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Half Dome – Yosemite National Park

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June 6, 2019

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

16 Miles Round Trip

4,800 Feet of Elevation Gain.

400 Feet of Steel Cable assistance.

12 Hours up and back from the Valley

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It wasn’t supposed to happen—at least the odds were totally against me.

  • There’s a 2-7 percent chance of receiving a permit to climb the Half Dome Cables (the final 400 feet of the 8-mile-one-way ascent). People apply for years without getting a permit. I applied and received one for the first full day we were set to be in California.
  • The cables generally go up around Memorial Day each year, but the date is approximate—not official, as the set-up of the cables depends on the aftermath of winter. This winter, for Yosemite, was brutal. On April 1 of this year, the park measured at 176% of it’s average snow pack, making it difficult to estimate when the cables would be safely put in place and available to climb. From mid-May through June 3 – there was no estimated date of the cables opening. The hike was likely to be cancelled. My hopes dwindled. But then, by some miracle, Yosemite announced that the cables would official open on June 6, 2019. I don’t know what those odds were compared with receiving a permit, but I know they were small.

I had my permit. The cables went up. The only other thing out of my control was the weather the day of the hike: which fortunately, proved to be beautiful.

From mid-March through June 5, I trained, hiking over 70 miles in preparation for the challenge ahead. I used my days off to go to the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and PA – where I could get an elevation gain I couldn’t get from city streets. I worked out at the gym 2-3 times a week and followed the program my trainers provided. We built my lower body strength, my endurance, and my upper body strength so I could pull myself up the cables. I didn’t want to just complete my challenge—I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to reach the top and not dread the 8 mile return. I wanted to reach the top and feel like I could do it all over again—like I’d want to do it all over again, like I could keep going and reach the top of any summit I wanted to reach.

The trek was unlike anything I ever experienced. I woke up at 4:15am, drove to the base of the mountain, met my guide, Maddie, from Lasting Adventures, and we took off. What began as a gentle incline quickly took the form of a steep ascent through the Mist Trail where Vernal Falls crashes from above. With the high snow pack/snow melt the Mist Trail may have more aptly been referred to as the Monsoon Mountain, as the wind and water whipped at us: the climbing steps with deep puddles. Not even an hour into our hike and we were drenched, our boots filled with water. In another scenario—I may have been miserable–but instead, the moment felt magical. This was the mountain’s territory—and it gets to choose the conditions: not us. We wrung out our socks, poured the puddles out of our shoes, and got back to hiking, quickly. We followed the trail up to Nevada Falls where we took a twenty minute break. Two hours in and we still had 4.5 miles to go to the top. The views were amazing, but there was little time to waste: the journey was still long ahead. We continued on, passing Little Yosemite Valley and meeting other hikers. As we gained altitude, my pace slowed, and my breathing became heavier. Every few steps, we took a break. We closed our eyes and listened to the rushing water through the park. We slowed our heart rates. We continued on. The only worry now was the threat of storms. But the clouds were moving – and it was clear, nothing was going to stand in the way of the cables and me. As I grabbed a hold of each cable I began my climb. My arms tired after each big pull, but that did not stop me. As we reached about halfway up the 400 foot incline, I took a few deep breaths. I let some of the people who were going down pass me. I forged on. And then. I was there—the top of Half Dome. I had made it. The emotions began pulsing through me like the creeks and streams and rivers and falls through the mountain.

After six hours of hiking – taking in the views, scrambling up parts of the sub dome and then ascending the cables –I had done it. I had reached the summit. I looked down at the Valley floor below. Tears began to stroll down my face. I imagined this moment. I changed my screensaver at work to Half Dome. I closed my eyes and envisioned it. The hard work – it was all worth it. But it wasn’t just me who had reached this summit.

It was my guide who was next sitting next to me sharing in lemon scones. It was my fiancé who had patiently sat through my stress and anxIMG_2558iety whether the cables would ever go up: who supported me and cheered me on each week as I woke up before dawn to head out to another mountain. It was my trainers at the gym who listened to my goals and pushed me each and every day of my program to exceed expectations. It was my friends and family who knew of the challenge I had set out on—and encouraged me to do it. We were all on the summit in that moment. We were all there breathing it in. It took about 6 hours to return to the base of Half Dome–6 hours of which I was in spectacular awe of the journey I was lucky enough to go on.

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Life is unpredictable. Some things just aren’t meant to be—and other things—well they just are. I truly believe this journey was meant to be and I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to climb Half Dome: To see the whole valley with a bird’s eye view; to stand 8,000 feet above sea level and feel the rush of accomplishment in completing a challenge, I set out, so long ago to do. I am forever grateful for this memory, for Half Dome inviting me to experience it–for getting to meet this mountain.

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The Journey

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“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance–I hope you dance.”

The Hobby Hoarder Dances her Pants off
I want to thank each of you with all my heart for the endless support with The Hobby Hoarder project–for taking me seriously–for seeing my potential–and for believing in me. I want to thank you for giving me constructive criticism and positive feedback. I want to thank you for following along–watching the videos, reading the posts, and sharing the site. I want to thank you for being you.

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost a year ago now that I sent out the first email describing what my intentions for the year were. It’s hard to believe that I am officially on week 52.
As I look back on the year–I reflect on the transformation of the quest. How it went form gimmicky –to serious–and how it went from a project to a lifestyle.pole dancing
I hope that if you get anything out of any posts that I’ve shared–it’s that we are truly capable of anything–that we can take advantage of every opportunity we have–and succeed–no, wait–exceed expectations. Most of all, I hope that you’ve felt inspired–that you want to take on the world–that you want to dig the bucket list out of the sand and start checking things off the list.
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When the sun rises tomorrow, I won’t be in New York City anymore. I’ll be somewhere in Virginia on the first leg of the final chapter of The Hobby Hoarder year: a cross country round trip road trip.  I’ll be somewhere reflecting on everything I’ve put my mind to this year–everything I gave a chance–everything that gave me a chance–I’ll be somewhere reflecting on …well… everything.
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As certain chapters begin to close, it’s easy to confuse “closing” with an “ending.” But just because this is the final chapter–to the first hobby year–it does not mean it’s the end–in fact, it’s really just the beginning.
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This road trip is the culmination of a year that has helped me to build confidence–to meet people–to overcome fears–to say yes and to never look back–to live without regret–to take chances–to refuse the word no–to lose the words can’t and impossible–to see the glass as half full, as opposed to half empty–to focus without distraction–to be passionate again–to love endlessly–and to live relentlessly. This road trip is a symbol of going with the heart–and never looking back. This road trip–is the only way I could see celebrating this quest–extending this quest–and living it out as a lifestyle–rather than a project.
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Four months ago, when my most recent job asked me what my availability would be post-new year, I told them that as of February 1, I had something booked. When they asked me how booked it was? I told them that it was 100 percent booked–even though they were looking to extend me past that date. After work I called my mom and told her what I did. At first she was confused why I’d turn down a job extension. I responded by saying that, “When you get the chance to sit it out or dance–you dance.–And I love dancing.”  And then I added, “What would be a more epic way to mark the year than a cross-country road trip?”
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There was dead silence on the other end. But I could tell she understood. And a month later I knew for a fact, that not only did she understand but that she and my dad 100 percent supported me, as she and my dad offered to me take one of their cars across cross-country. We’ve since chosen a different car for several reasons, but I knew in that moment–what I’d known for quite a while–that my parents were just as passionate about this project as I was. I’ve been very fortunate to have parents who support my crazy ideas. I couldn’t be more grateful for their continuous pride in my endeavors and for them believing in me and all of my decisions. I know that I’ve driven them nuts over the years.

On the same night that I called my mom, I texted my good friend Kim (who’s joining on the road trip), and told her what happened. She asked if I was okay with my decision…and I responded very simply. “Of course. If not now–then when? I would regret NOT going on this trip–and I don’t want to have regrets.

Toward the end of November, Kim and my friend David both reached out to me to tell me that they were definitely in for the road trip–David would take a break from working–as well as Kim. When I asked David why the definite answer–he responded by telling me that he wanted to spend more time with friends–and that NOW’S the time to do it.David also took a chance when he came skydiving with me in November:
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Kim, on the other hand had told me very early on that she was interested in joining (before making a solid decision months later). Her reason? “I want to do it, because I know that when you say you are going to do something, you are going to do it.”

And  Kim happened to join me for my second pilot lesson:
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The truth is that too often we say we are going to do something–and then we don’t. We find excuses, create a bucket list and bury that bucket in the sand never to be found. I wasn’t going to make excuses for this trip–for this year–and I was happy to see that my friends weren’t ready to make excuses for things they wanted to do either. It’s important to recognize the things that we dream of doing–the things that we want to do with all our heart–and then actually go out and do them.
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When the sun rises tomorrow–I won’t be in New York City. No. I’ll be right where I’m meant to be–on the road–taking it all in. I’ll be kicking off a two month road trip with two of my rocks–David and Kim, and WE’LL be making our way to the beaded streets of New Orleans–the line dancing floors of Texas–the White Sands of New Mexico, the skies of Albuquerque, the waters of the west, and the mountains of the north. We’ll be dancing to 90’s music, singing as loud as we can in the car–and going through audio books galore–(don’t believe me?…..:
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Throughout the trek, we will be hobbying away, spreading happiness–and hopefully some luck (hehe)–giving thanks, and going with the wind. Most of all– we will be living life–and that’s pretty freaking awesome. I hope you’ll follow along –and hey–maybe even call to tag along. The road’s big enough for all of us.
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Cheers,
The Hobby Hoarder
trip

Chasing Mavericks

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I wasn’t supposed to be there–at the Far Rockaways. I wasn’t supposed to be doing a hobby at all that day. If this were still just a “project” –and not what I now deem a lifestyle–I would have fulfilled my quote with shark diving at the beginning of the week. But that’s not the case. I had booked two hobbies for the week–and I couldn’t have been more excited. However, I wasn’t supposed to be double hobbying with surfing–I was supposed to be in Pennsylvania–jumping out of a plane.

Less than 24 hours before my scheduled skydive, I received a call that my trip was postponed due to low clouds. It only took me several moments to visit a surf school website in New York, text the owner, and sign up for a class. I didn’t need to replace skydiving–but I felt compelled to.

Sometimes when one cloud covers–another wave of opportunity will present itself–quite literally–and metaphorically here, of course.

I admit—while putting my wetsuit on (initially backwards), I questioned if this was a bad idea–if just signing up for a surf lesson without thinking was really something I should have done. For a couple minutes–I decided it wasn’t. And then for a couple more minutes–I still believed it wasn’t. I wasn’t sure I would even have the courage to walk into the water–but I didn’t have a choice. After a brief sand lesson, our instructor had us stepping into the frigid waters of the Atlantic with the boards in hand.

And not before long I was getting pummeled by waves.

I should preface this by saying that I am terrified of ocean water–I see going into it as an unfair heavyweight battle where the little guy is well below the size of the big guy–and the knockout comes quickly–almost instantly. When I was little, a life guard saved me from the under-toe on some family vacation which paralyzed any positive thoughts I could have about ocean water and what could happen if I went in. During a trip to Bermuda, my mind was changed briefly as the water’s beauty and delicacy seduced me. But upon returning to the East Coast waters, my fears began to loom again.

After the first wave knocked me down on Saturday, I regained my composure, briefly, and I declared the ocean the champion. And instead of raising an arm in victory–it knocked me out again.

I cleared the hair from my face, and said a myriad of things to myself, “Well this was not my best idea.” “I should probably leave the water now.” “I should be jumping out of a plane today–not getting my ass kicked by some personified piece of nature.” Yet, I continued walking out to my instructor who was positive that after a few minutes of learning to stand on the board–on the sand–I’d be able to make progress on the water.

“Hop on that board.”

“Now?!”

He laughed at me.

Silly me–he meant just get on and lay down–not HOP. And of course he meant now. I struggled to get on the board, but after a second try I was up.

“Okay, now sit.”

So like a trained pup, I sat.

“Good. Now lay on that board. Move back a few inches. What’s going to happen is I am going to tell you to paddle…then I’ll push the board forward, and yell “Up.” When I yell up, You stand.”

“Easy,” I said, thinking to myself that I was more likely bound to go face first into the sand at the ocean bottom.

“Paddle, Paddle, Paddle…..” commanded Joel.

I rushed to paddle. But I didn’t know how fast or how slow I should be paddling. What if I didn’t get enough speed? But before I had time to readjust any of this, Joel yelled, “Up,” and I attempted to push myself to my feet.

BAM

Knocked out.

I covered my head so that if the board went flying it wouldn’t truly knock me out. I stayed underwater a second more, and resurfaced  before another wave crashed into me, and another one–and another one. And then finally, I found my balance, and realized that throughout those continuous wipeouts–something had happened. I had lost my fear. I was still here. I was still breathing. And I had gotten back up on my own. Bonus point for overcoming fear.

Even still, the ocean was now ahead of me by a score of at least 6 Hits.

Ocean 6: Libs: 1

I had a major comeback to accomplish. I stayed resilient and walked back out to Joel. “How’d that feel?”

“Really freaking good!” I exclaimed. “Nothing to be scared of. I’m really happy I tried to stand.”

Joel smiled, and pushed me out again. And as my two feet landed on the board I slipped off backwards.

Bam.

Knocked out.

Back up.

And out to Joel again.

“I’m going to get this,” I said to him.

I was set on earning more points during this battle with the Atlantic.

And then, with a magnitude of paddling, a swift push from Joel, and a command of “up,” I felt myself make it to my feet. Suddenly, it was like the rest of the water, and the beach, and the sky had disappeared–and it was just me on this foam board, flying. What was only a few mississippi seconds–felt like a beautiful lifetime.

As I surfed closer to shallow waters, I splashed off the board and was congratulated with a nose and mouthful of salt  water. When I surfaced–I fist pumped into the air, and yelled “I did it.” Joel looked at me and smiled from a distance, though I’m not sure he actually heard me with the crashing white waters. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t do this for him–or for anyone else–I did this for myself.

End of day score?

Ocean: A lot  –  Libs: Smiles

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Special Thanks
New York Surf School
surflessonsnewyork101.com

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