Wish List: See the Northern Lights

Northern lights

No brainer for the wish list, right? I almost got to go to Iceland last year before our big Europe trip, and I was hoping (even though it was summer) that we’d be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Unfortunately we chose to go a cheaper route through Brussels. Someday I’m going to have to go somewhere (probably outrageously cold) just so I can see this marvel. How amazing would that be?

Have you seen the Northern Lights? What did you think?

photo credit: Preserved Light Photography via photopin cc

Wish List: Attend Burning Man… Again

wish list: burning man

The day I got home from Burning Man, after 6 hours of driving starting at midnight.

A few years ago (2010) to be exact, my partner and I attended Burning Man. Burning Man is basically a giant weeklong festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, where upwards of 50,000 people show up to “celebrate community, self-expression, and self-reliance” (according to the Burning Man website), or “party” (according to the bros we camped next to when we attended.)

Regardless of the designation, Burning Man was one of the most awesome things I have ever done — something completely out of my element, completely different than what I do day-to-day here in “real life.” My favorite part was the art, which was everywhere — giant, fire-breathing sculptures (with no fences, assuming you would be smart enough to stay out of the flames, which was kind of a nice change of pace from the overly warning-label obsessed society we have today), humans who’ve decorated themselves as art, as well as camps that dedicated themselves around a theme (giant climb-y sculptures, a full restaurant, and thousands more.)

I’ve wanted to attend Burning Man since High School, when my eccentric and lovable world history teacher would wax poetic about his years going to Burning Man, but even then (in the year 2000), ranting how it had “changed”, and grown into a pop-culture event and that he was no longer attending.

14 years later, it’s at least twice as big as it was in 2000, and even more mainstream. My Facebook posts this year were filled with my friends talking about getting tickets. Every September after the event, friends upload scores of photos to Facebook to show off their time at Burning Man — something I completely avoided doing when I was there (no electronics, tried to stay in the moment, and kept my experience private), and I will admit to feeling annoyed at friends bragging about their experience publicly.

Those annoyances aside, I’ve wanted to go again — my first time, I spent a lot of my visit feeling unsure and worried since I didn’t know what to expect, and I hope that going a second time, I’ll be able to relax, enjoy, and experience the event even more. No time like the present, right? Except that the tickets are very expensive and my wallet is fairly empty — so my partner and I have applied to financial need tickets, and will leave it up to the fates whether we go this year. Unfortunately normal tickets are completely sold out at this point.

So: Burning Man, wish-listed for 2014 but will wait to 2015 if I need to.

Wish List: Rafting Guide School

Wish List: Rafting

I’ve mentioned before how I almost quit everything to become a rafting guide. Then computers happen (or at least, didn’t go away), I launched my startup WeddingLovely, and ended up not going to New Zealand to become a rafting instructor and travel for the rest of my life.

Sigh.

Not that I regret my current path — working for yourself on your own time is a pretty sweet deal — but I do wish I spent more time outdoors, especially rafting. There’s something about the combination of slow, relaxing floating with adrenaline-filled rapids. Unfortunately, it’s so expensive to go often (at least, for a cheapo like me). However, I might have found a solution.

The rafting company I used for my very first rafting trip has a one week rafting school. Unfortunately not three months like the New Zealand option I was considering, but one week of dedicated rafting might get this bug out of my system — or at least, tamp it down a bit.

Fees are $675 + 8% river use fee (so, ~$729), which doesn’t seem that bad. Unfortunately I don’t know much about other rafting companies in the Sacramento area, so I’m not sure if this is a good price or if it’s a good guide school. All I know is that my original rafting guide said she loved it and highly recommended Mariah, and everyone seemed happy.

So, May 2014: rafting guide school. Not to go into guiding after, but just so I get a week of rafting out of my system, and a potential side career for summers in the future.

Thoughts? Recommendations? Cheers of encouragement? Leave them in the comments!

Wish List: Learn to Surf in Costa Rica

Wish List: Learn to Surf in Costa Rica

I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, and I easily could — I live in San Jose, and it’s a small hop, skip, and jump over to Santa Cruz or up to coast to Mavericks. However… the Pacific is freezing. And I could don a huge wetsuit to surf, but wouldn’t it just be better to learn how to surf in warm waters?

As reminded by this Reddit thread, I’ve had a hankering to go to Costa Rica and learn to surf there for years now. Ideally, I’d like to go for three weeks, to a camp that specialized in surfing as well as yoga. Perhaps some Costa Rica exploring activities during the day as well.

Hopefully within a year I’ll be surfing in Costa Rica!

Happy New Year! 2014 Plans & Resolutions

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All in all, 2013 was a rather sucky year for outdoorsy stuff — I was so overwhelmed with things at my startup, WeddingLovely, that I pretty much stayed home and worked all year long (though, it was a great year for traveling, I can’t forget my three month trip through Europe.)

I started this blog in order to encourage me to go outside a bit more, and 2014 will hopefully be a big year for new outside adventures.

Resolutions:

  • Repeating myself: spend more time outdoors! Hiking, biking, climbing, etc.
  • Lose weight and get in shape (of course, right?) While I’m able to do most things I want to do, I’m still ridiculously out of shape. I can hold a plank for maybe 45 seconds. My shoulders and upper back are weak enough that I can’t hold a full plank (arms extended) for a minute. I have enough endurance to climb mountains, but not continuous enough that I don’t need to take breaks all the time.
  • Learn new skills — surfing, snorkling (though these two I might want to wait until I’m in an area with warmer waters, thanks Pacific), or something else.

Plans:

  • Climb Shasta and actually summit. 
  • Take a week long rafting guide course. I love rafting and almost quit everything to become a rafting guide a few years ago. While I don’t want to quit everything this time around, I do want to spend a week just rafting and learning how to guide — just in case.
  • Do the entire John Muir Trail. 2-4 weeks of continuous hiking. Something I’ve wanted to do for years too.
  • Climb Half Dome again, either with the JMT trip or on its own.
  • Maybe, maybe do a road trip this year to visit family in Ohio, as well as seeing Zion National Park, Arches National Park, and Boulder, CO on the way (and maybe Banff on the way back.)

I’m hoping that 2014 will be a huge outdoorsy year for me! What are your plans? Anything fun scheduled for 2014?

Goal for 2014: Summit Mt. Shasta

Mount Shasta

In 2009 (so long ago!) I attempted to summit Mt. Shasta, one of California’s tallest mountains and a fourteener at 14,180 feet. Unfortunately, we didn’t top out — several things didn’t go as planned (more on that in a future post), and I ended up turning around after making it over Red Banks.

Goal is to reattempt climbing Shasta this year between late May and early June. This is the best time of year since it’s ideal to have a good amount of snow. Once it melts, you’re hiking up loose scree, which is a lot more dangerous and a lot more annoying than climbing on snow and ice with crampons.

There are no paths — it’s literally just a straight climb up the mountain (of course, going from one landmark to another.)

The biggest issue I have at this moment is not having a definite partner for the climb. This isn’t something I’d want to do alone due to the small amount of potential danger. It’s honestly a little tough finding others who are mountaineering minded (since it’s not the most comfortable experience, sleeping on the snow and all.

Potential issues and problems

In terms of danger, it’s more than the average hike, but not much more. The route I plan to take is Avalanche Gulch, which has almost technical pieces.

  • Climbing with crampons is potentially dangerous if you lose your footing and aren’t able to self-arrest using the ice-axe. If you fall and end up going head over feet, there is a real possibility of major injury (you know, sharp blades on your feet and all that can catch on ice in bad positions, or worse, on yourself). When we were at Helen Lake last time, some other climber decided to glissade, didn’t take his crampons off, and we watched him go head over feet about 100 feet into camp. Rangers, were astonished he escaped injury.
  • There is a very small potential for ice climbing without harnesses if the Thumb Rock pass is closed. If it warms up too much, the crevasse opens up and it’s recommended to avoid that route and go up one of the climneys at the top of Red Banks. Last time we went up the first climney, so we had to climb (without ropes or harnesses) about seven feet of ice using our ice-axes and crampons. The ice also wasn’t vertical, but still a little scary — if you lost your footing, you could fall backwards off the mountain. I honestly didn’t find it that bad at the time, but my partner had some issues.
  • Not danger, but uncomfortableness: being in the snow is no picnic. Last time, the snow getting to camp #1 (Horse Camp) was deep so we post-holed our way there, which takes a ton of energy. We ended up post-holing on the way back down the mountain as well (pro-tip: avoid hiking in the afternoon in snow!) Not to mention how uncomfortable sleeping in the snow is. I personally sleep very cold normally when hiking, and night #1 I didn’t sleep at all. I think I slept the night before summiting just because I was so exhausted.
  • TMI alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. My bowels hate pooping anywhere there isn’t a toilet, and there are definitely no toilets on the mountain. There were issues. More on this on my recap (oh joy, right?)
  • Altitude sickness (HAPE and HACE) can definitely happen. I’m hoping to mitigate these risks by taking Diamox, arriving in Shasta City early, and using both Base Camps (whereas most go straight to Helen Lake and only spend one night on the mountain.)

Potential awesomeness

  • Summiting a mountain!
  • A very physical effort. I love it.
  • Some of the most amazing and beautiful views I have ever seen in my life.

And yes, those potential awesomeness reasons definitely make it worth it.

First 2014 Goal: Finally summit Mount Shasta.

Photo credit: Jeremy Gillick

Wish List: GORUCK Challenge

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On my wish list, also why I’m insane.

The Challenge is a 9-13 hour team event in which a Special Forces veteran — called a Cadre — leads you on a 15-20 mile “guided tour” of your city. It begins at night and runs until the morning. Along the way, you take part in military-inspired challenges and “missions,” which includes doing some basic training calisthenics, taking a little swim, carrying logs (and each other), and a lot of marching. Oh, and you do it all while wearing a backpack filled with 30 to 40 pounds of bricks and other equipment. They tell you to bring $20 for a taxi – if you can’t go on, you have to call one to pick you up.

I would LOVE to participate in something like that, nevermind that I’m a chick and nowhere near in shape to actually survive it. When I was in High School, I considered going into the armed forces and honestly the idea of boot camp and physical training was really, really exciting. Again, I turned into a fat lump of a computer programmer instead (go me!) but someday (hopefully within the next five years), I hope I could get myself in shape enough to complete one of these events.

Again, all the photos I can find of the event are all dudes, which makes me want to do it more.

Have I mentioned I can’t even do a pull-up yet?

Yeesh.

In any case — wish-listed.

Wish List: Huashan Cliffside Path

really want to do this trail. China has never been high on my list of places to go (due to pollution and corruption), but I can’t deny there are some really potentially amazing places to visit.

Thankfully I’m okay with heights as long as I have a secure harness — I climbed Half Dome a couple years ago and was one of the only people who had a harness for the cables (no regrets!), and when I rappelled for the first time, my guide was impressed with the speed I flung myself over the edge once I was sure that my harness was properly secured. So while the person in the video isn’t using a harness (not very smart, in my opinion), I feel that I would pretty confident on that trail if I did have one.