Loving life in Death Valley

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Daniel and I recently returned from an awesome Christmas-time trip to Death Valley National Park.

I highly recommend making a winter trek to the desert. It’s amazing! If you go, here are some recommendations:

It’s a six-hour trip from Fresno to Death Valley, so enjoy the journey. Take the time to appreciate Red Rock Canyon State Park and to stop by the quirky jerky shack in Olancha.

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Take a hike! We were wowed by Mosaic Canyon. I’m no geologist, but I’d choose to spend Christmas surrounded by rocks, instead of eating Chinese food and seeing movie, any year!

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Wander a desert ghost town. We visited Rhyolite, and checked out some weird desert art nearby.

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If you visit Scotty’s Castle (and we don’t really recommend you do) then be sure to also check out the Ubehebe Crater nearby. Amazing!

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People say Death Valley has great sunrises and sunsets. I glimpsed my favorite sunrise when I stepped out of our tent at the Texas Springs Campground.

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We visited Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the country, on Christmas morning. We had the salt flats all to ourselves.

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Then visit one of the higher spots in Death Valley – Dante’s View – for a majestic sight. Or, meditate there.

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Play a round in the Devil’s Golf Course. Or, meditate there.

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Death Valley is huge, so you’ll spend a lot of time in the car. Don’t hesitate to pull over (safely, of course) and get a good picture.

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But don’t spend all your time in the car. Sip some mate, and make plans.

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If you have a couple of days in Death Valley, check out the Amargosa Opera House. If you’re lucky, the receptionist at the decrepit hotel nearby will give you the keys to the opera house, so you can check out the theater’s murals on your own.

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Savor the local flavor! We sipped cream soda from Indian Wells Brewing Company while we ate peanut butter and prickly pear jam sandwiches.

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On the drive back, appreciate California’s splendor and diversity. You can drive through the desert, while gazing into the snow-covered Sierras.

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Good Reads: Or, one awesome yoga vid

This past week – between driving to Sacramento, Delano and Santa Cruz for work – I had no time to read. (The closest I came to reading was buying books at Bookshop Santa Cruz, pictured above, to take with me on the Epic Sister Adventure to Joshua Tree.)

So instead of offering you some Good Reads this weekend, I offer you one, awesome Yoga by Equinox video, featuring Briohny Smyth.

Hope you’re having a great weekend! My next post should be from Joshua Tree.

Do what you love, every single day

A Monday morning reminder to do what you love and love what you do – every single day.

Even if it means doing yoga with a rockstar yoga teacher on Superbowl Sunday, and chanting OM instead of cheering on a football team.

Or eating the most special ice cream (pictured: formerly, Ancho Chocolate and Miso Pear ice cream from Humphry Slocomb) on a regular Sunday night.

Happy Monday!

Good reads: Gourmet Tijuana, special split pea soup, and Occupy Yoga

For your weekend reading pleasure…

  • More than tacos in Tijuana

This one goes out to my fellow ‘New Yorker’ readers: Did you catch ‘The Missionary,’ a ‘Letter from Tijuana’ in the Jan. 30 edition?

The article is about chef Javier Plascencia, and his goal of converting Tijuana’s reputation from a border town to a foodie destination.

“People don’t feel very proud of Tijuana, because it’s always been a town of alcohol, sex, and drugs, and made up of everyone who wants to cross the border but can’t,” Plascencia said to the New Yorker. “I’m trying to make Baja and Tijuana a food destination, like San Francisco.”

Writer Dana Goodyear expertly weaves Plascencia’s culinary goals with a tale of his family’s history in Tijuana, and the history of the city. Foodies and world travelers, this article is for you!

  • Winter comfort food

It may be a 65 degrees in Fresno, but this Pink of Perfection post, ‘Winter Budget Meals,’ really resonated with me.

I made the split pea, coconut and brown butter soup last Sunday. The soup was as guilty good as the episode of ‘Gossip Girl’ I watched while eating it.

I think the winter squash stew with peanuts and cilantro is next on the list!

  • Occupy Yoga

Not in the mood to read? This Yoga Slackers video says it all.

Have a great weekend!

Why restorative yoga for climbers?

When I started teaching a Yoga for Climbers class at MetalMark Climbing & Fitness, I assumed people would want a flowing yoga class, filled with hip- and shoulder-opening poses, and some fun arm balances.

I’ve now been teaching the class about six months, and I’ve learned that climbers want something else added to that mix: Relaxation.

It makes sense.

If you’ve been climbing at the gym all week, your arms may be too tired to hold downward dog. If you are planning to go climbing outside during the weekend, you don’t want to tire out your legs by doing too many warrior poses.

But I think people need more than physical relaxation.

No matter how much time I spend crafting a creative sequence of poses, people always seem to like best savasana, and the head massages I give during this final resting pose. People live such on-the-go lives, and that time in savasana is sometimes the only quiet moment they can carve out for themselves.

We all crave more quiet time. We all crave that post-yoga bliss that comes from releasing physical and mental tension, focusing on the moment, and then melting into that.

I say all this because starting Friday (Feb. 3) I will begin teaching a restorative yoga class at MetalMark, and I want you to come. The class will run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. I think it will be a great way for us all to say goodbye to the week that was, and enter the weekend with a fresh outlook and new energy.

If you are new to restorative yoga, Yoga Journal has a nice preview of restorative yoga poses. You’ll see that while these poses are deep and yummy, they are not strenous. So, don’t come expecting a workout. In fact, don’t come with any expectations at all.

Just come with an open mind, and relax into the experience. I think you will like it!

Pictured above: A Thai sculpture in a restorative pose, my Mama at a palace in Bangkok, and me at the palace.

3 ways I’m improving my climbing this month

Looking for ways to spice up your climbing? Here are three ways I’m doing that in the next month.

 Better nutrition

Earlier this week, I slathered a spoonful of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl peanut butter on half a banana as I grabbed my climbing gear and ran out the door. As I struggled to make it up the wall, my arms felt like jello, and my energy level lagged at empty.

Contrast that with last Friday afternoon, when I blended a Vanilla Chai-flavored Amazing Meal – a protein powder billed as a “100% whole food nutrition mix” – with almond milk and banana, before a two-hour climbing session. That evening, I climbed some of the hardest routes I’ve attempted, and succeeded. My muscles sometimes went to slack mid-way through the route, but would recover quickly.

Amazing Meal is a great product. But I’ve learned that just eating a good, protein-full snack before a climbing session can make a big difference in my energy level and ability.

 Hot pants

Ever since I discovered YogaGlo, I’ve been streaming a class every morning before work. One of my favorite teachers on the site is Tiffany Cruikshank. Her classes are great, but what I really love are her bright-colored yoga pants.

“Where can I find bright yoga pants?” I asked my mom. Twenty minutes later, she sent me the website www.beyondyoga.com.

Fellow seekers of spandex pants in lava, lapis, and mosaic teal, rejoice. These are the Crayola-colored yoga pants we’ve been dreaming of.

 New challenges

But let’s be honest. Eating like a vegan bodybuilder and wearing blackberry-hued bottoms will mean little if I’m not continuing to learn and challenge myself on the climbing wall.

Case in point: Months ago, I made it my goal to learn to lead climb. I took the lead course, but never had the guts to get lead-certified.

Now, I have a new incentive. Looks like my adventure-princess-in-crime sister and I will be taking a trip to Joshua Tree in February, and I’d sure love to be able to lead climb there! (More on this adventure to come!

Good reads: Peace, dangerous yoga, and vegan bodybuilders

For your weekend reading pleasure, here are links to three articles I’ve found thought-proving this week.

  • As a reporter, I’m constantly tuned in – following breaking news on Twitter, sharing interesting articles on Facebook, and listening religiously to National Public Radio when I’m in the car.

But as a yogi, I’ve experienced the benefits of a quiet mind; and as a traveler, I’ve experienced the rejuvenating benefits of spending time completely off the grid, immersed in nothing but the moment.

So last Sunday evening, when I returned from a day-long ice skating adventure in Yosemite National Park, and read Pico Iyer’s beautiful essay, ‘The Joy of Quiet,’ in the New York Times – it really spoke to me.

Turn off Twitter, the television or your background music before reading this piece. It’s worthy of your complete attention!

In the article, writer William J. Broad argues that “a number of factors have converged to heighten the risk of practicing yoga.”

 Among them:  “The biggest is the demographic shift in those who study it. Indian practitioners of yoga typically squatted and sat cross-legged in daily life, and yoga poses, or asanas, were an outgrowth of these postures. Now urbanites who sit in chairs all day walk into a studio a couple of times a week and strain to twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures despite their lack of flexibility and other physical problems.

I wouldn’t want the article to deter anyone from trying yoga, or practicing it. But the article does reminds us to be mindful of not letting our ego control our practice, and not pushing past our own physical limits.

That’s coming from a girl who injured her shoulders doing too many chaturangas in a New York ashtanga studio, and who wound up in the Emergency Room after attempting to drop back into wheel-pose.

  • On a lighter note, I was completely amused by this New York Times article about vegan bodybuilders.

Vegan bodybuilders, really? Yup. According to the Times, the Web site www.veganbodybuilding.com has more than 5,000 registered users.

The article contains awesome details, like this: For a midafternoon snack, Jimi Sitko sometimes eats 10 bananas.

And it contains gems of quotes, like this one: “I laugh at the drug tests,” said Billy Simmonds, a vegan bodybuilder in Las Vegas. “I don’t even eat meat.”

Out of curiosity, I checked out the nutrition plan for a female vegan bodybuilder. To be honest, the meals look pretty good. Maybe I missed my calling?