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Filtering by Tag: Outdoor

The Mount Whitney Challenge

Jennifer Ronda

Recently, I overheard someone talking about their plans to attempt to summit Mount Whitney in one day. My first thought was, "Where is Mount Whitney? I've never heard of it before. I need to Google that." (Okay, so that was actually three thoughts.)

Mount Whitney. Photo credit: Geographer, Wikimedia CommonsThen when I heard this person say it's the highest summit in the lower, contiguous 48-states, my next thought was, "I want to do that someday!"

A few years ago, Matt and I successfully summited Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in one day, so hiking Mt. Whitney sounded like an adventure we should try someday; the next big challenge; something to add to my ever-growing bucket list. (Which now stands at over 4 pages long, and I'm starting to think I may not be setting myself up for success in completing all the items.)

But it wasn't until a recent visit with some friends that the generic "someday" would turn into a very specific date in late September.

As it turns out, our friends are planning to hike Mt. Whitney this fall. Not only were they able to obtain a much sought-after day-use permit for themselves (a permit is required to hike on Mt. Whitney), but they had extra permits and invited us to join them on this demanding and extreme one-day hike! (I'm sure to some that doesn't sound like an enticing invitation. Our friends obviously know their audience quite well.)A view of some switchbacks on the trail. Photo credit: Cullen328, Wikimedia Commons

This was opportunity knocking. A chance to spend time with great friends and create unforgettable memories. An epic hike with my husband on new terrain. A possibility of checking off an item from the bucket list. I could feel that obscure and latent competitive gene of mine floating to the surface.

So then, why did I suddenly have a huge pit in the bottom of my stomach, feel apprehensive, and hesitate in immediately accepting their invitation? Oh, that's right: fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of not making it to the summit. Fear of getting altitude sickness. Fear of having to give up and turn around. Fear of not succeeding.

After mulling it over for several days, I realized fear is a pretty stupid reason not to even give it a try. How unfortunate (and dare I say, cowardly?) it would be to completely pass on this opportunity just because I'm afraid I may not complete the ascent. 

So, challenge accepted! We'll attempt to summit the 14,505 foot tall mountain in a single day via the Mount Whitney Trail

And even if failure becomes inevitable, I know it will still be an amazing day with incredible scenery, and it will be time well-spent with my husband and wonderful friends. I'll just have to submerge that competitive gene and save it for another challege.

Facts about the hike

  • Mount Whitney elevation: 14,505 feet
  • Total distance: 22 miles round-trip
  • Trail begins at Whitney Portal, elevation 8,360 feet
  • Elevation gain: over 6,100 feet
  • Timing: Requires 12 - 18 hours of strenuous hiking

Plaque at summit of Mount Whitney. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Spring It On

Jennifer Ronda

Spring has sprung. And is there any place I’d rather be than Lake Tahoe to witness the metamorphosis from the winter season to the sublime summer season? For those who don’t know me very well, the answer is, “No!”

I love being at Lake Tahoe at this time of year (okay, is there really ever a time of year when I don't love being here?!).  Here are just a few of the tell-tale signs that winter is out, spring is on, and the region is gearing up for the summer months ahead:


The bright red tips of Snow Flowers can just barely be seen emerging from the fallen pine needles and forest floor. They start to appear right after the snowmelt, and are sometimes seen in unsuspecting places.


Vacancy signs everywhere. Empty hiking trails. A deserted downtown. A feeling of having this area to oneself, knowing that soon the summer crowds will be here.

Whether it's solitary daffodils popping up in random spots, or a neighbor's densely planted flower bed, these cheery flowers seem to express gratitude that the winter months are over and it's now their time to come out of hiding and shine.

Nature starts revealing vibrant colors in the landscape, but they’re often contrasted with the remnants of snow, a pale sky, and brown and budless foliage.


Silent and mostly frozen throughout the winter, the creek at the back of our property has once again resumed its constant burbling and babbling.

Today's Forecast: Liquid Sunshine

Jennifer Ronda

Raindrops keep falling on my head...It's raining cats and dogs!...Raindrops on roses...Purple rain, purple rain...Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory...Red rain is coming down, red rain....Rain, rain, go away...In the cold November rain...

When you think about it, there are a lot of sayings and songs that talk about rain. Which to me is a bit odd since most people seem to despise the rainy weather, don't like to talk about it, and want it to stop and go away. But not me. I like the rain. I welcome it. Especially when I think about how the rain often times translates to snow in the mountains! To me, the rain is Mother Nature's way of giving the earth a good cleansing. An opportunity to don my rain boots and wash away all the dust on them. A rinse-cycle for the sidewalks. Liquid therapy for all the plants and flowers that greet me on my walks. So for me, I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again!


Big Sur: Yes, Sir!

Jennifer Ronda

Every camping trip we've ever taken always offers its own unique experiences, lasting memories, and fun times. Even though it had been over a year since our last outdoor adventure, our camping trip a couple of weeks ago was no different. The exception being that this time we decided to head down south to Big Sur, California. 

It had been years since we last made a trek to this part of the state, and we had forgotten how beautiful this area is. It truly is a special and magnificent place where the mountains of the west and rugged coastline abruptly meet the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Rocky outcroppings, pristine beaches, sheer drop-offs, enormous bluffs -- there are breathtaking views and blue waters everywhere you look. And let's not forget all the marine mammal sightings!

Kirk Creek Campground, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur

Our destination: Kirk Creek Campground. Listed by Sunset Magazine as the 6th best campground in California,Campsite #22 we were not disappointed! We pitched our tent on the coveted Site #22 which offered amazing views of the ocean to the west, the rugged coastline to our north, and the steep Los Padres Mountains to our east. Our campsite was a stone's throw from the edge of a bluff dropping off 100 feet to the ocean...literally. Seriously.

At dusk, we had a front-seat view to the setting sun and its changing colors; at Sunset over the Pacific Oceannight, we watched the display of stars on a completely black canvas, then drifted off with the waves of the Pacific Ocean lulling us to sleep. The morning view wasn't bad either: we spotted sea lions basking on a nearby rock outcropping and saw a school of dolphins swim by as we sipped our coffee.



Other Highlights from Big Sur

We definitely spent a lot of time just relaxing together and taking in all the views our amazing campsite had to offer. We also set out on a few adventures so we could explore some of the surrounding areas: 

1. A long hike through the Ventana Wilderness and Los Padres National Forest. The constant incline of the trail was hard work, but we were rewarded with incredible bird's eye views of the rugged coastline, the ocean, the adjoining mountains, and even our campsite off in the distance!

2. Beach time at Sand Dollar Beach. Our dog, Bear, especially enjoyed this outing as he got to splash around in the ocean and play an endless game of fetch!

3. A visit to McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Tucked away in a picturesque lagoon, the waterfall drops 80 feet from a cliff to the beach, and is the only coastal waterfall in California.

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Yes, sir -- Big Sur is a very special place, and all the better when you can pitch your tent right on the water's edge!

Out Horsing Around

Jennifer Ronda

Last week, I left the city life behind me (for several hours, anyways) and headed for the foothills of Mount Diablo for a 3+ horseback ride at Isabella Farms. It's amazing how within a one-hour drive one can completely leave the city, traffic, and freeways and find oneselve out in a rural area where two-lane roads, silence, wild turkeys, and horse farms are the norm.

Isabella Farms is a beautiful ranch, complete with a little over a dozen horses, two goats, chickens (yes, cage free!), two cats, and a young Doberman Pinscher pup named Daisy (whose job is to keep away the coyotes and bob cats; okay, as a 5 month old puppy, she has yet to grow into this role, but one day will). Once there, I headed out to the pasture to round up my trusty steed for the journey: Justice. And he was one high-spirited and magnificent horse who did justice on making me work hard on my horsemanship skills! As it turned out, I was the only one who showed up for the trail ride (how nice!). And I couldn't wait to head out on the ride with my guide, Lindsay.

The clip-clop, clip-clop of the horses' hooves on the ground, the snorting sounds coming from Justice, the swishing-sound of the horses' tails as they tried to chase away the quickly brought on a feeling of peace and tranquility. Of course, the landscape didn't hurt either. We took a trail through the foothills that first started out with a canopy of trees covering the wide path. With poison ivy and poison oak lining the path. Then, the trail significantly narrowed to a very tight line that led us through open, rolling, grassy areas dotted with low, stubby trees; this part made us feel as if we were riding through Frodo's homeland of The Shire (while dodging more poison ivy and poison oak).

But the truly breathtaking part of our journey was when we reached the ridge and had a bird's eye view of the valleys below us and Mt. Diablo in front of us. And it literally was a bird's eye view -- as I looked to my right I was level with a crow that was about 40 yards away just hovering and soaring in the wind. Speaking of wind, this was also the windiest part. And the coldest part. Sitting atop our horses, we could see the wind rippling across the tall grasses. It reminded us of big waves way out at sea moving through the ocean.

After some steep descents, more grasslands, and more poison ivy and poison oak, we were on our way back to the ranch. It was an amazing day with amazing views. And Justice was well served. And I don't know what surprised me more: waking up the next morning with no poison ivy (which I was certain I had) , or waking up with no sore bones (which I was certain I would)!

Me and Justice