Saturday, March 11, 2017


I wrote this piece about a year ago but never ended up posting it for whatever reason. The intention was for Jeff and I to record all of our experiences while abroad in Asia, but this never came to pass. I hope to rekindle this intention over the coming years and write about our new life and how our past experiences have shaped our current choices and lifestyle. Stay tuned!
PUMA MAN March 2016
It’s almost been a year since I returned from a year away with my new husband. At the beginning of our trip, we were good about keeping up a written log of our experiences, in fact Jeff and I would argue about whose turn it was to write a piece for our blog. After about 6 months the excitement faded away, and much of our trip has been left as a distant memory.  At the moment, I am flying home from a work trip, and can’t shake the memory of a dream I had last night about PUMA man. So, I’m sharing one last distant memory to try and clear my mind of this strange un-explainable ghost.
After weeks hiking up the Annapurna circuit in Nepal we finally reached the first of two base camps encountered before achieving the ultimate goal of Thorong La pass at 17,500 feet. Upon arrival, we were a bit shaken after having to step over a man who had just died from a heart attack and/or altitude sickness on the trail. Feeling disturbed, we were happy to arrive to the familiar faces of all the friends we had made along the way: our Canadian friends Jamie and Karen, an Aussie traveling with her crazy party animal Nepali trekking guide, the goofy Germans with their more hardened Nepali guides, and many more. Despite a cold and slightly snowy night, spirits were high, and we were all anxious to make it to the other side of the pass where a highly advertised Hotel Bob Marley awaited us with cold beers and rumored “western toilets”.
That particular night though, we befriended one more character whom we started referring to as PUMA Man. PUMA Man was a French man (or maybe he was German?) that worked for PUMA, and let me tell you, he drank that PUMA juice. He loved this company, and throughout the night had shared its entire history from founding to future, and every other fun fact whether you wanted to hear about it or not. I even for some reason distinctly remember him wearing a PUMA track suit. However, the logical part of my brain thinks in reality he was just wearing the traditional north face knock off trekking clothes from Kathmandu like the rest of us.
In addition to PUMA man being a great resource for knowledge about this ground breaking shoe manufacturer, having hiked the Annapurna Circuit before, he provided some seemingly good advice for our planned trek over Thorong La Pass the next day. Unlike the rest of the trekkers who were planning departure times at around 5:00am, he wasn’t going to leave base camp until about 6:30am. We were all much stronger hikers than our other mismatched trail companions, and we also thought a later start was a good idea to avoid slow traffic, and still summit at the same time as the pack. Plus, I was having stomach issues and needed any extra sleep I could get.
With this advice and my illness in mind, we, PUMA man, and Jamie and Karen were the last ones to leave the base camp with PUMA Man leading by about 15 - 30 minutes. When we finally got on the trail the snow that was supposed to slow down was getting worst. After seeing an avalanche break about 10 minutes out from the high camp, we decided that maybe the snow wouldn’t pass upon sunrise like we were told from the tea hut owners below. Upon consideration, we stayed put at high camp.
(me hiking in the blizzard on the way to high camp)
Over the next few days, snowed in and stuck in freezing temperatures at the 16,500ft camp, we learned that of the about 150 people that attempted Thorong La, almost a third didn’t make it and died from exposure and avalanche on the pass.
As for us, we were stuck for a week in a cold high altitude environment and frustrating circumstances every day wondering if we were going to be able to continue our journey up and over the pass like we came here to do, or have to go back down around the risky landslide zone which no longer even had an established trail due to all the avalanches. In the end, we were forced to hike back through the landslide zone. On the way, Jeff and I walked over a second dead man during our trek in Nepal, this individual frozen and preserved not far from where the first man died a week before.
(Jeff and I traversing back over the landslide zone right before encountering the second dead man)
Thinking back, it’s no wonder I remember the avalanches, or having to share a room with Jamie and Karen with the beds pushed together for extra warmth. What’s odd is the fact that I still haven’t shaken the memory of a man I barely even knew, PUMA man…  
(Our shared accommodations for the week)
In reflection, I think the reason for my obsession with PUMA Man is because, in a way, he was our parallel universe. On that day, the only difference between us and him was his 15-30 minute head start which was enough for him to keep going, and for us to stop.
Whether or not he made it, would have been our fate as well.
My gut tells me he didn’t. I saw the conditions, it was bad, complete white out, severe winds, 6ft of snow over 12 hours bad… and he was hiking in the worst of it. But if he did, what a story and adventure.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The "What Would John Muir Do" Trail

Been hanging out in California the past month... always a joy. Most of this time we've been hiking through the sierras on the John Muir Trail, which was a really great way to give a sort of farewell to the beautiful sierras I grew up in, and Jeff and I shared for many years, before we move on to a new life out of state.

It has always been interesting sharing the experience of the sierras with my beloved Michigander husband... Some of my favorite things about the sierras are some of his least.

For example, I was raised in a desert, and as a result, sometimes I just crave the sun. feeling those intense rays of heat soak through my skin is nirvana. Then, give me an alpine lake and breeze that comes just every so often to disrupt the still rays and I am in Utopia.

Jeff on the other hand grew up in a climate with rain at least every five days year round. He craves the moisture and lushness of a wetter climate, and the shade of clouds. Everything from his mind to his skin feels the relief of a reliable rain.

What we can both agree on though, is the undeniable majesty and awe inspiring views that, as far as I have seen, have not been rivaled anywhere else in the country.

The rolling basins of alpine lakes followed by incredible high elevation passes, and long scaping meadows surrounded by some of the largest mountains in North America can only be truly understood through experience first hand.

Nonetheless, here are some of our favorite highlights that we attempted to capture through photo...

Let's start with a quick introduction of our hiking companions whom we were fortunate enough to have join us on this trek. From left to right is myself and Jeff, Erin, Debbie, Hailey and Charlotte. 

Vogelsang pass was the first pass we crossed on our trek. We then decided to take a detour to the nearby summit which clocks in at 11,500 feet. This picture is of Jeff and I on summit.

One of the prettiest sunsets on the entire trip was at Lake Isabel a few miles down from Vogelsang. 

The fishing was also amazing, and thanks to Jeff we had fresh meat for dinner often.

The Sierras are notorious for its amazing high alpine lakes... we were fortunate enough to have weather that allowed us to camp at a few. This particular lake is situated just below Donahue Pass.

Another view of Donahue Pass...

After Donahue we hiked past the notorious Thousand Island and Garnet Lakes down through the city of Mammouth for a food resupply, and then back onto the trail. We made a really good decision to take a slight detour before getting back on the JMT for a soak in the Isa Bel Hot Springs. 
The Isa Bel hot springs are some of the best primitive hot springs we have visited on this trip. They are about a 7 mile hike out of Red's Meadow and a must see if you are traveling through the Mammouth area!
Onward to Silver Pass...

And Seldon Pass... Check out the view of Sallie Keyes lakes in the background. An amazing camping destination!

Finally, one of my favorite sections of the hikes, the trek up past lower/upper Evolution lakes and Marie Lake on our way to Muir Pass.

Another view of the Evolution and Marie Lakes.

This is Muir Pass (11,955 ft.), it was one of my favorite passes not only because of the spectacular hike to and from, but also because of this beautiful historic Muir Storm Hut built by in 1930 by the Sierra Club. 

A view of the Muir Hut mantel...

and amazing stonework...

It's important to remember to take time out for recreational activities such as swimming...


and playing in dinosaur caves.

Before we knew it we were coming close to Pinchot Pass.

Pinchot Pass (12,100 ft.)

Rae Lakes before Glen Pass (11,980 ft.)

Then Forester Pass.

 And before you knew it... we were only a few miles out from Whitney.

Guitar Lake was our final camp before our morning ascent of Whitney.

Then we were at the summit!

Our adorable marmot friends did not disappoint on the top!
Well, off for our next adventure in Asia. Talk to everyone soon!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Better Late Than Never- Idaho and the Pacific Northwest

What great trip it has been! It feels great to finally take a few seconds to reflect on the month of August- which has flown by. 

After leaving Glacier we spent a few hours cruising around Missoula (which is a really cool town) and picked up Annette's mom Ellen from the airport. From there we headed west to her home turf in Northern Idaho. We stayed a few nights with Ellen's sister Louisa in the historic town of Wallace where they grew up. Its a cute little town located in the heart of the Silver Valley- where mining was and still is the major economic drive. 

It was huckleberry season in the hills so we had to spend a few hours pickin'

After a few days in historic Wallace we all piled in the van and went to Lake Coeur D'alene to see Ellen's childhood friend Laurel- and swim of course. 

Then up to see Annette's uncle John and spend some good relaxing family time. 

The Ryan Family

Now, its amazing the generosity of people you meet on the road. As we were saying goodbye to Annette's mom, her uncle John's girlfriend Sarah opened her vacation house for us on Lake Pend Oreille- which we gladly accepted. And what a beautiful place it was!

After a week of R&R on the lake we drove the final leg west to see our friends and family in Seattle. 

Which was a very, very good time.

Then across the sound and into my favorite spot in the country

(drum roll please)

The Olympic Pennisnula!

We did an incredible four night hike up the Aura Ridge, cross country down to the Olympic Hot Springs, over Appelton Pass, across the High Divide, and out the Hoh Rainforest. Which was a hugely diverse trek across some incredible landscapes

Aura Ridge Traverse

Found the trail

Epic campsite at Boulder Lake

The Olympic Hotsprings- they were hot!

Climbing to Appelton Pass

Log Crossing

Another epic campsite at Heart Lake

Heart Lake


The High Divide

So good!


Looking down the Hoh Valley from the High Divide

The mighty Marmot ruling his kindgom

Salmonberries Everywhere!
Another good campsite on the Hoh River


Our awesome ride back to the van- check out the sweet sticker!

Then it was back to Modesto down I-5 with pitstops in Portland, Ashland, and Sacramento- which is always a pleasant journey

Did some great hiking with the Vorhees family

Played in the park

and got to see Olivecat! 

We have been back in Modesto for a few weeks now and we have been having a great time with the Boleys. 

We have also been eating a TON of Mexican food. Major shout out to Modesto's Mexican food, it is just so good- nowhere else in the country can even come close. Seriously

Spent some time in the bay and went sailing

The driving section of the trip has come to a close, which is bitter sweet. The van was such a great home for us, and it was so great seeing our friends and family throughout the country. The generosity and hospitality of those who opened their doors for us is so deeply appreciated. We can't thank you enough and hope we can repay the favor when you come visit. 

After driving 14,000 miles around the country we are putting on our packs and letting our legs do the work from here- simplifying our life from a van load of stuff to a backpack each. 

The first stop- the John Muir Trail. 211 miles from Yosemite Valley to Mt Whitney. 

Then overseas to Nepal, Thailand, Loas, and Vietnam

Can't wait- stay tuned