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Joshua Tree National Park

One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles is its proximity to so much natural beauty. Drive an hour south and you’ll hit the beaches of Orange County. Head east and the mountains and deserts will greet you. Make your way up north and you’ll find the majestic mountains of the Sierras. There’s never a shortage of adventures waiting around the corner.

Ben and I always make an effort to take advantage of the diverse landscapes California has to offer. Last winter during the low season, we explored Joshua Tree National Park, securing a campsite for two glorious nights at Indian Cove Campground. Reservations can be secured in advance at recreation.gov.

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Exploring the park allowed us to be children again. We climbed the boulders (so much fun!), observed the trees, and even fought off “jumping” cacti at the Cholla Cactus Garden. These cacti may look harmless, but their needles tend to cluster and stick to any passerby. We were definitely victimized on more than one occasion.

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Everywhere at Joshua Tree, you will find the park’s iconic boulders. These geologic landscapes were formed over 100 million years ago (!!!) through molten liquid oozing up to the Earth’s crust.

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Close-up of one the thousands of boulders!
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Arch Rock
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I was initially hesitant to climb these boulders, thinking that somehow they’re not “secured” and can topple over at any second. Boy, was I wrong. These boulders cannot be more solid! Upon closer examination of each rock, I found clusters of minerals forming the boulders, all of which are so tightly bound together! I tried to pick at these boulders with my fingers, hoping to see if I can grind them down, but nothing budged!

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Joshua Tree was such a fun experience. I enjoyed my time so much I’m planning another trip with my girlfriends in October!

Featured

Meet Your Edge

In yoga, there’s a space in which every yogi is encouraged to enter. Every pose can be modified to either intensify or simplify. When arriving in a yoga position, all yogis, regardless of experience level, is encouraged to meet their edge, to find that delicate sweet spot in which the pose is fierce and challenging yet comfortable enough that the yogi remains complete control of their breath and the asana retains its full integrity. Holding an asana and learning to lean in to the discomfort when your legs are burning, your arms are shaking, and your mind is running and collecting every reason to convince you to unravel out of the pose is one of the biggest challenges I have while practicing but also the same reason why I keep coming back to my mat.

I intend to apply the lessons I learn on my mat to my every day life. Similar to my practice, I want to push myself to constantly meet my edge. To be willing to surrender to the pose (or situation) and to accept the benefits it offers. To be open to fall, to shake, and to stumble. I want to open myself up to the discomfort and learn to sit with it, to acknowledge the struggle, yet being fully aware of its impertinence.

A few weeks ago, my brain decided that meeting my edge means participating in a 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training.

By myself.

In Rishikesh.

I N D I A.

In December.

For a month.

AndthenbackpackthroughSoutheastAsiasoloforanothersixweeks.

Days following my decision to leave my job late this year in order to complete the 200YTT program and to backpack Asia, I kept trying to find a way out of it. Impostor syndrome began to creep in, and I was marinating in my own self-doubt, fears, and insecurities. Do I have what it takes to complete the training? Will they test me if I can do certain poses? Can I deal with the homesickness? Will it be safe for me to travel by myself to all those countries? How will this affect my marriage? Can I actually afford it all?

All of this is basically to say I’m afraid to want what I want. I have a tendency to play it small, belittling my goals and ambitions and shying away from admitting what I want out of fear of failure or rejection. I’m afraid to want things because what if it doesn’t work out? What if I’m not enough? What if I invest in this emotionally, physically, mentally, financially… and it falls through? It’s still a challenge quieting that nagging voice inside my head that constantly badgers, “Why YOU? Who do you think you are?” It seems as if the bigger the goal, the bigger the doubt.

What I’m still the process of learning is that there is no antidote to stop the self-doubt and insecurities. It’s not the answer we want to hear. It’s not the sexy solution, but it’s true. There will always be an underlying hum of anxiety and fear before doing anything scary and new, or anything so different from your normal routine and out of your comfort zone. Nike’s motto is “Just do it.” It could’ve been “Do it”, but why add the “just” in the front? Because deep down, we all hesitate. Our brains always try to talk us out of anything terrifying, anything out of our personal bubble of comfort. The trick that’s always worked for me is to recognize the fears and negative self-talk, and just do the thing anyway. To meet your edge. To have the courage to bet on yourself. Even if it means being in a fear pit for a while.

Love on Top Top Top! (San Jacinto Peak)

Unlike most of the American population, my husband and I were far from relaxing, BBQ-ing and drinking this Memorial Day weekend. Instead, we were testing our mental grit summiting California’s third highest peak: Mt. San Jacinto.

SAN JACINTO PEAK
Elevation: 10, 834ft
Distance: 19.50 miles
Climbing: 5,080 ft
Trailhead: Deer Springs Trail, Idyllwild
**PERMIT ONLY (for day hikes and overnight camping)**

Wilderness Camping Permit:

https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/636/files/dpr409.pdf
– $5.00 per person (payable by check or money order)
– For more info: click here for a step-by-step guide from The Hiking Guy

With most of the snow melting off, I decided last month to resume my personal quest to summit all six mountains of the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge I previously completed Cucamonga Peak and Mt. Baldy last September and October respectively.

My sweet husband, Ben, accompanied me, letting me wake him up at 4:15AM, just so we can make the 2.5 hours drive east to Idyllwild from Los Angeles. We packed our bags the night before and made the rookie mistake of over-packing at least 10 lbs of unnecessary weight.

We began our trek at around 8AM at Deer Springs Trail in Idyllwild, and we ascended up the mountain for at least 9 grueling hours. The trail itself, despite the constant incline, was not unfamiliar to me. Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga Peak, and Havasupai have prepared for distance and the incline, but having 30lbs extra weight on my back made each step a test of my mental stamina. Ben carried most of the load, including our tent and additional water—which, in the end, was the defining error that made the hike so torturous. We could’ve gone without the extra water weight considering there was a heavy-flowing stream near the campgrounds. Rookie mistake #2!

Home away from home perched at 9700 feet

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The journey up to 10,834 ft was by far the most challenging climb I’ve ever done to date. It was a physical and mental test of grit. I wanted to throw in the white flag and quit so many times, but what’s even more difficult for me is to imagine how I would’ve done it without Ben. Throughout our entire trek, as I cried and moaned and complained about my thighs burning, my hips feeling sore, and tummy grumbling, he remained kind, supportive and patient, cheering me on and offering words of encouragement, despite the pain he was also experiencing. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect man to marry.

San Bernardino Peak next?

Thanks for reading!

Xx,
Adrielle

Travel Diary: Cusco

After traveling for nearly 24 hours, I finally set foot in Cusco, and the altitude welcomed me with open arms. The once capital of the Inca Empire, situated at 11,152 feet in the Peruvian Andes, Cusco has become a necessary a pit-stop for travelers seeking to visit the world-famous citadel. I researched substantially prior to my trip about avoiding altitude sickness, yet I found myself still vulnerable to the effects of the sudden change in elevation. For the next few hours upon my arrival, my breathing was labored. It was a conscious effort to inhale and exhale. My chest felt heavy, as if a person has pressed their foot on my lungs.

Nevertheless, the adrenaline of being in a new city, in a new country, in a new continent far exceeded the minor inconvenience caused by the high altitude. Shortness of breath is peanuts compared to the sensory overload I was yet to experience for the next 8 days.

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PRO TIP: Local Peruvians swear by chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea to cure altitude sickness, but an alternative method I found effective with combating the altitude sickness was drinking plenty of water and pairing it with drops of liquid chlorophyll. It has surprisingly numerous benefits, including strengthening of blood making organs, prevention of anemia and abundance of oxygen in the body.

PISAQ MARKET

I arrived in Cusco early Sunday morning, and despite the exhaustion, I hit the ground running. After taking photos with a few cute baby goats, I managed to locate after asking around a few locals with my sub-par Spanish the bus stop for the colectivo (mini bus service) en route to Pisaq.

Best day to go: Sunday
Distance from Cusco to Pisaq: Approx. 92 km
Journey time: 45-50 minutes
Fare: S./3 (about USD $0.92)

Located just outside the main city of Cusco, Pisaq Market is one of the most famous markets in the Cuzco region. The Sunday market is the best time to explore Pisaq as indigenous communities from the local highlands set up shop and sell their products and goods. Be prepared for a kaleidoscope of colors!

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SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS

When I was seven years old, I took a free trip to Hong Kong with my aunt and uncle to redeem a raffle prize my mother won at her previous job. The trip was short, and one of the most memorable parts of the trip was the tour group we joined. I don’t remember the exact details except the feeling of being bored and disappointed at the fact that the “cool stamp” we were promised at the end of the day for our passport was, in fact, a mere sticker. That day left a bitter taste in my tongue about tour groups and travel agencies, and it was then that promised myself never to expend more time, energy, and money on another tour group ever again.

In Cusco, I almost didn’t have a choice. The beautiful Inca ruins and archaeological sites of the Sacred Valley are wide spread and not easily accessible to visit on your own terms. Although it is possible to travel by local bus, it can be quite tiring and effort-consuming to individually track down each site as most are located in rural areas with no paved roads.

Most travelers opt for an organized one-day Sacred Valley Tour. I personally signed up for the Sacred Valley + Chinchero combination tour with America Expeditions. The tour I joined costs S/.100 which includes a visit at the Quechua village of Chinchero, the terraces of Moray, the salt fields of Maras, a stop for lunch in Urubumba, the fortress of Ollantaytambo, and the Pisaq Ruins.

Chinchero

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Salinas de Maras was by far my favorite pit-stop. The salt fields are individually-owned by multiple families who all live in the town of Maras, and the ponds are passed down generation after generation. Each pool takes around 15-30 days to crystallize.

Once harvested, the salts are sold in various forms, mostly in pure crystallized form, but also added in chocolate! Decadent Peruvian dark chocolate mixed a hint of Maras salt are absolutely delicious, not to mention – they make unique souvenirs from friends and family back home!

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Salinas de Maras

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PERUVIAN CUISINE

When it comes to eating foreign cuisine, I have adopted an Andrew Zimmern-esque rule of thumb: “Don’t ask questions and just eat it.” I didn’t have any expectations of what types of foods I’ll be eating when I arrived in Peru, I just expected that I will consume nearly every breed, make, and model of potatoes.

In general, I found Peruvian cuisine to be mediocre, with the exception of three memorable meals: 1) lomo saltado, a popular Peruvian dish consisting of stir-fried marinated beef, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and french fries, 2) alpaca meat, and 3) el cuy al horno (baked guine pig).

Lomo Saltado from Morena Kitchen in Cuzco

Location: Morena Peruvian Kitchen
Address: 348-B Calle Plateros, Cusco, Peru
Hours: 12:00PM – 10:00PM

Considering myself an adventurous eater, I knew that I will not leave Peruvian soil until I sample their local delicacy, el cuy al horno (baked guinea pig). Contrary to popular belief, Peruvians do not consume el cuy regularly, but rather, the dish is served on special occasions and celebrations.

El Cuy al Horno served with potatoes

I had the opportunity to sample this unique delicacy when I arrived in Aguas Calientes the day before my visit to Machu Picchu. I was walking around town when a server in one of the restaurants approached me, luring me to sit and dine. I noticed that they served el cuy al horno at a decent price ($16-17) and also offered happy hour… 4 glasses pisco sours for S./20 (approx. $6.00!). #SOLD. Table for one, please!

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The el cuy al horno took about an hour to prepare and cook. It’s a long time to be waiting on food, but that’s where the pisco sours come in. My body reached the right amount of happy buzz when my server walked out of the kitchen, the el cuy al horno in one hand and another glass of pisco sour in another. The guinea pig was served with potatoes, salad, and rice.

I dug in with my hands (that’s the only way to eat it, in my opinion) and went for it. The dish impressed the pants off me! I took my first bite and was met with juicy tender meat. It was extremely tender and surprisingly lean, considering you know, it’s a pig. It may sound comedic, but it tasted like chicken! The texture of the meat was more similar to dark meat/chicken thighs than it does with pork. There wasn’t a lot of meat to work with, so it’s safe to say that a whole guinea pig was one Adrielle-size serving. If I closed my eyes, it was almost as if I was eating and gnawing on chicken wings. Finger lickin’ good. I almost licked my plate clean.

What’s the most adventurous dish you’ve tasted?