Thursday, March 18, 2010

Arizona Part II: The Grandest of Canyons

Woohoo, lookie me being all "responsible" blogger :) I've been pretty busy trying to find work and getting back into the Houston groove. The weather has been beautiful, sunny and 60's, so I've really been taking advantage of that by hanging out in parks with my friends, and working on a sexy shirt tan while reading on the Starbuck's patio. It's also made it a lot easier to feel motivated to continue my running training, I can't believe how quickly I'm improving!  I spent the last 23 years of my life thinking I was simply not capable of running more than a mile and I've accomplished two 5 mile training runs already! Along with several 3 and 4 milers. This last Saturday I participated in the Shamrock Shuffle 5k for Ronald McDonald House, and then Sunday I did the AIDS 5k walk. Whew! That was an exhausting but fun weekend! I love being able to participate in such great charity and community events. I am finding it hard though to continue doing yoga as much as I should AND run, but I think it will become easier to manage my time and not get so worn out once I'm in better shape. This weather also makes me want to take my bike out all the time, but I haven't been able to do that yet for fear of wearing myself out before runs. But the runs are already getting so much easier, and my legs don't hate me as much anymore.

I also am continuing to meet interesting people. I went to a talk on Ayurveda this last Monday. Maybe I'll get into that a little more in the future because I"m really interested in studying more alternative medicine. And this Saturday is National Meat Out Day so I'm going to a pot luck picnic at a park and am sooooo excited for that! Check out the website and see what it's about, join me if you're in Houston, and if you're not, try and be meat free on Saturday! You're welcome to email me if you want recipe or food ideas to make your day extra special :)

Then Sunday early early early morning I leave for San Francisco for a conference on Diabetes. No, I cannot interpret seminars on Diabetes research yet, but my parents are the Super Heroes of interpreting and I go to conferences and handle the technical equipment and generally help out. It's shocking, but I can actually pretend to know about technology when I need to!
Since I leave for yet another trip so soon, I thought it best to squeeze in the second half of my Arizona trip before jumping my next airplane. The jet setter life is rough, I know.

So here's my not so short summary of the Grand Canyon:

Mid Sedona trip, my family had planned on taking a 2 day segue to the Grand Canyon to see the park and, for the more adventurous of the group, to do a shorter half day hike. My mom, aunt, and grandmother of course, staying up top and doing....not sure what in the meantime. Our plans were somewhat foiled, though, due to a huge snowstorm hitting on the day we got there. Even the park rangers said this kind of snowstorm was unheard of in that area, and the park in particular had never been covered by that much snow. We arrived late afternoon with the snow relentlessly falling and already building up several inches, but it was still decently bright out so we went to walk around the park and try to see the Canyon. Unfortunately with the fog and clouds the Canyon was completely invisible and it was too cold and wet to do much walking. That first night we managed to make it to the cafeteria closest to us for dinner and then just had to spend time in the rooms.

Upon first arriving. The snow was coming down but it was still manageable. This was not the case about an hour later...

Our view into the Canyon the first night. 

The next morning it was still snowing but we were determined to at least see a bit of the Canyon trail. I was kind of wary because everything was so icy and foggy and the trail was covered in snow, therefore pretty much invisible though we knew it was only a few feet wide. The boys were much more gung ho and of course I had to show that I could hold my own too and not be wimpy and go sip hot cocoa with the ladies. Plus it's THE Grand Canyon, I had to hike it. I had so many layers of sweaters and jackets on anyways, I don't think I would have felt it had I taken a fall anyways. We took the Bright Angel Trail which was closest to us and I think maybe a bit easier than some others. I'm not sure because my dad did all that research beforehand. We went in about an hour and a half before it got too steep and slippery and we turned around and marched back up. I will admit the trek up is much harder (duh) but my cousins and I left our old men pretty far behind :p. Afterwards of course we needed fuel but it was too snowy to go to any of the other cafeterias on the park premises so of course it was back to the trusty one around the corner from our lodge (Can you guess where dinner was that night too?)

 Mid way down. I had to keep shaking off the snow accumulating on my head!

My dad and uncle taking a break on the way up in the walkway, doesn't the edge look foreboding? 

We were supposed to head back to Sedona that afternoon but the snow hadn't let up at all, roads ended up closing, buses stopped working and we ended up having to stay an extra night. This worked in our favor because the next day was gorgeous! The snow finally stopped and left piles of fresh soft powder glittering in the sunlight for us to play with.

 Outside our cabin, my brothers climbed the pile of snow that reached the second floor.

The kiddos of course threw snowballs, and I went camera happy. The best part was that it was an amazingly clear day and we were actually able to see all the way into the canyon. It would have been so sad to go all the way there and never see into the bottom! The canyon itself is beautiful, the other side sort of looks like a painted backdrop. We didn't have time to hike again, but it's probably best that we hiked the day before despite the snowstorm because the day after the storm the trails turned into muddy snow sludge and was probably even less safe than hiking under the snow. But we did have time to go for a walk along the rim and take a lot of pictures.

 One of the Natural Wonders of the World- WOW!

Posing with my cousin, brother, and dad. Dad, Team Zissou wants their hat back.

There's a lot more you can do at the National Park with more advance planning, and given that you don't get hit by any major weather systems. My dad has been dying to book one of the cabins at the bottom for years, but our work schedules are so unpredictable it's hard to book something as far in advance as would be necessary. Usually the wait list is about a year! Maybe one day I'll manage to hike all the way down just to say I did it. 
The Canyon itself, as you can see is very impressive, but to be honest I feel like it's kind of one of those things you do to be able to say you did it. There are of course many more trails we didn't see, and I know trekking to the bottom is surely an amazing experience and an impressive feat, and for my two best geologist friends this is rock heaven, but like any National park, there's not much else to do when not hiking the Canyon. So given the conditions, it was a bit boring. The cabins and hotels they have are really nice and they have about 5 or 6 dining options throughout the park. I'm not sure about the other ones though because we were snowed in and had a hard enough time just getting to the cafeteria 50 meters away. It wasn't bad, and they did have about 2 vegan options, but after having the bean chili about 4 times I was a little tired of it. 
I also have an extreme aversion to cold and would of course choose a beach vacation any day, but since the park is so nice and I really enjoy hiking, I used my expert layering skills and braved the frigid temperatures to admire the landscapes. I even found Bambi, look how cute!

So that's my recap. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!
Not sure what I"ll get to next. I may save Argentina for some monster posting in the future, but you're sure to see some of the Cali Bay Area soon! Much <3 til next time!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting back into fighting shape

Hello readers, remember me? I was prepared to come back and grovel, plead for forgiveness for disappearing for so long, but truthfully, I've been too busy living and shouldn't be ashamed. It's not that I've been constantly "busy" busy, in the sense that I didn't have a lot of time to sit around on the computer. I've done plenty of that. But even when I haven't neccesarily had things to do, I've been too caught up with my thoughts and changes I'm working on for myself and my life that I don't have the energy, desire, or even words to share it all until I understand it myself. While I'm not quite there yet, here I am, ready to share at least what I've been busy doing in the standard sense of the word because I have done quite a bit and gone to many many places that I need to catch you all up on. It kind of feels like I'll never be able to remember it all but I'll get started. This is, after all, meant to be devoted to my travels.

I left for Argentina at the end of January, but had never caught up on my trip to Arizona. I then spent 5 weeks in Buenos Aires, came back 2 weeks ago, and have been trying to get my life back in order since then. That means trying to do a lot of work to make up for the money I spent, increasing my workload by expanding on my interpreting abilities so that I can finally make a decent income (meaning one that is at least enough to live off of). I'm determined to start studying for the legal certification exam, and in the meantime I've applied for many hospital interpreting jobs. I'm still doing a lot of simultaneous interpreting for the market research industry, and trying to get our company's marketing plan and strategies in order. I've also considered doing some on the side marketing consulting for start ups, but I'm not sure how that will work.
I'm back to yoga as well, doing a lot of hot yoga to learn teaching techniques and the sequences so I can get up in front of a classroom as soon as possible. I'm so intimidated by this! It's one thing to be able to DO yoga, I know I'm good at that, but it's totally different to teach. I get up there and go blank, my voice is monotone, I forget the routine, I'm too quiet....ugh, kind of sucks. Any teachers out there have some tips?
I also recently, as in last week, started running! Like seriously running. For years now I've done this thing where I decide maybe twice a year that it would be really cool to be a runner, I go jog half a mile maybe twice and then decide I can't run. But there are so many marathon runners at the yoga studio, and so many blogs I follow now that focus on running, and it just seems like so much fun! I love the sense of community, being able to run races for charity, and the emphasis on physical fitness. And that doesn't even begin to describe the endorphin rush during and after runs, and how great it feels to actually succeed and continue improving so quickly on something I never thought I could do. I began the Nike website 10k program last week and have diligently stuck to the running schedule. Yes, I let myself walk/ jog, as long as I get the mileage in but the walking has become a lot more sporadic and I don't really need it. My longest run has been 5 miles (this from the girl who thought she could never run more than a mile!). Yesterday I had a 4 mile jog and was absolutely running on air! It was amazing, I was singing out loud, sweating like crazy in the Houston humidity, and could have honestly kept running. I think yoga has really helped me in so many ways. I think what I always lacked was the mental stamina, but now I know how to focus myself more, plus my breathing stays a lot more stable, and I'm totally used to dripping sweat now that I do yoga in a 105 degree room. It doesn't bother me as much, I literally let it slide right off. Haha, gross :p).
Another thing I've been focusing on since getting back is getting more involved in both the yoga community, and the Houston vegan community. I've met such wonderful people and feel like I finally found a friendly and accepting environment where I can feel comfortable and share common interests with new friends.

So that's my life in a nutshell! But enough of that.

I want to get you started on Arizona, since it was WAYYYY back in December. (Geez Gaby, lazy lazy blogger!)
I visited both Sedona and the Grand Canyon with the whole extended family. My parents, brothers, aunt, uncle, cousins, and grandmother who was here from Argentina staying with us.

This city is so beautiful! Of course the Grand Canyon is one of the wonders of the world and you have to see it, but I prefer to stay in Sedona for many reasons. For one, it's a city with things to do, restaurants, shopping, some cute historic things, all the hikes you could possibly want, and dazzling views. At the Grand Canyon you're in the National Park so there's nothing else there, plus if it's foggy or rainy, or in our case, giant snowstorm-y, you can't actually see into the canyon. In Sedona you're pretty much inside a big canyon, surrounded by colorful red clay and striped cliffs and mountains. The colors are truly unbelievable. See for yourself:

There are excursions such as mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing, among many many other things to do. Since my family is so large and has such diverse interests, we prefer to do our own thing. We split up a few times so that the more adventurous of us could do some more intense hiking. By intense I mean we climbed a 1 mile hike so some spectacular scenic views. Other than that, we did some scenic walks but nothing too adventurous. Everything is so pretty anyways! I really wanted to go mountain biking but each trip is upwards of $150 per person. There's a gorgeous stream we walked along with a few more rapid parts. My mom remembers this from the first time we went when I was 9 years old so she was excited to go back and see it.  I think this first picture should be my next album cover...when I learn to sing or play an instrument...That's my handsome brother causing the creek to glow, sorry ladies, he's very taken!

Arizona is also home to a lot of art galleries for people who happen to have millions of $$ burning holes in their pockets. At least they're nice to look at, and give me ideas for fancy abstract art I can recreate for my home that looks expensive. For the more normal range spenders, there's plenty of shopping you can do for cool indigenous things, American Indian artwork and jewelry, namely, and good local products like prickly pear honey I had to buy. We also checked out the farmer's market where I got bee pollen to try for the first time, goat's milk lotion that smells like butterscotch that the local "goat lady" produces. She also makes fudge but I didn't get to try any, no more samples :(
Aside from the prominent Native American culture, Arizona is also home to all the extraterrestrial type thing, psychics, tarot readers, and things of that kind. I didn't meet any aliens or see crop circles but maybe next time.
Though I'm not a huge ET believer or anything, the whole hippy atmosphere does mean that AZ is home to a lot of the major yoga and spiritual retreat centers. It has perfect weather for this and is such a beautiful and relaxing environment, I would love to one day come back and do a yoga retreat. However, I contented myself with doing my poses dangerously close to the edges of cliffs.

Food is abundant and generally really good and diverse. Of course with a group of 16 Argentine's of varying (as in closed minded) tastes, I didn't get to try as many cuisines as I would have liked but I always manage to eat well! There are 2 raw vegan cafe's called Chocolatree that I did not get to try, but I did manage to convince the family to go to D'lish vegetarian eatery, which is kind of a small cafe with a lot of soup/ sandwich type foods. I admit it was not quite the dinner location we were hoping for but my family made kind of a big scene and complained a lot. That meant my brother and I simply had to eat our meals plus everyone else's. Oh well. There's of course a lot of your standard Mexican, and a lot of your fancy dining where you pay more for the views than the food. There is Korean and Thai but my family stuck to the typical American or Italian. Again, I love trying all kinds of things, but it's the company that counts. Here's everyone at a small family owned Italian place called The Hideaway that I chose for New Year's. It turned out to be really good!

Whew! Well that was definitely a long overdue and long in length post. Now that you're somewhat caught up on my life I won't feel like such a blog stalker when I comment on everyone else's blogs.
While I'm sure I've lost most of you already, I commend anyone who read all of that. Stay tuned and if you're lucky, you'll get a recap of the Grand Canyon before the weekend is over.
Over and out,