Mountain Love in Leogang

The very second we reached the top of the stairs on the train platform, and I scanned the horizon, my heart sang.

We’d arrived in Leogang, Austria. After two weeks in big cities, and years of time since we’d been in the European mountains, every molecule of my being felt right. There were mountains in front of me, behind me, and in every direction. The peace of a small town rose up from the valley below, filling every bit of space. The only sounds were of birds chirping and water trickling.

This space is one of the most amazing for my being.

It’s important that we all find the space that fills us with calm, gratitude, and love. A small town in the middle of the mountains is one of those spaces for me. The only thing that tops it is the feeling on top of the mountain. But, we’ll get to that.

We leisurely made the trek down a hill through lush forest beside a stream and into the heart of the town. With every step, my heart fell in love all over again. The feel of a small, European mountain village is like no other. It consumed me with every breath I took in synch with that of the forest and the surrounding mountains.

We spent a week nestled in this cozy town. We climbed by foot every day up to peaks and across ridges. On our first day of hiking, I was thrilled with how well my mind and my body responded. The second day I was a bit challenged as it went on longer than planned, but it was a good exercise in tapping into the positive space I am trying to train my mind to be in, no matter what. The third day, I felt a natural flow. The fourth day, we did a time trial up the same mountain we climbed on the first day of hiking, and I was surprised to shave off a good 20 minutes. That bionic Julie came out for a bit. On the fifth day, I felt the accumulation and had to accept a recovery day. We did the right things. We did a shorter, slower trek with a couple steep climbs to stretch the legs. We took some rest time. On the last day of hiking, we did a lovely climb straight up on the other side from where we’d been exploring. We found a really nice pace and both eased into a nautral flow. That good ‘ole physical, mental, spiritual flow came back, reminding me of my first ascents up mountains on a bike.

I was sad to leave Leogang, but I felt ready. We’d done all the major hikes. We’d been to several wonderful mountain huts for beer and lunch with a view. We’d both reconnected with our inner mountain beings, and I’d found a flow for writing about my journey that I hadn’t tapped into for a while.

Did I have moments of doubt? Of course. Did my mind slip into a negative space? Absolutely. But not for long. I’m human. I’ll never be perfect, not that I know what that means anyway. But, I’ve continued to build my toolbox of strategies and am capable of identifying when I am going to a place I don’t want to be in and correcting it.

We are all working on things. No matter what it is, persistence and practice does pay off.

No matter what it is…Yes. You. CAN.

Finding my Soul on the Mountainside

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. After years of travel restrictions, I laced up my hiking boots and filled my backpack, ready for an adventure with my hubby.

In the first two weeks, we immersed ourselves in the culture of some familiar places and some new ones. We made new friends, we tried new food, and we sampled some very special beer.

We also hiked to the less travelled places, even in the big cities. My trail shoes took me along rivers and canals, through foresrs and gardens, and stops were made in outdoor beer gardens unlike anything we have at home.

My ability to keep a pace, get my blood pumping, and keep my mind in a positive space even when it got long, hot, and hard was quite good. Only a couple of glitches when things got tough and I had to reroute my mind to more positive pastures.

It’s taken me years to get to this space where I spend more time believing in myself than not. When it happens now, because I am human and am not nor will never be perfect, I handle it. I treat myself better than I used to.

Although two weeks of nonstop travel and trekking by foot were a bit of a challenge, this next part of the journey is where the real adventure begins.

The mountains. They were calling to us. So we listened.

Another day of travel landed us in the small town of Leogang, Austria. A ski village by winter and downhill biking and hiking spot in the summer, the over 400 km of trails with a massive gondola system is like a dream.

The access to mountains has never felt easier.

Our first day of hiking was nothing less than amazing. With only small hills over the last couple of weeks, and a bit of a break from training leading up to my last book launch, it had been a bit since I’d climbed, and a while since I took on a mountain.

Climbing a mountain is never easy. Some attempts are more graceful, and others are a mess. I used to get quite nervous, even anxious, the night before, and even more so the morning of. I’m finally here, in a place where I found a sense of peace before the big climb.

We had a leisurely afternoon watching the rain from a cozy lunch spot. I was excited for the potential of good weather and a long day on the side of a mountain.

The morning of the climb came. I was calm. The breakfast buffet was amazing. My body was ready.

The first section of the climb is what I call a fuck you up, go straight up section. The gradients are high. My heart thrumming against my chest, sweat drenched my hair and shirt, I focused on one step at a time and found a decent pace. The best approach for me is to find that flow and to avoid stopping.

When it eased, so did my being. I took some deep breaths, a long pull on my water tube, and realized how good I felt. That first real push is hard, but by embracing it, I put myself into an invigorated place.

The hike was about a good 10 km up. We climbed about 1200 m. There was a windy gravel section with some easier stretches, exposed and hot. When we reached the middle station, a gondola point, we took a little breather and strolled around a beautiful lake.

We soon reentered the forest. The fresh coolness was welcome. The trail alternates between steep sections and flatter ones. I got into a flow of pushing on the steep parts and recovering on the flatter ones. Recovery didn’t mean slowing down. It meant upping the pace to flush out my legs while breathing to calm my wild heart and drinking some much needed water.

The final stretch was crazy. Straight up, for what seemed like it would go on forever. One step at a time, I made it.

I was surprised by the calm I felt the entire time. I was thrilled by how well my body and my mind performed. I believed in my ability to complete the hike gracefully. It felt good. When days like this happen, my entire being is grateful for what I am able to do.

I was so elated that I decided we needed to do just a little bit more. We climbed to the next gondola stop, not far, but extremely steep. I wasn’t fast, but I wanted a few more meters under my belt for the day. I didn’t want to say good enough.

The reward was amazing. The view was the best part of it all, and I had earned it, one step at a time. We had a lovey charcuterie and beer at AlteSchmiede. Sitting on the patio, basking in the sun on the top of a mountain, I felt happier than ever.

After some rest, we descended on foot. We covered about 25 km and just over 1400 meters of ascent. This included the addition of the walk around the lake and the extra climb. A good day. The rest of the evening, I was in bliss, the mountain high clinging strong.

The map from my Strava is below. If you use Strava, you can follow me for the click able version. If not, don’t fret. I will be compiling a list of maps and details later.

This map shows both the way up and down.

Prague Hiking Adventure

The first leg of our trip has flown by. We’ve covered several big cities, finding the park and forest hikes in each. I think my favorite yet was the English Garden in Munich.

At least it was, but now I’m torn.

Our first time in Prague, I was immediately blown away by its beauty. It’s a BIG city, yet I loved the vibe. The gardens and parks are immaculately manicured. The architecture has a totally different look. People are extremely friendly.

Our first day we hiked a series of smaller parks and did some doing some site seeing.

Our second day turned into quite the adventure! I was feeling good. Doing some decent distance by foot and keeping the pace each day was paying off. Especially since we were finding the parks and forests. My mind was clear. My body felt ready for another good hike. I was amped up for this one.

We covered most of a rather large park. It took about an hour to get to the start. We first stopped at a beautiful Manor with the most amazing garden.

We then continued on a pathway along the water for quite some time. It passes by the zoo, and weaves along the water. Many small patios offering cafe and beer dotted the route. It was lovely to see many people out cycling along and taking breaks to meet up with friends. We kept the pace. We really wanted to make it through most of the park, and I had my eye on a lunch stop at the very end.

Eventually, we turned onto a soft trail and entered the forest. It was glorious! This might be the most lush forest we had hiked on this trip. We followed the trail, weaving along a trickling stream, passing by little houses up on the hill and surrounded by the happy chirping of birds. I was ecstatic that my mind and body were keeping up on what I knew would likely be a long day.

We made it to the lunch spot, Kalendova Chabrybárna, a fish farm where they cook your lunch fresh. It was delightful. We were definitely in an area where the locals went. There wasn’t English (in the main city it’s easy to get and English menu), so we scanned the menu, what clues we could, and picked a special. All the food coming out looked amazing!

We took our beers and found a spot to sit. Everything within me was calm. I knew the walk back was still a good distance, but I was so happy we made it to the end of the park and we were experiencing a place away from the other tourists.

When our food came I was thrilled to see a pile of little fish with fresh bread and salad. It was delicious.

The trek back did get long, and we ran out of water. It was hot, I was parched, and I did have to dig deep a little. I focused on keeping the pace as we had a target. A huge beer garden that overlooks the canal that we saw the day before.

I did struggle a bit. I was finding it hard. I’ll admit, I was getting tired and focusing too much on my strong desire for a cold glass of water. I kept refocusing over and over. I didn’t want to get my mind and energy derailed now so close to the end of the day.

When we sat down, water and beer in hand, it was the most amazing feeling. We enjoyed some time to simply sit, take in the city, and rehydrate!

Eventually, we meandered, looking for dinner. In his true go with the flow way, my hubby led us down a staircase on a whim and we ended up sipping beer and eating local culinary delights with a close up view of the canal.

I loved Prague. I loved the forest adventure.

You can see the map below. For all the hikes and details of each, follow along on Strava.

English Garden Hike

I said it before, and I’ll say it again.

The best way to see a city is to hike it.

It was time for a quick stop in in Munich. This time, I saw it like never before. We spent an entire day hiking the English Garden, and we didn’t even cover the whole thing.

It starts off with massive stretches of well manicured park dotted with cafes and beer gardens. If you are adventurous enough, you can explore portions of the other side. There are long stretches along the water and trails through the lush forest. Despite the size of the city, you will feel like you aren’t even in one. Deep in the upper portion of the park in the forest, we saw a herder, in his attire, grazing his sheep. His herding dog put on an impressive show.

We covered a good portion of the garden. Including the trek to and from the hotel, we clocked around 27 km. It might sound like a lot, but it’s doable. I’ve been hiking more back home and setting a certain pace. I’ve also been working on my metal space when the hikes get long. After a while, it comes naturally. It’s invigorating, allows you to truly experience more of the cities you visit, clears your mind, and builds up an appetite for the local culinary delights.

On the day of the English Garden, I was quite happy with my ability to keep the pace, physically and mentally. Being in the forest does have a magical effect on me and puts me into a better place.

On the map, close to the point of the figure 8 crossing, there is a mini hofbrauhaus. It’s a small outdoor version of the big beer hall in the core of the city. We covered most of the upper portion of the park before stopping at the mini beer garden. At this point, we only had the last leg to get back to the city center.

Once back near our hotel for the evening, we hit the main beer hall and stayed for a while. The beer is great. I particularly liked the Helles. The food at these beer halls is amazing. We grazed on a small charcuterie, then shared a roasted pork knuckle. If you’ve never had one, you should. The beer halls Munich know how to roast meat. We even caught some live music.

Don’t get me wrong, Munich has lots to offer, but don’t miss out on the nature embedded within its core.

My city hiking tips: carry a small pack with water, rain coat, sweater, emergency snack, and sun screen. Also have some spare change on you in case you need to use the facilities when in Europe.

Follow along on Strava for all the hikes and click able maps.

For the Love of Brugges

If you’re familiar with the story of just a girl and a bike, then you’ll recall I had only a quick one night affair with Brugges during my cycling adventures.

There are some places that just make your soul feel warm. Brugges is busy, but it’s beautiful, friendly, and a lovely place to spend some time.

There are three things I highly recommend. The city tour walk. The unique and interesting bars underground in cave like structures with massive high end bottled beer lists. Take time to breathe, the aura of the city is amazing.

We did a city tour hike two days in a row. Ar 19 km, it’s a good hike that can be done in under two hours if you pace well. The entire time, you are on trails and pathways, and even find yourself immersed in forest. It’s a beautiful way to see the entire city in a short time, and it leaves you feeling invigorated. I’ve attached the map below.

I did take time to breathe. Brugges has that effect on me. One of my favorite moments was when we visited the Beer Wall. When we walked in, I wasn’t sure. I had picked the place. It was bustling. Dance music was pumping. We got in line and quickly noticed the multiple bottle lists with high quality beer.

I slipped out to the patio on the canal and luckily snagged a spot, leaving my hubby to choose the beer (he’s the expert). When he came out with a bottle of Cantillon and two glasses, my heart sang. When the people at a table right on railing left, I was ecstatic.

There we were, drinking a bottle of lambic beer (my favorite), watching the boats go by. What a lovely moment. One of those times when you are completely present.

There are so many things to experience in Brugges. I fell in love with the Gothic architecture. We found ourselves in some really interesting places. Because the architecture is so old, a lot of brick arches, restaurants and bars have a unique vibe.

A special moment was going to La Trappiste. It’s in an underground cave like structure. Don’t be fooled by the beer on tap. Take a look through the bottle list and try something delightful. Once you’ve had trappiste beer, your idea of what beer is changes forever. Trust me.

Have you ever been in a place that just makes your heart melt? This is Brugges for me.

Doing What’s Important

Life. It gets busy sometimes. It gets overwhelming sometimes. We all experience moments when there doesn’t seem to be a way to wade through the clutter and do what we know we need.

I suggest a simple approach. 1. Take a deep breath. 2. Identify what you need. 3. Do it.

Even one hour. Just take it and do it.

Today, I stole a good hour and a half and had the most amazing little jaunt with my beloved bike. Together we climbed some good hills, coasted through some forest, and even stopped to chat with a deer.

Don’t forget to breathe and give yourself the gift of time to do what you love. You deserve it.

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.

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”

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