Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Butler Adventure 2016 - The Yosemite Adventure

Day 5 - Yosemite National Park

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” 
― Ansel Adams

The glitter of green and golden wonder, stone and space had a hold over me. I just can't explain it.

Unfortunately, at this park, we were not able to secure a reservation at a campground inside of the park. Apparently, if you want to do this, you have to reserve a spot as soon as the reservation system opens. Like at 12:01 am that day. Because we were not those people, planning this trip about 2 months in advance, we found a place called Yosemite Pines...which totes itself as being located at the "gateway to Yosemite".

Yosemite pines also offers panning for "gold" mud. 
What they don't tell you is that the "gateway" is about 40 mins away and Yosemite Valley is another 45 past that. It was worth the drive.

On our way in, we caught views of Half Dome and El Capitan. Towering slabs of granite as far as the eye can see. Majestic.

NOT El Capitan or Half Dome. 
We quickly found that Yosemite Valley is crowded. Very crowded. This year was the 100th anniversary of the US Park Service, making the park even a little more popular than ever, making parking a 26 foot RV a bit daunting.

On the advice of one of the physicians I worked with this summer, we set out that day to hike the Mist Trail, which happens to be part of the John Muir Trail - inspiring in itself. I wanted to do the entire 14 miles (round trip) all the way up to the area where you can summit Half Dome (to summit now requires a permit), but because we had gotten there so late, we just hiked as far as we could. We also took a brief look at lower Yosemite falls, which wasn't much - a trickle compared to what we were about to see.

The shuttle system in Yosemite is *amazing*. We took a shuttle a few miles down to Happy Isles, where we began our adventure that day. Happy Isles, as I found out, is the trailhead where most southbound John Muir Trail hikers start their 212 mile journey to Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous U.S. at 14,505 feet (which also requires a hard to get permit to get to).

After a brief "warm up" at Happy Isles, our hike took us up. Way up.

The vert here was NO joke. 
Along the way, we passed some of the most amazing sights I've ever laid my eyes on. The warm afternoon sun filtered through the pines and along the granite slabs.

It was so gorgeous. We passed Vernal Falls and the rush of the Merced River. The hike then took something of a turn that reminded me of the stairstepper at the gym.

It was steep with loose dirt and a little crowded in spots. Louis and I somehow separated from Ryan and got to a place where there was a lot of people standing around looking into the water. That's when someone asked us if we saw the bear? (This would become a very common theme during the trip.)

Look in the middle - BEAR!
In all the trips that I've taken to the mountains and National Parks, I have never seen a bear. And there it was...down in the rushing river. Perched on a log, picking fish out of the water like it was no big deal. What appears to most as a brown bear, was really a black bear.

As the ranger had told me in Sequoia National Park, black bears come in three colors; blonde, brown and black. Something I had not known! These bears are pretty much harmless and this one didn't seem to mind the crowd. This was such a great experience for Louis and I to see together. Unfortunately, Ryan missed out on the bear, but plenty of cool things awaited us later that day.

Guess who's feet didn't hurt? Boots or Altras? Altras for the win!
We climbed to the top of Vernal Falls and were able to look RIGHT over the falls. It was a rush! Of course to get there, required walking along the side of a cliff (where a fence was in place for safety).

Yep. Straight down the waterfall. 
We continued to climb and climb and climb until we reached Nevada Falls. We then spent the most relaxing, fun, afternoon here. Louis and Ryan waded in the peaceful lake below the falls, with the Liberty Cap rising to the left.. There were huge slabs of granite that spilled into the water, nearly as smooth as a countertop - smoothed after thousands, if not millions of years of water wear. A couple of young men made a slip and slide of sorts out of it and eventually, as expected, Louis did the same. I sat with what became a small group of people who were also lounging in the warm up and giggled and clapped when one of them would make it down the slab. I think we spent about 2-3 hours just sitting and enjoying ourselves. The ice cold water felt wonderful on our feet. So clear you could see the rocks in the middle. It was a place where you needed nothing else. No phone to look at, no book to read, no music to listen to. I sat for nearly two hours just looking at what was around me and watching the boys explore.

The evidence of the "slip and slide" in the background. 

Ryan & Louis' "yoga crow"

Me, doing actual yoga.

We could've played here all day!
As we hiked back down, the afternoon turned into a beautiful, cool, dusky evening.

A rainbow farewell.
When we got back to Happy Isle, we took the shuttle back to our RV (so, so easy!) and headed back to Yosemite Pines. We had a short moment of weakness where we considered staying at Yosemite one more day instead of heading to Oregon as planned the following day, but with both of us really wanting to see Columbia River Gorge, we stuck with the original itinerary and packed up the next morning. 

I think I stayed up until 3 am that night reading and researching about Yosemite and the John Muir Trail. Sometimes true inspiration can be so difficult to find. I honestly think the word inspiration is loosely overused, but being in this vast expanse of wild was true inspiration (at least for me it was). I felt like I took a piece of that trail with me.

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”        -John Muir

I know why John Muir so loved the high Sierras and this wilderness, there was something so magical within its granite walls, valleys and meadows. Every step took you to something different, something even more enchanting.

Yosemite National Park and the JMT....we'll be back - this was only the beginning of a whole new adventure to come.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Butler Adventure 2016 - The Columbia River Gorge.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Butler Adventure 2016 Chapter One

It's been over a month since we started out on our big, kind of last minute (at least when it comes to National Park trips we found out) Butler Adventure 2016. What an adventure it was. I figured I'd better start writing down some of my thoughts before they disappeared or became a distant memory.
insert phone stuff

Day 1
Dallas to San Francisco

We took an early morning flight to San Fran in order to pick up the RV we had rented from this completely adorable couple outside of San Fran. After exploring all of our RV options, we decided to go with a private rental vs something like El Monte or Cruise America. Both of the later like to play the bait and switch game. They offer a reasonable price then double it when you actually want to reserve it. Plus, they upcharge you for anything extra. Like forks. And sheets. And yard chairs. Our RV had it all. It was stocked with everything you could possibly need and more.

After a lengthy orientation to all of the bells and whistles on our home for 17 days, the Leprechaun, we headed to meet and pick up our friends, Sean, Kristin and their adorable baby girl, who all lived outside of San Fran. They were joining us for the first leg of the trip to the Sequoias. We spent the night in their driveway (keepin it classy in San Fran!) and headed out the next morning.

Picking up a few things with these two cuties in tow. 
We arrived in Sequoia National Park mid afternoon and found the weather to be absolutely amazing. 70 degrees and almost no humidity. Heaven. When we got there, we headed to the Visitor Center where they told us of some things we might want to do.

That night we took a short hike to see the second tallest tree in the US - the Grant tree and saw several other ginormous trees along the way. I hiked with Heidi in a kiddo back pack (so fun, but a tough glute workout!). We had a campfire and crashed. All of the fresh air was almost exhausting!

On the park ranger's advice, the next day we headed to King's Canyon, a little traveled (mostly by PCT and JMT thru hikers), a stunning National Park right next to Sequoia NP. This park just isn't on many people's radar...and I'm not sure why that is. The granite slabs are incredible, they surround you everywhere.

There were plenty of rivers for all of us to dip our feet in (ICE COLD) and a few short hikes to just soak it all in.

Funny an attempt to "live a little" (Louis and Ryan's trip motto), Ryan decided to take a plunge into this pool of cold mountain water. Ryan's trip nearly ended here, or likely could've ended with search and rescue. 

Yeah....that head on the left? Ryan. 

Apparently, as he neared the waterfall, his body became hypothermic and he found himself being unable to breath very well. Luckily, he is a strong swimmer and practically forced himself to get back to the boulders where he jumped in. 

That evening I went on a short run near our campground. 3 miles down, 3 miles up. The down was really fun, the up was actually just as much! Apparently running on the trails in the Sierras is kind of frowned upon in some areas. Not because of breaking laws or disrupting the peace, but because of the wildlife. After getting well versed about bears and mountain lions by the park ranger the days before, she told me they see people who run as prey, like they are trying to get away. Oh well, like Louis told me about seventy five times on the trip, you have to live a little.

The payout was worth it. Beautiful views, filtered sunlight through the sequoias and being the only person on the trail was an amazing experience.

I not so secretly wished during the entire run, that I had places like that to run all of the time, despite bears and other things that attack.

I'd have kept going, but since it was getting dark, I headed back and rewarded myself with a smores.

On Sunday, it was time to head out to our next stop, Yosemite. We took Sean, Kristin and Heidi back to Fresno so they could get back to San Fran and moved on a little further north. We soon discovered that when google maps told us it would take a certain amount of time to get somewhere, we should easily add 3-4 hours to that. Throughout the trip, that theme remained the same.  While we wanted to get to the park on Sunday, we arrived to late, so we just relaxed at our campground.

Here are a few more photos from Kings Canyon...

These two...
Our adorable friends, Sean, Kristin and little Heidi.

We just could never get over how clear all the water was here and everywhere we visited!

Stay tuned for Chapter 2! Yosemite National Park. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Friday Five - Why My Dad Is Just The Best!

I am linking up again with the lovelies Cynthia at You Signed Up For What? , Mar at Mar on The Run & Courtney @ Eat Pray Run DC for the Friday Five...for the Friday Five.

This is actually a repost from a couple of years ago, but when I came across it the other day, I thought it'd be perfect for today!

I lucked out and got one of the really good ones!!

Here's why...


No matter what, there was *always* a family vacation in the summer.  I remember my dad saying his parents always went on trips without kids & that he just wouldn't have that.  Family vacations were never fancy.  Sometimes they were just trips to the lake where my grandparents would stay for the summer.  Sometimes a trip to the "city".  Other times they were 20 hour long car rides to Northwestern Montana for all sorts of fun!  Those road trips were seriously the best.  Road trips like that don't seem to happen much anymore.


Love of the outdoors.

Not only a love, but a mutual respect. My dad not only hunts for sport, but for food.  We almost always eat what he shoots.  Pheasants, deer, geese and turkey...we ate them all (even though they were secretly passed along as chicken when we were young).  He has passed the love of hunting along to my son, who can't wait to own a gun and be able to hunt with his PaPa.


Some dads are like superheros.

They can fix everything and have a solution to any problem no matter how seemingly complex.  My dad is good like that.  They don't seem to make a lot of dads like that anymore.


He is the perfect example of how hard work and a lot of elbow grease will get you far in life.  When I was still living at home, my dad ran a successful auto repair business and worked from 8-6.  Now he has worked for the US Post Office for 20 years.  He is a great example of the work/life balance.  He works hard, but has time to play as well.  I love seeing my parents travel now, enjoying the payoff of all of those years of hard work.

my dad's first trip to NYC!

Even when I was small and my dad worked so much, he always made time for us.  Most of his days off were spent taking us to the lake in the summer, going sledding or ice fishing in the winter, letting my mom have a little break.


The awesome relationship he has with Louis.  My son *adores* my dad.  Many statements and "i told you so's' are prefaced with "well papa said....". Louis loves the quality time he gets to spend with his papa and gigi every summer.  He may be spoiled, but I know he is having experiences that most kiddos dream of.  Louis also wants to be in the air force when he *grows up*.  Just like his papa.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Friday Five - Pure Barre Platform

After taking a break for a few weeks (school, running, L's bday), I returned to Pure Barre earlier this week. My first class back was a platform class. Basically, Pure Barre on steroids. I took my first platform class over a month ago, in a preview session that I had won from a March challenge. After that first platform class, I was a little leery and not so sure that I'd do another. I'm not someone who likes a lot of change, and this was a HUGE change from what I was used to in my tame, non-sweaty traditional barre classes.

"Pure Barre Platform is a new fast-paced class designed to optimize cardiovascular results and increase total body strength. This heart-pumping class combines quick bursts of high intensity, yet low impact cardio work with periods of lower intensity muscle-sculpting movements. These 55 minutes of high energy, fun and intense interval training at the barre will help you burn calories, jump-start your metabolism, and increase your overall endurance. It is the perfect cardio complement to your Pure Barre class to help you achieve even greater results, while still holding onto the traditional pieces and parts of a Pure Barre class that we all know and love."

1. The warm up. It's legit.

It's the "prepare to sweat portion of class". Kind of similarly to step aerobics, there is some stepping on and off the platform. Coordination. You kind of need a little, but it's pretty easy to catch on.

2. On to legs!

In traditional Pure Barre, the class is split into different portions, warm up/core, arms, thigh work, seat work, wall abs, floor abs, lower back and finally a few more minutes of seat work and a nice stretch.

In platform, you transition from the warm up/core, into arms (with big leg movements). Every arm movement has a coordinating leg movement = huge calorie burn.  Be ready to double time!

photo credit: Pure Barre
3. More legs!

Because your legs aren't already fatigued from the arm portion, we must do more! Lunges, plies, step ups and flying?

Yes, You will do this.
Photo cred: Pure Barre
OMG. Your legs will be crying, but it feels SO good. 

4. Breaks? What breaks?

Unlike traditional Pure Barre, where there are breaks/stretching between each of the aforementioned segments, I think there are like two. And they are short. BUT, it keeps everything flowing and really, once you start, you don't want to stop. PS. There is a lot more "double time". 

5. Sweat.

Want to get a sweat on? Platform. One of the things I love about going to Pure Barre, is that I can go work out and go out without having to do some kind of makeover before I go somewhere. Not that it isn't hard work, but it's very low impact (which I also love) and the heart rate doesn't get terribly high. Not in platform. Cardio is the name of the game. Your heart rate will be high from beginning to end. Even though there are some portions that are still low impact, you turn it up immediately by adding in some stepping and flying. 

5 1/2. When you are done, you will feel 

Even though I wasn't particularly sold on the Pure Barre platform method after the first class, I think it was because it was an unknown. The class moves very fast. I didn't dislike it the first time I went, I just had no idea what to expect, no idea how to do the movements and zero idea what was going to happen next and that made me feel a little uneasy. I know it is going to benefit my running and strengthen my core A LOT. I'm really happy I gave it another chance, because now I am kind of obsessed with it! I went to my third class the other day and am even more obsessed.

Happy Friday!!

Thanks again to the ladies in DC for the Friday Five Linkup!  Check out more awesome Friday Fives over at Courtney at Eat, Pray, Run DC, Mar at Mar on the Run and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What?!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Icebreakers - Bringing Awareness to Mental Health and Addiction

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? Unlike other common illnesses, such as breast cancer, who we all know has the month of October, this cause isn't getting nearly the attention it should, until this project came along.

Mental illness affects one in five of all Americans. Just under half of those people will seek help (National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2016), namely due to the stigma that has been placed around mental health issues. I would guess the chances are likely, that you as a reader, know someone who has been afflicted with mental health issues, whether it be depression, addiction, anxiety or more serious illnesses. Addiction has touched my family several times, in fact it is not unusual for mental illness to run in families. Both my dear uncle and cousin, who are no longer with us, were both alcoholics at one time. My uncle was able to overcome his addiction and go on to help many others. He beat his illness and went on to live a pretty amazing life until cancer took his life.  My husband's brother lost his life 3 years ago due to health issues related to addiction. Personally, I have struggled with both anxiety and depression, after getting divorced in 2010. Anxiety has reared its ugly head a few times throughout my years of grad school. I feel it's impossible to know that someone who hasn't been touched.

As a health professional, I feel that mental illness is talked about more, but is still a completely underfunded and undertreated issue. I think more individuals are getting a little bit more comfortable talking with their health care providers about it, but don't take about it with the other people in their lives. Other people who could be support systems. Why is there still such a stigma around mental health? Why is it ok to take a sick day at work because of the flu, but not because you have anxiety?

Over the past week and a half, I have been following the journey of a group of runners who are canvasing the U.S. from the West coast to the East, ending in Washington D.C. where a mental health conference will be taking place. When I saw they were coming to Dallas, I really wanted to join in or meet them along the way somewhere, just to show support.  A new friend (and neighbor!) who saw that I had been thinking about meeting up with the group reached out to me to see if I wanted to ride with her Friday morning, but, work. When she text me again Friday evening, I briefly thought about it and again said probably not. Then thought a little bit more and thought, what the hell, I can sleep when I'm dead, I'm in. Emily had already left, but I was shortly behind.

We met the runners just past Sulphur Springs, TX. On my way there I had seen that Catra Corbett, an ultra runner who is pretty much my running hero, was currently running. I was going to get to run with her! I couldn't believe it. At this point I was so happy I had changed my mind and decided to go.

Catra has run over one hundred 100 milers, over 200 ultra marathons, sometimes week after week, she is a machine. She is a record holder on the John Muir Trail. And her dog TruMan? Well, he has a race resume that most runners would envy.

The rest of the group was equally seasoned, book writers, ultrarunners, Badwater finishers, to call them elite seemed like an understatement. I was pretty much a starry eyed teenage fan girl all night. Emily joined me later in the night when we ran with Phil Nimmo, a friend of the group, whom they picked up in Mansfield, TX, because of an injury to one of the original six.

So what does the Icebreaker Run represent?

The inaugural run is supported by Mental Health America, The Herren Project and Break the Stigma Project.

"We are not a group of mental health professionals, but rather a reflection of mental illness. Our personal stories represent addiction, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, among others. We know firsthand the barriers that exist between mental illness and mental health. More importantly, we know that taking the first step to overcome these barriers is often the toughest decision one ever makes." (, 2016)

The run will end on 6.9.16 in Alexandria, VA at Mental Health America's annual conference. Along the way, the team stops at schools and other community centers in an effort to break the stigma of mental illness. The runners will be running for 24 hours a day, for 24 days straight. When they came through the DFW area last week, there were some pretty wicked storms, rain, lightening and then heat and humidity - they still ran. On Monday, it was 103 degrees in Mississippi. The runners still run. 3,100 miles. About a marathon per runner, day after day (, 2016). 

I ran with Catra from a little after 10pm until around 11:30. We chatted the entire time. Both dog lovers, she told me about how she got TruMan, how they started running together, told me about some of her adventures and even gave me some very helpful advice about running Leadville. At a time when I was having a lot of doubts about the race, she really helped me maintain positivity. She too, has been affected deeply by mental illness, as has her puppy dog, TruMan, who had a great deal of anxiety when she adopted him. I could've listened to her stories all night, but it was time for her to rest.

While Catra and I were running, we were detoured only some back roads off of the frontage roads they had been using. All of a sudden we noticed flashing lights (like a cop car) and I was convinced it was policeman wondering why two young women were out running this late at night.  Instead, it was another group, doing nearly the same thing as the Icebreakers, walking across the country in the opposite direction. The young man we met was carrying an American flag for the cause "Carry the Load", honoring the people who keep us safe; military, firefighters and rescue personnel. It made this experience even more memorable. 
Phil Nimmo ran until 1am with both Emily and I and shared even more stories, had us cracking up and helped us fend off loose dogs running amuck across the East Texas countryside. By the time we were done, we had almost made it to Mt. Vernon. 

This was an incredible experience. To be even just a very small part of something really big doesn't happen everyday. Better yet, there are now more people to help this team spread the word. 

The Icebreaker Run still has a few days of travelling to go. You can continue to follow their journey on 

or visit their website to learn more about the team at

You can also support their cause by donating or by purchasing some of the cool gear that they have available. I scored an awesome tank from HERE that I can't wait to get!