On Living YOUR Epic Life

I’m not one to throw the word epic around. And I don’t claim to be a “life coach”, but I know 1 thing —life is short and unpredictable.

My Dad had a debilitating stroke on the first night of the Hawaii vacation that my brother and I treated him too. He’d never really treated himself to anything in his entire life. And after the stroke and the paralysis he suffered, his ability to enjoy life or even take care of the most basic daily activities was severely diminished. If you’re waiting for something to happen until you do what you really want to do, let me suggest that you stop waiting and take the steps you need to take toward making it happen. Today.

Of course, I’ve procrastinated on following any number of my dreams too. But ever since Dad’s stroke and his subsequent death, my bike accidents, misc surgeries, etc. etc. (pile on effect), I’ve been determined to align my life and actions with my values. And that includes living somewhere where I’m closer to nature and able to live the outdoor, active lifestyle that I treasure. Sure, I’ve been fortunate to live a good part of my life in a place that many people consider dreamy – -Southern California. And I’d never taken its beauty and the many wonderful adventures I’ve had here for granted, but I’m ready for open horizons and roads—free from the excessive congestion that surrounds this place.

The  adventures I’ve had these past few years have have all been part of my quest to find my new home. I’ve road-tripped through Montana, Idaho, and Washington and found some delightful spots and top contenders, including Sandpoint ID, Port Angles WA, but none checked all my virtual boxes. Until St. George, UT. If you’ve been following my posts, it was a bit of a whirlwind romance. A year ago I visited, came back for seconds, and then I committed.

Yes, I’ve definitely had some second thoughts, self-doubt, and fleeting panic attacks, but I come back to that cliched  question – “If not now, when?” It’s a bizarre and unsettling time to be making a a major life transition, but I’m doing it. Last week, I moved about 60% of my stuff there and was fortunate to enjoy a couple mountain bike rides while I was there.

This 28 mile loop ride near Gunlock State Park was simply epic. See for yourself. It will likely be one of my top local rides.

I am happiest when I am immersed in nature’s beauty and being vigorously active. This is part of what living an epic life means to me. What does it mean to you and are you living it? If not, why not?

Road Trips & Life: The Unplanned Stops Make All the Difference

This post is about the advantages that the unexpected twists and turns can bring whether you’re on a road trip, navigating life’s journey, or sheltering in place during our current COVID19 crisis.

trail near cascade falls

On a road trip or an adventure vacation, I’m always inclined to follow the sign that points to waterfalls or scenic byways, even if it’s in a different direction than I’m heading. I may have a general plan for the day / week that includes multiple stops and hikes, but I’m more than happy to add one on or adapt my agenda. For me, it’s about exploring and experiencing as much I can. So many times when I look back, it seems that it’s exactly those impromptu adventures and discoveries that I treasure most. On a road trip through Washington, Idaho and Montana, I expected Coeur d’Alene to be a major highlight—but it wasn’t for me. About 45 miles down the road, I accidentally discovered the charming town of Sandpoint, what a gem—wasn’t even on my radar. An off the highway stop in Montana yielded an amazingly mini-excursion at Kootenai FallsOn another road trip through the Pacific Northwest, taking a break at an innocuous looking roadside stop, I was delighted to find Cascade Falls where I spent half an hour mesmerized by the shadows and projectile splashes of wild salmon.

Sometimes there are signs and we can choose our journey. Other times, obstacles and detours, like the one we’re having now, are sprung upon us. I’m not saying there isn’t and won’t be hardship and loss, but what I know is that we will look back on these times and remember the silver linings. Maybe it was that one silly, brave friend who held live Facebook dance parties to lighten the mood (C), the group of 10 cars driving up and down the street honking happy birthday, the grade school teacher who decorated her car with balloons and called out to her students on her megaphone as she drove by their houses, the extra time that Mom’s and Dad’s are spending together and with their children will no doubt rank in their “best of family time memories”.

I have no doubt that creativity, artistry, and innovation will surge. People will move beyond inertia and procrastination to evolve and achieve as never before. And maybe social distancing is exactly what we need to learn how to truly connect and to savor those connections. These few weeks of shelter in place are but a blip in our lives. Like the salmon’s flash of florescence —there is much to treasure if you look for it.

What are your favorite memories so far from our enforced “time out”?

The Social Distancing Antidote: Nature Immersion

Solace in nature, always. At least that’s what I’ve always said. And yes, you can say I’m an outlier as social distancing is my default mode anyway. However, I’ve always maintained that our lack of connection with nature and our physical selves is at the root of so many of our 21st century ailments—physical and emotional. We are wired to spend 8+ hours a day being active, outdoors and I believe that is the key to really thriving.

Of course, for most of us, that’s not practical. But certainly, squeezing in some form of outdoor activity every day is. Probably, if you’re reading this, it’s because you’re like-minded and already reap the benefits of outdoor activities. It’s our indoor, sedentary neighbors we need to convert.  Perhaps, the silver lining of social distancing is that people will get stir crazy enough to venture outside and explore their corner of the natural world.  #optoutside

Here are some pictures from yesterday’s suburban hike in San Marcos. What a pleasant surprise to find a little network of trails right behind Palomar College. You can take a steep, direct approach to the “P”, or opt for the more, roundabout, meandering one. (You can probably guess, which one I took.)

up

Once at the top, you can trace your way across the ridges as long as your heart desires.

P

Either way, you’ll be rewarded with lovely views of the surrounding mountains and out to the Pacific.  The air was so fragrant and clean. The red dirt and delicious post-rain scents reminded me of hiking in Hawaii.

flora

Pacific Views From the P

Apparently, this area is popular with the off-roaders as evidenced by the debris. It appears many of them have lost control—careening and crashing through the rocks and scrub.

truck

The social distance—just right for a suburban hike.

L on P Trail

Take the Road Less Traveled: Mountain Biking the High Point Truck Trail (FSR 8S05)

Bike up the backside of Palomar Mountain. Get a great workout while enjoying some solitude and splendid views of the San Diego back country, including Vail Lake and numerous snow-capped peaks (Thomas Mountain, San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio). This is nontechnical mountain biking at its best. If you like a climb with views, it’s a good one. Exceeded my expectations.

Road restrictions
Their loss, our advantage. 
L points to trail
When you can visualize a goal, you can attain it!

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We turned around at mile 8 as the trail was getting muddy and we were running out of daylight. It’s worth coming back to finish it off. Will update this post when I do. Until then, let the good times roll! What a spectacular way to spend the first day of 2020!

L and Palomar

Miles: 12 Miles / 24 Miles Roundtrip

Elevation: ~4,000 ft

Difficulty: Depends on your fitness level, knee health, and affinity for climbs. Very doable, the super steep sections are relatively short. Terrain has some rutty sections, but mostly good. This would also be a great trail run, or training for the Catalina Marathon, or any endurance races.

Directions: From Temecula, take HWY 79 east for 18 miles. Stay on HWY 79 and make a right 2/10ths of a mile past the junction of HWY 371 to an RV park/resort. Follow the paved road for 0.3 miles then park in the large dirt area in front of the Fire Service Road 8S05

Notes: There’s no water along this exposed route—plan accordingly. It’s hot during the summer and you may encounter snow during winter, or mud after heavy rains or melts. Vehicles are allowed on this route, but seasonal closures for motorized access often occur. (A bonus for mountain bikers and trail runners.) Further up the mountain, the Forest Service has labeled the High Point Truck Trail (8S05) as 9S09 between this junction and the Palomar Divide Truck. When in doubt, stay on the most “main” looking route.

mtb dog
Celebrity MTB Canine Sighting

Bonus: Be sure to top off your ride with a visit to Ricardo Breceda’s amazing outdoor gallery of metal sculptures. Also, check out his work in wild open spaces of Anza Borrego too!

Photo Post: Ediz Hook and Port Angeles, WA

Ediz Hook in Port Angeles is a 3-mile-long sand spit that extends from the northern shore of the Olympic Peninsula. It features great views of the Olympic Mountains, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  If you visit, be sure to keep your eyes out for the  tribe of feral cats that inhabit this rugged, scenic landscape. They blend in well.

As you explore the Port Angeles area, you’ll likely run into other friendly locals.

Picturesque photo ops abound around every corner.

Port Angeles horse and barn

Lots to do in this Pacific Northwest playground.

Hike or Mountain Bike the Spruce Railroad Trail

Hike the Storm King Trail

Hike or Mountain Bike the Elwah River Area and Do the Coleville Flow

Explore Hurricane Ridge , Olympic National Park

 

 

Storm King: Short, steep, sweet trail with sweeping views of Lake Crescent

Distance: 3.8 Miles Round Trip

Elevation gain: ~1700 ft

Difficulty: Moderate or Difficult, depending on your fitness level and daring level with the ropes on top. (Some call it strenuous. All call it steep.)

The trail climbs persistently through the pine, cedar, and hemlock trees.

 

 

 

After countless switchbacks, you’ll be treated to several expansive views of Lake Crescent and, if you’re lucky, out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

 

 

 

The maintained trail ends at about 1.3 miles. If you are “up” for it, pun intended, you can continue on the “climbers trail”. Your scramble to further heights will be aided by several sections of ropes.

Ken on storm king
Ken on the ropes

Proceed with caution, it’s quite exposed and super slippery.

 

 

 

 

On the way down, follow the short marked trail to Marymere Falls for the cool solace of Barnes Creek and the waterfall.

M Falls

Getting there: Parking and the trail head for both this hike and the Marymere Falls hike is located right next to the Storm King ranger station, Lake Crescent right off Hwy 101, 20 miles west of Port Angeles, milepost 228.

Parking: Free

Be sure to stop by The Lake Crescent Lodge and beach for some refreshments and photo ops before you leave.

Lake Crescent Lodge

 

 

 

After you’ve worked up your appetite, head to the First Street Haven (before noon) or the Next Door Gastropub (noon and after)  and get your grub on at these great Port Angeles restaurants.

For more nearby adventures check out the Spruce Railroad Trail by foot or 2 wheels, the Elwah River and Coleville Bike Trails, Olympic National Park, and Port Angeles itself.

 

Spruce Railroad Trail, Lake Crescent, A Scenic “Must Do” By Foot or 2 Wheels, Near Port Angeles, WA

Distance: ~8-10 Miles Out & Back ~16-20 Total
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Flat, friendly(pine-needle cushy single-track)
Usage: Hikers, mountain bikers horses, leashed dogs
Caution: Cougar and bear country

If you’re in the Port Angeles area, a visit to lovely Lake Crescent is a must do. It just a scenic 20-mile drive out of town. There you’ll find a delightful trail that meanders along the shore and through the forest on a pine-needle path lined with ferns. This is the splendid Spruce Railroad Trail, great for hiking, running, or mountain biking.

The trail is part of the 134-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail, a mountain bike-able route that crosses the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula. The trail follows the former Port Angeles Western Railroad route.

The trail begins with a short paved section. Scenic views of Barnes Point and Mount Storm King (post coming soon) loom above the lake.

short section of paved road

Views from the Spruce Railroad Trail, Lake CrescentRowing on lake crescent

Tunnel lake crescent

At ~ 2.5 miles in, you’ll traverse a short bridge and have a gander at the spectacular, “Punch bowl” of Lake Crescent—crystal clear as far 40 feet down.

bridge and mtns lake C