Week 4 (March 27th to April 2nd): San Juan, la Union, Tangadan falls, magical sunsets and new friends.

March 30th CDT readiness, Tangadan falls: I’m such a fraidy cat.

Some of you know that one of my objectives for this year off is to get in shape for the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). I will recap how that has been going so far. I’ve managed to do yoga regularly, though what I am most proud of is my running. I am getting in better shape, though I am realizing that I will need to work much harder to build the endurance required for a six month, rigorous through-hike. I am looking into mountaineering courses to develop those technical skills I am also lacking. I’m running about 5-6km many times a week at this point. On alternate days I usually hit the pool for about an hour. Of course, the plan is to increase distance and speed over time. What about you, readers out there who though-hike? How do you do it? Any advice for a first timer?

 

Other then that, I am enjoying my time in La Union province. Today, I hiked to Tangadan falls, about a 6k hike there and back. It was beautiful and hard in that I tripped twice, scrapped my knees and then got a bit over cautious. One hiker/blogger I love, Carrot Quinn (check her out here: https://carrotquinn.com) talks about a risk-to-reward ratio when hiking. Sometimes, the reward of the scenery, the sounds, the end goal outweighs the risk. Sometimes, the risk and subsequent fear outweighs the reward. That ratio might be different from one day to the next, and definitely different from one person to another. On the way to Tangadan falls, I just didn’t feel confident that the risk of rock hopping and ledge walking were worth it. But once we got to the falls, it was so, so worth it. Tangadan falls aren’t very big, but the crowd gathered there was grilling food on hot coals and having a merry time. The rock formation and the vibe was just magical.

One thing I found impressive, and hard on the ego, was the ages of people completing the hike. It was humbling to see 6 year old kids running along fearlessly with accompanying grand parents, the whole family in flip flops making it look so easy while I teeter-tottered across logs and river crossings.

The conclusion of the day is that I have a long way to go before I am CDT ready. But, I am up for the challenge!

April 1st: The beach!, harassment, running,  El Union Cafe

Since I last wrote, I went swimming in the ocean twice. The first time didn’t go so well… The undertow was quite strong and pulled me under temporarily. It sort of turned me off of the ocean, temporarily.

That being said, I have been jogging on the beach almost daily and I fall back in love with the ocean every single time. The jogs have been challenging as well as rewarding. Mainly, running on the wet sand adds a level of difficultly to the jog, which I love. Sometimes it is a bit harassing to have all the beach bums starring (one even mimicked my jogging until I passed him). I certainly feel stared at here. On the other hand the external eye also pushes me to run further then I might otherwise do. I am not proud of that fact, but I think most of us require a certain amount of extrinsic motivation. I wouldn’t want to give these dudes the satisfaction of see me stop running.

I am also trying to meditate daily, a bit longer then just the few minutes before yoga, as a means to get my mind ready for the trek ahead of me (after all, as my sister would say, it’s all mid over matter!). I read this great “tips for the first time through hiker” article and basically that’s what I got out of it. At the end of the day, completing a through-hike is as much if not more about where your head is at, then your body. I think this will include an ability to listen to your body, attend to it, bring awareness to what’s going on inside: is the pain a signal to stop, is it the kind of pain you want to push through? Is that 1 day pay-no-mind-to-it diarrhea or the explosive take-cipro-now-and-monitor-closely runs? What does your body need, if you listen closely enough, it’s telling you just what it needs. I am trying to start cultivating that more.

 

El Union Cafe

An other exciting part of my time in San Juan has been the discovery of El Union Cafe. It’s absolutely magical, staffed entirely of surfers/aspiring surfers, young people covered in awesome ink I am envious of, who essentially are busy pursuing their dream, focusing on surfing rather then the 9 to 5. A staff and I connected on Monday over the fact that we are in the same boat…trying to move away from the dictates of society around us, and zoning in on what we want. El Union is filled with people who believe that living your dream is possible, as long as your make some realistic concessions. Spending the day there and chatting with the employees made me feel really good about my decision to take a year off, travel, write and explore what getting out of the rat race means to me.

Meeting these nice people has also meant having a lovely place to sit down and read and write. The cafe has a tiny but library with an intriguing selection… Including the Bonesetter’s daughter (which was already on my reading list for the year and felt ominous). They told me I could take one or two books back to Manila, as long as I promised to bring them back. So today I am leaving with the Bonesetter’s daughter. Next time I am here (or Fred is) I hope to switch out Amy Tan’s book for Wharton’s Age of Innocence. They even have Pride and Prejudice my favorite book of all times.

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