Health & Fitness

A Tale of Summer Backpacking: A Little Sketchy, A Lot Worth it

I’ll never forget the day I first saw Emerald and Sapphire Lakes from Sawtooth Ridge... 

Best view in the Alps: Emerald and Sapphire Lakes

Best view in the Alps: Emerald and Sapphire Lakes

A couple years ago @alexjwittmer, @isaiakawika and I scrambled up Sawtooth Ridge above Big Caribou Lake known as the “Caribou Scramble”. The large drainage to the south of the lake is decorated with beautiful granite blocks, full of boulder problems galore. It’s like Candy Land for explorers who love cross-country travel and route-finding. The grand prize is the summit. Some say it’s the best view in the Trinity Alps.

Last week my nephew and I hiked from Big Caribou to Emerald and Sapphire and then back. It was a burly day (especially when you can’t find the trail down the ridge). We improvised and chose to descend along an obvious drainage down the mountain. How hard could it be? 

We were down-climbing steep loose rock, deep in the wilderness. A wilderness scattered with rattlesnakes and mountain lions. An area where you can’t afford to mess up. What if we hit a section where we couldn’t down-climb?

I kept thinking about how in 1982 an 18-year-old kid died from heat exhaustion going back up the 99 switchbacks. (Ironically, I was born in 1982 and my nephew is 18). Not encouraging. 

“This is going to be an awesome adventure or a total failure,” I thought. “Am I the worse guide ever, taking my ‘newbie’ nephew down this? This is going to be awesome. Just send it.” 

To our relief, we made it to the bottom of the canyon after a couple hours reaching the lush Stuart Fork Trail. We submerged ourselves in the creek to celebrate, as the 2200-foot descent down the mountain offered no shade.

The craggy peaks encircled us with towering views on every side. We took our time reveling in our surroundings, both because it was epic and because it was practical... delaying the hike back as much as possible helped us avoid the scorching heat that bakes the south-facing side of Sawtooth Ridge. 

Emerald Lake looking back at Sawtooth Ridge

Emerald Lake looking back at Sawtooth Ridge

We had a long way to go from Sapphire Lake back up the mountain and down to base camp. Lucky for us, we found the trail this time which we hoped would be an improvement from the drainage line...

It was 6pm and the temperature was still roasting. The ascend back up was more like bushwhacking than following a tidy trail. (I’d heard no one goes up this side of the mountain, now I clearly saw why). Among hikers this section is known as the “pain cave”. We felt like ants compared to this beast. Our legs were heavy and ached, our lungs craving more oxygen, our minds fighting dizziness. We shared the silence and marched onward, each of us secretly praying for a cool breeze to sweep through. 

The look on my nephew’s face by this point concerned me. I could tell he was at the end of his rope. Half way up we took a break, we took in the ground we’d covered, (and I took stock of his mindset and stamina). Thumbs up. Serendipitously, that cool breeze did sweep through, whispering it’s encouragement when we needed it most.

We finally made the summit of the ridge close to 8pm. The homestretch trail leading back to base camp was memorably beautiful. We hugged and laughed a lot coming down the other side, any prior anxieties now behind us. The pain from our long day was overshadowed by thoughts of tacos and a campfire. 

We processed our experience that night... Hiking Emerald and Sapphire Lakes was a dream come true, and it did not disappoint. My nephew said it was both the hardest and coolest thing he had ever done, “an experience of a lifetime” he said. In retrospect, I’m glad we found ourselves on the path less traveled. Because these are the type of memories that define us- moments of overcoming challenges, dealing with fear, and discovering what’s inside of you beyond the limits of your comfort zone. The experience marked both of us in more ways than one, and we left our imprint there in the mountains in return.

Words & Photos by Benjamin Goodpasture

Sapphire Lake

Sapphire Lake

Health Interview with Fitness Trainer Tasha Price

In today's culture, fitness is everywhere. From 10 minute abs, 21 day this to a month of that, there certainly exists a highly saturated world of fitness. What has intrigued me about this subculture is the immense variety. There is a regime out there for anyone and everyone.

Tasha Price has been a personal trainer for nearly 10 years and leads the Shasta Rock Club fitness classes. Recently, we caught up to chat about her passion for people, fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. One of the most thought-provoking elements of our conversation revolved around people's relationship with “working out.” Her insights on physical activity were curiously liberating and even caused me to reflect on how I define working out. Check out some of our conversation:

Q. Why do you workout?

A. I focus on immediate benefits and long term benefits. The immediate benefits of working out are increased energy, confidence and peace. It gives me an outlet to clear my mind, which allows room for creative ideas and simply feeling more connected to myself.

Our body is worth investing in. It is the vehicle that takes us through our day and different seasons of life. When we take a few moments each day to walk, move, jump and get our heart rate up, not only does it kickstart the day, but also provides momentum for tomorrow.

Q. What does “working out” mean to you?

A. Working out can mean so many different things. It's not just going to the gym and doing so many reps or rounds of a movement. Although that style is great, working out can mean just purposed movement in your day. Riding a bike, walking the dog, playing frisbee or even just doing intentional stretching after dinner. Physical activity is meant to be fun! Often times people have a poor relationship with “working out” because they associate it with a negative experience. Pain or punishment are common thoughts surrounding physical activity, whether from a sport in high school to trying to lose weight.

This is huge. Redefining what it means to “work out” is a big step in taking the pressure off of ourselves. It is essential we have a healthy relationship with how we view physical activity. What if we were successful each day in our attempt to work out, simply by looking through a different lens?

Q. What do you do to motivate yourself when you don't feel like working out?

A. First of all, I have a good relationship with physical exercise. I give myself permission to stop after 5 minutes if I am just not feeling it. Fitness isn't punishment and you shouldn't feel slave to it. I focus on the immediate benefits. Feeling great, clear and peaceful are at the forefront of my mind, instead of dwelling on the negatives.

Permission to quit after 5 minutes?! This was a foreign concept to me. Wouldn't you just stop every day after 5 minutes? What about pushing through the pain and enduring no matter the cost? But the more I talked to Tasha, the more I realized she genuinely loved physical activity. Especially when it involved other people.

Q. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone who is going after a fitness goal?

A. Feeling unmotivated, facing obstacles, and asking “is this even worth it?,” is completely normal! It is easy to identify what is challenging, and often times difficult to focus on the positives. Embrace the good of the journey. The change that takes place while going after a goal is just as important as the end result. Also, keep it light and fun! Invite a friend, get plugged into a community and don't take yourself too seriously.

The process of moving toward a goal is transforming. It's not just about standing atop your fitness goal mountain and waiving the flag of victory, but all of the smaller victories preceding that moment. Keep your eyes on the step in front of you, and before you know it, the top will be near.

Q. Speaking of goals, what have you been able to achieve due to living a healthy and fit lifestyle?

A. I actually had the opportunity to run a marathon in place of a cross country coach who had cancer, which was an incredible experience! When I was in the Air Force Boot Camp, I received the “Top Athlete” award out of men and women which was a huge honor. Prioritizing my health and physical fitness has allowed me to seize a variety of opportunities. When I started rock climbing, I quickly realized many movements from my training background translated really well to being on the wall.

Tasha mentioned something that struck a chord in me. Through these endeavors, she learned perseverance. By engaging physically with the world around us, an inner muscle also gets strengthened, giving us the courage to face our daily obstacles.

Q. So I've got to ask, what is your least favorite type of working out?

A. Iso-metric movements!! Planking or anything of that nature I just don't enjoy!

Okay cool, she is human.

Q. What can people expect from SRC's fitness classes?

A. Lots of variety! Our goal is to create an upbeat and positive atmosphere that incorporates many styles of fitness. Working out should be fun, and it's even better when you are doing it with a community of people who care. The programming is diverse and aims to help people improve their rock climbing, but also for anyone just wanting to develop their overall fitness level. From strength and endurance, to power and game-style workouts, the classes will have something for everyone.