In shock, shivering in my wet skin, after a life-frightening battle with the river, I hear the calming tones of our African guide’s voice saying, “You have been blessed by the mighty waters of the Zambezi River. You will journey forward with great fortune in your life.”
We chose the canoeing safari over the pontoon boat ride as our afternoon game viewing activity and sundowner. Two-person inflatable with oars that resemble those for a kayak.
Steve took the rear as captain and I took the front as engineer. Blessed, our guide (yes that’s his name, pronounced bles-sed), gave us all the usual safety instructions including those additional ones for flipping over in rapids. “Don’t panic, hold onto the boat, relax and lay on your back, let your life vest support you and hold your oar up.” Not much was said about a croc or hippo encounter, even though these waters are an abundant source for both, except to keep our arms and legs within the raft. His holstered 44 caliber kind of spoke for itself.
There was not much mention of the rapids either, other than they were so small they didn’t warrant a rating, but then again, we are in Zimbabwe. I think we all assumed this would be more of a leisure paddle downstream from our up river drop — with cocktails waiting at the sundowner endpoint, our traditional day’s ending on safari in Africa.
We paddled through the first of several rapids with ease and short-lived thrills — me riding them with a few smiling shrieks. Blessed said we would be coming up to a series of rapids or did he say a serious rapid? His proper Zimbabwean English at times was indecipherable, and as It turned out, it was both. Three rapids with the second needing some kind of rating. I’ll give it the “serious” rating. Or maybe upgrade that to a “no shit” rating.
We hit this set of rapids hard, taking on waves of water. Quickly, and out of nowhere, we were hit by a wall of white on the left side, immediately flipping the boat and hurling me and Steve out into the Zambezi River. Time, space and memory were erased from my mind bank the moment the wild wave hit and swept me into the river. I must have closed my eyes, just like I do on dreaded roller coaster rides.
Steve managed to hang on to the raft for the duration of the rescue, while I couldn’t seem to for very long. I was quickly sucked under the current. Churned about by the whirlpool of rapids like a solo sock in load of laundry. I struggled to stay above the waterline. I found myself in a panic, disoriented, searching for air and in between gasps, swallowing the river water. I couldn’t find my back to get into that “relaxed” position Blessed had reviewed with us. I thought, “I’m drowning!” I managed to get that thought from my head into my mouth and out to some nearby ears. I had managed to hang on to the oar during the battle, but lost it when I couldn’t lay on my back (relaxed and without panic) and hold that damn oar up above my head.
I could finally hear Blessed over my thoughts of drowning or being thrown against the rocky river banks (thankfully undistracted by thoughts of the river’s resident crocs and hippos). He was coaching me to float on my back. Now, finally through the worst of the rapids, the calmness of his voice pierced all of my thoughts.
“Swim to me and grab my hand.”
Our boat by now had been righted, I didn’t have a clue where anyone else was besides Blessed, including Steve. I didn’t see him. All I could see, as I was being hoisted up and in by Blessed, was the welcomed inside bottom of the boat.
I came out of the water choking and coughing up the mighty waters of the Zambezi.
I can emphatically say, up to this point in my life, I have never had an experience where I actually had the thought that I could die, no less from drowning.
Taking some inventory after the treacherous toss, I managed to still be wearing my Clarke flip flops. My lip gloss was tucked safely in my jungle short’s pocket, with my safari hat floating downriver nearby in the calm waters, soaked, but retrievable, however, my newly purchased prescription sunglasses were goners!
I’ve always had a deep respect for the water, whether oceans, rivers or lakes. Water…It is not our natural habitat on earth as humans. That level of respect has been deepened here in Africa.
And as dramatic as this may sound, I’m left feeling fortunate to be alive, after this wild experience, to live another adventurous day in Africa.
On our first day of the trek to Rainbow Mountains, we stopped along the road in the village of Tinki and made an offering of coca leaves and red wine to Pachamama (earth/time mother, who embodies the mountains) for safe passage. On day two and at the second pass — Arapa Pass (15,419′), we built an *apacheta, asking for the same blessing. In the background is Ausangate Mountain at 20,898′ — the highest summit in Cusco, Peru. Inspiring to say the very least...
“*Apachetas were built by Incas as they climbed the trail up the Andean mountain passes. They picked up stones or rocks and carried it for a short distance to the summit. They then added the stone to an existing apacheta located along the trail or left the stone as the beginning of a new apacheta. Travelers then said a prayer to the gods for luck and protection during their travels and for the elimination of travel fatigue. In addition to being a source of spiritual power, apachetas also served as trail markers for the rugged mountain terrain.” – Itchy Foot Traveler
Our apacheta was forned with love and heart shaped rocks, built upon a solid foundation. Not only a good metaphor for a hiking journey, but also for life.
Spring has arrived and my Sixty60 Journey is about to come to its peak! This time last year, I had an epiphany about my impending 59th birthday and decided to put into motion a change for my life over the course of the next year. Hiking my way to 60! Originally sixty hikes to 60, turned into a 180 hike goal. In retrospect, I had zero idea where this early-in-the-morning idea would take me. ZERO. Especially the tripling of that original goal. Onward.
I’ve just completed the ten-week Wilderness Basics Course with the San Diego Sierra Club and allowing myself a little breather before my next hike to reflect on some ‘mile-stones’. This past weekend, snow camp, was the last of the overnight backpacking trips marking the finale of the course. I thought I would take a moment and add up the miles on my treads again. Last count was on November 22, 2016, at 750 miles since my birthday in early April, when my second pair of Keen hiking boots arrived. Today, after four more months of blister-free trekking, has netted me another 325 miles. That’s 1,075 miles over 174 hikes in nearly 12 months. Never saw that coming! I love my Keens by-the-way.
The impetus to tally the miles also comes as a bit of preparation for an interview I’m having today, with award-winning media journalist Patty Lane, who came across my Sixty60 Journey on Instagram and will be featured on her podcast DoUKnowWhoIAm? — very exciting!
PS: A friend has set up a GoFundMe campaign for me, to assist with the funding of the Rainbow Mountain trek, and in exchange for your contribution I am offering a signed, matted, limited edition print from the trip. Thank you!
(A hike in early March 2016 to Mount Woodson in Ramona, pictured above, left me concerned for my life. I made it to the top, smiling only after an OMG recovery period!)
This journey began with the simplest of intentions. Hike my way to my 60th birthday. No grander plan that that. Sixty hikes to sixty years. I didn’t want to just show up in April 2017 for another landmark birthday without taking stock of my life. And let me be honest, I took two hikes in March where I thought I was going to have a heart attack and those were wake-up calls!
What I didn’t expect, and you can read about more of them under the heading of what I call the ‘Unintended Consequences’ of hiking, was the final stage of healing from a long period of grieving the death of a young man who was like a son to me — Jeff. He died on April 1, 2012 and rocked my/our world. I learned to tell where I was in the process each year when either the date of his death rolled around or his birthday. If you have ever lost anyone, I’m sure you can relate.
By August 2016 I was unexpectedly honing in on my original goal of sixty hikes, with this journey virtually taking over my life, in a good way. When Jeff’s birthday arrived I could feel a change, a shift in my spirit. The daunting sadness that previously had shrouded my being had finally, it seems, left the house! The final phase of acceptance had arrived and I was filled with joy and remembrance of our Jeff. It’s not that I won’t forever continue to miss him, but the feelings associated with that loss, that missing had turned over a new leaf of joyful appreciation for the time we had with him. A healing had happened and I’m quite sure it evolved through my foot-to-earth connection through hiking. One of my many ‘Unintended Consequences’ of the Sixty60 Journey. Take a hike! Hike to heal, hike to health. It works…I’m living proof.
Note: A Stanford study supports hiking as a prescription for mental health issues. While grieving is not called out specifically, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, it is a way to get through the stages of grief, amongst all of the other health and mental benefits.
UC #32 — After two days of a relentless downpour in Zion National Park my tent was drenched, so when I arrived in Bryce Canyon National Park I decided to sleep in the back of my Honda HR-V. The rain continued into late evening shifting to a soft quietness but with wet stuff hitting my windshield. That rain had turned to snow! I’m pretty sure I was much warmer in my car than I would have been in my tent and the beautiful surprise in the morning when all of the Bryce Hoodoos had been frosted like cupcakes. Pure photographic magic!
UC #35 — Part of what happened with UC #34 was an impromptu trip to NEW ZEALAND! It was a two-week adventure and some of the most beautiful hiking one could encounter.
UC #36 — Hike (tramp as the New Zealanders call them) #84 was on the Kepler Track in Fiorland National Park. I’ve never experienced so much green and brown in one place. And at any moment I expected a gnome to appear from under a rock, behind a giant mushroom or inside the notch of a tree. Truly was like hiking in the Hobbit.
UC #37 — Hikes #85-86 were also on the south of island of New Zealand, one on the Milford Sound and the other hike was near an amazing little town named Hari Hari. That hike — Hari Hari Coastal Walkway — was the one of the most diverse collections of trail and terrain I’ve ever hiked on. From marsh land, through moss lined forests, along two rivers, the Tasman Sea, a bit of rock scrambling on the beach to laundry hanging on a line!
UC #38 — Crossed the Cook Strait on a ferry to the north island of New Zealand in search of more trails. Hiked Taranaki Falls followed by the Lower & Upper Tama Lakes — featuring stunning turquoise alpine lakes! A storm drenched me for six miles straight on that return hike. It was quite lovely and exhilarating!
UC #39 — Hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park, which is touted as one of the top 10 day hikes in the world! Sadly I didn’t get the full photographic experience as weather doused those views of alpine lakes with low lying snow clouds and I have to say it was a stunning and cold sight — like walking on the moon across black volcanic dirt dusted with snow. You can’t control Mother Nature and this was my only opportunity to take this hike – already delayed one day due to rain, snow and high winds.
UC #40 — One of my hikes while on the north island of New Zealand, was on the Waiarapa Valley Wine Trail. Hey they named it that, so I went with it! I tramped over 4-miles, from winery to winery, tasting some of the best pinot noir in the world!
UC #21 — I created a logo for the Sixty60 Journey. The chronicling of this adventurous journey may turn into a book, who knows, and at the very least it will become a presentation in an effort to share with others to inspire the creation of their own journey. Whatever that may be!
UC #22 — Started the next round of 60 hikes and calling it the Sixty60 Sequel. Logo on it’s way!
UC #23 — Boulders make me happy and I am drawn to climb on, up and over them! While my lower body has been getting a great workout with all of the hiking, I started to work with a personal trainer for my core and upper body strength. Ladies I am here to tell your muscles are merely laying dormant under there — whatever your there is! My trademark pose now,at the top of a peak or boulder, has become that of Rosie the Riveter.
UC #24 — Hiked Mt. Baldy (elev. 10,068′, 10.2 miles, elev. gain 3,900) formally known as Mt. San Antonio, as a training hike for Mt. Whitney and the first one of the peaks to bag (as they say) for the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge and Adventure 16s 3-Peak Challenge. The next day I was going to hike San Jacinto, however, I rolled my ankle on a hidden rock coming down Baldy Bowl and with 4-miles to go, I had no choice but to hike out on that injured foot. That being said, kind of put a kibosh on that. I spent the next 1-1/2 weeks resting, icing, compressing and elevating (RICE) that ankle so I could do UC #25! You can’t keep a determined woman down…
UC# 25 — What was supposed to be a 5-day backpacking trip along the John Muir Trail, resupplying two girlfriends hiking the 220-miles of southbound trails to Mt. Whitney, and summiting with them, took a couple of turns. One was the case of my sprained ankle and two was the fact that they were tearing up the trail and would now be two days ahead of schedule. My original plans crumbling, I decided to go anyway into the John Muir Wilderness, backpacking for 4-days, something I hadn’t done in 25 years and never in the Eastern Sierras. Summiting Mt. Whitney — well, it just wasn’t my time. With 30 carefully chosen pounds on my back, I crossed over the nothing-to-sneeze-at Kearsarge Pass (elev. 11,760′,) the highest point to date I’ve hiked, with an elevation gain of 3,375′ in 4.5 miles. The scenery was heart expanding and am grateful for the opportunity to follow in John Muir’s footsteps. This was one of my most rewarding adventures and unintended consequences, thus far. As for Mt. Whitney, it will still be there when the time is right for me.
UC #26 — Not sure when it happened exactly, what I do know is that it did happen at some point on a trail or the collective time from a few trails — moved through the last phase of grief. Acceptance. I felt it right before my son-by-choice’s birthday, 4 years after his passing. Celebration for his life moved in and that particular strain of sadness moved out.
UC #27 — Heart opened. During the time spent in grief [UC #26] I didn’t fully realize how thick the veil was that was clouding my heart. The vision for my life had also become fuzzy and directionless. Then the hiking began and with each trek the path literally was becoming clearer. Now what to do with an open heart? TBD
UC #28 — Showing up at hiking meetups with people I have never met. This community is expansive, warm, supportive and inviting. You don’t have to hike alone, there is someone hiking out there everyday!
UC #29 — Hiked Cucamonga Peak (elev. 8,859′, 11.6 miles, elev. gain 4,300′) with a group of hikers out of Los Angeles. This peak is one of the hikes for the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. Number two of the six peaks for me.
UC #30 — In 150 days I have logged 65 hikes and 400 miles. Shopping soon for my next pair of trail shoes!
I decided at this juncture in my Sixty60 journey I would take time to pause and reflect on at least 15 of my first 60 hikes, with a brief description for each of the hikes and links to each of them, in case you are looking for some hiking adventures of your own! The AllTrails app for my iPhone has been of great assistance in recording them and as a GPS device for most of them.
The Sixty60Journey began here. Even though I had hiked Torrey Pines many times before, in particular the Beach Trail, I decided to hike ALL the trails that Torrey had to offer, west of North Torrey Pines Road. I had no idea how long it would take me or how many collective miles I would tally, I only knew I had set aside the day to kick off my journey! A lovely mystical friend joined me for the Beach Trail leg and the rest I hiked solo. If you have not ventured off into some of the other trails, I highly recommend! My favorite find was off the Broken Hill Trail, where you overlook a couple of craggy canyons that reminded me of a mini Bryce Canyon. Just gorgeous. And…it’s off the beaten path allowing for some good contemplation time and a good place to take a break. Another great discovery was the North Fork Trail (leads to Broken Hill Trail,) a wheelchair accessible trail. Beautifully manicured level trail that ends with a nice ocean view. I had no idea. I plan to hike that trail with Stanley Vigil soon!
I ended up logging something around 9-miles traversing all of the trails at Torrey Pines. It was a great kick-off for my journey and a nice start to my birthday! I consider Torrey Pines my go-to hike. It’s close, beautiful, offers diversity and tons of unending beautiful scenery.
As I released my hiking intention through the venue of social media, asking friends to participate with their favorite trail and to hike with me, one of my dear high school friends contacted me saying he was coming into town and would like to take a hike with me! We got an early Saturday morning start…and the parking lot was already full. New to this hiking thing, I have been blown away by what I had been missing out on throughout the San Diego County wilderness. While the view from the top of Iron Mountain is cool…and crowded on weekends, I preferred a point where a group of large and brightly colored boulders are nestled on the west side of the trail. I swear I heard them say “Come up and sit on me!” The westerly view is stunningly gorgeous overlooking the valley you just hiked through. I hesitate to comment on how easy or hard the hikes are, given this was hike no. 2, so I won’t. Comb through the comments you find and decide for yourself, based on your level of fitness and hiking experience. I was huffing and puffing the last bit of incline switchbacks on this one…you bet. Did I already mention it was only hike no. 2?
On the way back from a work gig in Manhattan Beach, I stopped in Long Beach to crash the night with my hiking hero and set out the next day to hike with her one of her favorite Orange County trails. Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is located in Lake Forest between Foothill Ranch and Santiago Canyon. We took the Dreaded Hill Trail (named for its steady 600 ft climb in 1-mile) to a hidden gem called Red Rock Canyon. Being in that canyon I felt transported to somewhere in Arizona, say…Sedona. We scrambled up into the canyon, each finding a nook to hang out in out of the sun and eat our lunch. Here we are, geographically, hiking the wilderness in the middle of two housing subdivisions, which gets lost from view when you reach the towering boulders of Red Rock Canyon. As we loop back to the trailhead, my mind is boggled with diversity of nature along the trails. Red rock, beautiful vistas, open fields and a welcomed shaded oak grove. This was a 10-mile loop with a 1,484 ft elevation gain. I’ve learned to pay attention to that last number…
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a very little known part of Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve. I say this only because as I have spoken about it to others, like me, nobody seems to be aware of this section of open space to the east of Torrey Pines Road and north of Carmel Valley Road, that was acquired in 1970 through the efforts of local conservation groups (Torrey Pines Association, the Sierra Club, the Citizens Coordinate.) The acquisition added approximately 197 acres and 1500 trees to the state reserve. I was introduced to this part of Torrey Pines by my friend Sarah who grew up romping through the open space long before it was a part of the reserve. It is a little slice of heaven, weaving through flora and fauna you don’t see on the other side, but with the familiar Torreys dotting the landscape. It’s an easy stroll through the few trails, and a great place to wander, stop, breathe, contemplate, write or just simply be. My trail camera (iPhone 6s) met an untimely death on the way to this hike, adding to the secret and sacredness of this sweet area. No pictures to share. I highly recommend this one as a sacred getaway—if that is what you are looking for. Quietude and serenity reside here.
Did you ever wonder where the name for the Joshua Tree came from? We took the Boy Scout Trail which starts you off through the flat forest of Joshua Trees! This hike was with an adventurous friend who said, (when we were trying to make educated guesses on the naming of the trees) “I think when the first people saw them they said something like “Gosh is that a tree?” You get the picture. It was both fun and funny. The legend is that the Mormon pioneers thought the limbs of the Joshua trees resembled the open and upstetched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. Anyway they are fun to photograph! That landscape turns into the area dubbed The Wonderland of Rocks, for the monzogranite boulders begging to be scrambled. The scrambling trail led to the end point (of our hike) to Willow Hole, a shady desert oasis in the center of Wonderland. Seven out and back level strolling miles with the occasional stop to scramble boulders—because they are there!
Well now. This hike kicked my ass. It started out all nice and friendly, then we got to the stairs! This is a six-mile loop that forms the shape of a heart! I’m a heart gatherer, so I just had to do this one. I enlisted a friend, who hikes the Mission Trails Park system regularly, to lead the way AND we hiked it mostly in the dark since it was a full moon evening. I found it really challenging for a few reasons…it was hike no. 6 (still huffing and puffing) and hiking on loose rock and shale— in the dark. Suffice it to say I’d like to do it again, so that I may appreciate the ground that was covered (in two ways) and measure my (huffing and puffing) progess. The Mission Trails Regional Park sponsors a 5-Peak Challenge, with the Fortunas being two of them. The others are: the overly hiked Cowles Mountain, behind it Pyles Peak and Kwaay Paay. I’ve completed them all now making me eligible for a certificate. Yipee! There’s also a fun surprise at the top of the North Fortuna summit. Unfortunately I didn’t get a selfie with the North Fortuna summit sign, proof that you completed each peak. I did say that I wanted to do them again—didn’t I?
My ultra-marathoner friend picked this one. I should have been weary since this was near the training ground for her 50k (31+ miles) earlier this year. In the end, this was a great loop, even though we didn’t really know we were on a loop! It wasn’t until after we found our way into the loop and didn’t find ourselves lost and spending the night…in the wilderness. It wasn’t until I came home to do some research and found that exact trail we had hiked, thanks to a couple of mountain bikers that gave us directions. We could have gone back the way we came, but a loop came be so much more interesting—if you know your way!
The trailhead is located along Sunrise Highway between Laguna Mountains and Lake Cuyamaca. We walked 100 yards and came upon some PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) hikers setting up camp, one guy from Germany making the distance from Mexico to Canada. Impressive! We met two snakes on the single-track trail, one who was distracted by the lizard in his mouth and the other stretched across our trail. So we waited until he/she moved on. Now who wants to lead? Breezes blowing through the grassy meadows on either side of the trail, once looked beautiful and now all I can think of is the idiom ‘snakes in the grass’. We pressed on until we turned onto the fire trail which took us down into a ravene where you could still see the effects from one of the most devastating fires in San Diego county’s recent history. Obviously, since I’m writing this, we made it back to our point of origin—and way before dark.
Over the river and through the “woods” on this one. What a lovely area and beautiful vistas at the top of the Way Up Trail. A long-time girlfriend suggested this one. You could continue to meander around, way up there, on other trails too if you wanted to extend your hiking miles. It was a cloud covered morning which turned into rain! That’s always fun—not a torrential downpour, just enough to muss up the hiking hair. Great fun crossing the river on the return. Ok maybe it was only a stream. Either way, when there is a water feature on a hike, especially in drought riddled San Diego, California—you can’t help but smile wide!
There are a couple of ways to do this hike/stroll, one is to start at Torrey Pines State Beach and flatland it to the area known as Black’s Beach—the unofficial, nudity-not-allowed, nude beach in San Diego County. Or you can scale a 300-foot cliff down to Black’s Beach and walk north to Torrey Pines. Either way the views both out into the ocean and along the famous red rock eroding cliffs are stunning. You’ll scramble over a section called Flat Rock, because it is—FLAT, and depending on the tide, you will enjoy this natural rock sculpture as a tidepool area as well. Increase your miles and elevation change by taking the Beach Trail which has stair access up and through the cliffs, out and back to the beach. Just an idea! My Keen hiking boots got a well-deserved yet unintentional ocean water wash. Eight layers of trails dust and dirt whooshed away, but the memories linger on…
My former life as a married woman and raising two boys happened in Rancho de los Penasquitos. I spent much time in and around the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, being literally in our backyard. For this hike I went with another PQ mom and friend and we hiked from the Black Mountain Road entrance through to Sorrento Valley with a lunch break at the, despite the drought, waterfall feature! It had been more than 20+ years since I’d hiked into the preserve, and then with a young boy in tow who was skipping stones in the creek. I also used it as a playground for my black and white photography class. The trail is fairly flat, but long if you go all the way through. You could do an out and back hike, up one side of the creek and back along the other. We chose to do it one-way and Ubered back to our point of origin. The chapparal and oaks just as lovely as I remembered. The stop for lunch at the waterfall, well deserved and just plain fun to scramble on the boulders. We took several detours off the trail to creekside, visiting with a man who had a Native American look and was singing in the breezes. Another young man, maybe 16 years old, have carved out a niche and was fishing for Bass. Our county is abundant and amazing with nature—you just have to get off the dang freeway!
Out of the 15-to-date hikes, this is my favorite. One bummer note is that I went with someone who couldn’t go the distance and even though she said it was alright to leave her behind on the trail so I could hike to the peak, I didn’t make it to the top, almost, but no cigar (whatever that means.) Returned by guilt! And…this only gives me opportunity and damn good reason to hike it again—TO THE TOP. That being said, I absolutely loved this trail. You go three miles out of town to get to a dirt road that takes you to the trailhead. The trail is well-groomed and mother nature provides some nice cushion underfoot with pine needles and leaves. We met two nice older women who told of their favorite places to stop and scramble boulders with unending vistas AND a not-to-miss feature called ‘Window Rock’. They said you can’t miss it. They were right! There is a formation of rocks that frames the wilderness beyond and the opening is large enough to walk through easily at 5′-4″. Beyond that opening is a whole other world. Enough room on the ledge of boulders to sit for a snack or rest, vistas across and into the valley far below, wind whispering through the pines. Could have lingered longer but there was more trail ahead (and back.) There was one point on the trail where I was overwhelmed with emotion, out nowhere and it happened on the way back through. It felt ancient—like connection to something from the past of this spiritual place.
The trail winds through oaks and at this time of year (May) flowering manzanitas, red snow flowers popping up, and the smell of pine answering the question of “Where would you prefer to live: Beach, mountains or desert?” Mountains. It took this hike. Farther up the trail heading to the peak, the trees turned to white boulders—I later learned that I was only .5 miles from the peak. I can’t speak to the views at the top—but I will soon! Plenty were had all along the way, with no regets and only lessons learned. I felt great on this trail!
Mother’s Day hike with my eldest son. As soon as he said “Hey mom, what would you like to do for Mother’s Day?” he knew he made a big mistake. HIKE of course! “Okay, as long as it doesn’t hurt me.” Another gem in San Diego, although it has a rough spot in the road where a young runner named Chelsea King was murdered. There is a memorial to her along the fence railing that you’ll see and can contribute to. Just an FYI.
From the trailhead we took the longer way around via Bernardo Bay Trail which overlooks portions of Lake Hodges and Bernardo Bay. We crossed a bridge which led us to areas where posion oak was present along the creek, a surprise of a waterfall about halfway out the Piedras Pintadas Trail and of course the Piedras Pintadas which translate in English to painted rocks.
Somewhere around the painted rocks area my youngest son called in from San Antonio, Texas for a Mother’s Day wish. Such sweet timing! You’ll read about our hikes together, nos. 28 and 30, in the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park, Texas.
It’s been 20 years since I hiked Cowles Mountain and even though I went midweek, the parking lot was packed, the trail was crowded and junked up with trash. Humans. The only reason I did it was for the 5-Peak Challenge and the more rewarding part of the hike was the being on the empty trail over to Pyles Peak! There are other ways to get up to Cowles besides the route I took, and also to Pyles for that matter. Plenty is written about Cowles, being the most popular/used trail for the “fitness’ crowd. My journey, being more about what I see and experience, rather than something to conquer or workout on…I won’t be going back. But I did get those selfies to prove I was there and qualify for the 5-Peak Challenge.
Torrey Pines State Reserve has become what I will refer to as my go-to-hike place. It is sanctuary. In the event I don’t have anything big planned, like bagging a peak, or ability to travel to far away places or anyone to hike with…this is my place. AND my favorite place spot is located from a trail less traveled to the area called Broken Hill. It’s a stunningly quiet place to just BE. I love it here. Did I already say that???
My first hiking expedition out in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park took me through some seriously fun slots and narrows plus a steep climb up to a few calcite mines, where you can still pull the mineral straight from the mine’s walls. The surrounding ground shines likes diamonds. A definite yes on my list to explore more as we head into winter. You can count on some wilderness camping too!
UC #11 — I earned a first-in-my-life medal for walking an 8-mile fundraising beach walk/run event (I ran the last two miles) in bare feet due to the blisters I earned in UC #12.
UC #12 — Hiked 20 miles out and back on a single-track trail (Noble Canyon) in Mount Laguna. Not realizing how hot the day really was I ended up running out of water with 7 miles to go (I thought my hydration pack was broken. Yes…it’s okay to laugh out loud, I did. Later, after I lived!) Oh the lessons learned from that day! I also earned far too many blisters to count. The positive take-aways however, as always, are the lessons learned AND that I almost walked the length of a marathon. Every time I hit a new mark on the trail or my edge it tells me something about myself, my inner strength, and the limitless possibilities within my own spirit.
UC #13 — I’ve lost even more weight — another 5 pounds and my already downsized hiking pants are falling off again! Almost 10 years post menopause, I bought into the belief that I had to live with the gift of extra weight and for the first time in my life bought clothing that made it so. One day I was cleaning out my closet and saw this pair of jeans with butterfly embroidered pockets that I never had the heart to giveaway, because they are that cute (Im probably wearing them right now,) and I wondered if they fit now. I was jumping up and down with excitement and even they are just a teensy bit big. I found a belt!
UC #14 — I’ve joined multiple hiking groups and the Sierra Club to support my hiking passion and goals and expand into a like-minded community. There are a lot of great people hiking out there…
UC #15 — I completed and earned a certificate for the 5-Peak Challenge in San Diego, hiking to the top of Cowles Mountain, Pyles Peak, North & South Fortuna Mountain (twice since I didn’t know about the selfie requirement,) and Kwaay Paay.
UC #16 — Ditched my neoprene knee brace after 10 hikes!
UC #17 — All of my previous joint pain due to either prior injuries or just plain old lack of movement, shoulders, left knee, hips and neck are gone gone gone! I can sit in the Yoga Lotus position again — pain free.
UC #18 — Gained a strong reconnection to the outdoor lifestyle including camping.
UC#19 — Took my hiking on the road with a solo trip from San Diego to Big Bend National Park, Chisos Basin in Texas. Hiked to epic trails there. In between the two points, I solo hiked the Alkali Trail in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, in Arizona, explored Canyon DeChelly National Monument with a couple of hikes there and the Boynton Canyon Trail in Sedona Arizona.
UC #20 — Completed 60 hikes in less than 5 months. 7+ months ahead of my original goal. Adding at least 60 more!
On Sunday August 28th, 144 days after I began my 365-day journey of sixty hikes to 60 years, I summited Tahquitz Peak (elev. 8,846) in Idyllwild, with a group of friends and one of my sons for my 60th hike. Due to issues with altitude, two of my friends waited for us at the foot of the final ascent (there in spirit as were many who couldn’t join in) as we celebrated at the top with both serious and silly pictures of the remaining group, individually and together.
There is something very special about completing a goal that we set for ourselves. Emotions ranging from the pure joy of the accomplishment to that after-the-party empty feeling, when everyone has gone home. The strange thing with this particular goal is that I am still a long way (7 months) from the landmark birthday goal happening in April 2017. So now what?
Knowing what had already transpired with my unplanned ravenous appetite, hiking way more than I could have ever imagined, I knew I wouldn’t stop at the original goal of sixty hikes. I knew I would do sixty more, easily. The next sixty (already in progress) will be referred to as the Sixty60 Sequel. It’s what happens when you are a creative with a marketing background. We name things!
My goal continues on with another sixty hikes, ultimately leading me to Cusco, Peru and the Rainbow Mountains in celebration of my 60th year on the planet. Now, what may happen, which I haven’t totally committed to yet is, a third round of sixty hikes. The Sixty60 Trilogy? That would be a total of 180 hikes in one year and I have to admit that I love the metaphor of the number 180, as in, a total turnaround for my life. Things that have already happened and those things yet to come.
The positive unintended consequences that have come out of my simple idea of hiking my way to 60, has gone wild and left me wanting more. Wanting so much more—for my life. Let’s take a hike!
I know that us artists would say a resounding no to that question. Even when the last bit of paint dries on a canvas, there is always the thought of “I could have…” Or when writing a book, a song, a poem, a love letter.
And so goes all of life and this morning I’m thinking about the goal that I set for myself that I thought would be “complete” next April. It is now the eve eve, 7 months early, of the completion date for the original goal of sixty hikes to 60 years. Who knew this would catch on to my soul and soles?
This journey that came out of the ether, was and continues to be a gift. Gifts of unending beauty, health, strength, will, accomplishment, the making of new friends, connecting with old friends, connection in general, travel and love.
It won’t end or be complete on Sunday, the planned 60th hike at the top of Tahquitz Peak in Idyllwild, it has become part of what I love to do, where I long to be and with people who share the same passion of communing in and with nature. It will evolve, as it already has to new heights, lengths and depths as I wear down the treads on my Keens and build up the muscles in my legs and heart.
I celebrate all of you have come with me thus far in my hiking journey, whether it was on the trail or cheering from the social media sidelines. I love you all.
Here’s to the first sixty, the next sixty and beyond…this journey is not complete!