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.

Reflections from the Mountains

I’m back from a very full two days in the mountains. After a solid two days of non-stop adventure, my heart is full of gratitude. Living so close to some of the most beautiful mountains is absolutely amazing. Every time I make the trip out, I come back feeling renewed and alive. My being feels open. My soul is infused with a energy and a sense of peace and calm.

The trip was oriented around a fitness expo, paired with the Banff Marathon. The expo itself is a beautifully run little event. People from all over the world come to run through the mountains, participating in the full marathon, half marathon, or 10 km run. The expo is set up such that participants come through to pick up their race packages, and have an opportunity to peruse the vendors. I have been fortunate to be able to be part of this as Just A Girl and a Bike for several years now.

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It’s always exciting to sell a book, of course. But, the conversations I end up having and the connections I end up making are what really stick in my mind. All sorts of people with a wide range of experience show up to run. I find myself relating whole heartedly to those who have never done this beforeor have nervous energy all over their face. I love that I can relate, talk to them, and perhaps even help them to focus their minds and their energy.

This year, after talking to a lady who was quite worried about the run, she said to me, “Thank you. I really needed that.” She walked away with a smile. Now, that made my heart sing.

So, not only did I sell some books, and selling books means more money raised for World Bicycle Relief, but I talked to many amazing people. And, I made a connection that could turn into a wonderful opportunity to encourage girls to be confident, seek the activities they love, and find their whole selves. Yes. I’m excited.

Now, of course, being in the mountains, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get in some activities. I LOVE activities. I went up early the first morning and snuck in a bit of cycling. I was able to do a short, sweet loop up to Lake Minnewanka, with enough climbing to get my heart pumping.

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On the way up, I saw about eight or so mountain sheep, with babies! On the way down, I rolled right by two moose munching away at the gras on the side of the road. What an experience. These animals are truly magnificent, majestic, and have an aura of calm about them. I was even able to sneak in a side trip to Johnson Lake, adding on a couple more km and a wee bit more climbing.

I just felt SO good to be on my bike, surrounded by mountains, the fresh air kissing my face, and the essence of nature infusing my soul.

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After a long second day of talking, interacting, and being ‘on’, I unplugged by hiking aggressively up a series of switchbacks to the top of Sulfur Mountain. The peace and quiet of nature, the smell of the trail, the fresh air, and the earth, and the general calm that clings to the air on such a trail, absolutely refreshed me after expelling so much energy.

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Of course, I was happy to be home, in my own bed, back in my sanctuary. And now here I sit, writing, reflecting, and feeling happy and full of life. What an amazing place to live, so close to such mountains. And what a wonderful path I have been taking on by sharing my own story of facing my fears.

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”

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”

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