Blanca Lake Hike

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Blanca Lake Trail is a 7.5 mile out and back trail located near Gold Bar, Washington that features a lake and is generally rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking (of course!) and is accessible from July until October due to the weather conditions at these high altitudes. For me this is no doubt one of the most striking lakes in the wilderness and one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done. The vibrant blue of the glacier-fed lake provides the perfect reward for all the hard work you put in to make it to the end. This hike is rated as difficult for its distance and the elevation gain but sometimes the things that push you out of the comfort zone will become the most poignant. After about two and half hours climbing and when you get that first glimpse of the lake, you will know why that every stride you made is totally worth doing it.

TrailMapThe first hour part climbing is relatively tough compared with the flat part nearly to the top, then you will have some downhills leading to the destination. We got there around 10AM and the designated parking area was almost full so I would recommend to go a little earlier than that.  The last bit of road leading up to the trailhead is all gravel for about 15 mi. I’d advise against taking a freshly washed car, because it’ll get real dusty, real quick! Now, getting on to the actual hike-

Started at 10 AM
Got to the lake at 12:45 PM
Headed back down at 2:45 PM
Got to the parking lot by 4:30 PM

The trail starts in cool second growth forest, but the trees are quite sizable. The trail is in excellent shape, and gets right down to business, starting off venturing through a close forest with very little understory, but lots of moss. As you climb, you move swiftly from one steep but well-designed switchback to another, and yet another, gaining a little under 3,000 feet in a little under 3 miles.

While this can be draining, rewards await you at the top. Huckleberry bushes line the trail, and tired hikers can stop and munch on the sweet treats. After three miles, the trail reaches a ridgeline with a set of switchbacks heading up a rocky face. If you look to the east, some stellar views of the mountains can be seen, and on a clear day Glacier Peak graces hikers with an up-close and personal view.

Once you’ve successfully overcome the ridgeline, most of your climbing is over. The trail continues much more gently through sub-alpine flower meadows that glow with lupine when in season. Eventually, the trail drops to pretty but stagnant Virgin Lake and at the first sight I was pretty much disappointing on it appearance.   It looks like there was so much moss growing around it and the water was dirty but that is understandable since there is no inlet or outlet, so the water is entirely snowmelt and rainwater.

After passing by Virgin Lake, the trail goes about .5-.75 miles downhill to Blanca Lake. This section was very muddy with many large roots and rocks. The trail then flattens out again into a distinct pathway leading to the ever so amazing lake.

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If you can tear your eyes away from the trail, the view will take your breath away. Across the valley is the foot of Columbia Peak, and as you round the last point, beautiful Blanca Lake opens up in all her glory. The lake is framed to the north by the peaks of Monte Cristo, Columbia, and Keyes. More than a few hikers have been known to gasp aloud when they round the corner and see the robin-egg blue waters.

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Above the lake, the Columbia Glacier drains via a twin waterfall into the vibrantly blue colored water. It’s the glacial till in the water that lends the lake its otherworldly color. At the end of the trail lies a small beach full of driftwood, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the beauty that surrounds you. There isn’t a lot of space at the beach to camp but we did see a couple of tents here and there. Although this is Summer time in Pacific North West the water is still cold due to the water being coming from the snow peaks. The water was about 50 degrees, but with the heated body and a shot of adrenaline that kicked in, did not let me just gaze at the lake. I jumped in and swam for a few min to cool off.

We saw plenty of campers and ran into other hikers that mentioned a waterfall near the end of the trail. Definitely checking this out next time, it’s worth a second hike!

Pro Tip: Don’t miss out the waterfall near the south-west end of the lake where you can see water draining out of the lake

Happy Hiking!

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0-13.1 in 20 days! How I trained for Half Marathon in less than 3 weeks

 Yes, 0-13.6 Miles in 20 days!

 

Maybe you signed up for a half marathon and haven’t had time to train and you are about 3 weeks away now. Or may be you are just crazy and wondering if you can really do it. Whatever be the case, I believe there is still light at the end of the tunnel. If you do not want to drop out, here is my schedule that I followed to complete the race.

 

Disclaimer:

By any means I am not recommending doing a half marathon without proper training. Many people die due to cardiac arrests (a girl dies after half marathon) and results in severe injuries that might prevent you from running for several months after the race. Just so you know where I am coming from, though I am not a runner, I am fit and play some sort of running sports twice a week and regularly participate in high intensity exercise so I am not a complete novice.

Now that I’ve got the disclaimer out-of-the-way, and you’re still reading with hope, let’s get to it. I have 20 days of training to go 13.1 miles. It won’t be easy, in fact it may be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do. To evaluate my level of fitness I took the below 2 fit tests to determine if my body is actually fit for this feat. I got a 12 which is pretty good to kick-start this crazy schedule.

 

Test 1: The basic fit test

 

  • Have you done any regular running activity in the last few months? (0 = never, 1 = once a month, 2 = twice a month or more, 3 = twice a week or more)
  • Have you done any regular physical fitness in the last few months that doesn’t involve running? (i.e. biking, swimming) (0 = never, 1 = once a month, 2 = twice a month, 3 = once a week or more)
  • What type of job do you have (0 = none/sedentary/desk work, 1 = on my feet for an hour or so a day, 2 = on my feet, moving around quite a bit, 3 = strenuous, physical labor)
  • If you were to guess in a week, how many miles do you walk?  (0 = don’t know/not much, 1 = 2 -5 miles, 2 = 5-10 miles, 3 = 10+ miles)
  • If you walk up 4 flights of stairs, will you be (0 = very winded, feel bad,  1 = breathing heavy, but feel ok, 2 = noticeable breathing, but could continue up more stairs, 3 = fine, barely noticed it)

 

Add together your scores from the five questions above.  If you scored:

  • 0 – 3 : You don’t have any base of physical fitness.  Training for a half marathon in 20 days is near impossible.
  • 4 – 7: You have a small base of physical fitness.  A 20 day program with a successful half marathon will be very tough. I wouldn’t risk it.
  • 7 – 12: You have a decent physical fitness base.  Dedication to a 20 day program should get you to finish a half marathon
  • 13 – 15: You have a good base of physical fitness, not only can you finish the race with 20 days of training, but you might be able to finish a major part of it running.

 

If you’re in the 0-7 points or lower category, don’t be too distressed.  If you only have 20 days left to train for the race, then you should probably hold off until the next one

 

Test 2: The 10k run/walk test

 

My next step is to test my running fitness.  The objective is to go out and run 6 miles. (~10km). I used the Nike running app or you can use any GPS or mapping software like Google Maps to figure out a 6 mile course.  It should be something away from cars and minimal other traffic like bikes and walkers.

Do a warm up for your run by jogging/walking slowly for 8-16 minutes.  You’ll need a watch to time yourself. The objective is to NOT to kill myself by running as fast as I can. I averaged at a 14+ pace, breathing moderately and heavy through the last half of the run (once again, make sure you have your doctor’s ok for this type of test!).  I finished the run just short of 90 min mark and then matched my time to the following categories:

 

  • Less than 40 minutes – you’re in very good speed shape, and you just need to focus on building some endurance
  • 40 – 60 minutes – well done, and you have a good level of speed fitness
  • 60 – 90 minutes – not too bad, you’re in decent shape
  • 90 -110 minutes – the average for someone who has not been running much lately, there is still hope for you!
  • 110+ minutes – If you had a hard time covering a 10k at this pace, you need more time than 20 days to prepare for a half marathon.  Wait for the next race!

 

First – a little background on my running history

 

I will have to admit that I was never a runner, in fact I hated it big time. Thought, it is probably the boring and hard thing to after being outdoors. If I wanted to run I would rather play a sport that involves running than just plain running. I like to play in groups, compete with a team, push my body and throw in some challenges to improve my sporting skills and techniques.  But most of these things are absent in running, so I was never dragged into it and always felt it plain boring. I am not saying that I cannot run, I can probably hold on to a one time long distance race. But the frequent routine training of running periods that is required for finishing a half marathon is what kept me away from it.

 

Then what changed it

 

One day a BBC article (Could you run a marathon without training?) that reported about some handful of guys finishing a Marathon race with almost no training caught my eye it instantly knocked my socks off. I was amazed and thrilled. Not just that it surprised me someone finish their race without training but for the fact that it made to the headlines of one of the major news broadcasting companies too. The article went on to mention that running a Marathon is one of the greatest feats of human endurance. Those are some nerve-wracking words that inspired me to rise to this challenge and break the back of this beast.

 

What kept me going running

 

With a penchant for adrenaline sports and boringly long training being my biggest pet peeve I thought if I ever run a long distance race I would do it with minimum amount of training. With this new interest, I looked online and picked the first long distance running race that is happening in my city. I signed up for this Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon which apparently selling their last round of tickets with just over 3 weeks to go.

 

With a few weeks in hand and a multitude of resources at my fingertips I dutifully began searching the web, seeking for some training tips to finish the race. After searching for a while the Google/Bing consensus told me 3 weeks of training is highly inadvisable and seemingly destructive to the body. Most websites (here, here and here) advised at least 12 weeks of training due to the endurance it requires to finish a long distance running like a half-marathon, unless you are trained for it – which I am not. While arguably that is one of the greatest advises that I could find on web especially since it was coming from the expert trainers I was hesitant at first thinking I am biting off more than I could chew but at the same time do not want to turn my back to the wall.

Well I am little bit on the crazy side. I know it is not advisable, but heck, it is possible 🙂

 

The Four Building Blocks of Training

 

Unfortunately most of the traditional training methods does not work for such a short period of time. So I devised my own plan and followed it with strict dedication. The primary elements that I focussed on on my training are:

  1. Base mileage. If I had time I would have build my base mileage over a few weeks of time. From the test test 2 above I assume that you can already run 6-7 miles  at a decent 10+ pace. If you are not confident about your base mileage you should work towards it, running three-to-five times per week and pass the base test2.
  2. The long run. I did a long every 7th day and raised steadily over the 3 week time. As a rule of thumb from a traditional training method you would gradually improve your weekly running distance by about 10%. As I said unfortunately, that isn’t possible in my case.
  3. Speed work. Practice intervals and tempo runs to increase your cardio capacity. I played Ultimate Frisbee (wiki) which basically took care of this.
  4. Rest and recovery. Adequate rest helps prevent injuries and mental burnout. A relatively low intense sport like Cricket is a good way to rest and also being active.

The 3 Week training program:

Week Sun Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Total Miles
1 Warm up run. 2 Mile. Slow Pace 2 Mile
8.4 Pace
Upperbody strength training. P90 Sculpt Played Ultimate Frisbee. Equals ~ 3Mile fast paced run Cricket practice very minimal 4 Miles, 13P, 56 min, TreadMill Long Run: 6 Miles
14.8 P
17
2 Rest 4 Mile
8.5 Pace
Upperbody strength training. P90 Sculpt Played Ultimate Frisbee. Equals ~ 3Mile fast paced run 6 Mile run at 14 Pace Stretch, Lower body and played Cricket for 2 hrs Long Run: 11 Miles
11.2 Pace
24
3 Rest 6 Mile
9 Pace
Upper body strength training. P90 Sculpt Ran 6 miles at 12 Pace 2 Mile slow pace run Rest RACE DAY !! 27

 

At last finished my first Half-Marathon in 2:19, not bad with a 3 weeks of training. Went through a lot of pain and twisted my ankle in the race but finished it at the end..After all, pain is temporary and posting the result in my blog is forever 🙂

 

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Photos: HangGliding in NY

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HangGliding, a set on Flickr.

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Photos: Cross Country Road Trip

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East to West routeLong Road AheadLandscape - MNLandscape - NDCookies in ChicagoCountry Side - MN
1983 Ford F250 - MNCountry Side - MNHalloween Cookies - MNUniversity Of North DakotaDinner_NoriGeographical Center of North America - Rugby, ND
Rugby on US Map- Geographical Center of NATheodore Roosevelt Park - NDTheodore Roosevelt National Park - NDBad Lands of Roosevelt National Park - NDRoosevelt National Park - NDLargest Scrap Metal Structure in the World - North Dakota
Landscape - NDRandom Pic - NDCountry Side - MinnesotaCountry Side - IdahoCountry side - NDYellowstone River (Powder River) - Montana

NJ-WA Drive, a set on Flickr.

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A Solo Road Trip: 3000 Miles Across USA

I lived in one of the highest desi (aka Indian) populated suburbs in the USA, the famous Oak Tree Road in Edison. Most of the stores are owned by someone with origins from India, including  Patel’s Cash and Carry, Bengali Sweet House, and Saree Bazaar to name a few. In fact, one of the gas stations is owned by a desi and half of the eight screens at Edison Big Cinemas screen movies from Bollywood, and not Hollywood.

Oak Tree Road may be the America’s liveliest Little India, with 100s of Indian businesses that attract Indian immigrants from across the region. But the impact is more than just commercial. Indians make up from 20 to 25 percent of the population, and they have begun the transformation of Edison — apparently an overwhelmingly blue-collar and middle-class white community a generation ago — into a town with a decidedly desi flavor.

However, none of this has ever enticed me to stay there for more than a few months. I was born and raised in India where I had a great time growing up there, but I followed my heart when flew all the way to America. You get the point. Trying not to sound rude, I want to see America and love to get out of my comfort zone to explore other cultures. It’s probably like you trying to watch people while visiting a zoo. No one wants to. Soon after that, I started my job hunt in hope of finding a new place to live. Not long after that, I have received a new job offer from one of the cities which is geographically the Edison of the West. Bellevue!

The first thing that came to my mind was the exciting long drive. I know I had several options when I have to move from one state to another especially with 1000s of miles apart, but I chose to hit the road – driving myself, coast to coast.

Getting the directions from the Google maps for the fastest route meant driving on just one road for  95% of the time. Not bad and pretty much seemed a duck soup for me. At the same time, later that night, some thoughts started circling my mind and had a bad feeling about the entire driving tingle. Probably like I was underrating the extremity of this drive that has a potential to end up as one of the crazy blunders that I could ever make in my life if things go south (that pun!). Considering the length of the travel couple that with wild driving that is usually expected from a Beemer driver this might quickly turn out to be deadly. I did change my mind looking for transporters who can ship my car so I can fly. But again, my geocentric inner trait (supposedly the phrase describing an interest in Geography) combined with a long awaited passion for photographing the countryside reignited my interest to overcome all the fears and was up for this drive instantly. That’s it. I made sure I have a reliable transport and started to embark on a new expedition.

Some quick facts about the trip.

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Total length: 3000 miles (Approx.)

Trip duration: 5 Days and 4 nights (10/16 to 10/20)

Expected drive hours: 44 hrs

Numbers of states passing by: 11

Sleep-over stops:  4

Chicago, IL – Minneapolis, MN – Grand Forks, ND – Bozeman, MT

I am lucky. I had friends to crash for the night in 3 of the 4 sleep-over stops I was passing by. One of many great advantages of having friends spread out geographically. And not so surprisingly there aren’t anyone once I cross ND, so I had to book a nice little hotel to crash in for that night in Bozeman – a college town for Montana State University.

To make this trip the most memorable, I have set some rules for the trip,

  1. No driving in the night. – Apart from the safety perspective, I thought this will defeat the purpose of the leisure trip.
  2. Stop at as many places as possible and capture the beautiful countryside.
  3. Reach destination by Midnight Sunday (10/21) – So I can join the job on the morning of the 22nd.
  4. If bored and tired, call friends and family.
  5. Have fun

More details will be updated soon…

All my photos are posted and can be found here. NJ to WA Solo Road Trip Photos

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Underwater Hockey

When I first moved into Minneapolis, I thought I should start playing some indoor sports due to the extreme winters in the northern city. While I was searching I stumbled upon this weird yet craziest sport, called Underwater Hockey. I have heard of Underwater and Hockey but never together 🙂

So thought I should give it a try. And not just try I realized quickly that I too have some strengths to compete in this game. As a kid I always played and practiced this one little game when I was bored. To hold on my breadth as long as I can. Over time I started to hold my breadth longer and longer. I never thought I would put that to work anytime in my life until I saw this sport. UWH, as this sport is famously called, doesn’t allow us to take breadth while playing.  We hold our breadth, jump in to play and score goals under water. No O2 masks. The longer you stay under water the more are the chances of you scoring a goal.

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Thats me holding the hockey stick and a pink puck on the surface.

If you are still struggling to imagine what Underwater Hockey is, imagine a hockey team. Then, take away the players’ helmets and padding. Outfit them in snorkels and Speedos. Trade in their ice skates for flippers.  Then, throw them into a swimming pool with short sticks and a heavy lead puck. There you have it: underwater hockey.  It’s a sport that began in England in the 1950s.

It was originally called Octopush. The story is a group of divers invented it to stay in shape in the off-season. Now, underwater hockey is an international sport with thousands of players worldwide. The goal of the game is similar to ice hockey. Players use sticks to push the puck along a flat surface – in this case the bottom of a pool, and try to shoot it into their opponent’s goal.

Credit Courtesy of Pat Carboneau
Underwater hockey gear. The puck is lead with a synthetic coating. The hockey stick (white) looks like a large butter knife.

This little video below from CBS should cover it all.

Here is the latest CNN report regarding the gaining popularity of the sport in the United States.

The craziest sport you’ll never see

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Video: Alpine Valley Skiing, Wisconsin

After living in the usual tropical and hot southern part for most of my life (both in India and USA), its not so surprising that I never thought of skiing. Though it snows a couple of times in Alabama  it hardly ever stayed a day or two and thinking of skiing is definitely a far cry if not anything else. Anyway, after moving up to the midwest, I have enjoyed the snow and did not take much time to clamp up the skis to my feet. 

So thought to capture as much as I can to show you guys what it is all about, esp to my friends in far south.

I called some of my close friends to see if they wanna go out to ski with me, when I flew to Chicago to pick up my car. Alpine Valley in Wisconsin seems interesting for its variety of trails and the rates. We got the lift tickets for under 40 bucks and ski rental around 25 which is not bad at all. I was lucky that I have my GoPro  handy to take the shots for this video. I am fairly happy with the way how the video turned except that I could have got some more day shots.

We are mostly on the medium trails and thought should work on the the tougher ones next time.

Enjoy the video.

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Chasing a dream with Hang Gliding

I was always told to believe as a kid,  that the  dreams that flash in the early hour sleep would come true some day. And as kid, I always waited for that day to experience my dream come true. Usually dreams vary, pop up random or sometimes depend on the situation you were in the night before you went to bed. But for some reason I often dreamt of flying and this feeling was always an exhilarating, joyful, and liberating experience because flying dreams are not like the other mundane dreams. It makes you feel like a super human for the night and now think about dawning a super human every single night. That’s me 🙂

This dream always motivated me to fly high and turned me into an ardent lover for anything that’s in air. I know it sounds weird but it is what it is

It was July 4th weekend. One of my close friends  flew here from Arizona for the long weekend to see me. We along with my roommate wanted to do something adventurous and then finalized on Hang Gliding over Wind Surfing, Paragliding, Clff Diving, and Wakeboarding..Hell yea, out of all those!!

For those who are new to Hang Gliding..Here is a piece from Wikipedia

Hang gliding is an air sport in which a pilot flies a light and non-motorized foot-launch aircraft called a hang glider that is of a delta wing design. Most modern hang gliders are made of an aluminium alloy or composite-framed fabric (“sailing material derived from parachute fabric”) wing.

We chose Hangar3, which offers Hang Gliding tandem flights for general public. They are located in Middletown, NY. A couple of hours from my place.

http://www.hangar3.net/

I spent a lot of time researching about this sport online. The weather in Middletown was very good for hang gliding—clear skies with little wind overlooking a strikingly beautiful area. The weather was warm and the trees were turning beautiful fall colors. Despite the gorgeous scenery, seeing people hang gliding caused my heart to beat faster, not because I was scared but that is how much closer that I am to my dream. 

Then we were shown a video explaining the process and safety guidelines. Though nervous, I tried to stay calm.  Then an experienced pilot I guess in his early 40’s approached us and asked if we were ready. For beginners, hang glider was attached by a long rope to a small airplane (called an “ultralight”) that would ascend to between 2000 and 4000 feet. The airplane pilot would then disconnect the hang glider, and we would fly on our own—I hoped.

The pilot and I put on suits and then we both were tied to the support pole running across the glider. As we took off from the grassy field, I held on tightly to handles sewn onto the pilot’s suit.

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Yes I did it. Well almost!

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And that’s it! We were off into the sky tethered to the ultralight airplane for a few minutes till we reached like 2500 feet. The pilot then disconnected us and were literally flying on our own. Probably because of this and lack of a physical motor made hang gliding the most free form of flying I have ever experienced. For the first time, I smelled the clouds and touched them and experienced the birds eye view of our beautiful planet. But above all somewhere down in my heart I strongly believed that this is one of those things that takes me closer to my dream.

Find more photos here.

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Fight for Air: Climbed 180 Floors

I used to take stairs sometimes to my office which was on the 7th floor of a 32 storied skyscraper near Chicago while I was working for Redbox. It was so refreshing (though a little sweaty) to work after climbing partly due to the proud feeling that I carried through out the day. I started liking it and was able to convince a few other colleagues to join me for the climb.

One day I heard of a volunteer opportunity to climb the stairs for a cause, which to my surprise going to take place right in my building. The American Lung Association is a voluntary health organization whose mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. This is a unique fundraising event where teams and individual participants signup and climb the stairs. All the funds raised goes to provide life saving education, research and advocacy so as to beat lung disease. Check out the below link to find out a ‘Fight For Air Climb’ event near you.

http://www.fightforairclimb.org/

Back to my story.

Did I mention that I signed up for this? I did. Though I was sceptic about climbing anything close to 30 floors in the beginning I practiced a few weeks before I was ready to keep going up and up as long as I can. On the day of the event I had a light breakfast (basically Oats) at around 6 AM and reached the event by 8. There were close to a 100 people and lots and lots of energy. I started going slow aiming at completing at least 2 climbs with a total of 60 floors but for some reason I did not feel like stopping again. And guess what? I kept going until the time was up with a staggering 180 floors under by belt. That’s 30 floors by 6 times. I was surprised what my body can achieve when I need it the most, I was still in a mood to climb and wasn’t really feeling sore after an hour of climbing. Next time, I will start of a little fast and push my body to the limits. Next stop 240 floors.

Quick details about the Climb

Total floors climbed: 180

No. of Stairs: 2040 (Approx.)

Time: 56 Min 13 Sec

Not sure what else to write on here, probably photos will talk the rest of the story 🙂

FFAC Medal1 FFAC Medal2

Alright, here is the proof 😉

Climb Oakbrook Tower

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