Category Archives: Miles/Travels

Mesmerized by Costa Rica

Sitting on this porch, I look out and see palm trees laden with coconuts, hibiscus bushes full of red flowers, and the grass of a green yard fading slowly down a hill to a small gathering of water resting a hundred yards from the ocean from which it came.  From that point forward lies a wide beach full of sand: loose, deep, tan sand; then packed, wet sand that allows your feet to sink an inch or two; then wet, darker-colored sand that holds firmly; and finally sand that has been licked, lingered, and left by the waves.  The waves break suddenly against the shallow shore creating a white marble affect in lines and swirls across the water.  Above the water, cranes, pelicans, and sea birds of all types soar across the sky while a light breeze keeps me cool in this humid but rich place.

Yesterday we sat and watched the sun set from a rock outcropping surrounded by scattered pools of water.  The pools resembled glass until a nervous crab or two jumped in to hide from our scary shadows.  We sat on the sharp, black rocks watching the sun slowly submerge itself in the pool of the ocean until only dusk remained.  Walking back to the house, we all took our empty glasses, once filled with Cacique Guaro and Coke, back to the beach in front of our rental.  One of the guys built a beach bonfire and encircled it with driftwood benches while others worked at the house to try to make our own authentic version of gallo pinto (rice and beans).  The fish cooked in foil packets buried in the coals of the fire, and we sat staring at the flames, mesmerized by their dance.  When the food finished cooking, we brought everything out to the campfire: plates, cups, Cacique, gallo pinto, and fish.  We sat on our driftwood benches eating fire-roasted fish and gallo pinto, listening to the waves crash against the shore and admiring the expanse of stars that hung overhead.  I have never eaten a meal in such a setting.

When we all finished, everyone took the remnants of the meal to the house using headlamps to see in the moonless night.  Then, I found my way back to the campfire, slipped out of my cover-up, and walked in complete darkness toward the sound of the waves.  I walked forward into an expanse of darkness, not knowing when I would feel the ocean sweep between my toes.  With the tide very low, and the beach very shallow, the walk was long to reach the water, and I looked back to the glowing fire to keep my bearings.  I felt very small in such an expanse of power, nervous that I could see nothing around me.  Then with a rush, I felt a plane of cool water wash over my feet.  I walked out further, and the water reached my knees; further, and it reached my waste.  I was in the ocean in complete darkness, feeling its power, feeling the rush, feeling so small and vulnerable.  Then, I thanked God for His amazing creation, His power in the world, and His power in my life.  I left the waves, smiling, and walked toward the fire, toward my temporary home.

Costa Rica has been mesmerizing.  We rode horses through the jungle and on the beach.  We ate sushi from an open-air cabana overlooking a pool on the edge of a mountainside that then overlooked the ocean.  We protected newly-hatched sea turtles as they made their journey to the ocean. We meditated on the ocean waves in savasana for the yoga session I taught. We made s’mores at a massive bonfire on the beach. We danced in the ocean in darkness watching the bioluminescence glitter around our feet.  We experienced all these things, and this was only the first week of my Costa Rican adventure.  More to come…

Beach house where we stayed in Playa San Miguel: Sand Dollar Cove

Sushi and Mountain-side pool location: Cristal Azul

You must provide your own bonfire-makers.  We had two fire fighters in our group to help make them especially awesome.

 

Steamboat Springs

Steamboat is so much fun! Heather planned everything.  She chose a great condo with Pioneer Ridge that overlooked the mountain and had a free shuttle that took us to the gondola in about 5 minutes.  The clouds dropped 17 inches of snow in the first few days of February allowing us to ski in 35F weather and great snow.  Our group was small this year with only 5 people total (some years we’ve had as many as 12), but not all years can be the same.  So, we had 5 people in a condo with 4 bathrooms and seven beds that over looked the ski mountain and left us marveling at sunsets.

Regardless of the group size, we still had a lot of fun.  This is one of my favorite groups of people, a group where you can be exactly who you are and are fully and wonderfully accepted, though you might be teased a bit.  We all laugh at each other and ourselves and enjoy every minute.

So, we got to spend time together on the slopes and at the Winter Carnival, which had all sorts of craziness for spectators to enjoy.  We especially liked the fire show, the flaming man, the fiery ski jumpers jumping through a ring of fire, and the record breaking fireworks.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a spectacular show of fireworks.  They were higher, and bigger, and louder than any I had previously seen.  Fireworks in the mountains are always my favorite.  I love hearing the “BOOM” ricochet on the peaks.  Following the spectacular show of lights, we found the Old Town Pub, where we ate chicken wings, fried pickles, and French fries and drank the beer offerings to our hearts’ content.  They had a live Americano-style band in from Boulder that night.  We listened and danced and had an awesome time.  I even had someone call me a tall drink of water.  Oh yeah.  That’s right.

Because the shuttles only ran until 10p, we then took the free town bus to a place close to our condo.  We had to wait a bit for it to arrive, so Justin and I took advantage of the hot dog stand next to the bus station.  Yum.  I just wanted the basics: mustard, ketchup, and relish.  Before I could eat the whole thing, I the bus arrived, and we smashed ourselves in with who knows how many other people, hoping no one got sick from the heat or whatever they’d been doing that night.  We rode (what seemed like) forever, and finally got off, at which point, I ate the rest of my hotdog.  Yum.

We slept in the next day, before cleaning up, and packing out.  A few of us went downtown for the tri-pull parade (every float had to be pulling at least three people on skis or snowboards – the full rugby team was the best).  I especially liked the Jeep on tracks.  Where can I get one of those anyway?

Then, we all went our separate ways.  Justin and I decided to find a snowshoe trail to try out our new snowshoes.  We found ourselves hiking through the snow on the 2B Fox Curve Loop.  There were just enough other people and dogs on the trail to make it fun without being a distraction to our hike.  We went through wide open snow-covered meadows, over streams and brooks, and through tight trees.  Cross-country skiers, Nordic skiers, skate skiers, and snowshoers were all on the trail.  The snow scene was beautiful and the trail was a moderate 4-mile, 2-hour adventure.

After our adventure, we started heading home.  We didn’t realize that we’d taken a wrong turn until it was too late to turn back and ended up eating in a little Chinese restaurant in Granby, CO.  It all turned out great because we missed a lot of the traffic on I-70 returning to Denver from skiing in the corridor.  And so ended the latest meeting of friends on Team Epic (as we like to refer to ourselves).   Until next time…

Maderas and Ometepe

With the yoga teacher training finished, I set out with three of my fellow yoga teachers (Hannah, Laura, Heather and Me in the picture above) to travel and explore the Island of Ometepe.   After a brief stint in San Juan del Sur to have last tastes of all our favorite things, we took a cab to the ferry.  Hannah and I had suitcases.  Let’s just say, I will rarely travel without a backpack again. Once we got to the island, we stayed at a local Nicaraguan hostel called Monkies Island that had a dock right on the lake.  The staff cooked dinner for us, and then we crashed.  We woke up the next morning and took our yoga mats down to the water and had our practice with the sound of the water, the birds, and the breeze.  It was a great practice.  Again, the staff cooked us breakfast, and we set off to explore and find the waterfall.  After a long and dusty hike, we made it to the cool, refreshing waters.  We may have diverged from the trail and done some bouldering thinking we were on the trail, but what does it matter.  We made it, and after hiking back down the trail, had lunch at a little country restaurant.  On the way back to Monkies Island, a sign lured us to turn down a side road for chocolate and coffee, which lead us to find Finca Mystica, an American-owned hostel with wonderful, locally-grown food, and coffee fresh-roasted and prepared on the property.  It was a magnificent find.  We decided to make dinner reservations there for the next day, but that night we meandered to the local town to find dinner and bananas and snacks for the great volcano hike we were attempting the next day.

So, Volcano Maderas surprised us a bit.  We didn’t really look at the stats.  We knew it would take a few hours, that we needed water and lunch, and that it was tough.  We didn’t know that we would be on the trail for 8 hours, 10 miles, and 4000 feet of climbing.  The trail consisted of dry, normal-looking trail for the first couple of miles, and then as we climbed, the tree roots became the trail, and the mud became our nemesis as we slipped our way up and through and around limbs, branches, and roots to get to the top.  Once there our view consisted of a few bushes and the inside of a cloud – not quite the crater lake view we expected.  Still, we did it and it was a great adventure with our guides.  At the lake back at Monkies Island, we discovered that the small, smooth volcanic rocks of the lake’s beach acted as an excellent mud scrub and skin exfoliate – so much for paying spa prices.  It was awesome and free. That night we walked to Finca Mystica for the fantastic meal of carbs we had earned: pizza, popcorn, and cookies.  Completely filled, happy, and content.

Our time in Ometepe ended the next day with a brief stop en route to the ferry at the fresh water springs of Ojo de Agua.  This beautiful and relaxing stop invited guests to wade in its cool, clear waters, swing from the rope swing, and attempt slack lining across its pool.  We enjoyed our short hour and then left for the ferry.

Hannah and I parted ways with Laura and Heather after our taxi ride to Granada.  We took the “express chicken bus” back to Managua to catch our flights the next day.  The taxi driver we found managed to get completely lost trying to find our B&B, though we showed him a map, the name of the place, the street, the town.  I guess we just got a tour of the city, and he didn’t quite get what he wanted in pay.  Hannah and I ended our last night in Nicaragua at Managua Hills B&B with cold cervezas, a quick dip in the pool, and a pool-side practice of Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutation) under a full moon.

Adios for now, Nicaragua.

 

Yoga Meditations: Week 4

What a great day-off we had on Sunday!  Heather and I decided to walk into town with Frederike and Hannah, who had appointments to get pedicures and such.  Heather and I had to turn around, however, to redirect Isa, the wiener dog, back to Nica Yoga so she wouldn’t follow us all the way.  Once we re-climbed the big hill, we walked the 2 miles to town, checked out one shop, and immediately found a bakery with a cinnamon roll and apple cake.

Our day consisted mostly of shopping for souvenirs and eating.  We had omelets, coffee, fruit smoothies, brownies, fish tacos, fish nachos, and I had a couple of beers.  It was all incredibly delicious and filling.  We had originally planned to go back to Nica Yoga to get ready to meet friends for dinner, but we changed our minds, stayed in town the whole day, took a dip in the ocean, and met up with our fellow yogis at the Cervesceria, where a (somewhat) live band played flamenco music.  Maybe the lead guitar and bass were played on a keyboard by the same person.  Whatever.  We tried to go salsa dancing for Hannah afterward, but the dancing doesn’t begin until at least 10p. We all had to get ready for our finals Monday and Tuesday anyway.  So, we went home at 9p and prepared.

I had my 90-minute teaching final the next day at 2:30p, and I was nervous!  When we did our 60-minute practice teach, I was nervous but excited.  The 90-minute held more weight.  My theme revolved around growing from a seed to a tree and thinking about growth in the individual life.   It all turned out ok with my most noticeable slip coming in a loss for “Tuck your…..whatever.”   Ummmm….yeah….that was supposed to be tailbone.

In the two days of finals, each person from the group gave their own and took everyone else’s 90-minute classes.  We were doing about 4.5 hours of yoga a day, and we were completely exhausted.  On Tuesday evening, we had our written final exam – a 65-question written test to complete in 1.5 hours.  Oh my goodness.  All my test anxiety came back, especially when I got to the question, “What breath do you always use in vinyasa yoga?”  Always?  Always?  I don’t know.  Always is such a strong word.  My teacher came over, looked at the question, and said, “Don’t overthink it.”  Do you know who you’re talking to?  “Does always mean USUALLY?”  Yes, she said.  Oh, ok, and I typed Ujjayi – Victorious Breath.

In all, everyone passed.  We all wore white and everyone looked so amazingly beautiful!  It was sad to say goodbye to these amazing people whom I had met only 4 weeks prior, but felt like I’d known my whole life.  I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t know their last names or most of their histories.  It’s crazy how you can be so close to people that you hardly know and feel so connected and full.

I left knowing that I would see some again, some I would not, but if that opportunity every came, I would take it in an instant.  Our group was incredibly diverse, loving, accepting, honest, open, and real.  Our teachers were the examples of those things and more.  I thank Tara, Henry, and Stacey for their passion, presence, and dedication to teaching us and ensuring our success.  I am blessed to have had this incredible and enriching experience and know that it will affect my life from this point forward.

Luckily, I did not have to completely end my time with everyone right away.  I continued my travels in Nicaragua for a few days with four of my yogi compadres as we traveled to the island of Ometepe.

Yoga Meditations: Week 3

I can’t believe the third week is already over!  The time has gone so quickly.  I have continued my vegetarian/vegan (and mostly gluten-free) diet for the entire trip except for three rounds of fish tacos.  I suppose that technically makes me a pescetarian while here.  Meh. Details. I may have imagined bacon bits in one of my bowels of a very delectable and hearty roasted vegetable soup and vehemently craved chicken for an entire day last week.  Other than those two incidences, I have been very satisfied by our meals, supplementing with a childhood favorite of sweet rice with raisins, pecans, cinnamon, and almond milk.  I eat it frequently and still enjoy it.  It’s become my carb comfort food.

What a full week.  Starting with our Sunday off, we went to Hermosa Beach.  The show Survivor has been filmed there three times.  The beach is spectacularly beautiful and relaxing with fewer people, lazy hammocks and chairs, and a bar that serves delicious food and drinks.  Many of us took our study materials so we could prepare to lead our first class – a 60 minuite vinyasa practice session.  In between ocean dips and fresh fish ceviche, I crafted my first yoga class – a series of Warrior I, II, and III with balance poses and a standing split.  I should clarify here that yoga is very body-specific.  So, I have a fantastic pigeon pose with twist and bind, but my standing split is more like a standing 90 degree pose that doesn’t exist in full yoga expression.

After getting our fill of sun, sand, and Hermosa Beach, our group went back to Camino del Sol (the location for our yoga compound) to shower and get ready for one of our fellow yogi’s birthdays.  She decided she wanted to have a sunset dinner on the beach and got her wish.  The sunset that day was beautiful.  The food was just ok, but the sangria was amazing.

The next day the week quickly fell into routine: 6:30a Yoga, 8:00a Breakfast, 10:00a Pose Clinic, 1:00p Lunch, 3:00p Yoga Lecture, 5:30p Supper, 7:00p Yoga Lecture, Bed.  Six days a week for the last three weeks.  We are all exhausted but feeling great.  We taught our first 60-minute yoga class to a group of 3 to 4 students – nervously but everyone did really well.  I can’t believe how quickly we’re becoming teachers.  I’m pretty certain it took me the same amount of time to create a rockin’ playlist for my class as it did to actually create the class.

On Friday we took an excursion to see Jesus, or the statue of him in Nicaragua.  Christ of the Mercy stands 25 meters tall and overlooks the ocean harbor of San Juan del Sur, by far the tallest structure in the area.  The intensely steep meditative walk provided a great break from the norm.  The group tried to do all sorts of poses to capture photos in the beautiful scenery.

On Saturday, we had another outing to teach yoga to the kids at the Barrio Planta Project (BPP).  The organization is connected with the fishing village that rests next to the port of San Juan del Sur.  Nicaraguan kids only go to school for a half day and graduate at 16.  So, kids can go to BPP to get additional schooling in the arts, English, and other areas before or after regular school.  Each of the teachers taught a different yoga pose to the kids and then played yoga freeze tag with them.  We also helped them make decorations for their upcoming play, The Wizard of Oz.  Hilary and I worked together to make a beautiful flower to help set the scene.  Then we had piñata time, and I can honestly say that I have never seen piñata experience and exuberance like these kids have.  They target, swing, and demolish the piñata in no time, diving for candy with cat-like prowess.  I learned a lot of piñata skills from them and had a blast hanging out with them.  I miss hanging out with kids.

Tomorrow’s our day off.  We’re planning to spend some time in San Juan del Sur to shop, eat, and explore.  Most of our trips have been really quick to grab snacks to tide us over between vegetarian meals.  It will be nice to experience the town.

 

Yoga Meditations: Week 2

What a full week! We started the week on Sunday with our day off by celebrating the first birthday of our yoga teacher’s son.  The party had it all: balloons, a piñata, a horse, and a massive chocolate cake with loads of icing.  We all sugar-loaded (which took no time at all due to our limited-sugar diet) and then headed to Maderas Beach.  The local transportation ranges in style and class.  My personal favorite is standing facing forward in the bed of a pick-up while holding the steel bars to keep from falling out and ducking at appropriate times to keep from getting whipped by a branch.  It’s like riding a motorcycle with a wider base.  After a 30-minute ride, we made it to the beach and prepared for our surf lesson.  I’m pretty certain that the two surfer dudes, also called our surf instructors, were friends with someone from the yoga facility who landed them a sweet way to make some cash.  In Spanglish Pedro and Oscar gave us a brief lesson on the beach and then took us to the water without instructing us on the finer points of navigating a board through waves that crashed over us.  We did, however, discover the ultimate neti pot experience from this particular form of teaching.  Throughout the day when I bent over, water would randomly pour out my nose.

Pedro also offered to video us using one of the girl’s GoPros.  Though I managed to stand up and ride a small wave on my second try and several times thereafter, he only captured this awesome FACE PLANT (click the words to view). Overall, we all had a really good day with a few souvenirs in the form of scrapes, bruises, and board rash.  Plus, we devoured some really great fish tacos, watermelon smoothies, and crepes; treats outside our amazing vegetarian cuisine.  I’ve included a few more pictures of the food because I’m just so impressed with the diversity of the food.  I also included more pictures of our living arrangements, just to give a better idea of the community living.

Finally, the week included a lot of yoga…a lot of different yoga for me.  We’ve been furthering our practice of asana’s and assists so we can build our own vinyasa classes.  We also learned a bit about partner yoga and acroyoga.  Acro stretches boundaries of trust and balance.  In one picture below, I’m doing a shoulder stand on one of my fellow yogi’s feet.  Acro is a lot of communication, focus, strength, and stamina.  I’m excited to learn more.  For now, I’m off to bed before the next 6:30am, 2-hour yoga practice.

Meditating on 200 Hours of Yoga: Week 1

I enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training in Nicaragua.  The responses for my decision varied widely.  But, since I’m taking a year off (minus the part-time job), I decided now was the time.  I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

About a month before the class started I received an email stating that I needed to fill out a detailed questionnaire about myself, write a bio, read three books, write reports on each of them, and prepare my very meat-friendly self to eat vegan/vegetarian for a month.  What?!? I just wanted to learn yoga.  Oh, wait.  That is yoga…or at least a part of it.

I’ve been here five days now.  We start our two-hour yoga practice at 6:30a in the morning in noble silence, which we keep until after breakfast ends at around 9:30a.  Then, we have a morning, afternoon, and evening session in which we learn poses, proper alignment, philosophy, history, anatomy, psychology, and Sanskrit.  Those times have lunch, dinner, and pool time/free time in the mix as well, and we all go to bed around 10:00p.  Then, we get up and do it all over again.  Tomorrow is Saturday.  Sunday is our only day off.

The food has been surprisingly delicious.  We have a professionally trained chef who specializes in gourmet, vegetarian cooking.  She has every meal planned with no recipe repeats for the entire month we are here.  Though a few of us experienced some intense hunger at first, the chef has adapted the portions and meals to better fit our caloric needs.  (Thanks, Chefanie!)  My favorite meals so far have been an eggplant parmesan variation with ground nuts so the texture felt a little like meat and meatless fajitas with homemade corn tortillas.  Yum.

The grounds are beautiful.  Nica Yoga is a permanent yoga community; so, people walk through the grounds while we’re in the ashram having a class because they live here and use these facilities in their everyday lives.  Everything surrounds the pool and ashram.  The pool snakes through the grounds about 50 meters with varying widths containing the coolest, most refreshing water for these humid tropics.  Bridges cross the pool and other waterways to allow the paths to connect the various buildings and little nooks with hammocks, Adirondack chairs, and tables.  The open-air ashram has three entrances with slate steps, a beautiful wooden floor, and a palm thatch roof.  It’s an incredible space in which to practice yoga.

Our group of 11 students resides in one big house, representing three different countries: the US, England, and Germany.  We were assigned rooms and roommates upon arrival. Yikes!  It sounds like it could be good TV, but I don’t think we’re going to have enough drama to fit in the reality TV category.  Yoga documentary?  Boring.

To liven things up a little and get out of our normal schedule, we’re planning to go into town after our Saturday evening session to dance, and Sunday, we have surf lessons at the ocean.  I’m pretty excited for the break.  My body needs some respite….or maybe just a good beating from the ocean.

Miles 1 to 95 on the Colorado Trail

On September 5th, I drove with friends, Anita and Lila, down to Turquoise Lake near Leadville, CO, to join Laneha on the Colorado Trail.  I’ve mountain-biked part of the CO trail, I’ve backpacked, I’ve hiked, but through-hiking for several days is a completely different experience.  The first two days, Anita and Lila joined us for 10 miles of the trail and a Mt. Massive summit.  Then, they returned to work and our little group shrank to two girls and their dogs.


The good: it was BEAUTIFUL!  Just when it seemed like we’d climbed forever and not seen anything new, we would top a ridge that opened into a huge valley of pine trees, changing aspen, streams, and lakes.  The views were breath-taking and unexpected.  Colorado, I learned, has so much more for me to explore.  On the list: Twin Lakes/Leadville, Salida, Hope Pass, Cottonwood Hot Springs.


The bad: we walked for an entire day in rain; we camped on a seemingly sleepy pass (13,140 feet), only to learn in the deep of night that the wind had changed directions and become belligerent.  I woke up at regular intervals to watch the tent roof come within a foot of my face.  After that day, the wind never seemed to give us any rest.  Fall and its chill had officially come.


The ugly: through hiking for more than 5 days is more than a fitness challenge.  Between days 5 and 7, Anita (currently getting her psychology PhD and former adventure trip leader) told me that people usually struggle with their thoughts.  I didn’t really think it would happen to me in such a beautiful setting with so much to admire, but it did.  It’s amazing what miles of hiking will bring to mind and force a person to recognize.  I now understand why so many people use through-hiking as therapy.  Whatever emotion or thought is there, there’s no one to blame, nothing to act as a distraction, no reason or use in complaining.  It is what it is, and the choice was mine to make it what I wanted.


So, I ended on 95 miles (Laneha on 130 miles; click to read her blog on the experience).   After 95 miles, we stayed and soaked at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.  It was an absolutely amazing way to end the trip.  I was happy to have experienced it and would like to do more miles on the trail – maybe during summer months when the passes aren’t quite as cold.