The Tuatha’an Song

Four and half years ago, while living in Dallas, I decided to make some big life changes. You could rightly call it both desperation and inspiration. I turned my world upside down and gave it a vigorous shake to see what would fall away and what would remain. I quit my job, gave away most of my possessions, said goodbye to family and friends and my lone star state, and hit the open road.

West. To California. To Yosemite. It might’ve felt a little cliché, but that’s where timely chance had taken me and that’s where I went. I started this blog right at that moment when I felt the internal shift of knowing I was leaving, even if it was some months before I made it real.

I cannot even begin to do justice to the impact that moving to the mountains has had on my life trajectory. I’m wiser, stronger, and braver. I’m more grateful, graceful, and open. I savor adventure, challenge, and those moments of doubt that spur you on into the fullest version of yourself. Yes, I’ll go ahead and say that I found myself – discovered the essence of myself – in Yosemite.

This life was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it most. It fulfilled and fulfills. It led me to hope and passion and amazing happiness. And yet… Time keeps moving forward. Paradigms keep evolving. And I will keep wandering.

As I sit here so nourished by the marrow of this wilderness, I feel the need for a new writing space for a new adventure. My destination is yet to be exactly determined but that internal shift is there. The north wind. Zugunruhe. A siren’s call. The next leg of this octopus of existence now has a home that speaks to my overwhelming desire that I take with me everywhere I go – to live a life that makes the everyday amplified.

Find me now at: everydayamplified.wordpress.com.

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Ringing in the New Year

I guess it wouldn’t be Yosemite if there wasn’t some sort of something epic happening on New Year’s Eve. Today was supposed to be my last day in the office before leaving for vacation. Yet I find myself instead working alone in the Visitor Center due to road closures. An intense windstorm that blew in yesterday evening (and continues to rage) brought down many trees and has lead to all but one road being closed until further notice (hopefully not too much further into the future… I’ve got a plane to catch soon!). Fortunately, I’m catsitting in the Valley and was able to be here to man the fort.

I’m not in uniform and I wasn’t really mentally prepared for not being at my desk today. But I’m not complaining by any means. I forget how much I like interacting with visitors. Given the choice, I’d much rather be here, interacting and being in the center of the maelstrom, than sitting at my desk, doing paperwork and writing SOPs. It’s a most interesting day to be in Yosemite Valley (and not on the roads!).

Speaking of vacation, this time tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to San Francisco to catch a flight to Tanzania (and then later on to Spain) for an adventure beyond imagining! Internet will be scarce, but I’ll throw out a picture or two if I can. Look out Serengeti and Barcelona!

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Skiing at Badger

I’ve been all about costumes lately. I’ve gone to Renaissance faires and a Dickens fair. I just finished a run as a volunteer cast member in Bracebridge, the annual medieval Christmas dinner theater event at the Ahwahnee Hotel. And I’ve even been researching styles and patterns for sewing and putting together my own costumes.

[This is where I’d share my awesome array of costume photos — if my personal IT prowess was on par with my professional IT prowess. Alas, it appears to not be.]

Winter really brings out all of my bookish nerdy side. Faires, sewing, gaming, reading, etc. But this year, I’m jumping in to winter sports as well. I put on skis for the very first time last Sunday.

I took an hour downhill lesson and then tried out a half dozen runs on Badger’s green circle route. I had a couple of falls and a couple of flawless moments. …and one trip to the Ranger hut to make sure I didn’t dislocate my shoulder. I didn’t. But I did score a snowpack, makeshift sling, and Advil (as well as some much-appreciated overzealous care-taking).

[And here is where I deny you fun ski lift shots and save you from teary-eyed pre-Advil documentation.]

All-in-all, it was a really fun experience. I think I might try cross-country skiing next.

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Snow Creek

The Snow Creek trail is one of my favorite trails that takes you up and out of Yosemite Valley (the Four-Mile trail is a close contender). It’s steep, beautiful, well-maintained, and quiet. No matter what time of year I find myself there, I never see more than 2 or 3 people once I hit the trailhead a mile or so past Mirror Lake.

Sunday, being an amazingly warm and sunny winter day after a recent round of storms, found Paul and I slowing winding our way up the Snow Creek switchbacks. It was his first time hiking up there and I was happy to be there to share in the beauty of that forgotten corner of Yosemite. We didn’t quite get all the way to the top, but even halfway up that trail gets you high enough for some pretty big views.

looking across at half dome

looking across at half dome

And what better way to balance out a long hike than meeting up with a great group of friends for a beer tasting? I love that, even in the microscopic bubble that we live in, we have a really cool community that provides (relatively) unique social and culinary opportunities. Dust Bowl Brewing Co. came out to the Carabiner for a locals tasting night. I love their love of IPAs (and Paul’s lack thereof that doubled my IPA consumption that evening). And they make a surprisingly good pilsner and brown ale, too.

rainbow of hoppy flavors

rainbow of hoppy flavors

If you ever get the chance, I recommend trying their Great Impression with a bit of dark chocolate.

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Somewhere Beautiful

2010 marked a huge shift in my life. It was the time of my quarter-life crisis. I started molding a new my perception of myself, redefined what my life experience could be, and made certain promises to myself. The first big promise was that I would be kind to myself and embrace every moment as fully as I could (I mean, you never have this moment after it’s gone). The second promise was that I would always choose to live somewhere beautiful and put myself in a position to be constantly awed and inspired. These are promises that I vigilantly keep and daily affirm.

One of my favorite ways to affirm these promises is by intimately experiencing nature. Not just by sitting on my front porch or driving with my windows down or walking places I could also drive to (though I do all those things). I intimately experience nature by throwing myself right into the middle of it. Hiking, backpacking, climbing, swimming, sunning, being. New views or favorite haunts, I’m almost always ready to go be a part of it. And if I have someone to share the experience with, that makes it all the more enjoyable.

Recently, I marked a long-anticipated hike off of my list. My birthday weekend was set to be super low-key. I wasn’t planning on climbing because of my hip injury (recovering well but I wasn’t ready to push it that hard). Just back from the birthday trip to Florida with Paul (whom I had just started solidly dating again) and he had carried straight on to a conference in the deep south. Not much happening besides a good book and dinner with friends. Then Paul surprised me by rearranging his travel plans to be home for my birthday weekend. Super sweet of him. So, we did what every good outdoorsy couple would do – ditched unpacking and headed straight for the trail…

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We hiked through the Mariposa Grove to Wawona Point. 6 miles RT (though we cheated on the last mile). It was a bit tiring after being out of the game for a few weeks, but the giant sequoias and the sweeping vista made it well worth the effort. And to have someone there to revel in it with and make it unforgettable was the icing on the cake. Actually, the icing on the cake was having the point all to ourselves for the longest while and then having a carful of our colleagues roll up. A fun interaction that culminated in a ride for the last mile down when they caught back up with us. Normally I wouldn’t have thought twice about gratefully declining such an offer, but my hip interfered and spoke otherwise (plus there was candy involved).

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I haven’t been out nearly as much as I would like, obviously. But now that my hip is almost completely mended and wintery weather is looming, it’s time to get back to squeezing as much as I can into every waking hour. Promises intensely made must be intensely kept. And on a day like today and a place like here, how could I resist?

 

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Heralding my favorite time of year…

It’s autumn! A season of yellows, oranges, reds, and browns. Of crisp breezes, frosty mornings, and snowy peaks. Time for pumpkins, hot chocolate, and home-baked bread. For nesting with good books, favorite movies, and my almost-forgotten sketch pad.

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As much as I love summer in all its sun-baked glory, this is my heart-happy time of year.

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There & Back Again

A week and a half of travelling and crazy adventures later, it’s nice to be back home – where it’s suddenly autumn. South Florida was incredible with all it’s heat and humidity; I definitely got out all my end-of-summer blues with that intense weather experience. But I was so grateful to come home to the cool, dry mountains.

There are so many highlights from this birthday trip that started with the NorCal Renaissance Faire and continued on to Florida with camping, birding, and canoeing in the Everglades and dining, roaming, and drinking in Key West and snorkeling, sunning, and exploring at Dry Tortugas and ended with a solo late night drive home from the Fresno airport. This was the trip that Paul and I have been planning for months and everything came together perfectly. We spent most of the trip adventuring together, though we did incorporate a fair amount of solo time into our itinerary too. As always, he was a great travel companion and we each had a fun and memorable time.

The brightest highlights include:

  • Walking up on my first-ever alligator!
  • Watching beautiful birds. The roseated spoonbill and white ibis were among my top Everglades sightings. At Dry Tortugas, the peregrine falcons and magnificent frigatebirds stole the show.
  • Learning how to canoe. And getting to canoe amongst manatees, crocodiles, and bull sharks!
  • Eating freshly caught seafood to my heart’s content.
  • Drinking Cuban coffee. Yum!
  • Going to my first-ever drag show. I was blown away!
  • Taking a ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas (70 miles away in the middle of ocean nowhere).
  • Getting to climb to the top of the condemned (for good reason!) lighthouse at Loggerhead Key.
  • Going snorkeling for the first time. It’s like swimming in an aquarium!
  • Seeing a stingray while snorkeling!
  • Being almost completely unplugged for over a week – No emails and no phone calls = key to relaxing.
  • Taking time for naps and cloud-staring and ice cream-savoring while still packing in all the adventure a girl could ask for.

Did I mention that it’s nice to be back home even with all the whirlwind of vacation fun? There are some things that you just can’t help but miss when you’re on the road. Mountains, beds, showers, friends, etc. Most importantly though, the number one thing I missed most while gone on vacation: our delicious alpine drinking water.

I forget how spoiled we are here! And it’s always nice to be reminded how great of a place here is to be.

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Climbing Tales

Right now, I have very much of a love-hate relationship with climbing. More on that later.

A couple of weekends ago, I went climbing in the high and eastern Sierra. After work on Friday, I bee-lined up to Tuolumne for some late afternoon bouldering. This was during what seems to have been some of the last bits of warm golden summer. I’m working on my footwork and the boulders up there are one of the best places to practice.

traversing the wave boulder

traversing the wave boulder

Continuing up and over and down, I landed in Mammoth and found climbing there. We tackled a tricky 5.10a face/crack/overhang beast of a climb on volcanic tuff (versus Yosemite’s granite). I wasn’t quite there, but made it up with much falling and frustration. And then I jumped on a really fun 5.8 crack that seemed like a walk in the park. Tuff has awesome grippy holds. It’s like a playground of things to hang on.

warming crack at mammoth

warming crack at mammoth

The real highlight was hiking down into Owens River Gorge after. The Gorge… is one of the craziest places I’ve climbed so far. Over 800 climbs in this beautiful place.

owens river gorge-ous

owens river gorge-ous

We stuck to 5.8 routes and it was everything that I expect when climbing. I had a lot of time that day to think about why I actually choose to climb. It’s a uniquely oxymoronic experience. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, empowering and humbling, challenging and rewarding, physical and mental. And, oh, is it mental. Your mindset is at least as important as your physical strength and determination. I don’t think you ever feel so close to nature (specifically rock) and yourself as when you’re hanging precariously mid-cliff by the strength of your own muscles and the trust in the stability of that craggy smooth rock. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other. And it’s addictive like no other.

on the china doll route

on the china doll route

So, the love is obvious. But why the hate? …Did I mention this is a dangerous game? Part of that adrenaline rush and gratefulness for timely holds is that risk of falling. I had a relatively minor fall in the Gorge. It happens – and it’s usually no big deal. This one was no different except that I was close to the ground. Which means that, with the unfortunately placed directional quickdraw and the give the rope is designed with, I hit the ground. Not hard and mostly running, but still enough to strain my iliopsoas muscle. I didn’t realize it at the time and kept going (gotta save face and conquer all, right?). In fact, I didn’t realize the severity of it until I went climbing again yesterday in Yosemite Valley almost two weeks later. Now I’ve been doctored and x-rayed and referred to a physical therapist. And I’m on a ice and rest and no yoga and no climbing plan for a few weeks.

contemplating the vertical

contemplating the vertical

So it goes.

Good thing I’ve got the distraction of vacation. Starting Sunday!! Another day at the Renaissance Faire and then Paul and I fly out to Florida on Monday for over a week of birding and eating and sunning and enjoying life with good people and good (if flat and humid) scenery. Now to get packed…

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Clearing storm

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Of Mountains and Moliere

I stayed up half the night reading Moliere’s Tartuffe. Betrayal, futile persuasion, and religious hypocrisy? And from four centuries ago that doesn’t feel ancient? Yeah, definitely worth losing out on a little sleep for. Now I’m finally delving into Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. I spent my morning pre-work hour just skipping my way around the glossary. I think that one’s going to keep me busy for a while (and that’s not even mentioning the 13 sequels). It’s a little thick to take backpacking, but I’m sure it’ll find its way into the wilderness with me this weekend.

Really, it’s not that much heavier than The Moon is a Harsh Mistress that found itself my companion during recent mountainous adventures. That accompanied me over Labor Day weekend spent hiking and peak bagging with friends. One can cover quite a few miles in three days. We hiked around 35 miles.

The first part of the trip found us hiking out of South Lake to Bishop Pass where we camped at the extremely beautiful (and cold!) Bishop Lake. We did a dayhike (read: sketchy scramble) from camp up the pass and then up to the summit of Agassiz Peak. Being up at 13,883 feet in the Sierra Nevada is an ineffably amazing experience (and the highest I’ve ever been).

After hiking out the next day and enjoying some pizza at my favorite little place in Mammoth Lakes, we hit the wilderness again over by Saddlebag Lake in the Lee Vining Canyon. From the social trail leading out of Sawmill CG, it’s a strenuous cross-country hike to the top of Mt. Conness (12,648′). Conness isn’t nearly as high as Agassiz, but unquestionably just as beautiful of a view. And a super exposed walk out to the very top. I didn’t realize I had any lingering fear of heights but that last couple of hundred yards of narrow steps with steep drop-offs on either side definitely tested my nerves!

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