highlights from mendocino trip

mendocino

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I spent the past few days on a little getaway to Mendocino, a quaint coastal town in northern California. Allyn’s family was sweet enough to invite me along on their trip, and I loved getting to spend more time with them and get to know them better. They are a super fun bunch, and we accumulated many inside jokes over our four days together!

Allyn’s family rented a vacation house a few miles outside of town with a stunning view of the ocean. I also loved the beautiful tall trees and the vibrant wildflowers!

ocean view

tall trees wildflowers

We went for day hikes along the beach cliffs and through the Jughandle nature preserve. Sometimes the weather in Mendocino can get quite dreary and foggy, but we lucked out with clear sunny days — perfect to take in the gorgeous views. We even spotted some humpback whales in the ocean, and some sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks.

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mendocino coast

jughandle trail

There was no Internet access or cell phone service, and it was refreshing to get “off the grid” for a few days. Instead of watching TV or checking email, evenings were spent talking by the fireplace, roasting marshmallows for s’mores, playing board games and trying to complete an epically challenging puzzle called “The Sentinels”… which was finally finished just before we had to leave!

the sentinels

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I am so grateful to Allyn and his family for including me! I’ll end this recap post with a message we found spelled out with sticks along the Jughead trail — a great reminder for us all: YOU ARE LOVED.

you are loved

Questions of the morning:

  • What was a memorable getaway trip you took?
  • Do you ever set aside time to go “off the grid” and put away your electronic devices?

 

mt. whitney wednesday: the big day begins!

Hi everyone! This post is part of my Mt. Whitney chronicles, which is comprised of journal entries from when I climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, ten years ago. If you missed any earlier posts in the series, they are all archived here.

mt whitney chronicles

Saturday, July 26, 3:52 a.m.

My alarm went off at 2:30 this morning. I don’t think I have ever woken up this early in my entire life, yet I was surprised to find I wasn’t really that tired. Nervous energy and adrenaline pumped through my veins as I pulled on my hiking boots and shouldered my backpack filled with enough water to get a camel across the Sahara.

I took one last look at the warm hotel room before closing the door behind me and following Mom down the darkened corridor. I wonder if I will return triumphant and proud, or despondent and defeated by the mountain? I tell myself it will be the former!

We met Stacey and some of the others in our climbing party at the hotel where they were staying. As we huddled in front of the cars in the parking lot, waiting while a few of them did a final check to make sure they hadn’t forgotten anything, I was reminded of a group of teenage girls preparing to go TP-ing on a slumber party night: nervous, excited, and taking a little breathless comfort in the thought that, whatever happens, we are all in this together.

We drove up to the Whitney Portal in a small caravan of cars. The road is uncomfortably narrow, so it is reassuring to have another car in front of you to follow. It is so pitch black outside once you leave the few lights of Lone Pine behind. Driving along and looking up at the mountain we are about to climb, with the twinkling stars the only light in the sky, and our feeble headlights only illuminating a small section of the ground ahead, I have never felt so small and yet so big, so alone and yet so connected, so wise and yet so utterly clueless, all at the same time.

We parked and headed up to the trailhead. Most of the stars are blocked out by the towering mountain and the surrounding trees, and it is so dark I literally cannot see my hand in front of my face. It is cold, too; biting cold, and I’m glad for my fleece gloves and warm wool beanie. Mom helps me put my headlamp on, which is basically a flashlight mounted to a headband. When she bought it a month ago at one of the hiking stores I thought it was one of the silliest, dorkiest things I had ever seen, but now I’m grateful for the steady beam of light it provides, revealing the trail ahead.

We start out, talking softly and stepping quickly, full of energy, excitement and nervousness. If I turn and look behind me, the steady line of my teammate hikers, each with a headlamp firmly positioned on her forehead, looks oddly like a group of miners. It makes me think of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.

“Hi ho, hi ho! It’s off to the peak of Mount Whitney we go!” We slip through the silent night, a flurry of boots and beams of light. The woods behind us are quiet, and the mountain ahead is darker than the back side of the moon.

the whitney group

A group shot a couple hours into the hike, once the sun has risen.

mt. whitney wednesday: training progress!

Hi everyone! This post is part of my series the Mt. Whitney chronicles, which is comprised of journal entries from when I climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, ten years ago. If you missed the earlier post in the series, you can read them here.

mt whitney chronicles

Sunday, June 22, 2003

We went on an eight-mile hike today, our longest thus far. And — guess what? — I actually felt pretty good! There was a lot of steep uphill, and I was breathing hard, but I was able to keep going at a fairly fast pace and my legs weren’t as sore as they usually are. I can feel myself getting stronger. Plus the wildflowers were in bloom and the sky was a gorgeous, clear blue, and I felt truly in touch with nature. There is something about hiking up to a deserted clearing, and looking out at the greens and browns and blues of the world below you, and breathing in the crisp, cold mountain air that just makes you feel so alive.

Saturday, July 5

It’s still three weeks until our summit attempt of Mt. Whitney, but Mom is already starting to get all our supplies ready. We are taking two medium-sized backpacks, each filled with enough food and water to feed a family of five! But I guess it’s good to be prepared. As Mom always says, “Better safe than sorry — or thirsty!” The last thing we need is to be stuck on Whitney without enough provisions.

However, as I learned firsthand, water is heavy. Today I loaded up my backpack and put it on to test the weight … and I nearly fell over backwards! How am I ever going to carry that thing twenty-two miles?? At least it will gradually get lighter as I eat and drink during the journey.

Saturday, July 19

Today we went on our last real training hike. We will taper off this week to allow our bodies to recover and build up energy for the real thing. It’s crazy to think that at this very time next week, we’ll be climbing Mt. Whitney! We’ve been preparing for so long, yet I can’t believe The Big Day is almost here.

mt. whitney wednesday: planning & prep

Hi everyone! This is the second post in my Mt. Whitney chronicles, which is comprised of journal entries from when I climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, ten years ago. If you missed the first post in the series, you can read it here.

mt whitney chronicles

Saturday, May 10, 2003
I talked to my former kindergarten teacher, Stacey, the other day when she was driving me home from babysitting her two little kids. I told her I want to climb Mt. Whitney, and it turns out a mom of one of her kids in her current kindergarten class just climbed it last summer. Stacey wants to climb Mt. Whitney too, so we are trying to form a group to go together. So far about ten people have signed up, including my second-grade teacher Diane, my mom, and some of their friends. Our group is all female — yeah, Girl Power! — and I am the youngest one.

Sunday, May 11
I did some homework and learned that Mt. Whitney was “discovered” by a California State Geological Survey team in 1864. It was named for the team’s leader, Josiah Dwight Whitney. During that trip, survey team member Clarence King attempted to climb to the summit. Twice. Both times he failed.

What am I getting myself into??

More history: it was not until Clarence King’s third attempt on September 19, 1873 {nearly a decade after his first failed try} that he successfully reached the summit. Ironically, statistics show that today 1-in-3 climbers make it to the top of Mt. Whitney.

Wednesday, May 14
Tonight we had a Whitney Meeting at Stacey’s house. We decided to do the 22-mile-round-trip hike in one day instead of camping out on the trail overnight. I know it sounds crazy, but it actually seems like the better way to go because:

1. We’ll be able to pack much lighter; we won’t have to carry huge overnight backpacks with sleeping bags and tents.
2. It is much easier to get a permit for day hiking than for overnight hiking.
3. We’ll get to sleep in a real bed in a hotel after the hike and soak our tired legs in the hot tub! For me, that is much more tempting than sleeping on the cold, hard ground in the wilderness.

At the meeting, we filled out the permit forms. They only allow a certain number of people on the trail at a time, so we’ll hear back in a few weeks as to whether our permit was accepted or not. Our tentative date for the hike is Saturday, July 26 — which seems far away now, but I have a feeling it will be here before we know it!

Julianna, the mother from Stacey’s class who climbed Mt. Whitney last summer, came to our meeting to talk about her hiking experience. She said it took a lot of hard training and determination to get to the top, and there were times she just wanted to turn around and give up … but that the blisters and sweat and aching muscles are all worth it in the end.

Then she showed us her photos. They were amazing — like something out of a nature magazine or off a postcard. The photos from the peak of Mt. Whitney were my favorite: nothing but blue sky and clouds all around, like you’re standing in a castle up in the sky.

And Julianna said the photos don’t even do Whitney justice. She said it’s something you have to see in person to truly appreciate. I hope I have what it takes to find out for myself. Our first training hike is this Sunday. Mt. Whitney, here I come!