Friday, July 11, 2014

4th of July Hiking Trip, and that One Time Shayna and I Weren't Really Prepared for Snow

Hello hello everyone, Emerald here. I hope you are all enjoying the heck out of your summer.  I myself have been a little pressed for time/finances, but luckily I live in an area where some really awesome nature is pretty easily accessible.

Like many people, I had a pretty sweet three-day weekend for the fourth of July.  Don't you love it when holidays are conveniently placed?  I do.  I always kind of roll my eyes when a holiday like the fourth is on on a Wednesday or something, and you have to go back to work the next day and finish out the week.  Don't get me wrong, I will totally take the day off, and I will take it happily, it's just hard to stay motivated during the rest of the week.

ANYWAY, three-day weekends are great. and I had one.  And since the backpacking trip I had planned with the room mates had kind of fallen through due to various scheduling conflicts, I and another friend headed up to Castle Peak on Donner Summit to climb the peak and make a fun ten mile loop out of it.

Before you ask, no.  I wasn't barefoot.  The climb up to Castle Peak is steep and a lot of it is pretty scree heavy.  The ascent up the peak is at about mile three, and I am not overly fond of the idea of cutting up my feet early on in the hike.  Because this lady learns from previous experiences.

This hike is one of a few that I kind of fall back on when I just want to get outside and do an easy (ish) ten miles somewhat quickly.  Maybe I am not in the mood for hiking somewhere new, and I want something predictable.  I love being up in the Sierras.  I grew up in Truckee, so that area always feels like home, and it feels good.

The last time I did this hike it was with Shayna, and there was still a whole honking lot of snow going on.
Frontage road on the way up to Castle Pass.

Luckily, we had both brought boots along with our minimalist footwear, so we were able to keep going. The scree going up the peak was a little slippery, but we made it on top alright. 
Backside of Castle Peak

View of the meadow from the ridgeline

View of Castle Peak from Basin Peak
Unfortunately, the snow was enough that it obscured the already kind of faint trail going down the other side of basin peak, and while I know where the trail goes and how to get there, I didn't fancy trudging though a bunch of three foot drifts for a number of miles.  For whatever reason that just wasn't appealing that day.  So Shayna and I ended up not completing the  loop and just came back the way we came.  Somewhere along the way, Shayna lost a shoe....I don't think we are quite sure what happened there.  And my boots were pretty old, and had been in the trunk of my car for about two halfway down the mountain both of the soles just came off.  Random! Thankfully it happened after I decided it would be a good idea to circumvent the peak and instead navigate through snowdrifts that came up to about mid thigh.  Yup, definitely managed to outsmart the trail there.  Good job Emerald.   So Shayna and I, shoeless and soleless, descended from the majesty of Castle Peak and drove home to eat and take naps. 

This hike last week couldn't have been more different.  For one thing, no snow!  
Look at all that green!

Instead of snow, all of the wildflowers were blooming so that everything was colorful and felt wonderfully alive.  It's always really neat to see how life thrives even in places that spend more time snowed in than not. 

Okay I lied. There is still some snow.  

This trip we were most definitely able to complete our loop.  Corey and I have both summited the peak before, and it is a huge pain in the butt, so we took the trail that avoids the top and goes directly to the ridge line.  The ascent from Castle Pass to Castle Peak is about 2000 feet in one mile. It's steep. And when you are coming from an elevation of zero, it can be a little brutal. 

Wildflowers on the ridge, courtesy of Corey's camera

Trail up to Basin Peak
 Look at that!  I have apparently never done this hike so early in the season.  Flowers were exploding everywhere.  Nature was on top of it's game on Independence Day this year.  And the sky gets so blue up there.

As you can see, all of the work and heavy breathing on your way up is totally worth it.

Whenever I do this loop, I like to find the lock box on Basin Peak.  Inside is a funny little notebook that people write in to say hello, and that they've been there.  I like looking through all the different people and reading through their reactions to the trail.  And I always look for an entry from Doug and I in 2012 from our trip to Paradise lake.
I like how I'm all like "Cool hike, man!" and Doug waxes a little poetic and says some nice stuff. 

As I mentioned before, the trail down Basin Peak can get a little faint at times, but if you just keep a sharp eye out and keep to the left at any trial splits, you are good to go.  Plus, pretty!

Ten miles up in the mountains is a great way to start a holiday, and after we had eaten a huge lunch we both felt perfectly justified in napping and lounging around the house for the rest of the day. 

So that was my Fourth of July.  What did you do?  Did you have an awesome outdoor adventure, or did you keep it local and hang out with family and friends?  Have your shoes (or other gear) ever gone kaput on a hike?  Because if that kind of thing has happened to you, you should probably tell me about it below. 

Hope you all are well, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Sunscreen Scams!

It’s 2014 folks!  Elle here, and I’m going to tackle some useful information, because much like years past, we are not immune to the variety of scams and shams out there when it comes to poorly mislabeled products, beautifully packaged bottles that are filled with useless crap, and expert marketers who can and will LIE to you.  My experience with sunscreen goes way back.  When I was 16 years old, my Dad was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, which is a treatable type of skin cancer which requires surgery.  Over the years my Dad has had to have many minor surgeries to remove Malignant Melanoma (which can spread and be fatal if not treated).  Part of my Dad’s nose had to be cut off, in order to remove one of the skin cancers.  This began, for me, the era of every day sunscreen use.  Luckily, the skin cancers were detected early, and I got to keep my Dad AND learn some important lessons.  We need to protect our skin.  The years passed, and I tried ALL kinds of different sunscreens, from low SPF, high SPF, the spray stuff, the non oily, the oily, the exotic brands, the cheap brands… you name it, I tried it.  However, I started to notice a pattern.  None of them, actually seemed to work.  Sure some of them would prevent me from burning, or slow down the burn – but I had to frequently reapply, and it was always a matter of time before I just simply had to get out of the sun and sit in the shade because sunscreen seemed to be useless garbage that instead of protecting you, gave you a false sense of security, causing you to be more reckless and prolong your exposure to the sun.  It wasn’t until my early 20s that I figured out, that sunscreen ingredients matter, and MOST sunscreens have nothing but useless and even harmful ingredients.  So I’m here to give you the low down. 

It’s all about the Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.  You know that white chalky stuff that you see on lifeguard’s noses?  That’s the stuff you want.  The whiter, the better.  The size of the molecules matter, and the quality of your sunscreen shows by how white it turns your skin (this is what I’ve observed anyway).  If your sunscreen does not contain either one of these ingredients, it’s useless.  It should be listed in the “Active” ingredient listing.  In addition, it’s difficult to find these quality sunscreens in US stores.  99% of the sunscreens you see being sold does not have one of these ingredients, which generally means you need to bank on getting the sunscreen that is made for Babies.  The sunscreen will be labeled “Baby” sunscreen.  Not “Kids”.  It’s gotta be for the Baby!!!  Why?  Because the FDA regulations on products designed for babies is far more stringent, so they gotta put the good stuff in there.  The stuff that works.  The stuff that isn’t going to be extremely harmful to your body like Oxybenzone – which is in over half of the sunscreens manufactured and being sold on the market.  The chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic reactions, has been linked to endometriosis in older women and even lower birth weight.  The data on that is preliminary, but still… so far, not so good.  You don’t want to mess with the hormones.  

I started using Baby Sunscreen on all my kids (who are 8, 6, 6, and 3), my husband, and myself.  The stuff works.  Sunburns are a thing of the past, AND I can feel safer that my family is being protected not just from UVB rays (which cause sunburn), but also UVA rays (which penetrates the skin more deeply and has long been known to play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling, weakens the immune system, and contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers).  Do we get a nice tan?  Actually no.  But that’s how I know the sunscreen is WORKING.  Tan does not equal healthy.  Kind of the opposite actually!  

Naturally, exploration involves lots of SUN!!!  Who doesn’t love the Sun?!  I love it, and I know you do too, but let’s protect our precious skin while we’re at play.  Because it’s no fun to pay the consequences of fun later down the road. 

More stuff to research for sunscreen safety:  Retinyl palmitate

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Barefooting is Cool and You Should do it Maybe

Hi Everyone!  Emerald here.  I'm here to talk to you about getting those tootsie toes out of your shoes for a breather.

See, before I landed a really awesome job that politely insinuated that shoes were required on campus, I spent three years completely barefoot.  I worked at an office that didn't care so much about my feet so long as I had good phone etiquette, and all of my movement disciplines at the time encouraged my footloose and fancy free behavior.  I walked barefoot all winter.  Sometimes even in snow.  Definitely in frost. Often. And it was pretty awesome.

Walking barefoot for so long had so many benefits that I don't know if I will be able to list them all off the top of my head.  It helped to alleviate a bunch of weird back and knee pain that I had had for forever. Throughout my teen years, I was definitely a fan of massive, leather, goth stomping boots.  (Ahem.  I still am.) Which is fine, but boots that lace up to your knees keep your ankle in a really stiff, supported position and don't really allow the ankle to build up strength or mobility.  This is where you see a lot of people that claim that they really need the ankle support to walk anywhere - they've spent a life time having those ankles artificially supported, and have not built up the ankle's ability to support itself.

This kind of stuff really comes in handy when I am trekking around in the mountains.   The Sierra Nevada mountain range that we have here in California is a truly special and beautiful place, but that beauty goes hand in hand with uneven and unpredictable ground.  It ain't no flat pavement!  It is so easy to be distracted by the incredible scenery that the Sierras have to offer and misstep only to roll your ankle. I can think of several occasions that those missteps would have resulted in a really unfortunate injury in the middle of nowhere, but thanks to my barefoot training, my feet and ankles were strong enough to roll with the punches without a problem.

I also built up really, really thick callouses on the soles of my feet.  I know you may be thinking "oh gosh, surely not!  Surely that is what pumice stones are for!" But I implore you to embrace the callous! Thick callouses are what are going to enable you to walk over thick gravel without a problem, walk on pavement in 100 degree weather, and walk through frost.  And small amounts of snow.  Oh gosh, please don't walk away from this blog thinking that you can walk through three feet of snow for five miles without getting frostbite because that is simply not true. At all.  Don't do that.

But thick callouses will help get you through a snowy parking lot to your car. That could happen.  That could be you. 

Now before you burn your shoes in a fiery rage, please use common sense and good critical thinking skills.  Barefooting is generally not a great idea in areas with higher population densities, because as it turns out, there are people out there who will pee in public with reckless abandon.  RECKLESS ABANDON PEOPLE. I'm lucky enough to live in the suburbs, but when I venture into more populated areas I for sure take shoes.  There are plenty of great minimalist options out there.  I am personally a huge fan of the Merrell trailgloves.  Those are my go-to shoes when I feel so inclined to wear them.

Also, please refrain from super-hardcore-ultra barefooting all the time right away.  If you have been wearing shoes with huge soles all of your life, then take it slow. Give all of those muscles that your body uses to stabilize your movement a chance to learn how to stabilize on a bigger level.  And let the soles of your feet build up their toughness.  That part is really, really important.  I remember about six months into the barefooting experience, I decided that I was going to walk from my apartment in Rocklin to a produce shop in Newcastle, which was about nine miles away.  So eighteen miles round trip, right?  No problem!  I do those distances for breakfast!  No big deal here!  Except I had never done that kind of distance barefoot.  And the road from Rocklin to Newcastle is mainly concrete, aside from those vast expanses of freaking gravel. And it was a really warm day in April. But I was determined!  And I was going to win!   And at the expense of my feet, and while I may have limped the last mile, I made it to Newcastle Produce!  And I savored my victory over a tasty, tasty lunch.

The return trip did not work out so well.  I couldn't wrap my brain around doing another nine miles barefoot, so I put on a pair of Chuck Taylors that I brought in my pack, just in case. But my feet were so tore up that I couldn't deal with having socks on.  I made it five miles to Loomis before I had to call my room mate and beg him to come pick me up.

See those bruises?  And the ripped away flesh that exposes tender, vulnerable flesh? Which is also bruised?  Don't be like me people.  Plan better. 

And then I ate all of the ice cream.  I had to limp through a grocery store to get it, but at that point I totally deserved it.  

So please everyone, be careful with your beginning barefoot training.  Exercise the appropriate amount of reasoning skills when planning your barefoot adventures.  

These days I don't barefoot as much anymore.  The afore mentioned job cut down on the daily barefooting, and a few toe injuries in the dojo while sparring have led me to prefer training in minimalist footwear for higher impact stuff.  But while I have moved on from feeling the need to prove to myself and the world what a hardcore barefoot warrior I am, I still take the shoes off when they aren't necessary.  And my feet are better for it.  

Do you barefoot?  What have your experiences been like?  Feel free to share them in the comments!

So I've noticed...

There aren't alot of sexy pictures of women climbing in trees and getting all dirty and stuff.  What is up with that?!  We're here to change that.  So here you go World!

The story behind the pictures - we had the rare opportunity to go camping in McCloud, CA in the Mt. Shasta area, near Fowler Falls.  We were there to shoot a music video for Sanna-Pirita, a Finnish intuitive singer. 

The end result of the music video was much different than the original vision due to the fact that our production team was really strapped for time, and there were relative budget constraints.  But it was a fun project nonetheless, and it was yet another excuse to get outside and adventure around.  Yes there was cliff jumping involved.
You can check out the video Here.

meet founding member Shayna James!

Shayna is a fearless athlete, and is also a natural talent when it comes to Parkour.  She also trained in TKD for over 10 years, and loves training outdoors with her fellow gal pals.  Her relentlessly positive attitude and spirit for cooperation makes her a favorite person in pretty much any social circle she is associated with.  She is the oldest child and has 2 younger sisters, is currently attending college and making her way, staking her name is this world.

Hobbies:  Drawing/Art, Moving, Computer Tech-ing.

Accomplishments:  Personal Relations Aficionado

Always gets the move on the first time... EVERY time.

Graduated High School in 2011 with a positive outlook on life

Achieved Black Belt Ninjaship

meet founding member Michelle Bertrand!

Michelle is your average soccer mom. You know, the kind that played soccer for 15 years and coached and does back flips on the field with her 4 kids, competes in triathlons while she's pregnant with twins (since triathlons and pregnancy alone just isn't challenging enough), and totally shows everyone up at the parkour gym?  She has a tendency of picking up skills like nobody's business because of her incredible competitive drive that is probably the determining factor of why she's kind of awesome at... EVERYTHING.  But one thing she's not good at, is talking about how amazing she is.  So she's not writing this post.  She also makes miracle salves for her fellow parkour ladies.  Her salves treat anything from muscles being sore from training, stomach aches, or even if you're having epileptic seizures, she is there at your door, with some awesome healing remedy that she made with her own hands.  She is also an expert at making delicious foods that are Gluten, Soy, Corn, Dairy, Egg free.  Let's just say, if it's a difficult problem to overcome - Michelle is the master problem solver.

Reading, Running, Acquiring useful skills, Enjoys searching for new recipes she can actually eat! and loves all things Disney

Accomplishments: BA in The Study of Religions from UCLA, Completed a Sprint Triathlon while 16 weeks pregnant with twins, Completed a Marathon

Accomplished Athlete

Homeschools all 4 of her children

Served a mission in Africa

meet founding member Elle Beyer!

Elle Beyer is Co-Founder of Free Flow Academy - the largest parkour gym in California, a founding member of Eagle & Hawk PK, as well as founding member of NeoFlow Parkour & Freerunning Team.  She is a serial entrepreneur, mother of 4 (including twins), and has a physical fitness background of 14+ years Kung Fu and Martial Arts, Parkour, and has dabbled in every sport/movement art you can think of.  She also has an entertainment background (under the name Elle Bennett), having traveled the world as a working stunt woman, actress, model, and sports newscaster/journalist.

Hobbies:  Cooking, Writing, Gardening, Market Research/Analysis

Accomplishments:  Visionary Entrepreneuress

The tree to the right -------->

meet founding member Emerald Barkley!

Emerald teaches a women's parkour class at Free Flow Academy.  She has a physical fitness background in Parkour, Weightlifting, Tai Chi, Eskrima, and Kenpo Karate, in which she has earned her Third Brown rank under Chris Davison of the Parker/Planas lineage.   Emerald is also an avid Hiker/Explorer and enjoys hiking in the mountains on weekends, generally busting out about 46 miles, no problem.  The higher the elevation and the longer the distance, the better.  Sometimes you can find her hiking in the canyon without her shoes on.  Say Hi!

Hobbies:  Reading, Gardening, Writing, Painting, Standing on Tires With a Smoke Machine Behind Her For Dramatic Affect and Generally Looking Tough, Antagonizing her Roommates, Making Witty Commentary Throughout Class Much to the Exasperation of Her Various Coaches, Hanging Out In Various Cat Positions, and Making Michelle Laugh Because It's Fun.  Also tentacles.

Accomplishments:  Artist Extraordinaire; Recipient of the Sierra College Halberg Award 2012; AA In Liberal Arts; Accomplished Grub Harvester; Rain Hoarder; Third Brown in American Kenpo with Chris Davison, tested by 8th Dan Chuck Epperson; 5 Years in Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi; Winner of the Annual Rocklin Frog Impersonation Competition; Grand Master of Wide-Mouth Bass Mimicry; Maker of Long and Questionably True Lists.

Go check out her art website at:


Hello and Welcome to our Blog!!!  I'll get right to the point here, as I have a tendency to be long-winded at times.

Who are we? 

We're a group of women who love to move!  It really is that simple.  We love to move, explore, plan adventure jams, eat sushi, hang out, and play.  We're like a biker gang, but without the bikes.  However, don't be surprised if we all decide to start our own biker gang, just because we felt like it.  We explore our world, mainly on foot, and being outdoors, is our thing.  This group was founded by the Women's Parkour Team "Eagle & Hawk PK" out of Free Flow Academy in Rocklin, CA.  But we're not just a team, we are a community, and our desire is to reach out and expand ourselves through the internet. 

What is the point of this blog?

We love to share, and make new friends.  Especially women.  Sisterhood is on the run these days, and we feel women need to band together, appreciate each other, and build each other up.  We're going to use our love of movement and our hobbies and interests to bring together women from all walks of life, to help build up a community and a dialogue.  We also wish to share insights, experiences, and stories so that we can laugh and cry together, as well as inspire each other.

Can I join your group? 

Hellzzzz YES!!!!  That's why we're starting this blog.  To bring women together.  If you aren't local - no worries!  Our goal is to create a sisterly network.  That way, when we're out adventure jamming all over the world, we have friends we can connect with!  We're a team, we're a community, we're a network.

What if I'm a beginner at Parkour?

Aren't we all beginners in some degree?  No matter what your level and experience, we aren't going to exclude you.  We're all here to learn and have fun.  No one is going to Alpha you around.

How do I participate?

The first step would be to follow the blog, and participate in the discussions.  Comment and engage.  Guest bloggers are encouraged.  We want to hear your voice, and your experiences!  However, this is not a soap box for complaints and trivial matters.  Please keep dialogue positive and uplifting.  We want to see cool pictures of where you have been, or "secret spots" you may have discovered on your journey of adventuring.  Let's be clear about one thing - we are pioneers, and explorers.  Everything you write should be becoming of such. 

What if I have ideas to contribute?

AWESOME!!!  We and the whole group would love to hear them!  We're here to serve you in a way that is meaningful and useful, not only to ourselves, but to you!  If you want us to plan an adventure jam, we'll do it!  If you want to organize an event, and use our network as a calling torch, then so be it.  We're here to help in any way we can that means building up your ability to explore and reach out to other women around you.

Does Eagle & Hawk PK have a mission?

Yes.  We do.  Its' a song by the late John Denver.  See below:

I am the eagle, I live in high country in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky.
I am the hawk, and there's blood on my feathers.
But time is still turning, they soon will be dry.
And all those who see me, and all who believe in me
share in the freedom I feel when I fly.

Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops.
Sail o'er the canyons and up to the stars.
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
and all that we can be, and not what we are.