday, but mother nature has had her way with the Sierra this past winter, and so the route was still deemed unsafe for the cables to go up due to snow and water runoff.  While some dude did mention that he saw people doing the climb a few days prior with caribiners, I opted for the 'minimal death risk' approach, and decided to fall on to our backup plan.  While Michelle was bummed, I welcomed the opportunity to be forced to go back to Yosemite eventually for a third time, or maybe even more to ascend what is the most recognizable hike of this great park.  As a backup plan, I had been considering Clouds Rest or the Pohono Trail - both of which are different than half-dome by the shear fact that you generally don't see a lot of people, whereas the dome cables can more mimic a traffic jam, rather than being out in the wilderness.

We spoke with the ranger on Friday about Pohono, and he mentioned that during the prior weekend, there had been reports of impassable terrain due to snow cover.  I didn't really think much of it for some reason (uh, impassable means they had to turn around), but I think it subconsciously drew me to doing the hike.

We started the hike at about 6:30am Sunday morning, where we gave our friends instructions to pick us up at Glacier Point, about 14 miles, and 8-9 hours later.  If we hadn't seen them by about 10 hours later, then it would time to worry.  Not having a backup plan, cell service, or much else to fall back on, we started the hike without a care in the world.

Generally, I was excited about the hike.  It is one the least 'advertised' hikes in the park, as evident by it not being on the brochure handed out to just about everyone within the park's boundaries.  It was also 14 miles in the wilderness, with minimal crowds.  However, I had this slightly odd feeling that there was a little something missing.  Maybe it was the 22 miles and 10,000ft of elevation worth of hiking that we traversed in the 2 days prior that left my legs a little (lot) sore, or getting up at 430am everyday that left me tired and a little groggy at the start - who knows.

The first 3 miles are basically straight uphill, and we eventually came out to a point where we found some people just waking up in their campsite right off the trail.  We stopped and had a quick breakfast, chatted with some guy for a few moments who was going in the same general direction and then we got on our way.

We eventually found snow, and after about 5 minutes of guessing where to go, we saw that one guy from the previous stop who was completely lost on where to go, and he gave up and started walking back to the start.  I motioned to him that we were going in the right direction, but he wanted nothing of it.  Fine by me! About a minute later, we came across this couple who was walking towards us.  I mentioned that they should keep track of the footprints through the snow, and his reply was right to the point: "that's nothing man", and then went on to describe how him and his wife were going to do Pohono trail yesterday, but after many patches of snow, and not enough trail, they decided to turn back and not even do it.  They also showed us on the map where things start getting a little sketchy - and naturally, it was off the map.
Yes, that's me in there...

His wife then mentioned that it's "possibly doable with a compass" (she actually pronounced it like comp-ass, which I still find funny), and I quickly recalled the Wilderness Basics FAIL conscience decision I made earlier that morning to not bring my compass for some unknown reason.  We thanked them for their heads up, and I immediately got excited.  I went into total problem solving mode.  It wasn't about the ego saying "I have to make it through the other side", it was about "How can we make it through?".  I was totally stoked for the adventure aspect, as that what was missing at the start of the hike.

Where's my comp-ass?
We made it to the next few (lookout) points, and eventually came across 8 backpacking dudes, walking towards us.  Naturally, we asked them where they came from, hoping it was Glacier Point (our destination), which they did.  Through the thick german accent, we gathered that the trail basically disappears, that we may or may not be able to find footsteps in the snow, and that even with a GPS, it was difficult for them.

I immediately relished the situation I was in, and totally got into the zone and started coming up with a plan on how we were gonna make it through.  My approach was to look for footsteps, natural and man-made trail markers, along with doing my own scouting while Michelle stayed put so as to not lose a point of reference.  Ultimately, using the basic 'map trace back' function on the garmin to get back to the Tunnel (start) was the backup plan that I really didn't want to consider.  Michelle started getting quiet, sure signs of stress, and my head was going at full throttle.  Good stuff.
This is a bridge, made of um, frozen water.

We took a relaxing break at Dewey point, where we enjoyed some incredible ridge lines heading down into the valley, before heading into the back country.

The next few hours were all business with zero small talk.  It wasn't an exceptionally stressful experience, but all systems were on full alert.  Sunglasses came off frequently to identify any markers, along with constant discussion on where to go.  I was looking for signs of trail, and Michelle was worried about being eaten by bears or mountain lions.  While both were essential for survival, I found mine much more productive.

Zero Trail

We were faced with disappearing trail, numerous water crossings that barely had enough natural resources to cross (eg. fallen trees) due to all the water from the snow melt, long stretches of snow where footprints couldn't easily be deciphered, not to mention just being "out there" when there are search and rescue helicopters that have been searching for people ever since we arrived at the park a few days prior.  Like I said before, Yosemite isn't idiot-proof, and I like that.  Across all this varied terrain, Michelle ended up taking over at times to lend a fresh pair of eyes.  After a while, all the lack of trail looks the same!  She quickly got her bearings, had some fun, and we arrived unscathed at Taft point, with smiles on our faces.

After wards, while hiking from Taft point to Sentinel dome, I was telling Michelle about a conversation I had with my buddy Shawn, when we were discussing Aron Ralson's story (the dude from 127 hours who had to cut his arm off to get out alive).  While some of the things he did in life were risky and to most people dumb, there is an element of confidence, experience and adventure that is built from being in those risky situations, and ultimately coming out on top.  A lot of that is in his book, rather than in the movie.  It goes against the modern day grain of constantly seeking comfort, an ignites small taste of that visceral feeling of survival in less than ideal conditions.

After descending Sentinel dome, we made the 1 mile trek over to Glacier point.  In the last quarter mile, we somehow managed to lose the trail, twice, and laughingly made it to back to our destination.  I may have mis-spoke when I said Yosemite isn't idiot proof, as evident by the .04 mile marker before Glacier point:

.04 mile marker sign to a destination.  Really?
As we finished out the last 211.2 feet, I immediately was greeted with a weird level of stress and anxiety that I hadn't felt in about 24 hours - which is about the last time I descended from the simple, peaceful and beautiful wilderness into a place where swarms of people on cell phones, eating ice cream, kids running around screaming, obesity, and just general congestion that clogs Yosemite every summer.  We finally found Desi and Rich, and made our way out of the park, already planning our next trip before having left the borders of this great place.

While this wasn't a life or death type situation, it made for a very fun and adventurous day in the park, and hopefully a good story to read!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Yosemite Round 2

Last weekend, 4 of us went up to Yosemite for a 5-day weekend in the woods.  The original intent was to climb half-dome on Sunday, but with the Sierra getting about 50% more snow than normal, there was still enough snow on the top & sides of the infamous structure to delay the cables going up until about 3 days later, rendering us to come up with a plan B.  Fortunately, plan B provided enough adventure for my next post.

We ended up staying outside of the park, which at first was viewed as a PITA, but in hindsight, is the way to go during the Disneyland season of Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Resting in Mariposa/Midpines, I insisted on getting up at 430am everyday, so that we could avoid the "morning commute".  This was the scene at about 4:40am everyday for us:

Water boiling, coffee mugs ready to accept hot water and starbucks readybrew:

Friday, we tackled the Upper Yosemite trail, with a little off-shoot onto Yosemite point.  Shortly after parking the car, we could see the moon just about to go in hiding before we started our day:

It didn't take long to walk and get excited about what we were about to go and see:

Upper & Lower Yosemite falls:

The trail is a little unique such that it takes you away from the falls a bit, which ended up adding to the dramatic effect.  As I turned a corner, a heard, and felt, a boom that instinctually made me think of an earthquake, avalanche or rock slide.  Nope, it was the not-so-constant roar of North America's highest waterfall raging at over 2,000 gallons per second and running at 384% the capacity of last June.

We made our way up to Yosemite point, affording us unique views of the valley, that we'd only continue seeing in the next few days, only from better vantage points.  Below, you can get a slight taste of the flooding experienced in Yosemite valley from all the run off:

On the way back down, we found a little unadvertised off-shoot from the main trail that allowed for better viewpoints of some of the main attractions:

Upper Yosemite, with Half Dome in the background, under a blue sky that can only be replicated in the Sierra:

Looking down over lower Yosemite, with mother nature putting on a show of her own:

As I was taking the above photo, some clouds rolled in over the top of Yosemite falls, making for an almost seamless transition of white clouds over white water, metaphorically, as if water was falling from the sky:

If you look closely, you can see a rope going over the falls, which is for people to walk across.  Down in the infamous camp 4 section, you can find people practicing.  Yeah, no thanks.

Saturday, we tackled 4 mile trail, followed by the Panoramic trail.  We actually walked away from the trail start, so that we could get a glimpse of some of the flooded areas:

In the calmness of the morning, both from campsites, and in nature, can be some of the best times to catch views like this, without anyone around:

4 Mile trail is about 4 miles straight up via way too many switchbacks, providing vantage points from the other side of the valley.

Here is El Cap, waking up from through the trees:

Once we saw this view, we knew we were getting to the end of our little 4 mile warm up.  It's funny when you see little overhangs like this, because you think "I could totally go hang out on the rock", but once you get up to it, there's not a chance in hell I would do so:

After quickly stopping at Glacier point from some food, we got on our way to Panaramic Trail over to Nevada Falls, with a few stops along the way.

One of my favorite things about this park is that it isn't idiot proof.  Desi likened it to a death trap.  There are so many places in the park where there aren't poles, or any kind of safety mechanism to prevent you from something that Darwin would laugh at.  Hell, even Yosemite wonders how many every year (top left):

Arriving at Nevada falls, I was eager to compare how different it would be now, compared to when we were there last October.  While Yosemite falls had a non-rhythmic sound, Nevada falls more like a Jet Engine.  As expected, the water was absolutely dumping over the falls, giving new meaning to the trail below it called "The Mist Trail":

Tack on the next days hike which will get it's own post, and I am a changed man from being in the wilderness for 3 days.  I think anyone who has done such a thing probably "gets it".  It's no reason why the below conversation happened, and I'm sure glad it did:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sedona Mountain Biking Trip

Happy belated Memorial Day to everyone!  I just got back from a killer mountain biking trip in Sedona, AZ – otherwise known as the WAMBAM: Weekend of Arizona Mountain Biking And Manliness.  I met up with college hombres Jeff and Dan (of IMLP ’08 lore) for a refreshing long weekend of catching up, sharing some laughs & beers and ripping some of the most awesome single track I’ve ever ridden – during the day and night, in an area that that warranted “Damn, it’s beautiful here!” more times than I can count.

My kind of bike shop (Bike & Bean): 

Dan charging this rock, showing off the (hairy) guns:

It’s hard to argue with how well the housing blends in with the natural environment, and I’m a huge fan:


View from our pad:

Jeff, 4 years removed from kicking cancer’s ass, in front of courthouse butte:

Even though the conditions can be gnarly, don’t be afraid to look up every now and then:

Butte Silhouette:

 Dusk riding

Dan ripping down a step:

Shortly before we donned our headlamps for some extra sweet night riding...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Injury Update: Almost a year later to get to good news

Back in January, I had exchanged some emails with the Brian Hill, president of Rehab United, about how to deal with a leg length discrepancy, based on the theories that were developed this past fall.  I basically told him that 24 (freakin!) sessions of PT was a step in the right direction, but wasn't where I thought I'd be - especially having tried ART and Acupuncture as well. He offered to take a second look, and I took him up on this offer.

Shortly before my first meeting with Brian, Ryan posted this link, and this just struck a chord with me.  I know that it is the internet and all, but it really seemed related to the types of issues I had been experiencing.  I remained cautiously optimistic that things might actually make sense.

I met with Brian one afternoon, and after a mere 15 minutes of some observations and tests, he said that he doubts that I have a leg length discrepancy, and that the core of the issue is some extremely tight hip flexors [psoas to you non-physiology folk], and possibly a tight Iliacus that was causing my pelvis to become twisted in a 3D manner.  The image that really brought it all together for me (I'm a visual person, so I need to "see" this to believe it) was the one from the link Ryan posted.  Looking at the pelvic anatomy how the psoas connect from your femur to the lower lumbar (and everything in between), once those bad boys get tight, it can wreak havoc!

He quickly rigged up a contraption that compensates for tight hip flexors, and immediately, all my tests pointed to zero pelvic tilt.  He prescribed some stretches and some rather dynamic exercises, and we scheduled a follow up appointment for 2 weeks.  within those 2 weeks, I made arguably more progress than I had in 2 months of PT during the fall.  Immediately, the stoke factor was through the roof!
So, how and why the tight hip flexors?  I doubt that I could point to one thing, but riding in the aero position for hours on end, running long distance, not stretching the right areas enough and sitting too much are probably the main culprits.  Ironically, it was the right psoas that caused the left knee bursitis/ITBS I dealt with last year.  Go figure.

I realized the other day that having been injured on 1-MAY of last year, this entire process took nearly a %@#$ YEAR to get fixed!  I won't lie, it has been a total energy, time, financial and emotional suck.  But committed I remain to the end goal, and so I press on.  Certainly there were lessons of perseverance learned along the way, along with never give up, no matter what crazy theories and statements ("maybe PT isn't right for you") people throw your way.  No one knows your body better than you, so don't let them tell you what is right, and what is wrong, no matter how many letters they have after their name showing how many certifications they've earned, if it doesn't sit right.

I also want to thank some good friends, fellow dream crushers, who don't accept the status quo in life, that helped along the way.  Frank who, from the east coast, offered advice and videos of rehabbing ITBS, Shawn having always lent an ear, James J and his advice and opinions, Tawnee for giving some pointers and opinions on rehab, Matt, who while across the pond, I can still chat with as if he was driving me across the US, James W with his constant positive comments, Trevor who has "been there" and giving me some recommendations of things to try and also offering encouragement, Slater for inspiring with extreme dream crushing and recommending Doreen (she's awesome!) for specific, "hands on" yoga to release those psoas, and Toby, who "gets" that when you do things like RAAM and 100 mile runs, its hard to find that next adventure that offers the right balance of challenge, experience, adventure that raises the bar.  And of course my family and girlfriend Michelle who had to deal with some frustrations and crankiness on my part!

I do have a few things that I am working to keep those psoas limber so that the next time I see Bryan, it will be either doing a strength session, or having a beer - NOT doing PT!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WBC: Snow camp in Mammoth!

The last camping excursion for the Wilderness Basics Course was a snow camp.  As the name implies, we camp in the snow!  As it was with J-Tree, there was a lot of chatter about the weather we were planning to get, and as the pictures will tell, it lived up to the expectations.

Friday, we boarded buses, made the long drive up to Mammoth Lakes, got into town around 1130ish, and slept in a high school gym before leaving for the trail head at 8am the next morning.  When we woke up, we looked out the windows to the sweet views of snowing already coming down by 630am.  To give you an idea of what we were dealing with:

I was super stoked for the day.  My group leader tasked me with leading the group for the first ~1.5 miles of a ~2mile trek to camp using just the map and compass.  Having done Adventure Races in the past, I wasn't a complete noob, and was glad I got to fine tune the skills.  Below is a pic of the GPS track we took.  We started at the bottom right of the red line, and I got us to the Inyo Craters issue free.  Score! (The route we took on Saturday is the most direct line, as opposed to the loop on a road we took on Sunday b/c someone broke their snowshoe)

I had never been snowshoeing before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Leading the group, I was in front, and 30ft in, I had already fell on my ass!  It took a little while getting used to snowshoeing through 2 feet of powder, but I eventually got into a groove.  Richard also provided some sage advice to the tune of "slow down, or you'll kill yourself".  Point noted!

Here's a little video:

After about 30 minutes of leading the group, a couple dudes wanted to come to the front and have some time blazing the trail.  I'm 5'7'', had never been snowshoeing before, and had no trekking poles (apparently, the only one who didn't) - I was at a severe disadvantage.  After a few minutes of being at the front, there were grown men falling over, and saying "F this" after being in the front for a few 5 minutes!  Here's that video of the slow pace... good times!

It's a lot of work!  But, its a lot of fun too.  A side benefit is with all the work you do - you don't get cold.  Thank god for pit zips on my hard shell - I was getting warm!

After 3.5 hours, we finally made it the 2 miles to camp.  The wind had picked up over the course of the day, and we were in a little valley next to a crater.  We quickly got to work, stomped out a site for our tents, and started making some ice igloos.

After we got the 2nd layer up, we realized the snow wasn't sticking enough to make the igloo, so we abandoned the idea, and went with the fortress/snow kitchen.  Basically, we made some 3-4 walls to shield ourselves from the wind, complete with a bench, and table.

Add some camping stoves, and we're in business!!

After dinner, the temp dropped, and when the sun isn't up and you don't have a fire - there isn't much reason to stay awake (unless you're drinking, which I actually gave up for lent!), you go to "bed".  It was definitely cold at night, about 18 degrees, and I slept about as good as I could, given the conditions.

Sunday morning, we packed up, destroyed the snow kitchen, and made quick work back to the trail head under some beautiful blue skies.

In the pic below, you can barely see the tracks we made the day prior, which was covered up by all the snow and wind...

One of the Inyo Craters...

"Inside" one of the craters...

Last, but not least, arguably one of my favorite pictures, which needs no explanation:

Shortly after that, we boarded the buses, and pointed it south towards San Diego.

This was definitely an epic weekend, and really opened my eyes and perspective as to what you can do if you have the right gear - regardless of weather conditions.  Good stuff!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring & Shades

Hope you all had a good weekend!  I think spring is just about here, and below is a nice little shade of it taken from atop a balcony...

Good stuff to come soon!