Credits: National Parks USA fb page
It all started with a resolve to go rock climbing each year with my climbing partner. This year we picked Yosemite, as last year we discovered the slabs and faces of Joshua Tree.
Encompassing more than 747,000 acres, Yosemite is known for its roughly 3.5 million visitors every season.
Alongside being one of the greatest national parks in North America, Yosemite is also most well known as a mecca for rock climbing—making it a place that we couldn’t possibly pass up.
So how did rock climbing become part of Yosemite’s allure? The first recorded technical ascent in Yosemite occurred in 1869 when George G. Anderson and John Muir made an ascent of Cathedral Peak using ropes and other climbing techniques. The “Golden Age” of rock climbing set in between the 1950s and 70s, with a focus on big wall climbing. Pioneer climbers including Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, and Joe Fitschen set their sights on the massive granite walls of El Capitan and Half Dome.
Climbing in Yosemite
Known for its face climbing and cracks—a feature of climbing out West—we took up the challenge. Personally I was most used to the small crimps and finger holds, especially after climbing in The Gunks on the East Coast (I’ll save this story for another day).
We started on a Thursday evening in June, getting to Fresno around 7pm. From there, we drove two-and-a-half hours out Eastward into Yosemite valley. The drive was flat land and then dry brush until you finally entered a tunnel. It’s as if this tunnel was designed to prepare you for the beauty you were about to encounter—as if a portal to another world—emerging from the tunnel you see the valley in its splendor, nothing that words can describe.
We had finally made it around 11:00pm at night. It seemed as if eerie dark clouds hung high up in the sky and kept following us, when I realized that in reality we were looking at and driving through large monoliths of granite.
Our check in at Curry Village went smoothly—an iconic and historic part of anyone’s Yosemite visit—courtesy of their 24-hour front desk. Established in 1899 by David and Jennie Curry, the campsite known as Camp Curry, offers accommodations and services to the visitors of Yosemite Valley.
Back to School: The Yosemite Mountaineering School (YMS)
Our guide was the only female guide at YMS. In order to be a guide, a person must usually have: climbing experience, certification and training through American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Certification, high level teaching and communication skills, physical fitness and strength, knowledge of Yosemite National Park, professionalism, and the ability to adapt to different customer’s needs.
One can imagine how most of the time it’s difficult for women to become YMS guides, given the time-commitment required outside of usual family responsibilities and motherhood. On top of that, I imagine not too many female guides want to be part of a system where they would be such a small minority.
A picture of me trying my freshly brewed skills at crack climbing the granite faces and cracks typical of Yosemite rock climbing. You just have to trust the clear faces of the rock with your feet! Something I was not very used to coming from the GUNKS in the northeast
My climbing partner, Jen and I at our first multi-pitch climb of the day and the image to the right is that of the famous El Cap right at the bottom - The most majestic monolith!
After two days of climbing we decided to hit up Upper Yosemite falls which we thought would take us a half day and ended up taking us 5-6 hours with a lot of rain at the top.
Upper Yosemite Falls is a majestic waterfall I have ever seen, with a total height of approximately 1,430 feet (435 meters). The strenuous trail to reach the top covers a distance of about 7.2 miles (11.6 kilometers) and involves a challenging elevation gain of around 2,700 feet (823 meters). It took us 3 hours each way and when we finally hit the summit it was worth it! However we also hit thunderstorms, and I have never been on top of a mountain with no trees for shelter. We literally sought shelter under a rock. I did get damp and wet, but it was worth it! I stood before the tallest waterfall in all of North America at one of its fullest times, as the Valley hadn’t seen this much rainfall in years.
The Sunrise I Missed and a reason to return…
Heading back to the airport at around 5 in the morning to catch a re-scheduled early flight, we stopped at the “Tunnel View” , a popular spot that I would highly recommend for breathtaking sunsets of the valley. Almost catching the 5:35 sunrise in the valley, we decided to make a go for the airport…otherwise we would miss our flight.
I thought the West Coast was not known for its sunrises, so we focused on catching any sundown we could and were lucky enough to see the most breathtaking sunsets of all time. Later I saw a National Park picture of scenery in the same spot (1st picture up top on the blog), and it made me grateful to have captured this experience in person.
Climbing reminds me how the pursuit of progress and personal growth takes on a diverse array of paths—regardless of going up a physical mountain, or changing career paths. The road to advancement is not bound by a rigid template that everyone must conform to.
I choose to celebrate the diversity of life's paths and the extraordinary potential encapsulated within each unique trajectory.
In our roles as managers, mentors, or simply fellow human beings, let us embody compassion, supporting and empowering others on their journeys, regardless of how unfamiliar or unconventional they may appear. By doing so, we contribute to a world where the full range of human potential can flourish, unhindered by narrow expectations or preconceived notions.
Journeying across three continents in three weeks may seem like an impossible feat, but sometimes the most extraordinary experiences come from the unexpected.
Snowboarding in the Northeastern United States
My adventure began with a desire wanting to to snowboard with my family in the Northeastern United States. Living in New Jersey, I had the perfect opportunity to explore the slopes at Mountain Creek in Vernon, Shawnee, and Camelback in Pennsylvania.
Known for their icy conditions and narrow lanes, these slopes still offered a chance to engage in a positive, healthy and challenging sport with the family during the cold winter months.
After about a week on the trails I was pleasantly surprised to see improvement in my abilities, realizing that the limitations we carry about ourselves are often ones we can break through with perseverance.
The terrain offered unique perspectives on how insignificant our daily problems are compared to the vast natural world. Standing on the tops of mountains reminds me that you are capable of reaching new heights, and that the long journey upward gets easier the more often you go back up!
Mount Snow, Vermont
Surfing In Chennai, India
After a week of snowboarding, I was excited to visit my Dad. When my mom passed away 2 years ago, I really wanted to spend more time with my father while I still could, and have more experiences together while reassuring him that I am here to support him as he grows older. And every time I visit Chennai, I tell myself I will try something outdoors. Growing up, I recollect going to the beach in Mahabalipuram by the coast.
With my Dad, at the Southern Coast of Chennai where I spent many summers growing up
I had been hearing about the increased presence of surf schools in the area and took my Dad for an early morning sunrise and took a surf lesson, along the Bay of Bengal at Kovalam. Nestled on the East coast of India, Chennai is known for its traditional fisherman's villages and its close proximity to the ocean. This region known as Kovalam is traditionally known for the fishermen. Their villages have been bit hard by Tsunamis and the hurricanes, but continue to rebuild themselves. This region developed over time and it has taken about a decade to build it into what it is today. It all started with the increase in international presence via local consulates and tourism.
The waves were gentle, and the price was unbeatable! The experience exceeded all my expectations, and it was humbling to connect with nature and embrace the outdoor culture of Chennai with my father. It always amazes me how much exploring new places and trying new feats (like surfing) can help you bond with those around you. The presence cultivated from the experience brings you closer together and encourages you to overcome the challenge at hand while not taking ourselves too seriously. We are but small factors of a very large system around us.
Dune Boarding in Abu Dhabi
My travels took an unexpected turn when I found myself stuck in Abu Dhabi for 21 hours. However this worked to my advantage as Abu Dhabi has many incredible things to offer, including: the various landmarks, the beauty of the desert, Desert Safari tours, and you guessed it—Dune Boarding! (If you’re in the region checkout all the things to do here!)
Rather than sitting idle in the airport, I decided to explore the beauty of the Al Ain desert and try my hand at dune-boarding. It was an adrenaline-fueled adventure that allowed me to reconnect with nature in a completely different way. Abu Dhabi is a fascinating city with diverse landmarks, and the desert safari tours offer an unforgettable experience.
The Wisdom of Adventure
As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of the beauty and diversity of our world. From the icy slopes of the Northeast to the warm waters of Chennai and the sandy dunes of Abu Dhabi, every place has its unique charm and magic.
Adventure does not discriminate against age or background, and it reminds us that we are small in the grand scheme of things. But in that smallness, there is a chance to connect with something much bigger than ourselves, something that reminds us that we are part of a larger universe, and it is up to us to make the most of it.
Whenever someone asks me why I prioritize challenging and uncertain situations or how I manage to fit it all in, I am reminded that my life is no different from anyone else’s. I make these adventures into the outdoors happen. When we recruit our capabilities in the face of challenge and uncertainty, we don’t have time to overthink—instead we are forced to tap into the intuitive knowing and capabilities we already hold under the surface.
Motion Meditation is a popular term for this, describing the benefits we get from movement that extend beyond the physical body.
As George Addair famously said, "Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear." What is even more rewarding is the realization of how minuscule we are in front of the great landscapes of the world. They have earned the reputation of being the “Great Outdoors” for a reason! I will leave you with that ;)
Over the past several months I have written about personal health and fitness while giving the best shot at following my own suggestions.
With schools coming to a screeching halt and summer kicking off, a new type of challenge has emerged – what do we do with the kids?
Several of my friends and parents have admitted that the potential for their kids to engage in mindless and sedentary activities just went up ten-fold. Whether you are a working parent or not, getting kids to engage in a physical activity that is good for them is tough during regular normalcy leave alone during the pandemic when most scheduled sports are closed.
It’s a challenge for most of us to drive change in our own behavior leave alone that of the kids. Friends and parents who have somewhat managed to beat the boredom successfully, have taught me that in order to impact behavior whether it is outdoor activities or mentally engaging options, you just have to lead with example, especially now. This much needed push to change behavior for the entire family has been a blessing in disguise for many of us.
My self-made indoor climbing wall in our basement. When the lockdown hit, I knew I had to have some form of alternatives and so I got some plywood and T-nuts for this very basic set up of a climbing wall made under the stairs of our basement. The hammocks in the back are just drilled into eyelets.
From my post on “Inside the mind of an outside sportsperson", I refer to health and fitness as gifts worth treasuring. Perhaps this is a reminder to take whatever time we can set aside between juggling work, homeschooling and everything else to stay fit and stay healthy as it is fuels how good we can get at everything else. As we well know, the demands on parents for everything else (job, home, family) haven't necessarily ceased.
Scientific American claims that scientists continue to show that everything from the “runner’s high” to the “yogi’s tranquility” can have profound effects on your brain. Exercise is the only way blood get’s access to the human brain. This is no different for children.
While socially structured sports have an added benefit of releasing endorphins and de-stressors in kids - in particular, who are exposed to a relatively stressful and competitive environment in the current days. In the absence of these there’s an opportunity to get outside and be sporty along with our human offspring.
The September 2018 edition of Outside Magazine’s article on “Rewilding the American Child” voices out “Overscheduled, addicted to screen, It's Time to Set Our Kids Free”. This excellent article came with some great ideas and breath-taking images. I was particuarly drawn to an excerpt on a Northern California outdoor wilderness program called Vilda that took teenagers into a camping regime, somewhat of a coming-of-age curriculum using camping and leadership skills. This led me to wonder - "Why is it that we have to send our kids for a structured experience to get an experience?" "Should this not be baked into their daily lives to an extent?" At least that is how it was for many of us growing up. Unfortunately, in today’s world parents compete against various barriers to adopting healthy behaviors. From online gaming to highly processed food, the lack of options available to us as adults itself is a barrier leave alone figuring out how to address a healthy lifestyle for our children.
A recent article by National Geographic documents that the brain creates new neurons all through adulthood in the hippocampus. The precursors of neurons (bright blue area) travel to the olfactory bulb, or scent-processing center (purple), to form sensory neurons.
Things like stress slow neurogenesis, whereas novelty (for example, traveling to a new place) and exercise boost it. Aerobic options are known to enhance memory – biking, running or swimming. Memories created during the lockdown are likely to have an impact. Taken from my post on “Why the brain needs exercise”, a study in Stockholm1 uncovered that exercise draws oxygen and blood flow into an area of the brain that is typically suppressed with low cell growth during depression.
The brain actually is wired to promote “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing. Important new memories grow stronger through neuronal changes and emotional resonance, while unimportant ones are weakened.
It is okay for the kids to be bored – It is actually a good thing as they learn to be creative and think beyond what is carefully curated and presented to them. Some friends and parents have shared that taking away all electronics and letting them “figure it out” has also worked.
Diversify the experience …
NatGeo and Outside-online have various resources to help diversify their learning. It isn’t necessarily all about going outside and shaking a leg. Depending on age there are resources out there that are packed with knowledge around latest developments and research on nature that kids might want to know. Show like “Nature Boom Time” on NatGeo@home that put a positive spin on Botany! My kids are actually hooked as they like watching 20 some years old tweens talk about botany! Why didn’t we think of this before? Kudos to Charlie Engleman, the filmmaker biologist who won a 50,000 grant to start this kid video docuseries in 2014 winning against 700 hopefuls.
Podcasts for those lazy evenings: What I like about the list below, is that they subscribe to my model of quizzes and Q&As along the epoxides of these podcasts – kids, like us, need engaging activities and options. Just a lecture or a talk won’t do.
I spend my free time noodling with concepts of health and fitness and I am passionate about how this impacts our children.
Friends and parents that I know of, have been doing a fantastic and creative job with in finding strategic ways to make this a learning opportunity for their children. I have certainly learnt a lot over the past weeks to months. Every child is different, and every family or individual is unique but what is undeniably consistent is that children learn from their ecosystem. We cannot expect them to not be sedentary and be healthy if it isn’t necessarily what they observe on a daily basis and what is daily has become closer to home now. Whether it is eating habits, a healthy mindset or a focus on fitness and safety, now more than ever before the kids are watching and it offers us an opportunity to expose them to a healthy and fit lifestyle
For many outdoor athletes, the current scenario has led to a significant increase in group connectivity, training and a moment to be grateful for our health, fitness and our communities.
While some folks are left wondering what outdoor enthusiasts are up to these days, here’s a glimpse into the life of one of us as I know it best.
My last article was about the importance of oxygen to the brain and the significance of a treasured group activity and the prescription of nature.
If you look at the pivot in my lifestyle right now, surprisingly very little has changed and in many ways the significance of group connectivity and exercise has accelerated as a necessity. I know many fitness enthusiasts who will relate to this.
At the Shawangunks with a crew of lead climbing athletes on international woman's day on Mar 8th. Little did we know that would most likely be our last climb for the season. Now we just have to get back with improved skills.
First and foremost, those that are driven by outdoor sports, have a fundamental need to keep fit or else there really is no improvement. Physical & metal fitness play a disproportionately higher role for improved performance in any sport. At least, such has been the case with outdoor/indoor climbing. I always found it difficult to keep up with learning my knots and anchors and training while being pulled in different directions – social commitments, kid’s classes, drives to the gym etc. A critical component of the psychological first-aid kit of an outdoor sportsman/woman, is the desire and need to train and stay fit.
Increased access to online classes and social media content has opened-up a world of online and in-home training possibilities.
Being in quarantine has pushed many of us to find creative ways to stay fit and focused. In my case this has significantly enhanced social connectivity with my fitness community. Now that I do not make it to the climbing gym every 2x a week which I miss very much, climbing partners simply connect over zoom calls and social media. We have got to know each other better, hopefully, making for a stronger partnership. One of the climbing groups I belong to have designed an app where we can all connect nationally. Featured here in Outside Magazine. Would this have happened otherwise? Maybe, but the current state-of-affairs certainly accelerated a lot of these solutions.
Personally, I have set aside 10-15 minute breaks in increments all through the day by catching a quick 7 minute workout or a Peleton challenge, convincing myself that this will not hamper, but rather fuel my productivity. Taking these breaks in short bursts if and when possible, happens to be a way to reduce the production of adenosine in the brain along with mental fatigue as I found in this write up by Outside Mag. The article also goes on to explain how elite athletes perhaps, with their grueling training regimens, build up a functional immunity to mental fatigue. My weekend challenges incorporate skill-building such as top-rope anchoring lessons by AMGA certified guides. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-pLP9dRWPc. I had been putting these lessons off for a while - technical training simply took a back seat.
The current scenario has turned into the perfect excuse to train harder, work harder and up the game!
This experience so far has been a reminder of what a privilege it is to have access to the outdoors – whether it is the national parks or our own backyards and the sense of comradery inherent in outdoor sports.
We look forward to coming out of this better trained in our craft and better connected to our friends, family and communities.
Health and fitness are gifts worth treasuring. Perhaps this is a reminder to take whatever time we can set aside between juggling work, homeschooling and everything else to stay fit and stay healthy as it is fuels how good we can get at everything else.
References and Links :
1. Gear hacks to keep your kids entertained at home
2. Stanford School of Education's Website
3. American Mountain Guide's Association Training Videos
4. "How to build a psychological first aid kit" Outside online
5. Canadian Sport Institute
6. Webinar 6 by Dr. Trent Stellingwerff (Training in a Pandemic)
7. Faroe Islands Virtual Tour Project
8. When it's okay to keep pushing and when you're better off taking it easy
Humans experience a myriad of emotions – up to 27 and counting!
Here I draw from various research pieces, to make a point that it’s not just mechanical exercise but a healthy social sport amongst supportive people that has a massive impact on our brain and mind set.
In a 2020 article by Scientific American1, which prompted this blog, the authors deconstruct how evolutionary history explains why physical activity is important not only for brain health, but to help us understand the workings of our emotions!
After over 3 decades of vetted research evidence was building that the adult brain could, in fact, generate new neurons. In one particularly striking experiment with mice, scientists found that simply running on a wheel led to the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain structure that is associated with memory and emotions!2
A scientific study in Stockholm3 uncovered that exercise draws oxygen and blood flow into an area of the brain that is typically suppressed with low cell growth during depression.
The brain actually is wired to promote “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing. Important new memories grow stronger through neuronal changes and emotional resonance, while unimportant ones are weakened.
The brain promotes “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing
You don’t need to remember where the car keys were last week – but the name of your new boss, burned into your brain by new connections (fear of a demotion? Hope for a promotion?), is another matter.
A recent article by National Geographic4 documents that the brain creates new neurons all through adulthood in the hippocampus. The precursors of neurons (bright blue area) travel to the olfactory bulb, or scent-processing center (purple), to form sensory neurons.
Hence adults can sprout hot-off-the-press neurons as well! Only in the hippocampus… Here memory and emotions are processed!
The hippocampus is being studied in relation to depression. This region maybe more likely to hold negative memories in people with depression
Things like stress slow neurogenesis, whereas novelty (for example, traveling to a new place) and exercise boost it. Aerobic options are known to enhance memory – biking, running, swimming or rock climbing!
Exercise is the only way blood get’s access to the human brain
Another excerpt from Scientific American claims that scientists continue to show that everything from the “runner’s high” to the “yogi’s tranquility” can have profound effects on your brain
So, sitting at your desk doing math problems or crunching numbers is futile if not combined with an aerobic activity. The same tasks can be done more productively if coupled with an aerobic physical activity.
Socially structured sports have an added benefit of releasing endorphins and de-stressors in kids in particular who are exposed to a relatively stressful and competitive environment in the current days.
Now combine this with a social-aerobic physical activity and you are now entering brain-elixir territory!
What is especially attractive about outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing for instance is the social aspect – Dopamine, widely labeled as the pleasure chemical, gets into a feedback loop to lift your mood when you plan to head toward a hike or a climb with a group of friends – a brain induced Motivator!
Martin Sligman’s PERMA Model for authentic happiness:
Our brains, unfortunately, are wired to attend to and learn from negative experience more than positive ones, kind of a survival kit for keeping us from danger
This tendency at times might be responsible for unnecessary fixation over the negatives such as obsessing over a colleague’s put-down or a natural disaster in the news.
Experts recommend creating a daily diet of happy micro-moments
“Therapy and exercise needn’t be mutually exclusive” as quoted by the American Psychology Association.
A practicing psychologist with training in sport psychology, Michelle Joshua, PhD foundedWork it Out LLC, a clinic with offices in Raleigh and Carrboro, N.C., that provides health and behavior interventions to people with conditions including diabetes and obesity.
“Science's Newest Miracle Drug Is Free: | Aaron Reuben| Outsideonline | May 1, 2019 | 21 minute read
Katie Asmus, a licensed psychotherapist and wilderness guide in Boulder, Colo. Firmly believes that here is something about the environment that helps our nervous systems unwind.
A grassroots movement of physicians are prescribing time outdoors as the best possible cure for a growing list of ailments. If prescribers can change patient behavior via nature prescribed programs there is a growing line of evidence that could support reimbursement for such programs complementary to a pill.
The term “Nature Rx” was originally developed by writer/director Justin Bogardus and Dream Tree Film as a part of a viral comedy series on the power of reconnecting with nature at nature-rx.org. Outside Magazine has since hosted some of these award-winning films on its website since 2015.
In a nutshell, a healthy combo of low-conflict and high quality relationships while sharing in an engaging activity will not disappoint!
Upper left: a cheerful street vendor at Margao. Upper right: two pretty ladies in traditional outfit from am church. Lower left: Only the best tailors here. Lower right: me by a chapel in historic Panjim
The Portuguese in India? Yes they colonized the state of Goa for over 400 years
Goa, the smallest of the 30 states of India and home to over 55 beaches, has been through a dizzying array of rulers from Hindu Kings in the 3rd century BC through the 3rd century AD and over 600 years of Muslim rule in the 15th century. But it was the arrival of the Portuguese in 1510 that changed the course of Goan history, religion and culture forever. The 450-year Portuguese occupation only came to an end in 1961 with the intervention of the Indian Army.
Goa is to a large part, shaped by Portuguese culture. Most Goan ancestry dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, largely driven by Jesuits.
The indigenous population of this part of the country went through a large scape conversion to Christianity during the 16th century Spanish inquisition where most of the people got their Portuguese surnames, mainly of Jesuit origin. Before the Portuguese, Goan history was mainly comprised of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists as well and hence an existing minority population in Goa of these religions.
Looking into a traditional Indian Almirah (cupboard) at an antique museum called Goa Chitra, founded by Goan artist-curator-restorer Victor-Hugo Gomes in the Coastal village of Benaulim. With over 4000 artefacts—focusing on Goa's traditional agrarian technology and lifestyle, this is one of Goa’s charming attractions with great insights into its culture from coconut farming to “Toddy” making (Pictured at the Bottom).
Goa's famous Latin Quarter in capital city Panjim, is abundant with old Portuguese mansions that once belonged to rulers and administrators. This district was declared a UNESCO Heritage Zone in 1984. My Pic opportunity with a Vespa to the right!
A group of Fishermen eagerly bait their early morning catch by the Arabian Sea at Dusk .
Traditional mansions in the quarter are known for their intricate "oyster-shell mirrors" where the oyster shells are flattened to let in sunlight while keeping your privacy. I remember having oyster shell curtains around in the house - pretty fragile. They didn't last too long around us kids back then!
Why Goa? With 3 Naval bases in Goa, my father, a Naval Aviator, was posted there for several years. And therefore most of my formative years were spent in this state.
The art of Mario Miranda, known as one of India’s most famous cartoonists from Loutolim known for his creative genius in translating ordinary Goan life into magical vignettes like no other. Miranda's galleries can be found in 5 different locations in Gia including the Airport and the capital city of Panjim where you can find everything from picture frames to lampshades, clutches and fashion bags with his unique caricatures. More on the story and genius behind his art can be read here : https://engrave.in/blog/indian-art-mario-miranda/
When in Goa, I highly recommend Goa Walking tours for local exploration. @goawalkingtours. An exceptional tourist guidebook is "100 Goan Experiences" by Pantaleo Fernandes published by the department of tourism Govt. of Goa. The book captures a comprehensive overview of various options from swimming with Dolphins to wilderness elephant tours to serene Yoga ashrams - Your Eat, Pray, Love guidebook to this beautiful state!
I hope you enjoyed my little snippet on Goa, one of India's coastal states with a unique mix of Portuguese, Deccan and South Indian culture. Here the natives take great pride in their heritage, opening their doors to you and finding their way into your heart.
The word ‘Vegas” for me went hand-hand with bright lights, the Bellagio Fountain and yes “Thunder from Down Under, the spirited male review team from Australia!
A few weeks ago, a climbing adventure with friends exposed me to a whole new side of Vegas. Well known to seasoned climbers as Red Rock Canyon, about 15 miles West of Vegas are bright Red Sandstone mountains and rocks offering up a wealth of adventure activities.
Image that doesn’t do justice – beautiful landscapes riddled with Joshua trees and red rocks in the horizon
Visited by over 2 million people every year, the roughly 3000 feet tall red sandstone canyons are marked as a National Conservation Area (NCA). What does that mean? NCA areas are nature conservation areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Black Rock Desert, a popular destination for The Burning Man, is one other NCA. Interestingly Red Rock Canyon has been rumored to be the next destination for this rendezvous!
What’s the Technical Difference Between a National Park and a National Conservation Area?
Americans inherited 623 million acres of land which came in four varieties:
Image to the left: At the Black Corridor Crag at Red Rock
We noticed parts of Red Rock Canyon's neighboring areas were marked as Wilderness points.
These areas then belong to not only, say, Yosemite National Park but to the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), as well. What difference does it make? If land inside Yosemite becomes a wilderness area, it must remain free of roads and structures. The gorgeous colors?
Millions of years ago Red Rock was under an ocean basin and limey deposits resulted in limestone sediments – now still seen as limestone rocks around the canyon. Oxidation of the iron minerals in the rocks resulted in the red formations. Years of streams and water flows then gave the rocks those crevices and holds for adventure sports!
A bit north of Red Rock are the Limestone formations at Mt. Charleston. At 7-8,000 feet elevation, the temperatures here tend to be up to 20 degrees lower than the hot red rock valley. Offering up cooler conditions for climbers and hikers in the summer time, there are several cave formations of hard limestone that make for a very different climbing experience.
Also, Mt.Charleston, happens to be an "Unincorporated Town" of Nevada which means they are provided extra services by the county, paid for by property taxes or other revenue sources from the town. Apparently a rich tourist destination!
My buddies belaying and climbing the limestone formations at Mt. Charleston
The caves at Mt. Charleston
15 miles West of Vegas was a whole new experience…Not So Vegas!
Dara Torres, arguably the fastest female swimmer in America, captured the hearts and minds of all ages when she launched her Olympic comeback as a new mother at the age of 41. She took three silver medals in Beijing, including a heartbreaking .01-second finish behind the gold medalist in the women's 50-meter freestyle!
Dara spoke candidly about being an older female athlete in a young athlete’s game. Her doubts, her belief in fitness, the ins and out of the competition, about how she worked through the pain and uncertainty, about seizing the moment, and about never once giving up. She had dared to entertain a seemingly impossible dream.
After my first child was born, I had my first major surgery with about 8 weeks to recover before I had to go back to a 9-5 corporate world. All this while adapting to being a new mother in an entirely new body contributed to my doubts of being up for the challenge of just being fit at a very basic level.
15 months into this new lifestyle, I gave birth to my second child and underwent yet another C-section. During this phase I began noticing symptoms like muscle weakness and a significant loss of energy, which negatively impacted everything.
They say “it takes a village” but my husband and I, we really had each other.
Over the years, I remember hearing people question why staying fit was so important. I will admit, I have 99 problems and flaws but having the energy and drive to do more with less is not one of them and I credit a fit lifestyle to that.
At 38, after my second C-section, I was juggling family life all while transferring to another corporate firm. By the time my 40th birthday came around, drained despite alternating my exercises, I realized that the game was up to a whole new level.
Soon things would change.
Around this time I joined a company that promoted health & wellness. Two years into my role at this place, I learned about their fitness reimbursement program. I was paired with a fitness trainer, who at 5 feet 2 inches towered maybe 2 inches over me and had a similar physique to mine and to the most part a similar lifestyle. We connected immediately!
I learned the truth in the saying, “Choose Your Coach, Change Your Life!”
I started my program with her just once a week. She gauged my workstyle, life, fitness goals and my overall body type and customized a 30-minute workout, helping me get the most out of a limited time.
Within the first quarter, I could not only feel a notable increase in energy but there was a significant improvement in how I showed up for my hobbies. Whether it was climbing, hiking or any other of my favorite outdoor activities, my energy was upward and I could focus on work, kid’s curriculum and their sports activities.
Here’s what I want you to take away from this – If you have the true desire to maintain your personal fitness all while managing a family and career, it doesn't hurt to be ready for a Triathlon. Dare to entertain a seemingly impossible dream because eventually you will have one less problem to deal with.
David Lama was quite literally born to climb. The son of a Nepali mountain guide and a nurse from Austria, David was known as one of the best all around alpinists in the world.
I first learnt about David when the Dec 2016 cover of Outside magazine captured my attention. A talented mountaineer, only in his 20’s, he had a goal and a vision to expand the sport for the next generation.
David, only 28 and a former teenage prodigy was quoted as outside magazines 30 under 30 athletes who were actively shaping the sport for the future generation. He was so young and inspiring, I had hoped to introduce my kids to him someday.
Mountaineering is not just a thing people do to find themselves, it is a sport just like Lacrosse or Soccer or anything else out there. I recollect my first glacial hike in the Himalayas in Kashmir, when I was 13 and when I returned with frost bitten toes! Mountaineering is a skilled sport and some people simply have the talent for it. David used drones and video footage to bring this adventure sport closer to everyday people. He found climbing partners and ascended some of the toughest routes while being mindful of the locals.
Not to take away from anybody’s accomplishments but there are folks who ascend Mt.Everest as a mission to change their lives, with less insight (not by any fault on their part), into how this shapes local life. If you find a minute, watch Discovery channel’s SHERPA. It tells the horrowing story of the 2014 tragedy on Mt.Everest through their eyes.
Earlier this week, David along with 2 fellow world class mountaineers, were attempting a difficult climb up the 10,810-foot Peak in the Canadian Rockies, when a large avalanche swept down the mountain, killing all three climbers.
These days, with the instant success of social media stars, finding good quality role models for ourselves and our kids is close to impossible. David was a hope for his generation and had established a legacy for mountaineers everywhere.
His first agent to Lunag Ri (Nepal) with Conrad Anker : Annapurna III – Unclimbed” is an award-winning 12-min documentary featuring the 2016 expedition to the Himalayas of Nepal led by David Lama together with Austrian alpinists Hansjörg Auer and Alex Blümel : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp72WjMVhTQ
I cannot even imagine what it must have taken for his parents to live through this week. Their heart wrenching note on Instagram linked here :
My second time at the Grand Canyon, 15 years later was a 3 day camping trip to the majestic part of the Grand Canyon called the Havasu Falls: A series of beautiful and photogenic waterfalls on the Havasu Creek, a tributary to the Grand Canyon. The water flows out of limestone, which gives it a pleasing blue-green hue.
I remember traveling down the north rim 15 years ago with 40 lbs on my back and I thought I had seen it all. Was I mistaken!
This marvel has so much to offer and more. This time around we backpacked down to the Havasupai reservation land, camping at there for two nights and three days. This paradise land has about 3-4 beautiful green-blue waterfalls, each tremendously stunning. If this isn’t in your bucket list, I would recommend it. The best part - Zero internet connection and memories of a lifetime! The waterfalls end in large plunge pools - clear, deep and inviting. People come from around the world to view the waterfalls and Grand Canyon scenery, and swim in the pools. The area is part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation and is managed by the tribe. The number of visitors is restricted and reservations are required. See the tribe's website for contact numbers and info about making reservations. You must apply for reservations months in advance for trips during the tourism season : http://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com/Havasupai-Camping/havasupai-camping.html
To the left is the picture I took on Day 1 at base camp and to the right was Day 3 when we were leaving of the same falls after a mudslide and floods. These parts are prone to flash floods.
Half way down the hike to base, we were at the Havasupai village. Deep inside a 3000 foot-deep hole and home to the Havasupai Tribe “People of the blue green water”, this is the ONLY town in the Grand Canyon. This Supai village is home to America’s only Mule Run Mail Stop. With a total population of about 280 people as recorded by the US Census in 2010, —a series of linked mules carrying packages and letters. Each parcel that makes it out of Supai has a special postmark—one that’s well known to backpackers, who often mail out (or mule out) their heavy packs via the postal service rather than drag them back up eight steep miles
When Europeans and later the U.S. government began to grab Native land, they considered the unusual beauty and rich mineral content of the Havasupai region especially worth taking. By the late 19th century, tribal lands dwindled from 1.6 million acres to just 518. Havasupais were confined to the bottom of a small canyon without the plateau lands they traditionally used in winter.
The tribe appealed to Congress seven different times over the course of 66 years—until President Ford finally signed an important bill into law. As the National Park Service writes, the U.S. government added 185,000 acres to the Havasupai reservation, along with 95,000 acres of access to traditional-use lands within Grand Canyon National Park. Some areas are still under National Park Service operation, but the Havasupais can once again access some of their original plateau areas. The joyful moment when Havasupai lands were restored in 1975 remains an important one in modern Native American legal history.
Right in the center of the village is a helipad for hikers who decide to get airlifted. Getting to base camp after this was a beautiful experience! Just the views of the gorgeous and the blue waterfalls were memories to keep.
Once you set base camp, and collect your bags from the Mule train, you can walk down to the Havasu falls and spend the evening there just walking through the falls, pitch a tent at the top or just hang out for a sunset dinner. Over the next few days we trekked through the tributaries that give life to the Colorado. I was told this has the elements of a documentary where the wildlife is rich, the grass is green and you are in this gorgeous outer space world. This much exceeded all of that! The striking mixture of dry mountain air combined with tropical lush foliage is something out of this world
We embraced the walk back, switch back and all, grateful for the experience we just had. Like all things beautiful, glad to have been there!
Back past Supai village where its residents carried their weekly groceries, kids walked around the new school that they just put together for the tribe. One of us stopped to get a picture of a group of men carrying large gallons of water to the only grocery store/restaurant in the village. “Yeah get a picture of the Real People”, he said. One can only hope that all of nature’s beauty, saved for us to experience, brings the residents a piece of what they deserve, what they might want…the real people of the Canyon!
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