As the snow falls outside the window…

From my email update sent January 9th. If you want to get on the list send me your email. 

Dearest Amigos Near and Far (though most likely the latter),

Congratulations on surviving the widely misinterpreted end of the Mayan calendar and welcome to 2013! I’d like to start the year off with a little ode to gratitude:

I almost didn’t get to celebrate this year. A day before my birthday I drove over an 8,000 ft. pass to get to Lake Tahoe for an interview. I had just traveled over the crest and was heading into a curve when I tapped on the breaks and launched into a 270 degree spin on a blind corner. I came to a halt parallel parked in the mud on the shoulder, cushioned by a willow tree. If it had happened 100 feet further I would have rolled off the cliff. I shakily got out of the car and inspected it.

This is what a near death experience looks like

This is what a near death experience looks like

Not a scratch, to myself nor to my trusty steed the Silver Phoenix. Only then did I see the icy sheen on the pavement. I started the car again and slowly continued down the pass, stopping an hour later and crutching to the side of a stream to pause and reflect. I had been feeling pretty low. I had sprained my ankle hiking across the Sierra a week before and was going to spend my birthday in a job interview. I couldn’t even stand on my own two feet without metal poles to balance me. And then I almost ceased to exist and it spun some perspective into my lucky little world. I WAS ALIVE! I had great friends, a wonderful family, lived in a beautiful place and everything was possible. That afternoon a friend and I paused to admire the sun’s reflection on Lake Tahoe and the joy of the dogs flopping into the water.

Lake Tahoe October Sunset

Lake Tahoe October Sunset



I carried that gratitude into the next few weeks as I finished a fantastic AmeriCorps position with the Eastern Sierra Land Trust and spent Thanksgiving with friends and family in LA. Early the following morning I was soaring above the fluffy white cow pies covering LA in it’s tryptophan-induced coma towards Lima, Peru.

I spent a few days exploring the city of men shorter than my grandma, many of whom are afflicted with a widespread epidemic of horn honking.  In Lima two worlds collide, along with about 15 million others who all cram into the 4 lane highway 7 cars abreast (on each side). I met up with Jonny and Jake, two adventurous friends from our UCLA days, and we traveled north along the coast past hours of small shantytowns separated by expanses of sand dunes. We settled in a small beach town called Huanchaco where most people walked around barefoot and even the bakeries didn’t open until 9am.

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A carrot top named Julian from Germany shared our double bunk dormitory with a private bath, open only to the cockroaches and other insects that frequented our shower and sink. As our Spanish improved and our immune systems worsened we spent a good portion of our days surfing or boogey boarding, doing yoga classes for about $1/hr, and reuniting for fried rice with seafood (chaufa con mariscos).

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Sometimes meanings get lost in translation

Nine days later our group dispersed and Jonny and I went north with an Aussie named George towards the warm waters along the Ecuadorian border. We got caught up in the stereotypical beach traveler’s moment in which we all sat on a white sandy dune passing around a bottle of Roncola (rum and coke), playing the ¾ guitar and singing along to the perfectly harmonized crashing of the waves. Those moments when the whole world feels right and you are only focused on the plethora of sensory stimuli – the salt water spray on your lips, the sound of acoustic guitar accompanied by a solid boom! from the sea, the round fiery ball of sol slipping behind the surf point and making the wet sand a creamy reflection of the water-colored sky – these are the postcard-perfect reasons of (part of) why we travel.

Your stereotypical beach traveler moment, just add rum

Your stereotypical beach traveler moment, just add rum

Then again, the 2 am scramble in the dark to the not-so porcelain pony highlights the slimy, grotesque side of 3rd world travel. Fortunately I only got food poisoning once this time around in Peru!

The Peru diet took hold of my bowels with liquefying strength, though it politely waited until I was back in the land of toilet paper friendly toilets. I spent the holidays with my families in LA and Washington, making up for any sort of weight loss with hearty helpings of sweets and barbeque. Yule time flies when you’re catching up on sleep, sailing towards blue skies and walking around Vancouver, Canada. I enjoyed a quick LA whirlwind of a 2nd Christmas, packed up my Honda Civic with my belongings and drove up to Mammoth to celebrate the New Year and do my first ride of the season, a backcountry snowboard run on excellent powder! January 1st I drove to South Lake Tahoe, found a place to live and by 8:30pm was unloading my possessions at a new address.

Moving to Tahoe 2 (1)

The birthday interview from the beginning of this verbose email resulted in a stellar position with the California Tahoe Conservancy as their Communications Liaison. For the next year I will write press releases and website content, amongst other duties on an ever-growing list, for an environmental agency filled with like-minded outdoorsy, passionate people. I hope that I’m as good a writer as they think I am.

Wishing everyone a joyous, whimsical, healthy and adventurous 2013! Remember Tom Robbins’ wise words as you debate whether or not you should frolic through the meadow or get on stage and sing karaoke, “Those who shun the whimsy of things will experience rigor mortis before death” (from Still Live with Woodpecker). Hopefully I will be joining you for both of those events and more.

Thank you for being you and come visit!

-V

The Pro-generalist

“Life without change is boring.”

I recently came across the concept of the pro-generalist, someone who excels at numerous sports but isn’t quite a professional in any one activity. Mammoth and Bishop are teeming with them (I may even be so bold and say ‘us’). The 5.12 climbers in the spring who become fantastic triathletes in the summer and probably teach yoga or jiu jitzu on the side before they start winter back country skiing or boarding down treacherous chutes and ravines. These incredible athletes are not quite “pros” at any one sport, because to get to that level you have to focus and sacrifice other activities to perfect that chosen life path. The pros lose some fun and freedom for fame. Our society idolizes the pro-athletes, but what about the equally impressive pro-generalist? There is no decent living wage for someone who shines at a lot of sports, but there’s plenty of sponsors if you’re a superlative: The best freeskier, the fastest marathoner, the strongest, etc.

Why is our culture so obsessed with -‘ests‘? When someone asks who you are and you respond with a one word answer (doctor, environmentalist, mother) think of how much you’re limiting yourself. It’s time to return to the celebration of the Renaissance person who can cook good meals, run in the morning, bike during lunch, climb after work, configure a GPS  before dinner for the upcoming backpacking trip and fix a bike tire all within a  24 hour period. Those are the people I would choose to be stuck on a desert island with, or a desert in general. Say, isn’t Bishop a…

A Long Run in the Bishop Rain

The typical view from my morning run along the canal; this wasn't taken on the stormy Friday

My new shoes were just too white for my taste. Last Friday we were blessed with 0.3 (guess-timate) of the 5.02 annual inches of precipitation and all day my body was itching to run over the savory earth and feel the tingle on my skin. Around 5pm i padded out into the dark clouds that so rarely grace this rain shadowed valley. The canals were lined with black and brown calves, nursing, chewing or running away from my methodical pace. My ipod died about half way out, so I took the earphones out and listened to the pin pricks of droplets hitting my skin, my fleece, the ground and the canal. The clouds ahead cleared and the blue sky over Big Pine seemed like a Truman Show deception. The Sierra momentarily glittered in the sun, newly veiled in white, looking too perfect and angelic to be terrestrial. I laughed and jumped on a runner’s high that made me continue further than I’d run in a while. I could feel my legs and it felt good. Maybe I should run a marathon? I forgot how good the rush of endorphines feels during the cool down shower when my racing mind finally calms down.

The Gang: Woodie, Eunice, Cynthia, Greg and I

The rain in Bishop equaled two feet of fresh fluffy powder in Mammoth, and while I wish I could say that I sliced through it all day Saturday I had to work until after the mountain closed. I met up with the Super Gang from a couple weeks ago (Greg, Woodie, Eunice, and a new friend Cynthia) on Saturday night where they let me crash with them at a place that could have fit an entire girl scout troupe. Sunday morning everyone on the chair lifts reminded me that I had missed the best powder day of the season, and still I had a fantastic time crunching over the gravely moguls. Greg once again photographed our crew and caught some great images of us that make us look much better than we probably are.

If it looks like this photo was taken right on top of me it's because it was - Greg cut me off and the photo doesn't capture the explicative that may have been exchanged.

On Monday Elsbeth and I ran a half marathon! I think that was the longest I have ever run. I had the day off and felt like a good work out, so we drove out to Fish Slough nestled on a volcanic tablelands with epic views of the Sierra and the White mtn. ranges.

BLM springs in Fish Slough, where Elsbeth and I swam with the pupfish

We stopped about 3/4 of the way to jump into a natural spring, which is also one of 3 sites containing the endangered pupfish . It was euphoric at times, hot most of the time and after wards my muscles felt a bit confused and sore like they used to during cross country.

We decided we should bake ourselves a lemon pound cake and make strawberry smoothies as a celebration. I really like my roommate! Although we picked up 4lbs of strawberries we didn’t end up making the smoothies and only just made the pound cake tonight (a day later). Surprisingly, neither one of our bodies were sore today so we played Ultimate Frisbee for a spell and biked until the sun set.

Another marvel on Fish Slough Rd.

Work is about to speed up with lots of upcoming events and the temperature pushes ever closer to breaking 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for almost 3 months. As the ancient chinese proverb says, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer it gets to the end the faster it goes.”