Falling in Love

I’m in love. Her name is Kyoto.It’s been a while since I’ve travelled. I mean, really travelled. Long flights, trains, backpack style trekking around the world type travel.I had been craving it, but I didnt realize just how much. I’ve changed. I’ve grown. At this moment I am deep into this across the world adventure, and as I sit here on a train eating a delicious bento box, drinking a Kirin, resting my hiking boots on the foot rest of my train seat, I am totally immersed.We, my hubby and I, are just leaving Kyoto. After four days, I didn’t want to leave. But it’s time for the next phase of our journey.Kyoto stole my heart. A piece of it is still back there in those beautiful mountains as we speed away.It all started with a hike up the remote pilgrimage mountain — Mountain of Peace. It continued with a climb up nature’s stair climber on the Fushimi Trail.The crowds thinned as we made our way up the longer route. I pushed my pace to a fairly unreasonable rate up the winding staircases when Golden Boy — with his young skin, shirtless ripped torso and blond hair — thought he could pass me. Sorry about your luck. This little girl with pig tails and a back pack can push until her insides scream with the right motivation.

The rewards at the top were worth it. A meditative space filled with little paths winding through a plethora of shrines.The icing on the cake, the last bit of melting my heart, was the hike away from the crowds, up a deserted path to a peak that looked down upon the bamobo forest and monkey park. We sat on a makeshift bench of logs and relished in the chorus of birds and insects. Nature’s music.After hiking and meditating in the mountains all day, and taking in the sites, we developed a routine of enjoying the amazing happy hour at our hotel.At night we explored the rather inique and interesting areas of Gion and Pontocho. By the end of our four days, we had gotten the hang of finding the more authentic restaurants and Japanese whiskey bars. It was truly amazing being the only white people in a joint.As I sit here on this train, my heart is a little tender. I fell in love with Kyoto. I don’t want to leave. I know I’ll be back.

 

Mountain of Peace

This is a recount of adventures in Japan last fall. I’m a little late posting but wanted to share this wonderful journey.

After a week in a high energy big city, I found myself so excited about hiking up a quiet mountainside that I woke up super early. I stared at the clock, willing the time to pass. Filled with positive energy, I couldn’t wait to put on my hiking boots.I had thoroughly enjoyed all the activities that we had been engaged in. Seeing a totally different part of the world had been fun and adventurous. But my being was craving nature and a different energy wavelength. The hike that I was about to do would offer that and more.After a couple of trains and filling the pack with water and food, we started our climb.As per our experience so far, every local person we encountered went out of their way to make sure we were on the right track.As soon as we stepped into the forest and started our trek up the trail, my inner being sunk into a peaceful energy. The climb started immediately and it was steep! I fell into that old pattern of finding my flow. The one where my physical, mental and spiritual beings all align with each other, and with nature.The sounds of nature sung around us. We relished in the squeaking of monkeys and the otherwise silence. Occassionally the trees would crack and creak in the breeze.No people. No buildings. Just us, the monkeys and the forest.The trail had many steep stretches. It was hard work, but it felt good. I fell into the rhythm I knew well. My husband told me of the 1000 day challenge. The trail is a pilgrimage path, and monks do it every day for 1000 days, fasting for 10 consecutive days during the challenge. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was working hard.Reaching the peak was rewarding. The view was stunning. We rested and had a picnic. No fasting for me.The real reward, however, was quite unexpected. A little more hiking took us to the Dai Ko-do temple (beside Bell Tower). We removed our boots, slid the door open and entered. We sat cross legged. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. The scent of incense filled me. It calmed me. My mind was clear.Before leaving, I participated in the purchase (by donation) of an incense stick that you light and place in a bowl among others. It is intended to be in memory of someone. I took a moment for silent reflection.The descent was awesome. There was a bus that took us down the mountain and within blocks of our hotel!A shower and happy hour were waiting for us. The zen feeling lasted into the evening. Now I’m going to crave meditation on every mountain peak.

Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing, a plateau at the peak of a red rock face, perched in the heart of Zion National Park.

2.5 miles of strenuous hiking up multiple series of switchbacks, including Walter’s Wiggles, takes you to the landing point where some will stay while others scramble to the final landing. Two long series of chains bolted into the rock with steel poles provide a safety net from the 1000 foot drop offs.

I wasn’t sure what the trail would really be like. I knew the distances. I knew the height gain. I know what it feels like to hike up long, steep descents. I have done some scrambling. But I wasn’t sure what these chained sections would be like.

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My first attempt at reaching the summit of Angel’s Landing, I had taken the first shuttle of the day from the town beside Zion park. I darted across the park entrance to catch the next shuttle up the canyon. I disembarked at the Grotto stop, along with dozens of other eager hikers. The herd quickly thinned as the climbing grew strenuous. At the top, many other hikers already milled about. The first series of chains wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought it would be. I stood on the flat section before the second series, looking up at a daunting rocky climb. I wanted to do it. But, all I could think about was the growing number of people, of various hiking abilities, streaming both up and down sections only wide enough for one. The communication was minimal. The chaos was growing. I didn’t feel this was something I should do. Or that I wanted to do under these conditions.

Continue reading “Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing”

Big Mountains, Strong Mind, Full Heart

My life has been changed by the many mountains that I have climbed on my bicycle, chasing my husband up to the peak. Or, sometimes, simply survivingone painful pedal stroke at a time. A little over two years ago, my husband had a grand vision to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. As things in life sometimes go, this dream did not come true. The recap of this adventure can be seen here. However, as you can always do, if you choose to, we turned the disappointment into an entirely unexpected adventure.

This year, life has brought us some very unexpected, and challenging, things. It hasn’t been easy, at times. But, as my husband always does, he lead us in a path of finding peace and happiness in even the most challenging and heart breaking times. As the year progressed, things were settling back into a new normal. I will admit, I was craving something really challenging. I think we both needed an adventure. So, when he presented the idea of returning to France for a second go at Tour du Mont Blanc, my heart soared with excitement.

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The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 170 km circular hiking route around Mont Blanc. My husband’s version ended up being 200 km with about 10,000 metres of ascent throughout. The route takes you through France, Italy and Switzerland. You can book spots in refuges to enable you to hike with only one day of food and water and no tent. The refuges aren’t glamorous, but, the mountains make you forget every cramped little dormitory you wedged yourself into or three minute cold shower you had.

Continue reading “Big Mountains, Strong Mind, Full Heart”

Chasing Dreams on a Mountainside

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A couple of years ago, my husband and I travelled to Chamonix, France. The dream was to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. A 180 km hiking route covering about 10,000 metres of climbing. When we showed up, our excitement was crushed. The snow levels had been high, and the melting process was taking longer than usual. Sections of the trail were closed. Not even guided tour groups were passing through. The Tour de Mont Blanc wasn’t going to happen for us.

Dreams don’t always come true when we expect them to. It doesn’t mean that we should give up on them.

Continue reading “Chasing Dreams on a Mountainside”

The Bionic Woman Returns – Cinque Terra

 

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We didn’t know it yet, but, we were nearing the end of a several month adventure.  We had left home with hefty backpacks, planning to chase the pro cycling circuit.  We had seen a lot of cycling races, done a lot of our own riding, and had also found many other adventures along the way.  Coming off of the high of accomplishing some big things in my own cycling journey, I think I was in complete belief that I was the bionic woman!!!

Continue reading “The Bionic Woman Returns – Cinque Terra”

A New Adventure: Chamonix Part II

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One day, my husband declared that he had read about a hiking trail called the ‘Tour de Mont Blanc’ which starts in France and passes through Italy and Switzerland.  According to National Geographic it was one of best hikes in the world.  He showed me videos of picturesque trails and breathtaking mountain views.  Thus, the seedlings had been planted for our first hiking trip.  Our usual forte was cycling, so this would be a brand new adventure for us. Continue reading “A New Adventure: Chamonix Part II”

The Power of Magical Moments: Chamonix Part 1

After turning over a new leaf in my world of physical fitness by embarking on a hiking trip to Chamonix, France, I found myself in a much needed yoga class.  Lying on my back, I listened to the woman guiding the practice as she talked about how when we are children things are magical.  In our youth, our minds are untainted and open to magical moments.  As we become adults, magic seems to be harder to believe in, and our minds become more closed.  As a tear trickled down the side of my cheek, my being was filled with happiness, and I was overcome with the realization that my magical moments began in my adult life. Continue reading “The Power of Magical Moments: Chamonix Part 1”

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