Friday, May 20, 2016

Front Sight Firearms Training Academy - Ropes and Rappel Course

Alright, so this year, I decided to up my game and tackle the world of firearms training, and fulfill my destiny of becoming an expert marksman.  On top of that, I decided it was time I train some swat team skills because, oh I don't know, it's extremely useful for when I'm stuck on the side of a cliff, or need to get out of a burning building.  Which has never happened... so maybe its for me to continue learning survival skills, because it's fun and useful.

With that said, fun and useful are an understatement and a half!  I learned so much, that I need to actually go back and review multiple times.  The entire 4 days of the Ropes and Rappel course you are either learning knots, rigging, or rappelling.  We started off on a 12' wall, and I found that a bit intense since we had 50 mph winds on the first day.  By day 2 we were rappelling off the 45' tower, and that was enough to cause some vertigo, but the trainers were AMAZING and really talked/coached you through it all.

Some things I would have improved upon however, was the belay training.  The trainers do not belay you.  The students do that.  And I found that unnerving.  I want my belay to be trained and ready to catch me if I fall.  I felt there was a lot of room for error, and if you have students belay, there needs to be training in that.  Our training pretty much consisted of one demo.  Then they handed you the rope and put a person's life in your hands.  Technically your life is in your own hands, and if you fall in the first place, it's due to your own human error.  The belay, is there for backup.  But STILL!  I want my back up to be trained.

Other than that, it was an awesome experience.  I gained a ton of insight, and I will go back for this course.

You have a great view of the desert from the class site.  There is also a good balance of classroom time and outside class time, which is good because it's 4 days, 9 hours/day, with 1 lunch break, and a few bathroom breaks.

This tower is multi-functional and you can learn several types of rappels, including the head first rappel.

You totally need a buff to keep the dust out of your mouth and nose.  When that wind picks up, the dust is killer.

Death Valley... or rather... DROP DEAD GORGEOUS Valley

I mean.  There isn't a whole lot to say, except for the fact that Death Valley offers some of California's most beautiful terrains and sights to behold.  This is the entrance of Death Valley at Twilight. 
I was able to capture the sunset while driving through, and I was in awe of this place.  Absolute awe.

We drove through in March, and the super bloom was happening.  We did Kung Fu, Yoga, we sprinted up and down sand dunes.  I crab walked through the valley of the shadow of death #backbend #crabwalk #deathvalley#90srapmusiconmymind

We decided this was the spot for our annual family picture.  We're calling this "The Ninja Bunch".

Mono Lake Adventure - Beware of Sink Holes!!

The beauty of this lake is out of this world.  But make sure you come prior to spring, because flies are a force to be reckoned with as temperatures heat up.

This gem of wonder located 30 minutes before Mammoth Lakes (if you take the hwy 395 route from Tahoe) to Las Vegas is an incredible sight to behold. BUT before you venture out onto the lakeshore, BE WARNED... I was determined to paddle board this lake, until the moment I found myself in a sinkhole. Yes... Quicksand... Everywhere... Exists...HERE. In this place. BE CAREFUL. The kids were of course following me, and I yelled at them to stop, to get back to the pier, where there was a stable, above ground walkway. I told them to not venture any further, while I carefully removed my right leg from a sinkhole and sidestepped on some incredible unstable terrain while carrying my freaking paddle board. Lon (my husband) yelled from the walkway, "what's wrong?" I yelled back, "keep the kids with you! There are sink holes!" So of course, Lon immediately came out after me. The moment Lon got within 25 feet from me, his face went white. "Get back kids! Get back!!"
Lon often says, "Elle, you can't keep yourself out of trouble." And he was right...particularly right on this day. Paddle boarding out on this lake, on this particular day, meant major trouble. But yet, all I could think about was how beautiful this lake was, and how not a single soul was in it. The entire lake to myself!!! I stood there, looking at the lake, then looking back at Lon. I thought, hey! We've got a big long rope in the back of the truck. It'll be fine! Lon read my face (and ultimately my thoughts)... "Elle... Elle... This is not a good idea..." It took a minute, but the idea of sinking and dieing in salty mud wasn't something I had in mind. So yes, I side stepped carefully away and off the lakeshore. Only to find that we needed to drive to the OTHER side of the lake to find this rad spot, which had some intensely beautiful and safe places to hang out. I didn't paddle board, because I simply couldn't get that close to the lake shore without being totally confident I wouldn't be swallowed alive. So I'll have to try again during the summer and see how stable the terrain seems to be, and go from there. In the meantime, if you decide to stop by, just watch your step 😜
When parking at Mono Lake there is a drop box for money.  And the restrooms were locked when we arrived on the North side of the lake (We visited in March).  There is a cool playground for kids and lots of scenic wonder stuff to see.  This particular shot was taken on the South side.  Here is a LINK to the google map.

Mono Lake is also known as the land of Pumice Stone.  There is pumice stone EVERYWHERE.  You can pick up boulders and they are super light weight.  File your feel while your at it.  It's an epic experience.
These orange metallic looking trees are absolutely fascinating.  You honestly have to see for yourself in person.  They are so wild to see!
There are these cool rock formation everywhere.  If you have time to hike around the whole lake, you will see much more interesting formations.  We had to make a short stop.  So next time!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Non Tourist Maui Adventure

Well it's been awhile!  And that would be because I have been busy doing the adventure thing, owning a gym thing, homeschooling 4 kids thing, and being a wife thing.  There is a lot to catch up on, but I'll start with our recent trip to Maui.  We spent a total of 15 days on the Island.  We did the whole family adventure/nomad trip in one of those VW camper vans, which was awesome.  We beach hopped every night, dove over a dozen spots and beaches.  Then the last 5 days we were there, we ran an Adventure Retreat with folks from the gym.  This blog post is about the Family Adventure portion.  I'll have to do a whole separate blog post on the Adventure Retreat side, because it's just a lot of info and experiences to cover.  Plus I gotta cover what we saw IN the ocean, that's a whole other blog post coming too!
First Off - This happened.  Clear blue waters, and happy kids.  This spot is located at Baldwin Beach, my favorite beach.  It is known for it's incredible crashing waves, but if you pull into the parking lot, and then walk a mile to the left (facing the ocean), you will find this serene lagoon, protected by rock and coral, perfect for the kiddos to swim in a gigantic, warm, salt water pool.  Fishes come to visit, so bring your snorkel gear.  And do watch the kids, because there is still a current, that can pull you out to the unprotected area, and sweep you out to sea.

Baldwin Beach has this amazing energy.  People are working out, doing yoga, running up the sand dunes, and overall training their bodies to be stronger.  There is even a pull up bar set up at this place (it's the very last sand dune trail to the left).  My husband Lon and my oldest decided to practice their rooting skills.  Kung Fu opportunities are EVERYWHERE.

Check out the Big Blue.  I will have to post what we actually saw IN the water on a different post.  This shot is taken at Kaanapali, near the famed snorkeling and cliff jumping spot "Black Rock".  This is the most touristy spot we hung out at, and it's worth it, because of "Black Rock."  The snorkeling is world class, and you will see incredible things, like GIANT sea turtles, GIANT sting rays, and hundreds of varieties of fish.  If you stay close to the shore, you will see fish for sure, and sea turtles.  If you are an adventurer and swim past the rock, and swim all the way around it, you will see the giant stuff.  Fish that are bigger than you.  And when you see fish that are bigger than you, the things that EAT the fish bigger than you, are out there too. So fair warning there.

Baldwin is still my favorite place though.  I was inspired to do Yoga because I'm artsy like that.

We did the VW camper van thing.  It was totally epic, and we saw so much of the Island.  It was amazing waking up to the sunrise each morning, with the waves lapping just a few feet from your "doorstep".  We even got to experience a monsoon at this location.

Check out the view!  Every spot had a completely different type of terrain.  One of the places (not pictured) was this incredible clifftop.  BUT we were awoken in the middle of the night by some tweakers who decided to park next to us, growl and mumble loudly, while shooting up meth and heroine.  Needless to say, we weren't interested in spending the night on a cliff face next to those guys.  Sooooo, should you decide to camp and do this, be prepared for things like that.  It only happened to us that one night, but still, that was frightening.  We found a new spot.  Phew!

Watching the sunrise with my son was a beautiful experience each day.  My little 7 year old would rise before me, and wrap himself in a blanket, and then stand next to the waves, facing the sun.  I joined him every morning.

These kiddos... I was nominated for Greatest Mom Award for cooking Mac & Cheese in the van and serving it on the beach. Overall lots of happy smiles on this trip.

We enjoyed a wholesome breakfast of cereal as we found ourselves on the North Side.
One of the coolest things about Maui is the vastly different types of terrain.  On the West Side of the Island you get desert terrain, but also the vast sandy beaches.  Whereas if you venture further North, you'll run into thickly forested areas.  If you head East, you are in the JUNGLE.  It's really an AMAZING place to visit.  This shot was taken at DT Fleming Beach, the North end of Maui.

There are hikes and rock scrambling galore on the North end.  But BE CAREFUL.  The Ocean is wild and dangerous, and even if you know how to read weather patterns, and you are an expert swimmer, always think about how you can minimize risk.  We rock scrambled to this spot at sunrise, and there were moments where I wish we just brought our shoes, because there was some broken glass (boo the people who litter). And I was leary about getting too close to the water, at this point.  If the rocks are wet, stay far back.  Here it looks wet (but it's not, the volcanic rock can be deceiving).

All in all, Maui is probably one of the safest island adventures to experience.  There are signs EVERYWHERE with warnings, like "Shark Attack's Here at this Spot", and things like that.  Maui has a really high regard for safety in comparison to other tropical islands throughout the world.  I would say, I felt really comfortable bringing my small kids here to experience some Adventure hikes, snorkeling, free climbing, cliff jumping, sea cave exploring, ect.  Plus it's still within the USA, so no need for passports if you are a US citizen, there is a hospital, and cell phone reception (although, we were in places for days on end with no reception), BUT the island is small enough that you can get to a cell reception area within an hour.  If you are like me and don't want to vacation inside a box, Maui still has so many non-touristy areas to explore and experience.  Be respectful of the locals, and if you can blend in, EVEN BETTER!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park

Doug and I have spent the last few months training for the John Muir Trail this July, and this last weekend we went on a little warm up hike to test out some of our new gear, new methods, and get our feet wet at altitude.

Actually, now that I think about it, that isn't accurate.  I talked Doug's sister, Nancy, into a 45 mile hike in three days as "training" for our Machu Picchu hike in Peru this winter.  Somewhere in there I mentioned to Doug how much fun we were going to have and suggested that he come along.  And then Nancy ended up using all of her vacation time going to Germany, so Doug and I ended up doing the trail by ourselves and I chalked it up to a JMT warm up.  Yes.  That's how that happened.

In any event, Doug and I hiked 45 miles in three days.  That's really the meat and potatoes of what I am trying to say.

The venue was the lovely Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park, and if you have never been there you should seriously consider taking the time to do so.  It has all of the majestic appeal of Yosemite without the crowds.  Being a loop, you can nab permits for the trail going clockwise or counter-clockwise.  The thing is that Glen Pass, the high point of the trail at 11,970', is not exactly half way through the loop; rather, it falls on the counter-clockwise side.  Which means that if you go counter-clockwise, you climb the pass in 17 miles, whereas if you go clockwise you climb it in a luxurious 26 miles. It also means that Clockwise permits are hard to get, because no one really wants to deal with how steep that 17 miles is.

Naturally, I could only get permits for the hard way.

But that's okay, right? After a few weeks of telling Nancy and Doug that the hard way was carved out of fire and brimstone and that we would never, EVER go that way, I got to tell them that really, I was exaggerating.  It's not that bad.  We will be fine. I mean, I know that I"m the only one that really likes hiking uphill, but don't' sweat it because it will be SO MUCH FUN.

Nancy having bowed out, Doug and I set off on Friday morning to the park in order to camp over night in an attempt to get semi-acclimated to the beginning elevation. We got our permits early so we could get up and go the next day. And, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we did just that.

And OMG the first day was hard. 15 miles all freaking uphill. We climbed from 5000' something to 9500'.  Over the course of 15 miles hat doesn't sound so bad, but it was a little brutal that day.
Here is Doug being not too happy with me.  A common theme when I talk him in to backpacking trips.
But the Rae Lakes Loop is seriously a beautiful loop guys.  if you ever get a chance to do it, you really should.  Though by the end up the trip, I decided that four days was really the way to go.  Split the first day up into two or something.
I'm in a freaking meadow!

Doug being super fancy as we climb out of Vidette.

King's Canyon is full of this. 
King's Canyon really is on par with Yosemite, but without the tourist zoo.  The rangers are also really friendly and considerably less stressed.

On top of Glen Pass, 11,924'.

Rae Lakes from Glen Pass.

Panorama from the top of Glen Pass.

 As you come down from Glen pass and Rae Lakes, you go through a perfect little meadow on your way to the suspension bridge at Woods Creek Crossing.  This is probably our favorite part of the trail, and Doug is a little in love with this stream crossing right here.
Crossing the creek into Upper Paradise Valley. 

Okay, this spot is just below Lower Paradise, and it is MADE for swimming.  Crystal clear.  Deep.  Beautiful. And absolutely frigid. 

And coming down the mountain.  Hot and Hungry. 
Doug and I have decided not to hike this patch of trail again for awhile, as we hike the Woods Creek Crossing to Vidette Meadows bit again while we were on the JMT.  We felt a little too familiar with Glen Pass this last time around. But I have to say, I think I prefer the counter clockwise version.  It gets the uphill over with faster, and the downhill is a little gentler on your knees.  In some places. 

I know I am a few weeks late in getting this adventure up, and I have already had people asking me to get the JMT trip posted already. I will, I will! Be prepared for probably TMI in that post, as we were on the trail for 16 freaking days with limited showers and laundry services. 

So tell me, were has everyone been hiking this summer?  Tell us about your adventures this season!



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Grand Canyon - Inspiring the Possible & Knowing your Limits

The Grand Enormous Canyon.  The Father of all Canyons.  The Alpha, the Chief, the Omega of all Ravines and Canyons that ever hoped to be formed on Planet Earth.  You just can't fathom how Grand, how Majestic this place is, until you have beheld it with your own eyes.  The Grand Canyon commands respect, the landscape unforgiving, and the level of reverence required for this place is clear as the cuts in the cliff faces.  With 1,000 ft. drops, you come to realize how anything is possible.  If this place can be formed, could exist, then anything is possible.  This is the ideal that was inspired in me as I gazed upon one of the most mighty wonders of our Earth.  The whole experience is humbling, and should you choose to venture here, on one of the most beautiful yet treacherous landscapes ever formed, then take into consideration my fellow friends - know your limits, because your life depends on it.

On our way to the Grand Canyon we crossed the Colorado River.  I suddenly felt filled with inspiration.  This landscape inspires you - makes you feel bigger than what you are, because you are in the presence of something so incredible.

Just look at all that Canyon!!

Seeing the Grand Canyon at this angle was insighful.

Insight is exactly what I achieved on this trip.  Just seeing this place is an adventure, but choosing to move through this environment, to take on this landscape is a whole other undertaking.  For one, danger lies everywhere.  If you decide to descend into the Canyon just know that you need to be sure of your footing.  Steep cliff faces sneak up on you, so it's important to trek slowly, carefully, and be completely aware.

The landscape is oh so taunting.  There is just soooo much to do.  As you hike the rim (I was on the South Rim) you see so many opportunities to venture off the path to what I call "Peninsulas", which are parts of the canyon that jut out into the larger expanse, creating a 360 degree view.  There aren't any official map trails that take you to these peninsulas, but they are there, and many of them are fairly accessible.  Others, not so much.

This lovely shot was achieved because I ventured out onto a peninsula.

I prefer to stay a body length and a half away from the edges.
The important thing to remember though, is that just because you can climb down into the Canyon, does not mean you know or have the ability to climb back up.  On one of my treks down to a particular very tempting I could not resist peninsula, involved me descending around 100'.  The arena - I must admit looked sketchy from the rim, but I had to try it, see for myself if it was doable.  I ended up around 100' down, to find that there was a 14' drop or so, with no clear visibility. I would have needed a rope, to see if the drop was something I could climb down/up.  Instead I stood a few feet away from the edge, eyeing the drop with one arm slung around a tree, leaning as far as I could (safely).  Here's the thing.  The Canyon terrain has alot of loose gravel, and it's really, very steep.  If you were to take a tumble, lose your footing, even on one step, your dead.  The terrain is absolutely unforgiving.  There is no coming back from a fall, so everything you do you have to be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN you can do it.  If not, don't even attempt.  At this point I was uncertain if I could move down any further, safely.  So I came to that point. That point where you say to yourself, "I know my limits, and this is it."  So I opted to go back.

Going back was interesting however.  There was one section, a 6' drop that I came down, very easily. Getting up 6' is no big deal for me... when I have a bit of a run up.  But if I have to do a muscle up to get up, ha!  Think again.  This was a big fail on my behalf. I realized that I had absolutely no run up, because of course, I'm on the Grand Canyon.  I also wasn't going to attempt a cat, not on smooth rock without ledges or holds, and the only way I could get up was if I jumped into a support.  Hmmm no thanks.  I will not be doing any jumping on any ledges.  So I found another way back.  At this point however, when I realized I wasn't going back the way I came, I felt a strike of fear within me.  And fear... is BAD news.  I quickly composed myself with my go to breathing exercises, and knew I needed to act fast but CAREFULLY.  It's not good to be in a bad situation for long, because being out there can be very, very unnerving, and it will play with your mind.  I knew it was important I got out soon, within 15 minutes.  Otherwise what can happen is your brain starts to release oxidative stress, and can cause panic, nausea, and all types of problems.  So I focused on problem solving.  I knew I could create a switch back pattern if need be. And so that's what I started to do.  I kept myself on sure footing, and started creating places using my right hand, digging into dry soil on more flatted areas, to make it more flat, and less gravel ridden.  Wherever I moved, I was certain I'd have sure footing to get to where I needed to go.  I created one switch back (sort of, more like two foot holds), that's really all it took, a few foot holds and the rest is history. I scrambled and climbed back to the top, and when I got to the top of the rim sighed with relief and said out loud, "Oh Thank God."  

The point of all this - I made a miscalculation that could have costed me BIG.  What seems like small beans, is not small beans when it comes to terrain at this scale.  But luckily I was able to stifle my curiosity with reason - "I know my limits and this is it".  When I reached the top, I knew I had pushed the boundary.  I had done something that pushed the envelope for me, but I still listened to that voice - that inner wisdom that tells you when it's time to stop.  Sometimes, in certain situations, it's just better to quit, and by doing so, you'll end up on top.

Which brings me back to possibility.  Everything and anything can be possible.  But you have to avoid set backs that will end you.  And that's an important life lesson.  Most lessons we face in life give us some elbow room, to come back from our mistakes.  But there are some mistakes that cost too much, that are too crippling to us, to ever allow us to live up to the potential we had in the first place. It's important to know when we face those lessons - to be aware of what is really before us.  It's my hope and prayer that we all take the time to seek out that wisdom for ourselves.

- Elle Beyer

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Zion - The Promised Playland

Did I just land on Mars?  Nay - it's ZION!!!

Zion National Park - out of all the places I have been in this world, this is one place I KNOW I will see again, because it's one of those places that you MUST visit again and again.

The terrain is out of this world, and a mover's ultimate playground.  From the moment you set eyes on this place it will take all the willpower you can muster to stop yourself from stopping in the middle of the road and abandoning your car, so you can run and frolick on the hills.  Only these hills are not some prairie land. These hills look as if you just landed on another planet.  From tones of red and orange, to the deepest and richest shades of brown, adorned with the evergreens, you find yourself on the faces of smooth sandstone, enriched with caves, rock climbing holds galore, bouldering, rock scrambling and hopping, tree climbing, and canyoneering.  What's more is the lovely Virgin River that flows through the canyons, offering a cool place to swim and wade.  You can hike up the river for the famed and scenic "Narrows" hike, or give yourself a thrill of a lifetime on the "Angels Landing" hike.

A view of the trees being highlighted by the sun among the lovely rockscape (Riverside Walk).

The point of this blog post however, is to give you some insight on what you can do with the family - in particularly small children, anyone needing a stroller, or in a wheelchair.  As and adventurer and explorer there is much more to tell, and much more to do and see, but for this post, we did that which was fun for the whole family, and focused on the fun and safety of our smallest explorers.

Check us out!  2 couples and 9 kids to our names.  Teaching our kids about exploration, sustaining and protecting our beautiful lands, and having some family oriented fun.  Our youngest explorer was my niece Contessa who is 2 years old, and is quite possibly the cutest thing on the planet.

Cute kids right here.

Camping is always a great option - and is very affordable in Zion, however because of our Family Reunion and wanting to make sure our 90 year old Grandma and Grandpa felt comfortable, we stayed at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.  This place was beautiful, and they had tent sites, RV, cabins, and vacations homes all available.  They are actually outside of the park, if you exit via the East entrance/exit of the park.  We stayed in a 5 bedroom vacation home that could house up to 24 people.  We were very comfortable in this beautiful custom made log home, and enjoyed the scenery and comfort of this lovely handcrafted sanctuary.  Prices started at around $770/night, included towels, laundry facilities, full kitchen (furnished with dishes and glasses), bedrooms downstairs (important for folks with canes and/or in a wheelchair), cable television, game room, large patio, balcony, fire pit, and access to the property open use amenities - a two tiered swimming pool with 2 water slides, basketball, volleyball, tennis, recreation barn with billiards and ping pong tables, and then plenty more activities that you could add on/pay for at a reasonable $11 per activity such as zip lining, ATV, horseback riding, jeep tours, and much more.

Our lovely custom log vacation home - fits up to 26 people very comfortably.

The boys knew what to do.

The two tiered pool and water slides were a great way to relax and get away from the summer heat.  There is also two hot tubs, picnic tables, and hot showers.  The amenities were clean, well kept, and the customer service was excellent.  Water was served pool side regularly, a refreshing addition, and kept the whole family happy and hydrated.

But OH THE PARK!!!  We enjoyed a full day on the Riverside Walk and ventured on the first part of the "Narrows".  It was an easy 1 mile stroll (2 miles roundtrip), paved and level most of the way, stroller and wheel chair accessible, and only takes a 1-2 hours to complete.  However, taking the free shuttle bus from the Visitor's Center to the drop off point (Temple of Sinawava) took nearly 40 minutes.  So take into account that you'll need an extra 2 hours for shuttle bus time.  My tip is to go as early as you can to avoid the parking hassle at the Visitor's Center (which is packed by about 9am).  If you end up going later/mid morning, you'll likely need to park in town (Springdale) which is only 5 minutes outside the park and you can shuttle back into the park.  Side Note - Springdale is adorable and has lots of great eateries, and shops.  So plan on 4 hours to be safe, plus you'll want plenty of time to enjoy the River and all the rock climbing/hopping, and bring some water and snacks.  Pack out all your garbage, as there are no cans and don't feed the animals (even though they are super cute and friendly).

Here I am with one of my boys - Adriel age 7.  We conquered this large boulder.  And the rest of the kids did too.  And husband Lon as well.  We just couldn't resist.

The glory of the Virgin River - We swam, we climbed, we rock hopped, we basked in the sunlight.

I was inspired to do a straddle headstand.  Can you spot me?

The kids learned team work as we crossed the River.

This place is a MUST stop if you are looking for handcrafted items made from local Navajo tribes.  We ended up buying 4 large arrowheads at $6/each for our 4 boys.  The craftsmanship in Southern Utah is world class, from jewelry, to knives, to blacksmith/metal art - it's all pretty amazing work, and affordable.
I hope I gave you some insight as to the many possibilities that await you in this wondrous canyon paradise called Zion National Park.  I was amazed at all the incredible views, fun things to do, and versatility of this place.  It's a true gem, and I found it to have a great energy about it.  I felt a great sense of awe and excitement everywhere I turned.  One last bit of info (and I apologize in advance to all my Vegan friends and clients who may not find this helpful) but I know my Paleo peers would love this bit of insight - just outside of the East entrance, there is a FANTASTIC restaurant (farm to table) operation that serves the most delicious buffalo steaks and burgers EVER.

Ooookkkaaayyyy!!!  Now go to ZION people!!  And as usual - don't forget to invite me along :)

- Elle Beyer

Some fun videos for your enjoyment