Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some Days...

Some days are like a paddle-out on a cold, foggy, winter morning. You know, it is going to be good on the other side of the breakers, but for the moment all the focus is on the slightly congested, labored breathing and the long, struggling drags in the gray and chilly water. You would rather be somewhere else, somewhere warm and cozy, preferably in bed with head buried deep under a pillow. Instead, you lie flat on the surfboard, as the cold ocean splashes around you, plowing ahead with a maniacal stare at the next set of waves that will inevitably roll over you. 

The dives underwater are especially harsh, as the cold darkness grips the body and sticks her frozen fingers into the ears canals. Yeah, it is going to be good once passed those dirty, rags of incoming, broken waves but, boy, it sucks really bad at the moment!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

True Letting Go

How could you face the person who killed your loved one? It is only natural to bare the teeth of pure hatred toward that individual, giving power to hunger for revenge and destruction. Yet, is it still possible to forgive?

How would you feel toward a loved one who decides to leave you? How do you feel being left behind? Can you calm that crying child inside, who feels so betrayed and abandoned? Of course, an emotionally mature person overcomes the pain -- after a while, to a certain degree -- and accepts that the other's passing as something painful but necessary. Perhaps not justified or fair, but nevertheless, it had to happen.

So, how about when the two people -- the one who kills and the one who leaves -- are in fact, one and the same person?

Dealing with the suicide of a someone close to you stirs up incredibly complex emotions, because it is impossible to separate the mourning over loss and the painful anger surfacing from the realization of being betrayed, violated and abandoned. Would you hate the selfish act of killing your loved one or mourn the departed?

The old wisdoms speak in simple terms about love:
  • love is acceptance 
  • love is letting go of the ego
  • the unconditional love is to love all.
 The answer lies within these three basic rules in relation toward other people, even with the ones who are so very close and intimate. Instead of expecting the other person to fit the mold of sometimes irrational criteria, the only way to accept is to quiet the wailing, needy child inside, respect the other as a whole being; loving every cell, every word, every movement.

Indeed, a difficult but possible task...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Teach a Man to Fish

After Jesus had concluded his speaking tour on “How to be a Fisherman” by the Sea of Galilee, He left to perform other miracles and spread his heavenly message elsewhere. One enterprising, young man who learned from Him, saw a chance to monetize this new-found knowledge. Instead of becoming a simple fisherman such as the other fellows, a seemingly better idea took shape in his head.

He purchased a small boat, fishing net and other gear, put everything on a donkey-cart and set out to locate a lakeshore further away. After a few days of wondering, he finally found a great spot in a quiet cove with large, shady trees. He unloaded all the gear from the cart and fashioned a large sign with a piece of canvas, on which he painted the words, “LEARN TO FISH HERE.”

Later that day an old man came by on his donkey. He stopped at the unusual sight of a young man sitting under a large banner by the lake, next to a pile of strange objects. He read the sign, looked at the young man and began to ask questions. He lamented about how poor he was, had a large family to feed and how he always wanted to learn a trade. The young man, jumping at the chance, told him very confidently that he was the Owner of this new school and he could teach him to become a fisherman in a matter of days.

But how can I pay you,” asked the old man, “I have no money, at all.”
You can pay me with the fish you catch,” answered the enterprising young man, who now called himself the Owner.
Very well,” said the man with a faint light of hope in his old eyes. “When can I start?”
You may start right now!”

By pointing at each pieces of gear, the Owner explained to the old man how to use the boat, the oars and the net. After this short lesson, he simply pointed to a spot in the lake. "Go out and start fishing," he said.

They dragged the boat into the water, the old man climbed in and began flailing awkwardly with the oars. "Not like that, ... like this!" The Owner mimicked the proper way of using the paddles. After the initial difficulty with the boat, the old man eventually made it out far enough. He also struggled with the tangled up net but later with a bit of effort, he managed to cast it out, too. He spent the entire day working very hard but by the evening his trials paid off. When he paddled back to shore at sunset, the boat was loaded down with fish. As fatigued as he was from his very first day as a fisherman, he felt a real pride about the fruit of his labor.

The Owner took two-third of the catch, but the old man still had plenty to feed his family. He got on the back of his donkey with baskets of fish and as he cheerfully waved goodbye, he promised to return for more lessons next day.

The Owner had several basketful of fish of his own, which he had to sell quickly. He put the catch on the cart and rode to a dusty, trading town an hour away, by the crossing of two roads. As he left his Fisherman School by the lakeshore, he suddenly became very concerned about all the gear. He realized that he needed a Manager to look after and run the school.

After getting to town in the evening, the young man asked around a bit. First he found a fishmonger where he could leave his catch, then headed straight to a popular tavern, in hope of quickly finding a Manager.

In the tavern, after talking to many of the patrons (mostly tired and drunk travelers), he almost gave up hope when finally became acquainted with a particularly energetic and eager man. He was a tall, wiry fellow, who spoke incredibly fast. The Owner liked him right away. As they chatted about this-and-that, the Owner realized that this was an ideal person for his school. He told the wiry fellow about his business and finally proposed the man a job of managing it. The man thought about the offer for a minute, asked about the salary, then finally agreed to start next day. The Owner told everything in great details about the school and informed the Manager to expect an old man to return for more lessons in the morning.

The Manager arrived at the lakeshore by sunrise and took charge of the school. Being an energetic and eager man, he really wanted to leave his mark and thought of a few changes right away. When the old man finally showed up, he introduced himself with great vigor. As they walked toward the fishing gear, he had a small speech prepared about how he was going to take the old man's skills of fisherman to a higher level.

As they reached the boat, the Manager suddenly produced a very large axe and with a few, powerful blows, he smashed the vessel to pieces. He then pulled out his knife. The frightened, old man began to back away from him. The Manager quickly grabbed the net and cut it in two. The old man looked at him with eyes of bewilderment.

Are you out of your mind?!” His voice was shaking from the mixture of fear and welling-up anger. Clearly, he thought, this new person was crazy. In his mind's eye he saw his family back home, who expected him to return with maybe even more fish than the night before. They already made plans of salting, drying and selling his catch in the market. This was their chance to start a better life.

The tall, wiry man's voice brought him back to reality. “I smashed the boat, so, you may learn to build one. Also, I cut the net in two, so you will learn to be more efficient. I can teach you to be a real fisherman, the Manager looked at the old man confidently. 

The old man regarded him with silent disgust for a minute. “The hell with you,” finally he grumbled, shrugging his bony, old shoulders. “The only thing you taught me to go fish somewhere else,” he spoke in a resigned voice. Getting slowly on the back of his donkey, the old man finally rode off.

When the Owner returned in the afternoon, he asked the Manager whether the old man had come back for more lessons. “Oh, he did,” replied the Manager, “but did not want to learn the trade after all. Do not worry, though” he added reassuringly, “there are many other people who will want to learn. Many, other people...”

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Lies will separate people, whether or not they are known to the other person. Small lies create small cracks, big lies open chasms. Be it little or big ones, lies shall add up and eventually distance people from one other that not even the bridge of truth-telling may span.

By the time two people look toward each other from the distance as wide as a large canyon – it is already too late. They are too far from each other to recognize the person they used to know so well, by then they can't even hear the other's voice from that great distance.

Looking back into the past, they may realize in their present loneliness that there was a time when by a simple gesture of reaching out for the hand of the other could have easily breached a small gap, … but such a chance has long passed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hiking in Paradise: Okolehao Trail

Although Kaua'i is a popular hiking destination with many well-documented trails, somehow this short and very scenic trek on the North Shore was left off of all the hiking books I came across so far. The nice thing about Okole'hao Trail is that it is very easy to get to and a breeze to accomplish between lunch and dinner. It is also fun because of its steepness, as opposed to the long, muddy drag, such as the Powerline Trail.

The trailhead is located at a well-marked, little foot bridge. To get there, one must take O'hiki Road that turns off to the taro fields from Kuhio Highway's crossing of the Hanale'i River by the famous oneway bridge. Parking is off to the side—and as anywhere in the islands—done at the owner's best judgment. Rentals are certainly a clear target, but considering that the North Shore of Kaua'i has already been mostly ethnically cleansed, cars here are a lot less prone to break-ins than places such as Ana'hola.

The trail needs good hiking shoes, probably trekking poles, water and camera. A light waterproof windbreaker can also be useful; it rains often on the trail and is rather windy at higher elevations. The approximately 2.5 miles path runs straight up to about 1250' on the ridge of the mountain. Because the starting point is in the humid and densely forested Hanale'i River Valley, mosquitoes demonstrate a diligent effort to get their meals out of any and all trespassers. If bug spray is not the hiker's favorite chemical, a brisk walk will get him/her to a comfortably high elevation and away from the bloodsuckers within ten minutes.

The rest of the trail climbs steeply along the ridge and offers absolutely magnificent views at times of the Valley (where Puff, the magic dragon lives), at other times toward the Bay. Short bursts of showers occasionally pass over the range, making the path quite slippery. The rest of the way quickly makes it to a plateau for more views of ocean, mountains, rain and rainbows. Oh, Kaua'i!

Return is the same way down.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Into the Heart of Wilderness: Hiking to Big Horn Sheep Country

Initially, I felt hesitant writing about the series of three hikes where I attempted to reach Fish Fork Campgrounds -- because I never found them -- but, perhaps my note could still serve as an aid to anyone trying to a locate the place in the future. The fact that I no longer reside in the States will inhibit my further endeavors, so I have to register these attempts as my best efforts.

A note on this trek: (1) the hike is relatively long, isolated and quite poorly marked. (2) Water is only available at three places unless there is still snow on the ground. (3) As the name suggests, the place is Big Horn country, so mountain lions are probably also around. While there, several times I had distinct sense of being watched and my normally calm dog was also positively spooked. Hiking alone for the outlined reasons is probably not recommended.

There are two other ways to reach Fish Fork, hiking up through the East Fork of the San Gabriel River from Chrystal Lake, or from the direction of Mt. Waterman. This blog offers a trek description from Manker Flats through Baldy. Because of the length and elevation variations, this hike is best attempted after the snow completely melted from the peaks but before the hottest summer months, giving a relatively short window for ideal conditions. During my first attempt on May 6, '08, there were only few spots of snow on San Antonio Peak. At the same time the north face, however, still had two feet of snow cover and occasionally six-feet-high drifts, even down at 7000'.

The backside of Baldy does not have a marked trail, only a cross-country path down to the saddle (8659 ft.) and up again toward Dawson Peak (9375 ft.) on a relatively well-worn trek. In many ways this part of the hike is one of the most visually dramatic, thanks to its giant roller-coaster quality and because of the view offered up to the San Antonio Ridge running perpendicularly in the back, the double peaks of Dawson and Pine Mountain along the ridge line up front, and the Wilderness down to left.

Continuing halfway between Dawson Peak and Pine Mountain, the trail goes off left and runs a bit below the peak of Pine Mountain, eventually reaching the old and barely noticeable signpost of Fishfork Junction. At this area where I had the singular pleasure to run into a band of big horn sheep. This is also where the last tangible evidence of any kind of trail planning is visible in this region.

The junction turns 180 degrees and follows the trail going the opposite direction for a while until it soon entirely disappears among a series of fallen large pine trees and becomes detectable only occasionally from this point on. From here I can only provide GPS points and their corresponding descriptions. I also must add (with some reservations) that I think I found the Upper Fishfork Campground, although I can't be entirely sure because my assumption is only based on a split in the trail at the end of my last hike where I also found a rusty coffee can.

At N 34.18.324' W117.38.665' the trail runs down in a two sets of switchbacks and veers off the right approximately following the path of N 285' W 692', N 295' W 772', N 219' W 823', N 262' W 39. 011'. The trail here is a little bit easier to follow as it moves along the mountainside and crosses a couple of wooded canyons. The second canyon also holds a seasonal creek providing a source to replenish the water supply at N 478' W 38.974'. At N 499' W 39.457' the trail reaches an open mountainside overgrown with dense brush. Here the on-again-off-again trail switchbacks down to a high, wooded outcropping forked by rushing water from both sides some 1000' below. The coordinates to follow are: N 502' W 652', N 405' W 728', N 395' W 832' (a fine spot to camp). Further on the trek goes lower, off the right to another mountainside following the points of N 395' W 908', N 531' W 864'. At the second set of coordinates where the trail splits again to a waterfall on the right and to another wooded lowland straight below. I suspect that the trail going to the waterfall is where the Upper Fishfork Campground is(was) located. I did not go to that direction because I only saw the fork in the trail on the way back.

Again, I did not physically located either of the campgrounds, although I assume I got quite close to both of them, if they still exist. I do not know if anybody else manage to find them lately because I could not see any shoe print or sign of human disturbance of any kind. The country, however, is magnificent and definitely worth further exploring.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Kick-Ass Day Hike Sans Mountain Driving

After eyeballing this hike for a while, this week I finally decided that the time was right to do it: a Mt. Wilson Trail-West Fork Loop combo. Due to the length of the trek (approx. 30 miles) and elevation gain (700' - 5700'), a long but relatively cool day is required to avoid extensive night hiking and heat exhaustion, while maintaining a substantially brisk pace. For reference: it took me 12 hours to complete this hike with a half hour stop at West Fork Campground.

The first leg (Sierra Madre-Mt. Wilson section) should not take more than three hours to complete. There is a possible alternate starting point, Chantry Flats. I decided against this latter option though, in fear of not making it back on time and getting locked in.

Once reaching Mt. Wilson summit and start heading down to Newcomb Pass, the trail at this section suffers from various degrees of disrepair. Although the view is astounding, this goat trail is cut into a near-vertical face. At times, the footing is less than adequate, so trekking poles here truly come handy. Further down as the trail starts to levels off, the only occasional manzanita overgrowth creates some obstacles.

Arriving to Newcomb Pass, there is a bench for temptation, several beat up National Forest Service (NFS) signs and a memorial plaque commemorating a dead volunteer. Please note that the Wilderness Press: San Gabriel Mountains recreation map shows only three possible directions to proceed from the Pass; there are in fact four choices. To continue to Devore Campground, one must take the trail directly to the left. Further down as the trail crosses the Rincon-Redbox Fire Road, it does it in a rather awkward fashion: hikers have to walk on the fire road approximately 30 feet left to find the continuing and barely visible track.

Below the fire road, a series of narrow canyons shelter expansive groves of California Laurel. Consisting 60-80% of this single species of trees in the area, the canopy here takes an unusually bright, green appearance and some respite from the dirty-old oaks. More uniquely, some green grass grows here even as late and dry as in September, hinting of higher levels of ground moisture in these canyons.

Further down, Devore Campground is reached at the west fork of the San Gabriel River. Being a typical backpackers' camp, the site's only notable feature is perhaps its vicinity to a fine swimming hole. The trail here takes an East-to-West direction and runs along the riverbed to West Fork Campground. Continue to Strayns Canyon (which not once marked on any of the worn NFS signage), hikers must take the left at all trail branches.

Strayns Canyon might as well be called strains canyon. The first half of the path runs straight up without any switchbacks gaining 800 vertical feet. After that, the trail levels off somewhat and later climbs the north slopes of Mt. Wilson, through richly covered groves of pine. Once below the antennae, the trail pointing to "Mt. Wilson parking lot" takes its hikers back to the top of Mt. Wilson-Sierra Madre Trail, to proceed down to the starting point.