Posts in TRAVEL
Wanderlust- Never Lost And Always Found
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Several weeks ago a friend and I sat on a near by patio at a local cafe sipping almond milk latte’s, while we talked about life, adventures and travel; okay we talked about our happy place. From their time folded and we had our first adventure planned out. He showed me images from one of his recent trips to the Mojave Desert. I’m always amazed that within a few hours you can literally feel like you’re in another world. That idea alone sets my soul on fire!

As a few weeks went by, we had it all planned out. We were desert bound. There’s something about the air as soon as you leave LA. For me it’s a sense of freedom… I feel lighter, more centered not mention creative. I simply feel alive. I can’t stress enough how important it is to re-energize your soul. I used to be a person that would hang around waiting for others to plan something or I would just hang out letting time pass thinking that was enough. Until I went down a new path in life, one which I met myself front and center. My time became more valuable, my heart had a new awareness of happiness and my soul craved adventure.

It was my first time hiking the sand dunes. I’ve heard the expression “God’s Country” and well this was exactly that. It’s where I felt closer to my beloved father, who I was and who I am. Im not sure if Im explaining myself accurately, but there’s this feeling I get being vulnerable in the outdoors that excite’s and also frightens me. I can feel how the climate affects my body and mental state. While walking through the untouched land hearing all the peculiar noises unsure if there’s going to be a poisonous snake that could bite you and if that happens the fear of what to do. After all we were so far out and no hospital would be close enough should we urgently need one.

As we trekked the sand dunes I realized something. That as evolved and skilled as I’ve become in life and the outdoors, Im still connected to the woman that feared the unknown. The person that was scared to take risks, worried I would be too out of my comfort zone. Well it lasted a moment, then realizing it was just a state of mind and I had the option to have full control.

If you haven’t been to the Mojave desert then I highly suggest you go! Make sure you take enough water and layers to keep yourself protected from the sun and later cool air. The wind will blow the sand unexpectedly so a buff or bandana is a must. I recommend taking trekking poles, they’re extremely useful when hiking up the slippery sand and when coming down reducing the impact to your knees. I hope this place brings you clarity and a new found respect for mother nature .

With each day we grow, with each experience we evolve and with each adventure we set ourselves free

-Ashiko

Fuel Up On Nature
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This is one of my sacred spots where I go to connect with nature and better yet myself. For me, this is paradise… Surrounded by snow cap mountains and unique rock formations the exploring is endless. Fueled and energized by nature, Karuna. A natural coffee drink, sweetened with dates, coconut cream and turmeric for added health benefits. How are you going to fuel your life, mind, body?

-Ashiko #ashikofit

13,600 Elevation. Mount Whitney, to be continued...
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Something I’ve learned is to never underestimate the climb. Every mountain has it’s own challenges. From switch backs, to steep elevation climbs through loose scramble, to maneuvering yourself between uneven surfaces and tree roots puckered out 1-2 feet (not to mention the distance and the actual elevation gain), climbing can be a dangerous gamble and depending on the time of year, must be considered as a key determining factor.

Mount Whitney, located in Sierra, Nevada was one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve seen to date. With a distance of 22 miles roundtrip and an elevation of 14,505 feet, Whitney is the tallest mountain in California as well as the highest summit in the contiguous United States. She was everything I expected and then some. Surrounded by gorgeous lakes with this delicious dark teal hue, beautiful meadows that stretch a mile long, and bold, jagged rock formations. The views were captivating the higher you climbed.

My friend and hiking partner Joe and I set off on a Saturday with the hopes to receive a lottery permit to climb the next day. After waiting patiently for any remaining permits, a few more hikers with the same hopes showed up. After drawing the last number, I knew the climb wasn’t going to happen the next day. I was pretty devastated , all set and ready to go… but that wasn’t going to stop me. We decided to get permits to climb that Monday. There’s 100 permits available to climb daily. If they’re taken, you can show up the day before and wait until 2pm. At that point should there be any permits that were returned, you have the chance to snag them.

We spent 2 nights camping at Lone Pine Campground, just 6 miles from the portal. The elevation was around 6,000 feet which was a good start to acclimate for the hike. Temperatures at night dropped to the mid 20’s. We had accounted for the weather, and were prepared with the right tent’s and sleeping bag’s to stay warm. During the day we hiked in the beautiful Alabama Hills, and the balmy temperatures being in the 70’s were the perfect way to keep our spirits warm and high.

On Monday, we packed up at 2 AM and headed to the portal. Excited and tired, we trekked our way up to the summit in the dark taking in the incredible views as daylight started to break. As our body temperatures changed rapidly to the drop in temperature and high winds, we would adjust our layers to avoid over heating. Our Arc’ teryx Gortex jackets were vital to cut the wind and lock in our body heat. One thing you never want to do is sweat. If that happens’ you loose your hydration along with risk the chance of you getting cold and sick with wet clothes.

One of the most difficult parts on the trail was the 99 switch backs. Yes, there are actually 99 of them which seemed endless and harsh, especially when they’re covered in snow and winds at 15 mph. We had micro spikes which we put over our boots upon entering. Along the side were cable wires running along a 50 foot section to ensure the safety of hikers from falling off the steep rock face to the right. Mid way through the switch backs I had to sit to catch my breath and check in with myself. Acclimating is different for everyone and it’s important to listen to your body, and take your time, with it as the effects of altitude sickness can set you back and cause series harm.

After completing the switch backs, we had reached Trail Crest, with an elevation of 13,600 feet and views of a life time (seen in the photo above with the 2 lakes). Unfortunately, my friend had started to get altitude sickness and felt nauseous and weak. After resting, we assessed the situation and decided to continue as we were only 1.9 miles and 905 feet from the Summit. I admit I had summit fever and needed to finish. At this point, the trails were are narrow and very rocky, requiring full concentration as there is a steep drop off the west of you. We continued for an hour until a dark cloud started to roll in. I stopped disbelief and looked on at the safe-house on top Mount Whitney hovered by a dark cloud. Sadly, we had to make a decision: was the climb worth risking our lives. Should a storm roll in, we would be exposed to extremely high winds and lightening. We decided to turn back.

It’s important to remind yourself that mountain climbing is an experience and we’re so lucky to even be able to do it. It’s ok if things don’t go to plan. It’s what you do in challenging moments that shows your character, that’s what builds us. For me, it was shifting the notion of failing into succeeding, learning and letting this be a positive experience. As unfortunate as it was to not summit, I also had so many amazing memories and an unforgettable journey. The walk down was sober and so long…

I told Joe this was my last climb of the year. I arrived home and took a few day’s to recover mentally, physically and spiritually. I got the itch to go back. Maybe this year, or maybe next… to continued.

-Ashiko

A special thank you to Joe Flores for the incredible adventure, and my dear friend Emma Zander and Don Lee for all your love and continued support.

Wine country's hidden gem, Solvang
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     California never  ceases to amaze me. With so many climate changes, landscapes  and tucked away charming town's, I had the pleasure to spend time in Solvang this past weekend. This idyllic small town is located in Southern California's Santa Ynez Valley with a populaiton of roughly 5,800 people . The drive through the countryside will set the tone for your trip: picturesque views of the roaming mountains, bright gold hills and blue skies.

   The town originally founded in 1911, built with love by Danish Americans to offer culture, history and more so community.  Along with many wineries and delicious wine tasting rooms, it's known for it's Danish style architecture. You'll feel like you stepped into a fairy tale, where time slows down as you stroll through the streets taking in the colorful shops and horse-lead trollies. Suddenly, I was back to my 11 year old self  living in Germany with my aunt and uncle. If your looking for a unique, nostalgic getaway,  just head  45 min north of Santa Barbra and Solvang awaits you!

I suggest a crisp glass of rosé while basking in the sun taking in the views!

-Ashiko   

photo credit: Aubrey Danielle/ Ashiko Westguard

Fitness on the go, things to take with you
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   Just because you're going away for the weekend doesn't mean you can't take a few things with you to help  give you an  effective workout. It's always nice having the option to workout should you get that burst of energy, inspiration or maybe you're just feeling really guilty after eating that cake and more... Weekend getaways are for you and that means coming back to work feeling refreshed and energized. A few things I love traveling with are my mat, jump rope and set of 5 lb weights.  Whether you use the mat for low impact workouts, stretching or meditating its always nice to have. Here's what I did this weekend while staying in the high desert where the air is thick, and the sun is hot.

Dynamic Stretching works best for the pre workout: Movements in-between gently warming up the muscles while keeping the body in motion.

Static Stretches work best with warmed up muscles/post workout: Hold each stretch for 20-30 sec. To get the ultimate benefits of lengthening muscle fibers and felxibilty it's important to hold no less the 20 sec with each stretch. 

Jump Rope for 30 min. Get to know your body and see where you're at. Rest when needed. And remember to engage your core muscles using as a stabilization.

Now using your 5 lb weights here are a few exercises I love.

Ab Twist: This my favorite! You can also modify it to give yourself an even deeper workout. Sit on your mat with your knees bent and your feet flat. Make sure your tail bone is tucked under to prevent injuries and slightly lean back to a 45- angle. Holding one weight with both your left and right hand slowly twist to each side engaging those abs. I like to do 3 set's of 30-40 reps. If your a beginner start with 3 set's of 15 reps.

Modify: You can raise legs to table top position. Engage the core muscles even more.

Modify: You can add a hold and lift in the center before twisting to each side. Take your time between each action holding 2 sec.  If you feel any strain to your back or neck, stop and adjust! 

Shoulder Press: Feet planted hip length apart slight bend in the knee to prevent over extension. Take set of dumbbells held straight above your head. Slowly bend your elbows and lower weights until they are in line with your shoulders. Without stopping continue back in starting position. I like to do 3 sets of 20-25 reps. 

Modify: You can add another step bringing the weights down to your chest. Creating a larger motion. Remember to tuck your pelvis under not putting pressure on your lower back. 

 

Have fun! Health and wellness always first. Have great weekend!

 

- Ashiko