Archive for the Random Thoughts Category

I Live Here.

Posted in Random Thoughts on February 9, 2015 by moosetracksca

It is only 3:30 in the afternoon, but the clouds have pushed east from the Crest, and it has begun to drizzle in the muffled light. It’s cooler now, down from the high of 65 degrees, and the rain is welcome on too many different levels. I’ve been inside this weekend, distracted by the storm system and the havoc it raised just north of town. I refocused my usual energy to cooking, forwarding messages and links about the fire storm and how to help.

You see, when I first moved here to Bishop in 2007, I was almost completely out of my element. A city and suburb gal, starting over in a tiny town at the foot of the grand escarpment. No more malls, no more fancy restaurants, less opportunities for entertainment on the “culture” side of things. I thought I would miss the Symphony, the shows, the bustle and buzz.

I had been working hard inside my new apartment to unload my boxes, turn the shell into a home, when a knock on my door surprised me. My neighbor, Phil, stood outside, and, with a warm smile, said: “I’ve been watching you work so hard the past few days. I just finished some chicken in my slow cooker: would you like some?”

I hardly had known my neighbors in LA, or made regular eye contact, much less conversed with them.

That isn’t to say I hadn’t known kindness, especially from my friends, but this seemed, well, different.

Disasters hit everywhere, no one is immune. We try to help where we can. But this weekend hit someplace close: where I know people who live there, patients with whom I’ve worked, friends. The fire storm that erupted on Friday and was carried upslope by the dry fuel and devil winds took a tremendous toll. Luckily, no one lost their lives, including the firefighters.

But, as a neighbor, I knew that there was more I could do. So, instead of heading out this weekend, I stayed in, made shopping lists, and got to work.

In the end: I cleaned out my closets and sent three bags of clothes, along with 5 blankets to the Red Cross Site at the Fairgrounds; I cooked up two slow cookers full of chicken chili and brought those, along with 5 loaves of sourdough, to the Red Cross Emergency shelter in Crowley Lake (Community Center); I donated what I could afford to the Bishop Chamber of Commerce GoFundMe account (see link below).

This isn’t a humble-brag: this is just, I hope, giving ideas to people on how they can help.

This is my home. Living here means more than just being closer to the trailheads. I am so proud to see this community, so often torn apart by politics or land-use or whatever drama-of-the-moment, pull together to help as much as they can. I am proud that I could do at least a little bit to help.

And, in the meantime, thank goodness it’s raining outside.

Be kind to each other, send love into the universe. It WILL come back.


A look back, a look ahead.

Posted in Random Thoughts on December 31, 2014 by moosetracksca

In September, I stood along the snowy banks of Summit Lake, the fishing rod cold in my hands, the water black and broken as silent flakes fell. Fog descended, and I casted into the grey wall, awaited the quiet “ploonk” of the lure. I slowly reeled in, pulled up the line, cast again. The fog breathed in and out, and the fish weren’t interested, but the moment opened my eyes once again to the power of being present and absorbing as much of every experience as possible.

Another cycle around the sun; another series of chapters, stories, and photographs have been shared. I really pinch myself whenever I get a chance to review the pictures I’ve taken, and remember the adventures of the past year. I’ve travelled solo and with good friends; shared many quiet moments watching waterfalls or sunsets; howled with laughter under a number of super moons. My trusted Truck of Fun and I journeyed far from home. I wrestled with my nephews. Saw my first moose lunching in an alpine lake. Cheered as I cut ski turns in Sierra powder (yes, there was PLENTY of snow on which to play). I even reached the summit of Mt. Whitney for the 15th time.

A solo ski tour from June Lake to Tuolumne; gentle stepping across the ridge of Bloody Mountain; the Eureka Dunes in full bloom; almost stepping on a tiny nest of eggs burrowed into the tundra of Humphreys Basin; making Pop an amazing brunch spread for Father’s Day; watching an incredible sunset on my birthday at Lake Italy; anxiously listening to the surf creep towards my tent on the Olympic Peninsula; the clouds parting across the Cascades, and the smell of Christmas dripping from the pines; the majesty of Glacier National Park, which can only be described by moments and experiences instead of a few choice words; coming home to my Sierra and finding hearts and endless vistas; a gorgeous dragonfly landing on my chair and posing for its close-up; rainbows above a hidden bench of orange aspen; helping out mom after her back surgery; the first snow of fall tickling my face and coating the brim of my hat as I wrestle to set up my tent; inch-long frost coating strands of grass in a marsh near 10,000ft; skating the high lakes as clouds streamed overhead.

“What lies ahead? I wonder to the emptiness. / That grand question which may only be answered / By venturing forth, unafraid. ” – The Green Dot Tour, LEM

I’m not sure what lies ahead, but that’s part of the fun. It’s like casting into the cloud.

May the coming year, and many more, bring you happiness, laughter, and the excitement of venturing out into the unknown.

Whhhheeezzzhhhhh… Ploonk.

A year in review slide show:

Thanks to all for coming along on the ride!

From the luckiest girl in the world:
Climb Hard. Be Safe.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Attention Whore

Posted in Random Thoughts with tags , , , on January 1, 2013 by moosetracksca

A few years ago, I received feedback from someone I admired greatly that my many posts and trip reports were being construed as a desperate grab for attention; an eg0-stoke with purely selfish intentions. “What would you do if you posted and no one responded?” he had asked. The words he spoke had their effect: I curtailed my writing, drew back from some of the online forums, only posting if I completed something “relevant” or “hard-core.” He had added, “Perhaps you should just write to your own blog,” in essence, put it somewhere that I don’t have to look at it.

In other words, I let his words have power over me, and now I fight, almost every day, to allow myself more freedom of expression through both my words and my pictures. The battle in my head is to never have someone think of me that way again.

Ain’t gunna happen.

Much as I would like it to, much as I would like to get along with everyone, I don’t, and I can’t.

The numbers below give me such a warm feeling inside. I put something to “paper”, and there are those out there who have taken the time to glance through it. For that, I am extremely grateful. I find the act of sharing some of my adventures, my experiences, my emotions while I’m out there both alone and surrounded by friends, to be cathartic. To be able to use words to convey what it’s like to stroll a trail or a slabby creek bed; to scramble above exposure; to ski a Sierra glacier; to nap on warm granite; to laugh with friends after a long day over a campfire, beer in hand and food on a plate; all of these are ways for me to connect to the outside world from my little town beneath big mountains.

It was a year of firsts: first ice leads; first lake skating; first trad lead; first time in new areas of the Sierra; first SAR involvement; first alpine ice climb. I returned to familiar places: Evolution Basin; the Ansel Adams Wilderness; Middle Palisade; Bear Creek Spire, the Whitney Zone. Both with friends and solo, I came back from my knee injury and started regaining that old confidence.

Thanks to everyone who joined me on the adventures of my life, both in the backcountry and here on the interwebs. I am hoping for so much more in 2013 and beyond.

<wicked little smile>

Buckle up, folks. Let’s take a ride…


Much love from the high Sierra, and from the luckiest girl in the world:

Climb Hard. Be Safe.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sometimes “Why” Isn’t Good Enough, But It’s All We Have

Posted in Random Thoughts with tags , , on December 15, 2012 by moosetracksca

I wasn’t blessed with the opportunity to have children. It’s a regret I live with every day, a sad smile that comes across my face when I watch my neighbor’s son play with my Christmas lights, or I get a new set of photos from my sister. My purpose on this earth wasn’t to be a mother. The mountains won’t give me children.

I am thinking of my nephews tonight, my family. I want to hold them close, protect them from the hell that this world has become. I can’t fathom what any parent could be going through right now; can’t claim any knowledge of the fear, or the pain. I want to tell them how much I love them, how much they mean to me. How seeing their small faces, hear their laughter, watching the wonder cross their faces means the world.

But this goes for all of my friends, as well. This incredible road travels so many ups and downs. My own emotions get horribly tangled and entwined.

All I want to say tonight is I love you, to all my friends and family. You can NEVER say it enough.

Tonight we ask why, why something this horrible had to happen. I know it happens around the world, with regularity. But this one struck too close to home. I imagine my friends, my sister, all those with children themselves, who can’t wait for the kids to burst through the door in the afternoon screaming, “What’s for dinner?”  I try not to imagine those same friends and family dealing with the thought that their child, that spark of joy and wonder, isn’t coming home.

My Pop called tonight just as I started to write this, tearful and sobbing, I’m sure only barely coherent on the phone. “I love you so much, Pop,” I couldn’t say it enough. The same to my mom moments later. I revisited the conversation I had with them a few years ago, that while I try my best to be safe, and do everything in my power to mitigate the circumstances, there may be a trip where I don’t come home. They both understand, and they both worry. And I’m going to continue to do as much as I can to make sure I come home from every adventure.

Take a moment tonight. Tell those closest to you that you love them. Cry together. Hold each other. Be human beings.

And tomorrow, with the dawn, take a deep breath.

March onward to adventure.

And live.


From a quiet, small town in the Eastern Sierra, in the heart of the mountains I love so much:

Never be afraid to say I love you.





Posted in Random Thoughts on November 24, 2012 by moosetracksca

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a pile of gear growing across the expanse of my bed. I have carefully laid the stove and gas, wrapped itself in a plastic bag, on one obscure corner in case of a leak. The sleeping bag holds court at the head, held in check by the air mattress. A shovel rests to one side, feeling a bit out of place between the sleep and cooking systems. The clothing combinations lord over the midsection, waiting patiently to be thinned and exchanged as I wander between the bed and the computer to check the weather report once again. A line of single-purpose goodies borders the front edge of the mattress.

My 60L pack rests against the dresser, sagging save for its internal frame. My skis, with skins already donned, and my boots, have crept their way out to the TOF already, eager to touch snow. It’s only one night out there, but I know it will be cold, especially if I make it to the lake. Questions burn through my head as I glance across the bed before I start loading the pack. What AM I forgetting?

In a season of thanks, I don’t know how to express my gratitude enough. There are so many blessings: both which I have earned and those, which have been bestowed by the most generous of people. My heart bursts, truly bursts, whenever I think of how much time, effort, and knowledge others have openly shared with me. And not just from this journey. I have so many families with whom I share my life, my adventures, that I am constantly overwhelmed by the support.

Without them, I would not be the woman I am today.

To my parents, so tough and kind, who worry ceaselessly but trust unconditionally.

To my siblings, who push me to be a better person, even though the buttons are sometimes the “wrong” ones.

To my extended family, who always ask my parents, “How can you let her do that?”

To my high school friends, who, after 20 years, show so much joy in all they have achieved.

To my paddling ohana, who helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life as I came to terms with, and then went through my divorce. Who truly taught me the meaning of teamwork, and how we only move forward together.

To my mountain family: all the sisters and brothers and dads. We all share a common goal: to come home with a story, usually of courage, hopefully of some ease, and indeed of the magic these heights bring.

And besides these, who would bring me up, there are also those who would push me down, or at least try. Those to whom I pose a threat, I suppose. Perhaps it is a threat to love, to their own sense of self and ego, their fear of being happy, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, there are those who demean or disrespect me in so many ways. It is all I can do to push their comments, or lack of comments, aside in order to minimize their impact in my own mind.

But I am thankful for them, as well, for hardening my resolve to try and live each day to it’s fullest. To not take any moment for granted. To know courage in myself, to be self-sufficient.

It’s just a one night overnight, but without the help and guidance of all of you, it would never happen.

To all my friends and family, who have shown and shared so much with me, thank you.


Now… just what AM I forgetting??


From the luckiest girl in the world:
Climb Hard. Be Safe.


Posted in Day Hiking, Random Thoughts on February 1, 2012 by moosetracksca

I was breathing heavily, but my legs didn’t want to stop crunching uphill. There’s something smooth in finding your stride, your pace, varying easily with changes in the terrain. But one month ago, it took everything I had to throw myself up this road in the Whites, legs churning, lungs burning, stopping occasionally to catch my ragged breath. Tonight, as the sun crept behind the thin veil of clouds hovering over the Crest, I just smiled in an odd sort of wonder of the feeling that has emerged in my legs once more. At the Tower, I marched right on by, the wind from the southwest lapping at my heels, blowing a few drops of sweat into my face as I traversed to the final steep climb above. I reached the upper towers, then up to the lump just beyond to top out. I quickly dug out the GPS: 1800 vertical feet in 1 hour, 3 minutes. Next time, no stopping to blow my nose.

For the month of January: 96.78 miles walked. 31,137 vertical feet.

Penny per foot: $311.37

And that’s without any “big” days, mostly training and some walks on the weekends.

It only gets bigger from here.

Starting Over: You Don’t Know a Road…

Posted in Random Thoughts on January 4, 2012 by moosetracksca

You don’t know a road until you’ve walked it.

It’s something I learned once I moved up here to Bishop, where the roads are closed off at the beginning of winter, forcing us all to add the extra miles and elevation gain simply to arrive at the trailheads. It puts the backcountry even farther away. It heightens the effort to stride, glide, tromp, or posthole in order to achieve those summer objectives which may seem trivial.

Walking these roads, and the others criss-crossing the Owens Valley and up into the Whites, allows me to slow down a bit, to really examine every detail etched into the trees and rocks lining the borders. It teaches me the curves, the slight inclines and declines, just how far a mile is when your feet are struggling for purchase. I can hear how the winter winds whistle or howl through the pines. I can feel the heat rising from the desert sand. I can feel why the road bed was chosen on this particular grade, and not directly over the next rise, or why the quads and dirt bikes chose their particular path straight up the ridge.

The road I took last year had its definite ups and downs, hindered by my knee and by my own actions, or rather, inaction. I still got out there, had some incredible adventures and trips, but it took someone else reminding me of the good times to realize that I had achieved quite a bit. When I looked back at the pictures from 2011, I was indeed reminded of the amazing places I had explored, the sights seen, the stories I chose to share and those I kept to myself.

The storyteller in me hadn’t faded. In fact, in reviewing all of the pictures, I was reminded of each step I took on those fabulous days, both alone and with friends. I remembered snippets of phrases that had come to me while striding and gliding, my breath coming hard but the focus never changing. Other phrases also came to mind: feedback suggesting that I wrote and posted my stories for benefit of my ego alone, to show off my accomplishments. Like a sharp pebble deep in my boot, those words would shift into my consciousness whenever I would sit at the computer screen, and the happiness of my trip would fade into questioning why I was writing about it.

So I had to step back from writing for a bit. I took the words of criticism to heart, but used them to really think about what and why I was writing, why I enjoyed sharing my adventures so very much. And while driving for hours this past week through the Oregon Outback I finally came to terms with it all:

Telling stories is fun.

I know, entirely too simplistic, right? There has to be a deeper meaning, something that ties the ego and id and so on. I write to gain attention and accolades, to bring the spotlight onto my little world and keep it there, because without the adulation I would wither to dust.


I don’t have time for the naysayers anymore. There’s just entirely too much of the world to explore. There are too many roads to travel. There isn’t enough time to do it all. When I was up north, visiting my friend, MC, she asked what 2012 held for me. “I just need to get back into… everything!” was my response. She laughed out loud, commenting on the little pause that had come while I was thinking about what I wanted to do. I think meeting Gene Hall up on Mt. Dana was one of the most profound events of 2011 for me. Gene, whose smile conveyed such amazing contentment and happiness, who had worked with my dad for years and called him “famous” in their workplace, who so openly shared his own stories of adventure as I excitedly told him about that day of climbing the couloir, died unexpectedly a few days later in his tent. If there was ever a clearer example of grabbing hold of life and running with it, I don’t know it.

Now, the biggest naysayer I had to overcome was myself. A few years ago, I actually had to make a New Year’s resolution to stop calling myself fat, and slow, and whatever other nasty name came to mind while playing in the hills. But this past year, as I become one with my desk chair instead of eating properly and exercising, it was too easy to fall into old habits. I admit I am my own worst enemy when it comes to self-abuse: my good friend Joan called me on it 5 weeks after knee surgery on the summit of Mt. Gould when I couldn’t weight my left leg enough to step up to the summit block. More often than not, I found, I bullied myself into thinking I wasn’t strong enough, or fit enough, to head up into the hills anymore. I placed such high expectations on myself to perform that there was no way I could realistically follow through, and that ended up forcing me onto my butt more often than not. After all, how could I possibly top what I had already accomplished?

Again, please.

So I now have a plan. And I have some incredible people lined up to join me. There’s an anniversary to celebrate; miles of roads to explore, both outside and in. And now that the figurative clouds are clearing, there’s a lot of sunlight guiding the way.

And here’s the twist: I won’t be doing it just for myself.

Let’s face it, mountaineering it a pretty self-indulgent sport. Sure, there are fund-raising groups out there (Summit for Someone comes to mind, and the Leukemia Society has started hiking groups as well), but I have never liked asking people for money. Recently, my friend Gary was excited over achieving 100,000 vertical feet in a year. And my dear friend Chris donated to charity in my name as a Christmas gift. While bagging a peak, or fishing a lake, or exploring my backyard has its own rewards, how could I turn this into something special for someone else?

The Plan: One penny for every vertical foot gained. That is what I will set aside myself, to be donated at the end of the year. Every hike counts: training hikes, strolls for flowers, backcountry skis (if it ever snows!!). My GPS will be my friend and accomplice, and I’ll try to back up the data through TOPO! software.

The charity to which I will be donating is

I can’t say I’ve ever really been bullied in my life, except by myself, but I can say that being called Moose as a young girl wasn’t exactly flattering. Neither was being called a “Pudgy Plebe” while at the Naval Academy. Neither was being reminded of my size when trying to get into a rescue sled at Mammoth Mountain by a so-called “friend”. Bullying is pervasive, cruel, and destructive, and it’s leading to painful consequences everywhere.

My good friend Sam, as we were skiing last year, looked at me and said, “Laura, you’re the type who makes dreams come true.” His meaning was simple: I got an idea, and I got to work making it happen. My adventures this year will not only fulfill some of my own dreams, but I hope that with some small contribution, I can help make someone else’s dreams come true as well. So with each step up, each grunt and groan, each pause to look around and marvel at the wonders of this world, I’ll make a difference in both my own life and health and that of someone else. I hope this effort might give someone else a chance to write their own story, to see their own horizons, to wonder what’s on the other side of the ridge.

It’s a new year, folks. The weather is holding, I’ve got all the gear I could ever want or need. Let’s go for a walk. I started last night, hiking 1668 feet up into the foothills of the Whites. My knee was solid, even as I jogged a bit on the downhills. My breath came in gasps, my lungs and legs burned as I pushed hard up the steep roads. It took me one hour to hit my turn-around. I need the training, what with all the ideas and trips rolling around in my head. And you know what I see when I walk these roads? Divots from where I’ve pushed off my toes at the end of my stride. That’s the power to make a change.

This is going to be epic.

But most of all, it’s going to be fun.

Time to let the phoenix out of her cage. Let’s fly!

From the luckiest girl in the world,

Climb Hard, Be Safe.