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I just want to say that I really enjoy my former and current co-workers.

So, one very hot weekend in July, two former co-workers, a current co-worker, my brother, and I all decided to go on a backpacking trip. Now, at least three of the five had backpacking experience. At least two of the three had extensive backpacking experience, and one of the two had major-super-hero-professional backpacking experience.

My brother – is an Eagle Scout.

Meanwhile, I have had zilch in experience. None, zero.

But hey, I was more than willing to tough it out and carry my own weight (figuratively, of course. I’m not that strong).

In any case, we all ended up voting for Chewing Gum Lake as the site of our torture, ahem…adventure. Actually, we had tried to do Cathedral Lakes, but permits for overnight camping there are fairly limited and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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The original plan was that we would drive up all the way to the trailhead (Gianelli Cabin Trailhead), and then start the hike from there. It is about a 4.5 mile hike from the trailhead to Chewing Gum Lake. Round Trip, it would be about 9 miles.

Not too bad. Definitely doable. I’ve hiked the 8.5 miles of Panorama Trail in Yosemite National Park in one afternoon. I can certainly do 4.5 miles.

Scoff.

Well, we hadn’t anticipated the drive to the trailhead to be rather…rough, bumpy, and rocky. It became pretty clear that my co-worker’s sedan wasn’t going to make it. Not to mention all the signs warning that sedans should not move on forward.

And so we were forced to park the cars off the main “road” and start our hike about 2.5 miles away from the trailhead.

What was to be a leisurely 4.5 mile hike was now effectively 7 miles long. And it was hot. And we had a 1,500 foot ascent ahead of us. With 35 pounds of supplies on our backs.

Yayyy!

Obviously, within the first few feet of starting the hike…my foot rolled on some loose rocks and I was promptly dragged down by the weight of my bag. To this day, upon the writing of this blog post (nearly 3 weeks later), I still have a scab on my right knee from this adventure.

A few feet later, I slid again, this time on my butt. Loose rocks scrape buttocks, people.

But eventually we got into a little groove and plodded along. Actually, most of the group were very sprightly hikers. In fact, Maria…ran ahead of us to get our camp started. Here, I am, barely surviving, and she’s running the trail uphill and with her pack on. *Hangs head in shame*

Meanwhile, Vanessa, aka Team Leader, aka Group Mom, motivated us by saying things like, “Let’s keep going for the next 15 minutes without stopping, okay, guys?”

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Easy, peasy. Wheeze. The altitude really did make a difference. Air thinner, heart pumping so hard I wished I had worked harder on my cardio. To be fair, Chewing Gum Lake starts at about 8,000 feet above sea level and you do the extra 1000 foot climb up. And I normally exist (thrive, dare I say?) in a part of California that sits quite happily at 52 feet above sea level.

All kidding aside, everyone was really patient with my inexperience, and I’m just so grateful that they made the whole process an adventure.

One of the more rewarding things about the hike was the beauty that you could see along the trail. There are panoramic vistas looking down into valleys. In the distance, there was a thunderstorm over the horizon.  And then there were meadows upon meadows of wild flowers, too.

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Maria, who used to be a Ranger and a “hot shot” firefighter (see what a “hot shot” does here.) would point out all the various flowers, also identifying which ones were edible, which ones were poison, and which ones made for wonderful toilet paper out in the wilderness.

It’s like one of those moments where you are just rendered small by all the things you didn’t know about the world, and all that you take for granted. Like a proper plant to use as toilet paper that won’t have you breaking out in a rash. Important life stuff.

As we went along, Evette’s shoe broke and she had to switch to sandals. Trooper, that lady. Also, an insect flew into…and died in my eyeball.

Yes.

I saw it fly into me and I felt my eyelid close over it. And felt it … just there. On my eyeball. Stuck. I’m in the wilderness. I don’t have a mirror, or eyedrops. I allowed both Evette and my brother to poke my eye with their fingers while I held my eyelids open for the assault. My brother offered me some water and I squirted it into my eyeball…

…and realized that it was burning and sticky. He guiltily looked at me and said, “oops, I had some flavored electrolyte powder in it.” Aargh!

Finally, using a pair of sunglasses as a mirror, I finally extracted the creature from my eye. And just as I did, we realized we. had. made. it. We were at the lake!

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One of the First Glimpses of Chewing Gum Lake

We set up camp and look at how cute our tents are.

Then, we went for a refreshing dip in the lake.

Later, we hung out, gossiped, drank a little Fireball, and I also tended to my little wound from my first fall.

Then, it was time to start a fire. We gathered some firewood, and heck, Vanessa got us an entire log. Gotta admit, our campfire was pretty epic.

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Also took a second to capture a panoramic photo of the growing dusk.

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My brother was a trooper being the only boy.

We talked around the fire some more. Talking about our leggings, shoes, lawyer stuff, ovulation, babies, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, relationships, ethical dilemmas, whistleblower scenarios, finance and banking, ethnocentric identities, our Scandinavian conspiracy…

We covered a wide range of topics but I had to hand it to my brother. For about 70% of the conversation, he probably had no idea what we were talking about.

Hahaha! Poor guy.

Our dinners were dehydrated packs of food. With the use of a jet boil, all you gotta do is put in some purified water from the lake, get it to a boil, mix into the bag, and wait 20 minutes. Next thing you know, BAM! food. Not too bad, either. Then later, it was time for s’mores. Because…camping.

When it was bed time, we set up our bear hang. It was not actually as high as regulation bear hangs…lol. But we felt kind of better by just even doing it anyway. Pretty sure a bear on its hind legs could have easily ripped through our food and toiletries kit. None of us had carried a bear cannister with us.IMG_3187

The next day, we woke up bright and early and had breakfast — again, the dehydrated packs (bacon and eggs for me–surprisingly good).

The day was kind of hazy — and later when we had phone signal again, we learned that it was the day the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County had just started. =(

We quickly packed up (practicing “leave no trace” principles) and headed back on the (dreaded) 7 mile hike back into civilization.

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A somewhat hazy early morning.

The trek back wasn’t as tough, given that most of the trail was at least downhill. It was such a challenging, but amazing trip. I’d definitely do it again, but this time, maybe stay a couple nights! It was a great way to keep in touch with former co-workers and get to know a new co-worker (who had co-counseled on previous cases before)!

I also really appreciated the time I got to spend with my brother. He doesn’t do social media, so keeping in touch with him really requires face-to-face hang outs.

So, who wants in on the next trip?

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The Happy Little Group

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 On June 2012, I flew to Cebu, Philippines for my best friend’s wedding.

Christine and I had been friends since Kindergarten. Best friends from the age of nine till I had to move to the United States at the age of 16.  My last memory prior to moving from Cebu City, Philippines to Union City, California was going to tennis camp during the summer with Christine and squealing over how hot Patrick Rafter was.

In the years that followed, I had seen her a few times as I visited the Philippines and she came to visit the United States.

However, despite the time and distance that had separated us, I was proud to stand as a bridesmaid at her wedding to Mr. Romeo. No, literally, his name is Romeo. But we all call him by his nickname…Junie.

Here are some photos from her wedding:

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Marcus is sad that my mom is packing my suitcase. “Please don’t leave me…”

 

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The bridesmaids get their make up and hair did…

 

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I’ve never had so much make up on my face…guess it has to stand up to the weather and bright lights. I feel like a celebrity. Mwahaha!

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At Sacred Heart Parish. Full Circle since they both went to Sacred Heart Schools (one for Boys and the other for Girls).

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Filtered.

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What a Rock n’ Rollin’ Entrance to their reception!

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The Groom also served as the Entertainment that night! Lead singer status!

 

It was such a fun night. I always wondered who my friends would have been or what kind of person I would have grown up to be if I had stayed in the Philippines. If Cre and her friends are any indication, I think I would have been just fine…a little more metal in my music, maybe a little more in touch with creativity, too.

I know Cre and Junie will have an amazing marriage. They’ve already been through so much together, and have always supported each other. I believe in both of them, and they make me believe that there is a happily ever after.

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Another set from my buddy Adrian.

I wore a green striped boat neck shirt with three-quarter sleeves from J. Crew. It was a hand-me-down from my mom. Well, she didn’t so much as hand it down to me as toss it into a “donate” pile of clothes. I just happened to fish it out and claim it as my own.

The pants are from Forever 21, a classic pair of skinny jeans that cost me oh…$12.

Shoes are from the Loft. Though, they are really old, so I don’t really know how much they were.

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Where: San Francisco, CA

A Perfect Day @ the Mission District.

Lunch at Pizzeria Delfina, Dessert from Bi-Rite Creamery (oh, don’t worry, I had a sorbet), and then gossip, music, people-watching at Dolores Park.

It was 80 degrees in San Francisco. The sky was a perfect blue. The sun brought out the colors and contrasts so brilliantly I had to blink a few times just to accept that something was that crimson of red, or someone’s eyes were that startling of blue.

I was meeting up with some classmates from the good ol’ Philippines. One of them lived in the City now, the other in Chi-Town, and yet the other in Singapore. Oh, how far we have flung. And how strong our bonds still tied us to continue with a friendship even after so many years and miles have separated us.

I ended up wearing a sheer silk off-white shirt with satin buttons from The Limited. The 3/4 sleeves even had little puffs at the end. It’s far more girly than I normally choose. It’s simple, but embellished with little details.

I wore a pair of cuffed khaki shorts from H&M.

And instead of flip-flops, I actually wore shoes. I told myself to wear cute little flats…but just could not bring myself to do so. I had to compromise with a pair of canvas sneakers from the Loft.

I then topped everything off with a little blue crochet fedora hat from Urban Outfitters. I love this hat which I bought in the middle of my Lenten No Shopping 40 Day Pledge. Yes, I failed…but the hat is worth my soul, don’t you think?

In the end, I didn’t really particularly care if I was hip or fashionable. I mostly cared that I didn’t stick to a t-shirt, or jean shorts, and flip-flops which would have been what I would have worn off the top of my head. I cared that I tried to dress more grown up (hello, silk top?) and that I wore shoes. I also cared that I accessorized (um, hats count, right?) and best of all, I was comfortable the whole day.

It’s a good place to start.

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I like when burned bridges are rebuilt.

It renews my faith in the idea that there are just some people that are meant to be in your life.

It also reminds me that when it comes to real friendships and real connections, there is no such thing as pride. It’s easy to say sorry and to forgive when it means that you get to tell funny stories, lament about problems and maybe go to the beach together again.

I’m glad that those people in my life that I had once thought to be indispensable also feel the same way about me…whether the reason for the distance and silence in our relationship was my fault or whether they hurt me, there will always be room in my heart and in my life for these friends.

When I got that voicemail from one, I was astonished because I had been the bad guy in the relationship. If he could see me as a friend again, I am certainly not above saying how sorry I was.

When I ran into another old friend and he offered me a smile and a joke, I was just relieved that the snark and sense of humor that had once made us inseparable in high school was still intact. “I’m sorry I stopped talking to you,” I finally blurted out at the end of the night. He smiled, “All water under the bridge, Iz. This,” he gestured between us, at the invisible bond that somehow was still there 12 years later. “This doesn’t just get washed away.”

Looking back at us, at myself, at everyone else who have since walked in and out of my life…I realize that maybe there really isn’t much that cannot be forgiven after all. Time does heal old wounds. Age gives us wisdom to blunt the edges of our pride. Love, laughter and the memories drawn from those may sometimes fade, but remember, the heart is a muscle…and muscle memory is pretty powerful. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to pick up old friendships right from where you left off. It’s just like riding a bike!

Today, I’m just grateful for water under the bridge…and for bridges that were burned, but were somehow rebuilt over time.

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Reunions of All Kinds | ❤ | Chicago | the Holidays

(Not too many pictures since I lost my camera in November…)

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OSBS Reunion @ Neilhaus | Vegas with the Girls | First Snowboarding Trip of the Season

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