I’ve always loved the mountains. I also can’t get enough of a good view. There is something so majestic and regal about being on a snowy peak with weather happening all around, or on some giant mountain watching the clouds and the winds move. I grew up skiing in Lake Tahoe and fell in love with the cold and snow through those childhood memories of being at the summit of squaw in a blizzard and waking up at 6 to get to the ski area at about 7:30. I have very vivid memories of racing my littlest sister down the mountain.
Climbing seems to be the other half of all of those downhill sports. It is very difficult. Bouldering is especially challenging for me because it forces me to maintain core tension and that requires being thinner. Luckily, I practice lots of yoga so losing weight isn’t a huge deal, but it also forces a fairly strict diet to maintain a high ratio of strength to weight.
Check out this fun video I made of a climb that Ronnie invited me to out in Sugar Loaf along 50 towards South Lake Tahoe.
This winter I have some goals. The first is to lose a bunch of weight. I don’t weigh myself on a scale, so its definitely more of a certain level feeling good. Climbing is obviously much easier when you weigh less.
I am also looking to get into avalanche training and awareness in the high mountains. That means spending some time up in Alaska or Canada. I’d also really like to get that first time of ice climbing in. Being an avid skier, I also will want to learn some back country skiing techniques, but for now I am content to try to be as safe as possible in the level of difficulty that I am in. Tahoe is obviously going to be a great place to learn things this winter; the snowfall is epic right now. I can’t wait to get back into woods that look like the picture to the right.
I took the photo that’s below at the Quarry Trail in Auburn a couple of weeks ago.
Learning Technique at Pipeworks
This year I have been thrilled to start climbing almost daily, a few friends got me going and I’ve been enjoying all the different kinds of climbing on rock. I am loving every second of sports climbing and have led some pretty fun routes, even a 5.10! Its a very difficult sport but about a year in I am starting to feel my fingers develop more strength and my arms are getting used to holding my weight when I am upside down. Bouldering has gotten to be kind of a passion of mine.
The gym I go to is in Sacramento, so normally I just go after work. It makes for a nice way to destress after doing a lot of manual labor. Climbing has totally changed up my workout routines and yoga as well. Ashtanga becomes a lot more useful when climbing because you can create the body tension necessary to do dynamic moves.
There are a few super important muscles used for climbing, mostly in the forearms, but also in the shoulders, core, legs and hips. The digitorum profundus is specifically very useful to strengthen for the grip strength necessary for climbing. That’s why hang boards are so popular, this one muscle group can get extremely strong!
It’s also crazy how important footwork becomes for higher levels of climbing. So I’ve been putting together strength workouts to get back into the best shape that I can to climb some big mountains.
This past year, I did some fun stuff. I got out to Shasta, Cody, Yellowstone, Hiked up Mount Whitney, spend 3 days in Yosemite in the Buena Vista Crest, and got up to Tahoe a lot to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Here are some of my favorite pictures from hiking this year, there are most definitely some good ones in there!
When I first arrived in Cody, Wyoming I was hoping that I would be able to spend about a week in Yellowstone National Park backpacking through the wilderness. I did some research before on bear safety and precautions and had spent a good amount of time and money gearing up and preparing.
The idea was to start learning how to cope with snow while camping. Also to have my longest backpacking adventure yet. Though I didn’t get the mild snowy weather I was hoping for, I did get quite a challenging adventure logistically and mentally.
Every night was very different, ranging from anxiety about bear activity, to lack of sleep due to Elk and Moose trumpeting, to sleeping soundly in Yellowstone’s very fun and beautiful campgrounds of which the Madison area was my favorite.
Another big goal was to see lots of wildlife while staying safe. Yellowstone has the highest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 United States (Alaska has more) and I am a large animal enthusiast. It turned out to be a great time and I really started to get the hang of being out there about 5 days into the adventure.
The second day in Cody, I made a friend named Josh, who I met at Sunlight Sports on the Main Street Sheridan Avenue. Josh is becoming a really good climber and we got another chance to climb after this and also went bouldering with some local dudes that were super talented on the local bouldering routes up on Cedar Mountain. We went sports climbing a day later and I asked him if he could give me a ride to the park for some gas money. He agreed, so I found a small storage unit and put all of the climbing gear and things that I didn’t think that I would need backing into it. Tuesday morning I headed into the park with Josh as my driver.
I later sent a 5.10c on lead and am super psyched on it even though I topped out like a beached whale cause my arms had literally no strength left in them at the top.
Part 1 – Acclimatizing to Living in Nature
Day 1 – Into the park and the Yellowstone Lake Backwoods
Josh dropped me off at about 9am at the East Entrance to Yellowstone State Park. I paid the $20 for personal entry to the park and started walking. The first day was spent mostly hoofing it alongside the road. Yellowstone isn’t exactly the most pedestrian friendly place in the world and focuses far more on road maintenance than keeping up its trails. However, this setup does allow for easy and effectively managed wildlife viewing, so I definitely have mixed feelings about it. I saw my first Grizzly bear about 3 hours into the first day, at about 11:30am whilst walking along the road. A photographer up ahead of me had a massive camera and we chatted for about 30 minutes about the bear’s activity. The photographer was full of useful information and had followed the bear the previous season, as well as earlier in the week. It was a very interesting beginning to a very long day.
After 15 miles or so of hiking it along the road and having people waving at me from both directions, I left the road from the East Entrance. At about 3:30 (plenty of daylight to get to the lake, or so I thought…) I followed the Sylvan River down into the back country where I enjoyed the nature far more than the vehicles (many of them were RVs). I found this fascinating sulfur spring pouring into the river and decided to pump my water far upstream from it, where the water was much clearer. I wasn’t and still am not sure if my filter would be effective against such a smelly and toxic looking thermophile deposit, but it seemed to do fine with the trace amounts that must have been in the river. I continued down stream, leaving the river at points because the back country travel was so difficult. I was bush-whacking over large and stacked pine trees and began to see lots of animal sign, scat and tracks. I knew to make noise and avoid being smelled and I had all of my bear equipment at the ready, but I still became very fearful of animal activity and interest in me as the day progressed. I really felt that an animal might get curious and approach me. But the sun was going down the horizon and it was getting super cold. I setup my pack and bear canister far away from my site and waited to cook until the following day to stay hidden from the bear’s incredible sense of smell. Additionally, the sulfur deposits leeching into the river would protect against something smelling me or my pack. I settled down into the hardest night of sleep while in the park, worried that a bear might smell and/or interested in my campsite.
I had a hard time sleeping that night, but my dreams were incredible. It probably took me 1-3 hours to get to sleep each night and this was for sure the longest it took me whilst in the park. My first dream was about a bear attacking me, jumping on my back while I was in my tent. Surprisingly, this put me at ease, allowing me to find some peace with where I was and the situation. I let go. The night passed and I awoke to a hard frost, but no signs of animal activity near me. I had made the mistake of leaving all of my sweaty clothing out (away from my tent) and it had all frozen over. Next time I would keep my wet clothes in my tent to avoid that situation happening again. I waited for the sun to rise above the ridge-line of the valley that I had slept in and warmed up with my gloves and some backpacker’s pantry oatmeal for breakfast as well as the Instant Coffee I bought from Pour Choice in Auburn, CA for this exact adventure.
Day 2 – Getting to Yellowstone Lake and Hitching my First Ride
The morning of the first was by far the hardest hiking I had to do. Two miles took me two hours and it took 5 to get to the lake. I attempted to follow the Sylvan river, but it was extremely slow going due to the downed trees, most likely from the flooding earlier in the season. Luckily my trekking poles came in very handy to effectively help me to cross over many of the larger stacked trees, but I still had to find my way through the maze. Sometimes I had to literally go backwards a bunch and find a new path forward. It took all morning and just a bit of the afternoon to reach the lake, which I had planned on staying at the first night.
My first view of the lake was spectacular, both in feeling and beauty. My stress levels diminished quite rapidly as I soaked my worn out feet in the lake, which were being gradually destroyed by my new Arc’teryx Acrux mountaineering boots that were not yet broken in. And I realized I had forgotten my favorite shoes, my Choco’s sandals, in my temporary storage unit back in Cody. I swam a bit in the icy cold water and then continued barefoot up to the road, where there was signage and all kinds of warning about bear activity in the area. I knew I was pretty lucky not to have encountered any wildlife other than squirrels and birds so far so I decided to recuperate and plan the next part of my trip outside of the lake area that I had originally planned to stay in for the duration of my backpacking trip to Yellowstone.
I hiked up to Sedge Bay and Steamboat Point picnic areas and met a really friendly Canadian couple who were traveling through the park with their car (like a normal person would). I asked for a ride and they graciously offered to bring me north, to Canyon Junction where they were staying at the expensive and beautiful Canyon Lodge.
We traveled for a few hours and roamed around the park, seeing Bison, checking out geysers, and learning about the conservation efforts of the park. I pretty much just went along with whatever they wanted to do, happy to not be alone in back country any longer. All the time we spent seeing the sights, I was wondering where I would stay the following night. At this point I learned that its really not allowed to just stay in the back country (even though I had previously signed up for a back country permit) and that you were supposed to stay in specific campgrounds throughout the park. But due to the off-season closures, I had a terribly hard time finding rangers to give me advice or any sort of guideance.
Once we arrived at Canyon Village, I talked to the very nice, however uninformative receptionist at the hotel, who explained that only one campground was really still open (actually there were two) and that it was on the Western end of the park, the Madison campgrounds. I was wary of staying in the back country for another night and didn’t have any idea of how I could get there, especially at the late hour that it was, around 6 o’clock. When I’m backpacking I definitely prefer to have my tent setup before dark. And Canyon Village had campgrounds, although they were closed for the season, even though the weather was still very agreeable. I got a hot plate for dinner, rice and chicken and veggies and then followed the Canyon Village road to the closed campground area.
I decided to stay just off the campgrounds in the forest around some trees that looked very healthy. I slept really well that night, but the dreams were still extremely vivid. And I could hear wolves and coyotes howling that night, which made for some interesting thoughts. Overall one of my good nights overall, getting to have a hot meal and feeling safe my camping area.
Day 3 – The Wild Greeble Lake
I woke up on the third day to the cold. The mornings were definitely a big temperature difference from the nights, so I would layer up in the mornings and then take off clothes as I started to sweat, doing my best to avoid moisture buildup in any of the layers.
I had studied a back country path out to the Cascade and Greeble Lake area so I got on the road early to find the trail. I got to the trailhead and began towards the lake, an easy hike for about 3 miles. Once I got there, the views were magnificent; this was the type of camping and backpacking that I had been looking for in the park. I passed a back country campground that allowed for fires and started to get super psyched to spend the night out there. I met three hikers along the trail and we chatted a bit about bear safety, they seemed to be very interested in my larger backpack so I was happy to chat and tell them about what I was doing out there.
I found an open site on Greeble Lake (some were closed due to wildlife activity) and setup my tent. It was only about 4pm so I went for a swim in the icy lake and got a fire going, cooked some dinner (actually my least favorite meal, New England corn chowder) and dried off some of my clothes, still wet from the first night’s hard frost.
Pretty much as soon as the Sun went down, I heard loud trumpeting right next to my tent. And then swimming. The elk were for sure going out into the lake to swim and several of them were calling for mates. It was actually quite symphonic, they were beautifully calling out in the night and the moon was pretty full so I’m sure those elk were having the time of their lives out in the lake. Partially through the night, I heard a more distinctly large and deep animal trumpeting sound, that was more chaotic and louder. I’m pretty sure this was a moose, cause it came back to an area near my tent and started making tons of noise. I didn’t sleep so well that night, but it was so fantastic that I didn’t mind the next day. The dreams I had that night were the most vivid of the whole trip.
Day 4 – Arriving in Norris and Madison
The next day I awoke to no animal movement except for the little mallards on the lake. I woke up a bit later to get the sleep I knew I needed and to let the Sun warm up the fog from the lake. I pumped water, ate some breakfast and got on my way.
I passed Wolf and Ice Lake fairly early in the day and got out to Norris, where my trail disappeared into a giant meadow, with no landmarks in sight. I was completely lost for about an hour and heading into the direction I knew the road would be in. I trudged through the thick sedge grass in the meadow and followed power lines out to the road at Norris and the main road. Once I was on the road I decided to check out the Geyser basin. It did not disappoint, Norris has the most dynamic thermal activity in the park and is constantly changing. I spent about an hour exploring there, ate a little, then began to walk down the road to the Madison Campground.
At this point my feet were pretty destroyed, it was the first time I had worn my boots and I didn’t have a send pair of shoes to trade out. I was moving too slowly to get to Madison before nightfall so I decided to throw up my thumb and try to get my second ride of the trip. Probably 200 cars passed me before a truck stopped pretty far ahead, it looked like the guy who stopped was reorganizing his trunk space. I confirmed that he was going to give me a ride and a feeling of relief washed over me.
The next 15 miles took about 20 minutes rather than a whole day. Nate and his family of four, two younger boys, were my miracle that day, giving me lots of snacks and food to continue on with my back country adventure. They had previously traveled around Shoshone Lake and I figured that would be a good place to spend a night or two.
I got into the campground, tired and hungry and went to the local store to buy as much food as I could eat that night, including bacon, instant noodles, and BBQ style kettle chips.
I was getting my fire setup to cook the bacon when my Irish neighbors came over with some Bourbon whiskey to share!
These two gentlemen were from Ireland doing the continental divide trail on bike and were also looking to take a day and rest (I had covered quite a lot of distance in the past 3 days and needed to rest my feet from the heavy boots). We became friends quickly and began to tell of our lives back home, Tommy was a poet and Dermot, well I’m not too sure about Dermot’s story but he had traveled a lot and continued to love living in Ireland. We decided that the following day we would go fishing and take it easy at the campground, as it was one of the few places with accessible food. The rest of the park seemed to be completely shut-down for the season.
Day 5 – Fishing in Madison
I slept like a little baby that night, the bourbon kept me plenty warm and I was very happy to have a couple of friends to share time with. Tommy and I woke up late and went out to the river to fly fish and we spent the day exploring different flies and trying to entice the fish to our reel to no avail. Tommy had previously gotten his fishing license and I was happy to learn all about the conservation efforts for the local species of cutthroat trout. In fact, if you catch a bass in Yellowstone you are required to kill it. They are very intelligent about how they want to preserve native species in the park, I recommend checking out the rules simply because they are so interesting.
We came back to camp and had a couple of beers together and cooked some more bacon, I was definitely trying to eat as much fat as I could over those two days in Madison. And again I went to sleep a happy camper.
Part 2: Mental Acclimatization
Day 6 – Faerie Falls
The next day I woke up and packed up all my things, ready to try taping up my toes to keep them from forming more blisters from my boots. It worked out okay, but the first part of that day was still extremely difficult. The pain in my feet just didn’t seem to alleviate for any reason, no matter how I changed my walking technique. Eventually I found that stepping with my heels first was the only way to keep my toes from exploding with pain. I would use this type of walking technique for the rest of the trip, which definitely slowed down my pace.
The Madison River area turned out to be one of my absolute favorite places in the park. It was beautiful, everyone was friendly, and the fishing was really good. I could see myself going back during the summer months to stay for a couple of week and just follow the river and fish.
I got to following the Firehole River in the morning, which drains south from the Madison Junction. There was a beautiful waterfall feature as well as massive cascades, so I spent some time just following the water and ate a solid lunch sandwich from the Madison Campground area.
I got back onto the trail from the fountain flat drive where I saw herds of buffalo roaming around the Western side of the park. They seem to love the thermal features, even when it is hot out. Whilst on the trail, I saw a buffalo that was really close, but seemed to pay no mind to me. I knew these were the most dangerous animals in the park so I kept as much distances as I could between myself and these absolute units of pure muscle.
Further down the Faerie Falls trail, which was spectacular, a group of about 4 bison herded together and were about 130 yards away from me. One of the bison stared me down from the side of his eye, looking at me like I was a wolf or some other predator. It stomped its hooves at me and began to paw the ground towards me. I hunched my shoulders and looked away to show that I wasn’t a threat and simply. continued along the trail. Another bison stepped in between myself and the aggro male, probably a female calming her mate, and I simply walk away into the distance.
I walked a fair distance to the Faerie Falls waterfall, which is so beautiful, and met German couple who were celebrating their halfway point through medical school. Their English was very good and we got along great until I split from the trail to head to my campsite for that night. I slept in the forest that night, entranced by the beauty I had been able to enjoy that day.
Day 7 – The end of the Faerie Trails and Old Faithful
I woke up to the sounds of baby birds and squirrels in the trees. Packed up camp and got ready for the next leg of my adventure. I was just starting to run low on food and gas so I knew that I would have to get to a store soon. I left the forest campground and headed back into the plains, where there were lots of tourists exploring the thermal features just north of Old Faithful.
I enjoyed walking along the decks by all kinds of amazingly unique natural wonders heading down to the national monument that I had visited once before with my friends from college. I got into the visitor area and talked with the rangers about where the southward back country campsites were and got a fishing permit and fly fishing rod to go out and have some fun in the rivers and lakes. I was running out of butane so I also grabbed some gas and bought a few food items, but they didn’t have any of the freeze dried meals that I knew I would need in the back country. I also had my first cheeseburger of the trip, which was just ok. I get spoiled by the incredibly good food in California.
I continued out of the highly trafficked area to get back into the back country and took the Howard Eaton trail down to the first back country campsite along the Firehole River, which had lots of thermal activity. I decided against a fire that night and setup my camp site as the sun dropped below the horizon. I was ready to get back into the sticks and see some more wildlife and nature and beautiful unique thermal features that Yellowstone is known for.
Day 8 – Shoshone Lake 1
I woke up a little late as I usually like to when its really cold out and packed up all of my things and made breakfast, which was usually instant coffee and a backpacker meal. I realized I only had one breakfast left and I cursed myself for not getting more food at Old Faithful. I had been too focused on getting fishing going for myself and idealizing about catching and eating a fish while I was out. I got going onto the trail heading south to Shoshone lake and figured I would just go as far as I could.
My feet were finally feeling a lot better; I had bought moleskins, Neosporin, and blister medic kits at Old Faithful so I was completely ready to start experimenting with the optimal way to keep my feet from re-blistering. I walked along the Shoshone Lake trail for a long time until reaching the area that forks north. I surveyed several campground that didn’t allow for a fire, which greatly disappointed me because I was hoping to catch and cook a lake trout!
I continued on for about 15 miles that day which I was very happy with due to the state of my feet. I got to the northern campsites of the lake at dusk and setup my tent and 0 degree sleeping bag and that night I slept great. I was used to the trumpeting elk and got through the whole night without waking up too much. There were lots of sounds throughout the night, but I think I just got really used to them.
Day 9 – Shoshone Lake 2
I woke up happy and ready to start fishing, I had setup my pole the night before was stoked to get to lake fishing. However, in Old Faithful I purchased a fly fishing rod which is definitely used to running water and not the still water of a lake. I fished for about 2 hours, took a desperately needed bath and pumped water to get ready for another day of walking, all day long.
I got about a half a mile further along the trail when I discovered a couple of park rangers that were assessing the back country campsites along Shoshone Lake. I stopped to talk to get as much information about the area as I could and was told that Lewis Lake Campground was still open and that there was a store down there. I was stoked! I needed to get more food and it would be so nice to be around other people again; I thought maybe Tommy and Dermot would still be there, as they had planned for two nights camping in Lewis Lake…maybe they would stay for a third?
I headed down the Delacy Creek Trail by the river and made excellent time heading down to Lewis Lake. I had started the day late due to fishing and bathing so I hadn’t met the rangers until about noon. I got to the DogsHead Trailhead and went east until the road, where I walked down to Lewis Lake Campground.
I got to the ranger station and they had several reserved, but unused, campgrounds. I guess there are some reserved for hikers and bikers there, but she sent me to a regular campground that can house up to 6 people. But there was no store! And no way of getting more food for that matter. I was pissed! Both at myself for listening to the rangers and at the campground for not having at least granola or chocolate bars to sell. It just seemed so silly to me to have a remote campground that didn’t sell food.
I was down to two back country meals, Mushroom Stroganoff (which is delicious, highly recommend) and Green Curry. Sleep that night came easily, but with the stress of knowing that the time had come to leave the park. I had exhausted my resources and my mental energy and I was ready to head back out to Cody. And I knew that getting out of the park, I would need as much luck as I could get.
Day 10 – Lewis Campground and Exiting Yellowstone Park
In the morning I woke up rather early, I was planning on fishing again to see if I couldn’t catch something awesome to keep me fed for another day. I packed up my stuff and headed to the restroom where I met a guy named John, who was traveling through the area with a supped up Jeep. We chatted for a minute (I let him use the bathroom first because I was in no rush) and I learned that he was from Sacramento! I told him about my situation, how I had arrived at the campground to find no store and no way of buying more food and he took me back to his camp site and fed me!
John and his wife (whose name I do not remember) was literally one of the nicest people I have ever met. They made me hash browns, eggs, and bacon and we enjoyed stories about their own backpacking trips through Desolation Wilderness, an area just outside of Lake Tahoe that I also love to spend time in. They also got me some backpacker meals and snacks to take with me, for which I will always be grateful. What an amazing twist of events from the night before! I asked John if he wouldn’t mind giving me a drive to West Thumb and he happily took me to the gas station there, which was only open for gas.
I went to the ranger station in West thumb to see about additional campsites, but they were all at the southern end of Yellowstone Lake, pretty far into the back country. However I still reserved a campsite for that night, just in case I couldn’t find a ride out of the park to Cody, I might as well have a decent place to sleep that wasn’t off the trail.
I got out of West Thumb after checking out the geysers, which in my opinion weren’t even close to as interested as the Norris Geyser Basin or the area north of Old Faithful and managed to hitch a ride to fishing bridge with a Mexican dude that lives in San Francisco. He was super nice and gave me a Blue Moon on the road, and we chatted about how great the wilderness was.
I continued down the road from fishing bridge and kept my thumb up, hoping that someone heading to Cody, WY wouldn’t mind picking me up. About 20 minutes later, Allen (same name as my dad, different spelling though) who is a Scottish man living in New Zealand and Perth, Australia picked me up. We drove about 10 minutes just talking when we saw a commotion on the side of the road.
There were two bears up on the side of a mountain foraging for food with a huge crowd of people watching them and taking pictures of their every move. The bears seemed not to care at all and rangers were watching the people very closely to make sure they didn’t do anything stupid.
I had a good chat with two of the rangers about the bears and how they manage them and apparently there is a little less than one bear attack a year, which in my opinion is really good. I guess there were 3 bison attacks earlier this year from people getting too close. Anyways, Allen and I got some great photos of the bears and then continued on our way back to Cody, where we had a couple of drinks. Then Allan took me to the end of the South Fork Road where the water ice forms that I came to Cody to watch and we marveled at the beautiful, but barren mountains. I really hope I get to see some of those infamous south fork pillars form this year, but I won’t see them on this trip due to the unusually hot October weather. Allan will always have my gratitude for taking me about 100 miles out of the park, he was a really fun and nice guy to hang out with for a day.
This concludes my journey through Yellowstone. Huge shouts out to the people that helped me to get from place to place, I definitely would have suffered a lot more without them! John, Allan, Tommy, Dermot, Crissy, Terri, Isabelle, and Alex, and of course Josh, I really really appreciate your kindness and it will not go forgotten.
Congratulations to the newly weds Aislinn and Roy Brown!
I was in Big Sky country, aka Montana a few weeks ago to celebrate one of my best friend’s wedding. Aislinn is from Alaska, I’m not exactly sure where, but she talked a lot about Juneau so for the sake of this article, we’re just gonna say she’s from Alaska. We went to Gonzaga together and then L’institute Catholique in Paris where we both studied French for 9 months.
The Adventure Crew in France
The whole group of Gonzaga students in Paris got pretty close and went through a lot of very interesting adventures as we traveled through Europe together (there were 13 of us). This included some trips through the rest of Europe, both organized by the school and by ourselves so we got some good chances to travel and see the world. We also became friends with a lot of foreigners, mostly British folk because of the lack of language barrier.
College ended after another year back in good ol’ Spokane, Washington and Aislinn went to law school after. But she visited me in Boston with Nathalie and Molly and Brian and I got a chance to visit her and meet Roy in DC during her second year. Molly and Brian were part of the Gonzaga in Paris group and Natalie stayed at the same foyer as Aislinn and Molly. I think Natalie was doing an internship at the time, but I kinda forget.
Into the Treasure State
A bunch of us from the Paris group headed up to the wedding in Montana, including Anna and Kelly/Kelly’s fiancé Greg. Molly and Nathalie met me at the Missoula airport and we all hitched a ride with Kelly down over to Helena, where we had an AirBnb.
This is one of the few weddings I’ve ever been to (I think maybe 5 so far?) and I was pretty stoked to spend some quality time with my best friends from college. Before I knew it, the wedding ceremony was over and we were on a bus out into the middle of nowhere for the reception, where I got my hair cut (I’d been growing it for 5 years) and spilled wine on my shirt within 5 minutes of getting my first glass (I hadn’t even taken a sip yet!).
The wedding reception was super fun, but I get tired really early nowadays so I was basically passed out at midnight and on the bus back to the AirBnb. Fell asleep around 2, on the floor (I like to sleep on the floor for my back).
I haven’t been able to travel like this in quite a while, so I’m very grateful to be able to see a new places and fly on a couple of planes. There’s nothing quite like spending time staring out at the clouds and the land from an airplane, or seeing a new landscape that you’ve never seen before from a car. Montana was beautiful and the name ‘Big Sky” is definitely appropriate for the area that we stayed in about an hour north of Yellowstone.
Nothing to do for a Little Time
I got a little break from having to do anything. It was much needed for my yoga instruction, probably even healthier for my yoga practice and then probably was most essential for my landscaping work. Not having to dig any holes for a week was really nice. I got to recharge my batteries and get ready for more work! And everyone needs a little break from reality sometimes 🙂
I got a chance to see some wildlife during the trip, including some red-tailed hawks, a golden eagle, and some deer (so far) like 3 bison and a moose and her daughter. The flowing River outside of the Rainbow Ranch in Big Sky was breathtaking and getting a great view of it from the room is definitely a first! No bears or anything ridiculous either, which was nice.
Good Food and Good Company
We did a decent amount of hiking and got to eat a lot of midwestern comfort food, on Monday the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill and a pretty fancy last night at Horn and Cantle. Wednesday I spent the day flying back into town. Got to hang out with Nathalie until I left and got back around 9 o’clock. I think we left the hotel at 8:30am.
So it’s definitely not easy to travel to Montana, its quite a good distance away, but the nature and less populated spaces made it really easygoing and picturesque.
I am a yoga teacher. This past weekend I taught seven yoga classes. Nine if you include Thursday and three of them were on Saturday. By the end of the class I was a bit delirious; my mind blurred all three class sequences together and couldn’t even remember what we had done so far in the class. I did my best, no doubt, but I was definitely pushing my limits in a lot of ways. It felt great.
Since returning to the states I have been looking for as much work teaching yoga as I can find. Mostly this has amounted to substituting classes for other instructors that are busy or sick or whatever. I think its time to see how much I really like teaching yoga and to push my boundaries to be as flexible as possible.
Teaching Intense Yoga
I prefer teaching yoga at a high level of intensity in my yoga classes; I believe this lends itself to self-discovery and stress releases during the yoga class, especially in the integrative poses of inversions and savasana.
I am teaching all levels classes, which offers a particular set of challenges for an instructor, most notably making the stretches available to the vast majority of the room (sometimes it is inevitable that a stretch isn’t possible, especially with the elderly). So this requires explaining variations, giving people alternate stretches and being fully present in the room. Ideally, each person can spend the entire class finding their own personal focal areas to stretch. The outline comes from me.
Yoga was never meant to be really intense, but in today’s modern world I think we need the intensity. Yoga teachers have to structure their class to provide this, making teaching yoga at high-intensities taxing on the instructors. It helps to wake us up out of our delusions or the lies that we tell ourselves. It makes everything more real when you start to hit your limits. It helps us to realize our humanity.
Yin yoga has been particularly prominent in my practice and in the practice of the people at my studios. I really enjoy teaching yoga in the different yin and yang styles because it gives us an opportunity to balance our asana instruction between talking and stillness, intensity and softness, and helps to keep things dynamic. I wouldn’t like to always teach the exact same class; this is part of the reason I don’t practice Ashtanga or Bikram every day anymore.
Yin has been a sweet spot for me, because I do love silence when I teach. I am focused on creating stillness and meditation in each class for my students.
Appreciation for Yoga Instructors
Sometimes teaching yoga is a bit rough. The pay is not great. It is okay though. The amount of effort that the classes require is probably more than a lot of other jobs, but that also makes it extraordinarily rewarding. I don’t think I need too much appreciation beyond the normal appreciation of being paid enough to make a living, which I am hoping to be able to do at this point. But there is a special kind of respect reserved for yoga instructors in the area for many people, coupled with a disregard and skepticism of others. It is somewhat of a conundrum to be honest.
Since beginning to teach yoga, I’ve been extremely poor. I didn’t even make money for the first six months of teaching yoga. My trip to Asia was nothing short of a miracle and I wouldn’t be able to do a trip like that again. Making ends meet is difficult mostly because it is hard to find work, but I think that I have a good shot at filling up a weekly schedule with 12-15 classes, ideally. I am hoping that August is the month where I can make that happen!
No doubt the area is fairly saturated with yoga instructors because of the emphasis on fitness in California, but I think that differentiating myself from other teachers will be possible with my experience traveling and practicing yoga. I’ve also been teaching yoga for nearly two years now, which doesn’t hurt.
The Future of Teaching Yoga
Yoga is going to change drastically over the next 20 years, I would guess mostly in terms of customization and personalization. People want to feel personally attended to, personally connected to their instructors. We may very well see the rise of some very down to earth and high quality yoga teaching, but I really hope the emphasis on celebrity yoga fades away. Hopefully it will all be even more casual and playful in the next five years; I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see Tai Chi and Qui Gong techniques start to emerge in the yoga rooms across the country. Only time will reveal which direction the art is taken in.
As for me, I am setting down some roots in Sacramento. I have just moved to Northern Oak park and am hoping to find another studio on top of East Wind Yoga and Asha Yoga that I am teaching yoga at a few times a week. Here’s to the future! (If you want to see when I teach, check out my schedule)
The past few days have been a blur of beauty, incredible meals, unforgettable architecture, and time to share with my sisters and mom. I think I will look back on these last few weeks fondly for a long time in the future; so much has happened in such a short time.
Two days ago, we arrived in Modena, Italy with the specific purpose of eating lunch at Osteria Francescana, recently named the second best restaurant in the world with 3 Michelin stars. I will write a whole blog about it later, when I have my blog’s storage situation figured out, but it was a 12 course meal paired with wines and quite literally the coolest and most luxurious experience of my life; quite a contrast to Dhaka, Bangladesh. We moved on to Verona for the night, had a great pizza, then left for an eight-hour drive to Zurich today where we ate yet another pizza. Zurich speaks German, but is an interesting mix of Italian, German, and a smidgen of French, though my French has been all but useless here. I am really looking forward to speaking my second language tomorrow when I meet up again with my best friend from Paris. He’s probably the biggest reason I was a French minor to begin with, then later decided to go all out with the major and switch from International business, so I could spend a year in Paris.
Suffice to say that I am very tired of traveling at this point, but also very happy to see some great friends over the next few weeks. It’s ironic how traveling comes in waves and you simply have to go with the flow, disregarding how you feel oftentimes.
I am excited to feel the French side of my personality return to the foreground of my mind; over the past couple of weeks adjusting to my family has done the same for some deep seeded aspects of my personality. The oldest sister is particularly responsible, but in the best way; she reminds me that I only have to be human and that there’s only so much I can do. Sometimes I can be too ambitious.
Verona and Modena beckon return journeys; Italy is a city far removed from certain technologies and has a culture of presence and amiability. I would love to spend a month there at some point in the far future. Zurich does as well, but perhaps in a trip all to its own; if this journey has taught me anything, it has been finding the gentle balance between movement and stillness, activity and resting. I should simply do what my nature beckons me to.
Fatigue is setting in at the apartment in Zurich, but the city is beautiful. Even the gas stations in Switzerland are health oriented, we stopped today and got an amazing green salad, fruit salad, and sandwich before our salmon pizza dinner. I can truly say that I am getting used to the amenities and absolute luxuries of the western world once again, though there is a newfound appreciation that is unexplainable.
My New song is being uploaded now, head over to alienmusique.wordpress.com to have a listen. A new Wanderer post is also on the way, which I have not forgotten about, but am spending a lot of time on the next major section of the “to-be” book. Thanks for reading 🙂
Split is certainly one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. It is the second largest city in Croatia, after Zagreb and is located on the eastern shore of the beautiful Adriatic Sea, where is spread out over a peninsula that was once the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
Split is considered to be just over 1,700 years old if you count Diocletian’s palace construction in 305 CE, but the Greeks apparently settled the area much earlier. Split has seen its fair share of wars, from the influence of Greece, Rome, then Venice, and eventually became a free city in the middle and high ages into modern-day, where it was largely affected by Italy, then Germany in World War II. In 1991, the country of Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia in the Croatia War of Independence.
The city hosts a humid subtropical and Mediterranean climate with a range of 40F to 85F, making it ideal for summers and months outside of the colder winters, where the city is certainly still pleasant. Visiting at the end of May was impeccably timed, as the weather was incredible and the day-long booze cruise that we attended was accompanied by a cloudless sky and water that was a perfect balance between refreshing and chilly, while the air was a bit windy to ensure that the warmth wasn’t too noticeable. It was a gorgeous few days.
I found Split to be the friendliest city in Croatia, perhaps due to the regularity of tourism in the city. The climate and oceanic breeze were unbeatable, even for a native Californian and the cities windy and labyrinth like streets were as welcoming as the ocean; though it was quite easy to get lost. If I had stayed for longer, I would have gotten lost several times on purpose to ensure that I could find the little nooks and crannies that seem to be so magical in places like Split.
The food was not too expensive, though excellent. Lots of seafood and plenty of bars by the ocean; though I would absolutely recommend eating in the city center, then making your way out to the coastal areas for after-dinner drinks, or to watch the sun set over the horizon.
Today we arrived in Modena, Italy and will be enjoying a couple of days in Italy before moving on to Zurich, then I will be returning to Paris for four days. Looking forward, stay tuned.
I feel like I’ve visited heaven. Millions of waterfalls, lakes everywhere, water so clear you could drink it, fish the size of your leg and so many trees, bushes so thick that you can barely see the water flowing down and out of them, and a wooden stair path floating above it all like you are in the Wookie jungle of Endor IV from the final episode of Star Wars.
The national park was epic in proportions that I am still just beginning to understand. 1.1 million tourists visit the park each year, but it is pristine; there are people walking around after tour groups to pick up litter, very few amenities in the park, and it is specifically designed to move tourists through the park.
The park was founded in 1949 in the heart of Croatia, near large mountains, endless nature, and is near the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All of the lakes are arranged in cascading waterfalls that flow down from the highest mountains into the lower basins and the park surrounds an 80m waterfall which is the biggest I have ever seen. The entire park is completely breathtaking; upon entering you feel that you have been taken into a different alien world, one which is natural and completely untouched, even by you and the hundreds if not thousands of tourists that accompany you.
There were probably close to 10 or 20 thousand waterfalls in the park; they littered the entire area and created somewhat of a fantasy world where after an hour they were completely commonplace. Each tier brought with it new wonder and beauty; as we got lower and lower, the waterfalls became more plentiful, bigger, and more powerful until our final arrival at the monstrous 80m waterfall at the bottom of the national park.
We didn’t see any animals at the park, most likely because of the massive tourist groups moving throughout the area in what must have been a daily occurrence. There were no shortage of tourists at the park, but insects and fish were everywhere; the water seemed clear enough to drink from, though it was all strictly regulated and controlled.
The Park reminded me a lot of Yosemite, though the water was far more prominent in the park. There was a massive underground cave system with some unique biological species and plenty of caves and pathways that I could have gotten lost in for a couple of weeks if I had the time. It was labyrinth of beauty and undefinable beauty; I can only imagine how awe-inspiring the park must be during the winter months. It beckons a return journey, as does the rest of the beautiful country of Croatia.
Tomorrow I will be spending another day in Split, after a very enjoyable two days in Zadar; though there seems to be quite a lot of hostility towards tourists in the town of Zadar, I haven’t experienced any discrimination in Split despite the increase in tourism here. We will be visiting a couple of islands on a booze cruise and I am immensely looking forward to spending the time with my family.
Stay tuned for more of the adventure in Croatia, until we move on to Italy, Switzerland, and I finally return to the gorgeous city of Paris as my final destination on the 5 month+ trip around the world.
Budapest is one of my new favorite cities! It’s rare to see a historic city with lots of modern touches and a culture that is very friendly and accommodating to match. Hungary has seen a lot of tragedy and the memorials there were fantastic; there is an obvious Jewish heritage and luckily I was able to stay in Mavericks Hostel which is in the Jewish quarter. I will admit that I saw more traditional Hasidic Jews in Boston, but I definitely saw the tall point black hats and sideburn curls on several occasions.
Budapest is the largest city in Hungary and its capital, one of the largest in the EU. The metropolitan area houses 3.3 million people while the city proper has a population near 1.74 million and covers 525 square kilometers, though the older and most beautiful part of the city could be covered by bikes in a day (which we did!). In 1873 Budapest became a single city when Pest and Buda joined from opposite sides of the Danube river.
It was originally a Celtic settlement that became Roman, then Hungarians arrived in the 9th century and it was pillaged by the damn Mongols in 1241 (those jerks really kicked ass). It was re-established in the Renaissance (15th century) and was heavily affected by both WWI and WWII, because of its importance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which fell after WWI. After WWII, the country struggled with communism until the fall of Soviet Russia in 1989. To put it simply, the city has a ton of history.
It is also home to the largest thermal underground cave system in the world, the second largest synagogue in the world, both of which I was able to visit and can say that they were both incredible experiences.
I also spent a couple of nights out which were just as fun as touring during the day. I met people from all over, including an Australian guy who had traveled through all of South America in the same way that I traveled through Southeast Asia; it was a blast to share the experiences because both were rough and extremely rewarding!
The architecture of the city is breathtaking; spires line the skies and buildings hundreds and hundreds of years old are completely commonplace. Statues line the streets and sit atop rooftops, though the river is definitely the central point of the city. All of the bridges were destroyed by Germany during WWII, so none of them are nearly as old as the Charles Bridge, which I mentioned in my article about Prague.
The weather was spectacular, but very cold during certain parts of the night so I could have used a warm jacket. During the last day we visited one of the 80 thermal springs in the city that was in a cathedral-like building, and enjoyed 100 degree+ water. One of the nights where we ate at a nice restaurant across from the Opera, we were able to catch a classical band performing. It was an amazing city full of experiences I will remember for a long time; I would love to visit Budapest again.
Today I am in the city of Zadar and have a lot to talk about from Croatia, next stop is tomorrow in Split. Yesterday we spent the day in SplitVice, in possible the most beautiful national park I have ever seen. Feeling so grateful and lucky to be where I am, above all with my family to share it all together.
Today I was lucky enough to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp for Memorial Day. World War II sites are places where I feel proudest to be American; honestly, while I am traveling it doesn’t happen as often as I would like. Dachau is just outside of Munich and took the better part of 5 hours to experience and tour.
This was the second concentration camp I’ve visited. When I was 21 I visited Austwitz, which is really more of a death or extermination camp, rather than a concentrated labor camp. In other words, people were taken to extermination camps after they were deemed unfit to work in concentration camps or if their “offense” was bad enough in the eyes of the Nazi power. 1.1 million people died in Austwitz, whereas 40,000 died in Dachau; one of the explanations why was that Nazi Germany needed the labor in order to continue its production as a war machine.
Dachau was much different than Austwitz, besides the obvious factor that is wasn’t so much of a killing machine; it focused more on labor and training SS guards to be completely brutal and inhumane towards their prisoners. It was a place of torture and desensitization that reminds me of medieval torture machines and all kind of war crimes and inhumane treatment of people. In addition, Dachau was far more known within the German country; facts about Austwitz and the atrocities committed there are still coming to light because of the cover-ups of the Nazi regimes.
Dachau started as a camp for political enemies, most prominently communists and major opposition to Hitler’s Third Reich. That is one of the primary ways he gained control over the country; he would send anyone who opposed his ideals to concentration camps to be “rehabilitated”. Mostly people were tortured and forced to work as slaves. Over time, his attention turned more broadly to the Jewish population and towards the extermination of eastern European populations, most devastatingly Poland.
Propaganda from the time period was hyperbolized and Hitler preyed upon the fear and weakness in the country’s economic infrastructure after WW1. His cabinet was completely ruthless, taking every advantage that they could to control the mindset of the population and terrorizing their enemies so that they either fled the country, or were sent to concentration camps such as Dachau.
Over 30,000 people at a time would be held at standstill in the courtyards of Dachau, oppressed by beatings and random killings by the SS guards that were at first posed as suicides. Over time they began to kill in front of the residents. Nearing the end of the war, they were forced into long marches that could last weeks and would claim thousands of lives at a time. When US soldiers arrived on April 29th 1945, 10,000 people were very sick and over 3,000 dead bodies lying about the camp. During the concentration camps functioning, over 40,000 people died; 40,000 is the number of confirmed deaths and that number is certain to be low. Over 200,000 people moved through the camp during its 12 year operation.
Concentration camps and extermination camps were run in largely the same way, except for one thing; prisoners at extermination camps were usually brought straight to the gas chambers, then cremated while prisoners at concentration camps were forced into slave labor. Both were considered less than human by SS guards and the guards were forced to call them “things or objects” rather than to refer to them as human beings. Their rights were stripped from them and they became the number on their sleeve, though in Austwitz they were infamously tattooed with their number, which was unique.
Humans were separated into categories based on their “crimes” against the Nazi party: Jews, unemployed, mentally unstable, homosexuals, immigrants, and other religious groups were completely discriminated against in the camps, largely as a result of the Nuremburg laws that institutionalized racism. They were given special patches on their arms and uniforms of dark blue and white to wear in the camp, most of which were very cold.
These human prisoners were processed on arrival; their clothes were stripped, all possessions were taken from them and they were shaved completely, disinfected, then showered torturously with boiling hot then extremely cold water in alternation, according to how much the SS guard wanted to torture the prisoner.They often laughed. Signs saying “Work is freedom” lined all of the concentration camps, a kind of false hope, which is something very important to the psychology of a concentration or death camp. They were subjected to morning role-calls where they would stand outside in the freezing cold for hours at a time at complete attention or be subjected to beatings which they had to count along with the guards. If they missed a number or didn’t know German, the SS guards would restart.
SS guards were particularly fanatical, an elitist group of torturers and killers that eventually were outsources from other countries, but that were originally only the craziest of the Germans. Eventually the Germans ran out of fanatics and had to recruit from other countries; these men were the worst of the worst and had no problems with torture or performing the most brutal of acts upon other human beings.
One of the most interesting and vile parts of Dachau were the psychological experiments. They essentially tested the limits of human survival upon unsuspecting victims, by performing high altitude tests on their brains and bodies, putting them into below freezing water to see how long they could survive, and trying experimental drugs on the prisoners. They would inject things like pathogens into their bodies then see how long they would survive with certain types of medications. Some of the most horrific photos came from this portion of the memorial.
Probably the most disturbing were the piles of bodies, frozen, completely malnourished, dead, sick with typhoid fever, you name it and it happened there. By the end of the war, Germany was out of food and the prisoners at the concentration and death camps were the first victims to go without.
That’s when the forced marches occurred, when Heinrich Himmler issued an order on the 14th of April 1945 to ensure that prisoners did not fall into the hands of the enemy; instead they should die. This is probably the biggest reason why the US troops arrived to see what must of been one of the most horrific sights of the war; corpses strewn about and piled together, nothing but skin and bones. Disease was rampant and many who survived until the liberation died afterwards because of their condition. The Americans held trials for the SS in Dachau for the next three years, until they handed the area back over to the Germans.
Why am I writing about such horrific things, or even visiting such terrible places and low points in human history? To learn from them. Desensitization is very real in today’s world, moreso than maybe ever before with the amount of people on our planet. These types of atrocities still exist today, genocide is a very real aspect of the world we live in. I believe that we can transcend such things if we can learn from our past.
“Never again” is what you will see in the memorials at the camps. In French, “plus jamais”, pretty much a direct translation. Every human is a unique individual, so in the same way that there were surely SS guards who doubted their leadership, there are surely ISIS members, Taliban members, and members of other terrorists groups who revolt against their leadership. Stereotypes can be useful, but we have to give people the opportunity to be more than a category or label. We owe it to ourselves to look for the humanity in others even when we have no reason to anymore. I believe that this is one of the fundamental tenets of hope and what will drive our race to higher level of cooperation and flourishing in the state of the modern world.
(The internet where I am staying is really bad, so I will add some pictures to this in the near future. Sorry I can’t offer more visuals on this post.)