Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ciao & Bienvendio

Two days before the new year, and one can’t help but think of goals to set, feats to attain, what can be made better, sweeter or remade completely. Writing will be one of the top priorities for me, as will doing cool sh*$# as often as possible.   It’s amazing how easy it is to be lazy after work— lay on the couch, watch some TV, maybe make some dinner and then go to bed.  It’s easy to develop the schedule of wake up, go to work, come home, and sleep which is not really the recipe for a memorable life.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely okay sometimes to just kick back and relax.  There is absolutely nothing wrong in my mind with indulging in laziness every now and again when your body needs it.  But it shouldn't be a lifestyle. 

(Exploring our home a.k.a. not being lazy)

One thing that I really want to focus on this next year is mindfulness.  Being aware of when my mind is wandering and where it goes, when I’m being unproductive or when I’m making choices that may not be the healthiest/smartest/ most responsible.  To help with that, I am going to use ChrisGuillebeau’s* model for a year-end review.  I think the best way to make things happen is to commit to them publically, so look for my review and my plans for next year to show up here shortly!  And if anyone else wants to participate, I’d love to do this together.  Natalie is already on board (we actually started doing this together last year), and  I really think having someone there to hold you accountable is the way to make projects like this successful— even when the project is really about making yourself better.  

(Hike to Table Mountain during wildflower season)

Okay, that being said and publically committed to, I’d love to look back before leaping forward, if you’ll be so indulgent with me.  With the holidays and the year wrapping up there is a lot to reflect on and be thankful for.  This year has been one of the most challenging, heartbreaking, growth inspiring, exciting times of my life.  This year was like riding on a dragons back— rough and terrifying at times, but gloriously beautiful all the same (because riding a dragon would be a kind of terrifyingly beautiful adventure, right?!). 

(Not quite riding dragons, but as close as I could get)

I started the year heartbroken and a little lost- Huck and I had broken up around Christmas and I was looking about wondering where my next steps should lead.  I imagined moving to Europe, I thought about starting a new job, I dreamed of buying a boat and sailing away, I even contemplated moving home (we all have our low points).  I had the best support system I could imagine, my family and friends built me up and showered me with more love than I thought possible for anyone to expend.  Thankfully, I saw the light and through a little maneuvering from our friends Jake, Roxy and Kyleigh, Huck and I re-collided and set out on a new path hand in hand. 

(Huck and I celebrating our 5 year anniversary in July)

I also decided to downsize my life, and when my year lease was up I moved into my 1978 RV lovingly coined the Huggy Hut (fun fact— I didn’t even name it the Huggy Hut; it came already christened with that awesome name, in the form of a massive sticker across the back).   The tiny house movement and minimalism lifestyle has been a huge inspiration for me this year, and moving into a 22 foot space was liberating.  Full disclosure though—  I kind of cheated.  Yes, I moved into the RV, but I also claimed a corner of my Dad’s garage to store by bed, a dresser, all my books, and some other things I just didn’t have the heart to get rid of…not yet at least.  I knew someday I would likely move back into a home, and that bed I’m sure will come in handy.  Also in the vein of full disclosure— I spend enough time at Huck's Dad’s house that he should really be charging me rent. 

(Ladies and Gentleman...The Huggy Hut!)


I had some really awesome state-side adventures.  I went to Vegas with a bunch of dudes to watch Huck's best friend fight in the UFC World Championship, and win.  This was one of the most exhilarating nights, the energy surrounding our friends and the after party and all of it was a whirlwind of buzzing, testosterone filled excitement.  It was my first time in Vegas as an adult, and I felt between laying by the pool all day and partying on the top floor of Mandalay Bay all night, we did it right.

(I know this is awful quality, but this is the only photo I took in Vegas!  Crazy, I know!)

I went on a familiarization trip for work to Wyoming and spent one night camping in the snow in Yellowstone, and three nights kayak-based camping on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.  I had similar feelings the first time (well, actually every time) I went to Yosemite, but the sheer beauty of the landscape we experienced made me never want to blink.  I literally had issues with dry eyes the entire trip (it may have been the extreme temperatures, but still).  I couldn’t hold steady conversations during the day or during the sunset or sunrise or when the stars would come out, brilliantly speckling the sky, because I would stand staring, mouth gaping, at the surrealness of the peaks and the light and the lake and the wildlife.  I would be talking to someone and break away mid-sentence because I missed looking at my crazy extreme surrounding.  I fell in love over and over again with the landscape, and kept having to remind myself that it’s my job to expose people to places like this.  And that I am exceedingly blessed.

(Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park)
(The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone)
(Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone)

I took Lateefah to Berkeley and San Francisco, and we explored my favorite spots on campus and in the city.  We wandered through the libraries and past silent stressed out students (been there), we weaved our way through China Town and up a narrow staircase, following our noses to lunch.  We encountered homeless men who thought Lateefah was gorgeous, and took BART and taxis and walked our little tushies off. She slept the whole way home and I knew it was a day extremely well spent.

(Lateefah at Sather Gate, UC Berkeley Campus)

(China Town, San Francisco)

I squeezed my way into a wetsuit two sizes to small and Huck and I discovered the intense difference between life above water and life below.  We dove and learned how to equalize our bodies to explore the depth unhindered and got our Basic Open Water Diver certifications.  I got hooked on the notion of diving with sharks, and we’ll be getting certified at a higher level here in January to enable us to go deeper and farther.

(My hot boyfriend trying out his scuba gear)

We celebrated two beautiful marriages that I’ve watched grow from seeds to full-fledged blossoms (that was tacky, I admit it).  Jake and Roxy tied the knot in the most perfect ceremony on the banks of a secluded lake with an inmate group of friends and family.  Huck had to talk Kyleigh into holding his hand down the aisle, and we partied almost until sunrise at Lake Alpine— and there may or may not have been some midnight swimming involved.  Michael (my friend since elementary school) and his bride Alaina threw the biggest party I’d been to all year, culminating in riding school buses to a dive bar with the entire wedding party, and there may or may not have been a stripper pole on board.
(Huck and Kyleigh at Jake and Roxy's Wedding!)

(The besties)

(Best friends since elementary school- Nat and Joey at Michael and Alaina's wedding)

And two of the brightest lights in the world faded away from us this year— Huck's mom passed away in the summer and Natalie’s dad just at the turning of fall.  I watched as two of the people I love most lost the people that they love most.  I won’t belabor this, because while I mourned alongside my boyfriend and my best friend, it is their story and not mine to tell.  But the cancer and the fight behind this colored our year in hues that will exist far into our futures.

And I fulfilled a lifelong dream of backpacking through Europe, spending seven weeks traveling by train through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.  I learned that I am capable, and that navigating the world isn’t as difficult as I expected it to be.  I learned that to be afraid of a new place or new people is worthless, but to respect what you don’t know is imperative.

(Nick, Ericka and I in Camogli, Italy)

(OMGOMGOMG IT'S THE COLISEUM!)

With the holidays now past (mine was filled with family, friends, more changes, lots of cookies and plenty of libations), it kind of feels like we’re coasting.  Coasting into the next thing, waiting for the calendar to turn and life to move along.  2014 has been a cacophony of experiences and I’ve ridden dragons of all hues.  Today I am jumping off on a new adventure as we set foot into 2015 and move all our S*%#t down to SLO to start a new chapter.  Let the first few words on the page be filled with joy, hope and adventure…

(I think I'm going to miss this place...)

*If you don’t already follow the work of Chris, I would highly recommend his blog and his writings!  He’s a really awesome thinker and blogger, and is the person who coined the term “Travel Hacking.” 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Oh, The Weather Outside Is...

The mountains were calling this weekend, and it was my duty to pick up that phone.  Oh, and were they white!  I feel like shouting that for the world to hear—the mountains are white!  What a relief all of the rain and snow has been this last week.  There is nothing quite like sinking into a fresh snow pile up to your waist and struggling out like the Pillsbury Doughman as your hands sink next to you, impossibly trapping you until the need for rescue is imminent. Kind of like quick sand, but colder.  Oh man, I never thought I would miss those moments, but I could have sunk to my chin and been happy (and wet) as a clam.   What’s that saying— you only miss the things you can’t have?  Well, seeing the snow was like welcoming back an old, dear friend. 



And coincidentally, we were with some very dear friends indeed!  Friday night we reunited with Jacob, Roxy and Kyleigh over pizza and Headbands (if you’ve never played Headbands before, you’re missing out for sure).  Jake has been Huck's best friends since the womb— or so he tells it. I don’t ask him to explain these things.  Jake brought the hilariously amazing Kyleigh into the world 6 years ago, and married Roxy in a beautiful mountain ceremony back in August.  They’re the greatest little family, and we love the time we get to spend with them.  I personally think Huck and Kyleigh are even better friends than Huck and Jake, but don’t tell Jake that.  From the moment we walk in, Kyleigh doesn’t leave Huck's side, and Huck is on cloud 9 for finally having an actual minion.

(This is Huck and Kyleigh on a camping trip we took last year!)

On Saturday, after a delicious breakfast in Murphys, we piled into their Subaru (rest in peace Pearl) and headed for higher elevation.  Driving up Highway 4 is like a lesson in patience- the snow builds and builds until you reach Bear Valley where distinguishable flakes fall on the windshield, and there is enough snow on the side of the road to bury cars and make igloos (because, naturally, that’s what people do in the snow, right?).   Have you ever brought a dog along that has very little experience with the snow?  Well, there is nothing quite like dog happiness and Bodhi was in a pure state of bewildered, confused ecstasy.  Just pure drooling, frolicking happiness.  The kind of happiness that makes you contently exhausted at the end of the day.  Huck was no different. 


After pulling Kyleigh on the sled and getting soaking wet in the still falling snow, we all piled back in the car and headed down for some taco truck and apple donuts.  It was a morning well spent, indeed.

(You can't really tell, but that's the dogs pulling Kyleigh)

Sunday Funday was productive.  Huck recently got a trailer that needs some lovin’, so we taped off and painted and cleaned the morning away.  Then I got to head into town to spend the afternoon with Moma. We finished up Christmas shopping, we wine tasted (just a bit), and we had sushi for dinner in town.  Three of my favorite things (shopping local, drinking wine, and eating) done with one of my favorite people.   I cannot believe Christmas is in two days!  I am so looking forward to spending time with my family and friends, drinking wine and eating cookies, watching movies and eating more cooking.  And probably drinking more wine.  Have a lovely holiday, my friends… 

(My scooter commute this morning)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tribute

Driving on Highway 50 from Placerville to South Lake Tahoe on a clear day after a storm is like stepping into a Cody Hanson photograph.  The road is wet—that slick black color—and it winds its way along pine trees in various dressings of snow.  Along the river, which meanders translucently over rounded rocks and under the watchful gaze of lichen covered oaks, the trees have just a light dusting of white, like someone came and sprinkled powdered sugar with a spare hand.  As your gaze moves up, tracking the charred fallen trees covered with new growth which gradually give way to sparse pockets of granite and living pines, your eyes finally will land on the ridge where there are kid-applied frosting portions of snow weighing down branches and piling on the rocks clinging to the mountain side.  It’s one of my favorite drives anytime of the year, but especially after the first big snow storm.  



This weekend was spent with some of the people, actually most of the people, I love most.  Those times together get rarer and rarer the older I get and I crave them more and more.  Friday night, despite the “storm of the century” rolling overhead, Huck gave me a ride to El Dorado Hills to celebrate my best friend’s 25th birthday.  We met almost 20 years ago, and I absolutely did not like her.  It was a sunny day on the playground (probably), sometime during our first grade year, and I thought she was an alien for eating salad.  What kid eats salad?  I couldn’t wrap my little mind around willfully eating vegetables, apparently.  Fortunately, I got over my green things judgementalness and realized I would never find a better Robin (in the interest of full disclosure, she is probably more Batman and I’m Robin, but this is my blog and I can paint it how I want).  We then proceeded to follow each other around for the next 20 years. 


Women like Natalie should be celebrated everyday- she’s a 3rd grade teacher, an incredibly supportive daughter, the most loyal friend.  She’s creative, imaginative, playful.  And she has an old soul.  I’ve always thought it’s fitting that she’s older than me- she simply has an interior that far outdates mine.  She’s so much wiser than her 25 years would suggest, and she carries herself with this antiquated air of class that isn’t common in women my age— antiquated in a tragically-lost-to-another-age kind of way.  You won’t ever meet anyone like her.  I think one day I may write a book about her.  


I also got to spend time with my lovely mother, who is the opposite of Natalie.  My mom has the most beautiful, almost effervescently youthful soul.  I’m not saying she acts like a child; I am saying she has the charisma and joyfulness and vitality of a child— the kind of character that has the power to light a room with warmth and comfort.  Similar to how a child can make you smile without trying, how they are curious about life— all those things we hope to capture about our youthful selves, the things we don’t want to lose while we “grow up”—I have always thought my mom has cultivated in herself.  She makes me feel cherished and just spending a few hours with her is revitalizing, rejuvenating, invigorating, and inspiring.  My Grandma Lois, my mom’s mom, was like that, too. 



To top it all off, I then spent most of Saturday and Sunday with my Grandma Joyce.  Writing this now really makes me realize how I am surrounded by incredible, strong women.  Grams and I drove up to Tahoe Saturday morning together, winding our way along the freshly coated Highway 50.  Our objective was to pack up as much as we could at her house, which has renters moving in the beginning of January.  I am not sure exactly how long she’s owned the house in Incline Village, but some of my most cherished memories of my family were spent there.  It’s strange to think of a new couple making memories in that house.  A bittersweet feeling— to be able to share a place you love, but to not be able to go back for a while.  This weekend will be another one of those cherished memories.  Grams and I packed up the China Cabinet (also something that is antiquated), and the time that was filled with stories.  I love my Grandma’s stories.  She’s like a family history book, and through her stories I have gotten to know my grandpas (both of them), my great-grandparents, her brother, my dad.  Listening to the histories that start in Nevada, Italy, or France and are filled with recipes and customs and family gatherings, makes me nostalgic for a time before I was even a twinkle in my parent’s eyes.  She may be 75, but when she tells these stories it’s easy to imagine her as a girl burying food in the backyard to get caught with later, or as a young woman working in my grandpa’s family business, or as a young mother cooking complicated meals and drinking Manhattans with my great-aunts and uncles.  She’s been through so much, and hearing about her life before she was one of the most important figures in mine is fascinating.  Maybe one day I’ll write a book about her, too.


I think that drive up Highway 50 will always remind me of these women- the most influential and loved women in my life.  They all have had a hand in shaping me, and I have tried to emulate character traits that I admire in each of them.  It’s interesting to me now to connect the idea of place, that I have driven that same stretch of highway with all three and have vivid memories with them tied to that corridor— one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in California.  Natalie and I drove that road countless times in high school to go ride at Sierra—memories of thermoses full of coffee and tea, pre-made sandwiches and snacks, reggae and Ben Harper, wool socks and beanie’s and a sense of freedom to be on our own and mobile.  We dreamed together on that stretch of highway.  Memories of my mom driving with the sun roof open, pulling over on the highway to change out CDs from her trunk, with an ever changing selection of friends in the back seat (often times it was Natalie), laughing and talking about life and school and friends and boys.  Then, of all the times I have been on that road with my Grandma, this one may be one of my favorites.   It was just her and I, and we talked the whole way there, never once turning on the radio.  We both love that drive, and I distinctly remember her leaning forward at one point close to the Horsetail Falls turn saying how beautiful it all looked.  And that moment will remain one of the most beautiful in my mind for a very long time.


Monday, December 8, 2014

When Greatness Passes

I’m not going to pretend to have known Martin Litton, or to have ever even met him.  The people I share an office with and report to on a daily basis, did.  They loved Litton, and they committed to carrying on his legacy far before he was ever done shaping it.  I would love to have the privilege to write about Litton, I would have loved to have met him and would have loved to witness the fiery spewing of wisdom, equal parts burn and love.  But all I know is from what I have heard, what I have read, and what I can imagine through the eyes of my fellow O.A.R.S. staff who were awarded that privilege to float the greatest canyon on earth in his company.

(This is from my time in Hells Canyon.  The dory legacy that OARS continues to carry out is Litton's)

For those who don’t know, Litton was a conservationist and a boater.  He saved the Grand Canyon from two dams that would have flooded its sacred crevasses, and he started the legacy that enables me to make an income today.  He founded Grand Canyon Dories, and he rode these beautiful and majestic boats through the canyon despite the fact that wooden hulls don’t mix well with jagged rocks. Grand Canyon Dories later become a company of O.A.R.S., and dories were cemented as our main artery. Litton also holds the record for the oldest person to row the Grand Canyon- a record set when he was 87. But like I said, I can’t feign authority in writing about the man that stands taller than most in the more recent histories of our country.  But I can appreciate some of what he has left behind- the great forests of California, the valleys of the Canyon, and even the coastline I am very shortly relocating to and will be calling home.  “What is wilderness? It's mankind's acknowledgment that there is a higher value, a higher purpose. It ceases to be wilderness when we're here. But we are its stewards. It is vital to our souls. It is the source of much of our inspiration.”  And I thankfully am privileged enough to be inspired regularly by what made this man’s heart tick.

(Sunset on the Central Coast, a place Litton fought hard for, but lost in his battle against the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Not because it is nuclear, but becuase it is ugly).

So what am I doing then, if not writing about Litton?  I’m taking a moment to be inspired. Without Litton O.A.R.S. would be a different company, and I am proud to play my tiny part in continuing one great man’s legacy.   I work with people every day who fight to keep wild the places we as a country cherish— or should anyway.  I work with the legends behind running rivers, with the pioneers of adventure, and with the people who dreamed up a world saturated with wildness and nature and made it into a lifestyle worth pursuing every single day.  It’s my job to expose people to rivers and canyons and places that have the power to transform souls, ignite passions, and foster successful movements of preservation.  Sure, I do this from a desk somewhere in California.  But if that’s my part to play, I’m grateful.   

(Yosemite, one more place we owe to wilderness visionaries)

"People always tell me not to be extreme," Litton declares. " 'Be reasonable!' they say. But I never felt it did any good to be reasonable about anything in conservation, because what you give away will never come back—ever. When it comes to saving wilderness, we can't be extreme enough. To compromise is to lose."  When the greats of this world pass on, one can't help but be grateful for a legacy worth crawling out of bed for, every single day. 
  

  

Weekend Wanderings

Happy, happy Monday.  I hope you had a lovely weekend.  Mine was pretty quiet, but filled with a number of simple pleasures that are tough to fit in during the week, especially when it’s dark when I wake up and dark when I get off work.   As I said before, I’m trying to make a habit out of exploring my home with as much enthusiasm as I did when I was abroad.  It’s tougher than you’d think!  It’s really easy to sleep in, sit on the couch, browse Netflix, and Christmas shop in my PJs.  I am by no means saying those things are bad, I think they’re needed every now and again, but they should not take up a day, especially one filled with sunshine and clear skies in December. 

          (Saturday morning sunrise)

       (Angels Camp Chapel, Main St.)

I started my weekend with a hike at New Melones Reservoir, which is currently more like New Melones Pond.  The drought has hit us hard here, as it has most places.  The low water is unveiling the reservoirs original river route- it’s always humbling how nature sometimes finds ways to re-emerge in its original form, even in the toughest of circumstances.  

(Yep, that's a reservoir. Taken with my Lumix DSLR)

(Even in a drought, it's the most beautiful country)


(I came around a corner and loved how the light lit the tree up. Taken with Lumix DSLR)

After wandering the paths around the reservoir for a bit, I made my way back into town to pick up Lateefah for the Calaveras County Mentoring Program’s Holiday Party.  For those who aren’t familiar, I have been blessed with a minion- she’s 14 and she’s awesome.  We have become good friends over two years, and I have been humbled by her resilience.  She’s a totally kick-ass mini-woman who is idolized by her friends and has prevailed through situations no child should ever have to negotiate.  She’s simply rad and she thinks I’m kind of cool to hang out with every Tuesday.  I’m a lucky adult to have a teenager like her in my life to remind me how awesome life can be.  

(Not the greatest photo of us, but the only one I got!)


Okay, probably enough gushing for the moment.  The holiday party was filled with karaoke, crafts, chili, cider and children.   Who knew Christmas time has so many C’s?  After the party, Huck and I hopped on our dirt bikes for a quick spin (sorry Mom and Grandma!).  I ride a Honda CRF 250, and am getting better and better at it!  Huck has me outfitted with the safety gear, and has been a patient teacher.  I think I’ve mastered the whole clutch concept, and love it!  Okay, I love it until I fall, but with the gear on it doesn’t hurt that bad.  The accessibility of the bikes is what I love most- it opens up the landscape around Huck's house, which is filled with trails and valleys and gulley’s that would be impossible to wholly cover on foot, and I’m not in near good enough shape to attempt the landscape on a mountain bike.  The dirt bikes allow us to access these beautiful and remote places, and we’re old and conscious enough to not rip through people’s property with the exhausts a-blaring.  It’s a win-win!


Sunday was exceptionally low-key.  I took Bodhi on a hike, helped Huck work in the garden on a tractor (okay, watched Huck work in the garden on a tractor), and then reaped the garden work spoils with a beautiful sunset bonfire.  I sat with my Kindle and was overwhelmingly aware how lucky we are to live in a place like this. 


     (Yep, Huck's backyard! Pretty great)

And I’ll take this moment and let you all know (well, those who don’t know) that I will very soon be leaving this little foothill town for San Luis Obispo.  I lived there 5 years ago (wow, it’s been that long!?), and will make it home once again while Huck finishes his degree at Cal Poly.  I will keep my same job with O.A.R.S., and will work remotely from our little home on the Central Coast.  The chapters keep changing in my life, and it’s a very exciting time. 

*Oh, by the way! I did want to mention all photos are taken with my IPhone expect where noted :)

 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holidaze

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I’m settling back into the beat of being home.  It’s amazing how easy it is to settle back, but also how tough that transition can be.   And by tough, I’m referring specifically to the pile of clothes, packing cubes, gifts, memory cards and clean/dirty/TBD clothes on my RV couch/floor/chairs.  You would think in a week I would have had time to organize and go through the mess of returning, but I just haven’t gotten there yet.  This has a lot to do with the fact that I mostly live at Huck's house, and not so much in the RV, where all the above has been virtually left to fend for itself.  I’ll go ahead and blame the jet lag too, while I’m at it…
Anyway, I have decided that coming home should not mean the end of writing regularly.  It’s been a great way to flex my mental creative muscles that don’t get used near as often as I would like.  And it’s been fun.  I’m not looking for an audience, but a place to share, stretch, expand and explore life and writing and the everyday things that set apart Monday from Tuesday other than the simple turning of time.  I can’t say what my topics will be, but thinking about it now, it may help to find a focus— I’m sure that will come.  Also a title— hopefully that will also come.   But in the meantime I will continue to write, and you are welcome to follow along on this journey with me if you’d like.  No pressure, though.  
Maybe my topic will be about being 24 and at a point in my life where people are making big decisions.  Friends are getting married, having babies, buying houses.  Careers are being built, explored, left behind and ignored.  Paths are being wrought and I think our wanderlust is at a peak, despite all the roots that are trying to take hold.  We’re a generation with mobility and resources, and I’d like to explore what exactly that can mean.  Maybe starting with one of the world’s great explorers is the perfect place to begin: “We are now ready to start our way down the Great Unknown. . . . We have an unknown distance yet to run, and unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not. “– John Wesley Powell
With that, off we go…

About Me

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I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, ventured south along the California coast for a while, sailed through San Francisco Bay, and have landed back on the Central Coast.  This time I'm a little closer to our rivers and our summits, and a little farther from where I started.