7.24.2017

My First Summer in the Sierra

"Happy the showers that fall on so fair a wilderness, scarce a drop can fail to find a beautiful spot — on the tops of the peaks, on the shining glacier pavements, on the great smooth domes, on forests and gardens and brushy moraines, plashing, glinting, parrering, laving."

Tenaya Canyon, from the top of Half Dome

I just finished reading My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir and there were so many fun passages in the book that reminded me of my trips to the Sierras! As you may or may not know, John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States (Wikipedia). He was born in 1838 and this book took place from June to September of 1869.

The book is in journal form and chronicles the trip that he took with a sheepherder, who had to move his 2,000 plus sheep to higher pastures once the grasses in the valleys were dried out. They move up in elevation from the Central Valley of California, which sits near sea level, towards the high point of Tuolumne meadows in what is now Yosemite (approximately 10,000 ft), arriving in August and then turning back down the hill in September before snow starts flying again.

If you like trees and plants, you will love this book. If you don't, you can skip over his description of the abies magnifica (silver tipped fir) and go right to parts such as this one:
"Early in the morning I tied my notebook and some bread to my belt, and strode away full of eager hope, feeling that I was going to have a glorious revel."

The John Muir Trail, between Lake Tenaya and Cathedral Lakes

I mean, who can say no to a glorious revel? He also talks a lot about the weather, but in a way that makes weather anything but a dull subject.
"Another one of those charming exhilarating days that make the blood dance and excite nerve currents that render one un-weariable and well-nigh immortal." 
“Warm, sunny day, thrilling plant and animals and rocks alike, making sap and blood flow fast, and making every particle of the crystal mountains throb and swirl and dance in glad accord like star-dust.”

Near Tuolumne Meadows -- all these boulders were left behind by the glacier.

Be still my beating heart. Doesn't he make a sunny day sound absolutely fabulous? Then he passes by Lake Tenaya and notes the existence of:
"a knob or knot of burnished granite, perhaps about a thousand feet high, apparently as flawless and strong in structure as a waveworn pebble, and probably owes its existence to the superior resistance it offered to the section of the overflowing ice-flood."

Lake Tenaya (and the knot of burnished granite, perhaps)

I think I found the knot! If not, I better go and look again soon! He gets to Tuolumne meadows, and remarks:
"No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull, or any trace of what in manufactories is called rubbish or waste; everything is perfectly clean and pure and full of divine lessons."
Tuolumne Meadows (with Cathedral peak in the background)

I agree wholeheartedly. Every time I have gone to the Sierras, around every corner is a new wonderment, another photo to snap, or smell in the air, or a new bird sound. It really is quite fabulous and this book really hit home. There were a few interesting things such as when he describes one day that he went from the North Dome to the Valley floor, which must be about a 10 or 12 mile hike down a steep trail nowadays. But then, there was no trail, and he described bushwhacking down a ravine, which must have been difficult (plus I think there is about a 3,000 or 4,000 ft drop in elevation to boot)!

I also love how he just straps a loaf of bread to his belt, as quoted above, or lays down on pine boughs or even a rock one night, so that he could listen to the sound of a waterfall nearby. It's just so poetic and it seems like such a grand adventure. I wonder if it really was as lovely as he makes it sound. He does note that there are large mosquitoes, some about an inch from tip of the stinger to the end of the wings, which sounds like something I would not be as fond of!!

There are many, many more passages that I bookmarked, noted and saved, but I will end my barrage of quotes with this one, which really reminded me of why I like to hike and do trail runs, especially in the Sierras!

Cathedral Peak and one of the Cathedral lakes

"Towards sunset, enjoyed a fine run to camp, down the long south slopes, across ridge and ravines, gardens and avalance gaps, through the firs and chaparral, enjoying wild excitement and excess of strength, and so ends a day that will never end."

Have you ever been to the Sierra Nevadas? If so, where did you go? Did you love them as much as Mr. Muir and I do? 

7.13.2017

Looking Back: June

June is a transitional month, one of warm days and long nights. It is a month where your 5 am run is barely even in the dark. It is a month of planning days and weekends and weeks in the future.

Running: Although this was not my highest mileage week, it was a monumental one, in which I finished a 100 mile race near Bryce Canyon in Utah! In the past several months, I was starting to get a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to do it. However, in the weeks before, and definitely once I started the race, I knew I was going to see that finish line by hook or by crook. I ended up the month with 196 miles, 100 of them due to the race, and I climbed about 30,000 feet.

Reading: Due to a bit of travel as well as an increase of audio book time, I ended up reading 8 books in June. Many of them were just so-so, but there were a few standouts, such as Small Great Things, which is about racial issues, and To the Bright Edge of the World, a story about Alaskan exploration.

The Bones of Paris ***
The Aviators Wife ***
Small Great Things ****
Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? ***
To The Bright Edge of the World ****
American Sniper ***
Minding Frankie ***
Evicted ***

Travel: I feel like I was barely home in June, as I spent two weekends in Santa Cruz and one in Bryce Canyon. The Santa Cruz trips were full of visiting and walking and seaside views, while the Bryce trip was hot and sweaty and beautiful in an entirely different way. I will let a few photos do the talking for this.

Holy hot, batman! Bryce, UT (photo credit: E.V.)

Willis Creek, UT (photo credit: C.A.)

  
Fall Creek, Felton, CA


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Etc.: What else is happening? Not much! The garden is growing, but the yard is not mowing itself unfortunately, so most of my spare time has been spent just barely keeping things from looking like a hillbilly lives at my house!

Purposeful cucumbers and volunteer tomatoes -- mid June

Plums! Mid June

Tomato Jungle and volunteer squash -- Mid June

Corn, I hope. Beginning of June

Radish! Get out the salt!

Tomato Ladder, beginning of June
What did you do in June? What was your favorite book? Have you done anything new or exciting lately?

6.05.2017

Looking Back: May

May, as you may know, is my favorite month! This year, as always, it did not disappoint.

Running: In May, I ran 220 miles. This is mostly due to two races, one 100k and one 50k. Other than that, I had my highest mileage week this year, which was 73 miles. I climbed approximately 52,000 vertical feet, although my Garmin has been a bit wonky, so that is probably plus or minus 10%. I biked no miles...again! Biking fail. However, I did do about 1 - 2 x per week gardening / yard work, and I am calling that cross training!

Reading: I ended up reading 7 books, although it should have been more, as I took a long flight in May. However, I did get some "reading" done via audio book while running two races that took about 20 hours between the two of them! Usually I do not listen to music on runs, but this time, I used the time wisely! A silver lining early in the month was that all my holds at the library had really long wait times so I got some of my owned books read (in bold)! My favorites this month were The Sun is Also a Star, Stiff and Talking as Fast as I Can.

The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory (***)
Sleepwalking with Me by Mike Birbiglia (***)
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (****)
Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov (**)
The Night of the Gun by David Carr (***)
Stiff by Mary Roach (****)
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (****)

Travel: Whew! May was a whirlwind of travel. All four weekends were booked! I went to Sacramento, San Jose, hiked Mt. Diablo with the folks, flew to Minneapolis for Lisa's wedding, went to Livermore/Fremont for a race and went up to my parents house for Memorial Day. It was full of good times with good friends and loved ones!

Lisa's wedding

Marin Headlands run

Feather River Canyon

My first game of the season


What was your favorite thing about the month of May? What was your favorite book in May? Where do you normally get your books (library/own/borrow/buy)?

5.08.2017

Looking Back: April

And then it was April. With it comes the start of baseball season, the tiny curling leaves of the tomato plant and the knowledge that before you know it, summer will be here!

Running: This month should have been one of my higher ones due to upcoming long races. However, a fluke pinched nerve in my back caused over a week of rest, which threw me back a bit. In the end, total miles run ended up being about 211 with about 32,000 feet of climbing. My next race is the Quicksilver 100k and I feel a bit under-trained but will see how things go! As for biking miles, I logged a big fat zero again. Shame on me.

Reading: Lucky for my reading goals, I had over a week where I was unable to do pretty much anything, so I got a lot of reading done! In April, I read 10 books. I knocked off another book from my own shelf (in bold) and also read a few goodies to boot! I actually gave four stars to five of them, which is saying a lot for me (I almost never give five stars and don't give four very often either). In order of favorites, here is what I read last month.

The Underground Railroad ****
The Year of Yes (audio book, read by the author) ****
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ****
Love Warrior ****
Hillbilly Elegy ****
The Paris Winter (audio book) ***
Modern Romance ***
The World We Found ***
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget ***
Seven Brief Lessons of Physics ***

Travel: I spent a great weekend up at my parents house on Easter weekend, doing some snowshoeing and hiking and eating. We went snowshoeing at an old ski hill and we were the only ones out there aside from the mountain lions (we saw fresh prints but no cats) and the birds. It was a great way to get some sunshine and fresh air and exercise!

The Parentals


I also went on my semi-annual New York work trip, which was a lot of fun and another successful trip. It was a nice change from last time, when it was cold and snowy and icy and wet! It was in the 80s and I added on a couple extra days in order to spend some time with some old friends who I haven't seen in about 7 years!

The East River

Bonus: I know you are wondering....but what about the garden? Well... I can happily say that I reorganized the back yard, set up the drip system, and planted a bunch of tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, peppers, beans, beets, radishes and carrots. Unfortunately, I have a pest (slugs?) that loves vegetables as much as I do, and it has eaten everything but the tomatoes and radishes. I saved one pepper from certain death by moving it to a pot on the porch, but I think I will have to replant a lot of things. Boo hoo. Back to square one.

Meow!

What was your favorite part of April? Are you stingy or generous with your five star reviews? What is your favorite spring activity?

4.03.2017

Looking Back: March

A coworker said to me the other day, "You know March; It goes in like a lamb and out like a lion." I asked him if it wasn't the other way around though and he was adamant that it came in mild and went out wild. So I let it be. In Oakland, March started very rainy and has ended full of sunshine and wildflowers, so however the saying goes, I am loving it.

Running: In March, I ran just shy of 200 miles (298) and climbed about 33,000 feet. My favorite run was a second go at the Rim to Rim to Rim, where I ran with friends from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim and back to the South Rim. It is hard to do it in one day am I was plumb tuckered out, but it was worth it!

You can see us in the middle -- we are tiny!

Heading toward the north rim.


Reading: In March, I read the following 7 books, including three from my own collection (bolded) and one borrowed one (italic)! I still have not paid for a book since 2014 when I started my "no book buying" challenge. It has been a lot easier than I thought it would. Thank goodness for the library! My favorite book was The Paris Architect, which is about a WWII architect who builds hiding places for Jewish people while also designing armament factories for the Germans. As always, it's interesting to learn more about that what went on during the war while also being entertained at the same time.

In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison (***)
Carry on Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed (***)
The Wonder (***)
The Namesake (***)
On Beauty (***)
Heart and Soul (***)
The Paris Architect (****)

Travel: Vegas, baby! For our Grand Canyon trip, we flew into Vegas, but it's not as exciting as it sounds. After a late arrival, we went to our room in Henderson, NV (apparently the retirement area of Vegas, who knew) and stayed out until past 11 pm in a smoky bar. It made me love California and our smoke free bars, that's for sure. The next day we made the drive to the South Rim where we scoped out the canyon from the rim. The next day we did R2R2R and then on Monday we drove back to Vegas and caught our flight, with a stop at the Hoover Dam of course!

I also met up with my Mom for a weekend in Auburn, where we ate and hiked and caught up on everyone's doings. She had a rough month in February, when there was a lot of rain and she was out of power and phones for quite some time and I had a broken water tank so had been taking showers at the gym or improvising. So it was nice to get a hotel room and relax a bit, even if it was just for one night! Plus we found two new breakfast places that we loved! (See 1 here + 2 here)

Have you ever been to Vegas, baby!? What is your favorite book that you have read so far this year? Where should I go for my vacation this year (I am open to any and all suggestions)?

3.13.2017

Currently: March

I have not done one of these in a long time! However, I am "currently" procrastinating doing a few other things, so why not?

Reading:  The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Loving: The weather, working in the yard, running friends and cottage cheese and fruit.

Thinking: About getting my planter boxes finished and putting in some veggies soon! I just need to decide what!

Frustrated: About plumbing. I would rather be an electrician or a carpenter. Just don't make me work in cramped spaces with pipes or poop!

Feeling:  A little hungry still, even though I just ate a couple of hours ago!

Anticipating:  Next weekend's trip to the Grand Canyon where I will be doing a R2R2R with friends. We have heard reports of ice though, so we may not be able to complete the entire thing right now. However, there will not be very many crowds so we will be able to appreciate the beauty even more than normal!

Watching: Twin Peaks. A running friend could not believe I had not seen it so I decided to give it a go. If you aren't familiar, it's a murder mystery show from the early 90s. It's set in Washington, where my friend is from and he said that watching it is an absolute must. It's a bit quirky, but is fun so far.

Working: A lot lately. We have been extra busy, plus we are interviewing people, plus we have been short a man from time to time (and will be again this week) so it's been very go, go, go lately. However, it's still a fun challenge, not a frustrating one!

Grateful: For family. I had a fun weekend with my mom last week and a great lunch with my brother this weekend and in both cases, we had a good time catching up and chatting. There is something to be said about people who know all parts of you, especially the bad ones, and who you can be yourself around, no matter what.

Listening: To a few new podcasts in addition to the regular standbys, namely Reveal and Criminal.

Wishing: There was more time in a day. I would love an extra hour or two if possible! There are just too many fun things to do (after getting all the responsible ones done, of course).


What are you listening to? What are you anticipating? 

3.02.2017

Looking Back: February

For a short month, February was chock full of stuff! Even during the short week after Presidents' Day weekend, it seemed like we crammed seven days worth of work into four days! In addition, I spent much weekend time working in the yard/backyard and around the house, so a lot got done on all counts!

Running: I logged 183 miles in February, and climbed about 35,000 feet. My favorite run was a 42k run with a friend on his 42nd birthday. In addition, I went home to visit my parents and got to log some snowy miles in one of my favorite places!

42nd B-day 42k

Reading: In February, I read 8 books. Actually, I never finished two of them, so you may call it 6 and two halves. My favorite was When Breath Becomes Air, a story of a neurosurgical resident who gets lung cancer. It is well written and moving. I read it in one sitting. I also enjoyed, but was quite disturbed by All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, about a 20-something biker who takes an 8 year old girl with drug addict parents under his wing. It's both sweet and cringe-worthy at the same time.  Lastly, Adnan's Story, a more complete explanation of the story behind the podcast Serial, was very interesting. Books I own are in bold.

Family Reunion (* couldn't finish)
Adnan's Story (****)
Suite Francaise (***)
In the Country We Love: My Family Divided (***)
When Breath Becomes Air (*****)
Lean In (***)
The Big Green Tent (** couldn't finish)
All The Ugly and Wonderful Things (****) 

Travel: I did not travel that much in February. Aside from a trip north to see my parents, I spent a lot of time in my own backyard. Literally. I will post more photos later, but essentially I have been spending a lot of time moving rocks from one place to another! It's been great cross training!  I would say all in all I probably worked in the yard for about 4 hours a day, at least 6 days in February. Check out these guns!

Views on my Rock Creek run

What was your favorite workout, book or destination in February?