Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snow White

I had a conversation last Friday with a co-worker who said she would NEVER eat at a restaurant alone.  She would order food to go and eat it at her desk or at home.  She asked, "Do you ever eat at the restaurant alone?"  To which, I replied, "All the time!"

I guess I don't really find being alone daunting.  I recollect vacations I've taken by myself on a few occasions - taking a very long walk in Cannon Beach, Oregon, wandering the streets of Manhattan a couple of days, navigating the San Francisco grid a few times, food hunting in Berkeley, riding the cable up Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, and even tent camping in a remote island in Thailand!  My philosophy is that there will be times that there are places I want to see, things I want to do, and there will be times when, due to some circumstance or constraint, it is just realistic to not expect friends, family or better halves to always share experiences with me.  They could be experiences that they don't even want to have.  So I made my mind up long before that that will not restrain me from seeing the places I want to see, from living the life I want to live. 

There are times though, when it is reasonable to exercise caution and NOT be overly ambitious with flying solo.  One of my biggest exceptions is wandering alone in places where it would be costly to manage getting lost and stranded, especially where, due to seclusion, phones don't get signal.  I'm a novice (if that) at trekking and snowshoeing and I don't own a compass, so when opportunity presents to get out with a group (when The Dutch is out of town), I grab it. 

Guided hikes are great because you go with a knowledgeable guide who share inside information you otherwise wouldn't know or read about.  You trust that they will not get you lost and if, by some random event, there's some sort of emergency, they are usually trained in first aid.  They also carry radios to call for help when necessary.  Oftentimes, these people are volunteers so they are doing what they do out of sheer passion.  The exact kind of people I like being around.

On a recent trip to Sedona, Arizona sans The Dutch, I hiked with a group at Red Rock Canyon State Park (blog post to follow).  The sight of the blazing red rocks was amazing but it just wasn't enough for me to admire from a distance.  I wanted to be in the depths of the canyons, gawk at these natural sculptures from various peripheries.  I wasn't content to be looking at them.  I want to be in them.  Thanks to free guided hikes sponsored by the state, I was able to do just that.  

Sam, septuagenarian hiking guide extraordinaire
This weekend, I hiked Mount Rose Meadows with a group from Tahoe Rim Trail and yes, I've been on this trail before, but no two experiences are ever the same.  I met a couple of great people and it's always really cool to start conversations with strangers who get you and whom you get.  

Our guide, Sam, was 70-something who has been hiking the Sierras even before I was born.  He was not a big guy yet he possessed a silent authority.  He has hiked all 165 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail in 15 days and maybe that alone commands instant respect.  His kids live in the Bay Area and have been urging him to move in with them.  They forbid him from hiking by himself anymore because of his age.  To which, he would retort, 

"If I die hiking in the Sierras, then I would die doing what I love the most."

And there is sure plenty to love.

There she is - the Big Blue!
 After the hike, we loosely made a commitment to hike together again.  I gave good ol' Sam a hug and dashed to the igloo that was under construction when we left for the hike.  It was my first time ever inside one and I was surprised at how warm and roomy it was inside!  I watched at least four people crawl in and out but I lingered inside - just because.  The last guy to come in was a guy named Brian, who apparently was one of the architects of the igloo!  He talked a little about how it was built and how they had a false start early on because the geometry wasn't quite right.  He said that burning a candle inside could actually warm up the igloo more without melting the structure. Sound advice if I ever need it one day!

A few minutes and pictures more, but, yes, I had to eventually crawl out.  Not without a huge smile plastered on my face, though.  

It was a great day and as I write this, I encourage everyone who reads this to try new experiences on your own.  Watch a movie, go to a play, or eat at a restaurant alone.  Join a group of strangers to try something you have always wanted to.

What are you afraid of?


I LOVE this Vapur Element Anti-Bottle. It can hold .7L, is BPA-free, is dishwasher safe, and is made in the US.  Yes! No more non-biodegradable, non-reusable plastic bottles!  It's about $12 at Eddie Bauer (might cost less at other places).  When empty, you just roll it up and stash in your pocket or pack.  We already have one of these, but The Dutch has it, so I bought another one for myself.  We take it snowshoeing and skiing, but it's also perfect for Bikram.  (And actually, for the movies, too - I stashed this in my purse today - tee hee).

Ladies, to have a drama-free day outdoors, you MUST invest in good technical gear.  I speak from experience.  I am embarrassed to have thrown a tantrum like a diva in the middle of a hike because my socks were soaking wet from wearing the wrong type of boots (those boots went straight to the trash when we got home, by the way).  MSR's are great snowshoes.  The guys who work at REI only use these so I find that compelling enough to get them, too.  These have teeth on all sides, so whether you're climbing or descending, you don't have to worry about slipping.  

For clothing, I trust North Face and Columbia because their stuff have limited lifetime warranties.  I'm not an expert on these things but these are the ones I use and they have not yet failed me.  I have a Columbia jacket has this omni-heat technology and has worked amazing in sub-freezing temperatures so far - a worthwhile investment indeed.  Technical jackets, from what I have canvassed, would range from $200 and up.  I bought mine off-season and scored it for $150 with tax.  If, like me, your wardrobe isn't comprised of haute couture, this could well be more than you'd ever spent on outerwear.  What I have learned though is it really is an investment.  You use them for years, if not for an entire lifetime, and they protect you from bone chills.  For baselayers, I have started using Eddie Bauer First Ascent and they actually work great, too!

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