Category Archives: DESTINATIONS

Sri Lanka’s Key to Happiness

The key to happiness.

Isn’t that what we all seem to strive for in life? After all, it is one of USA’s unalienable rights according to our constitution.

new study published by The Journal of Experimental Psychology evaluated the effect of what ‘pursuing happiness’ had on 4 different cultures: USA, Germany, Russia, and East Asia;  the results were quite fascinating!

  • America- led to less subjective well being
  • Germans- no real effect on well being
  • Russia and East Asia- led to greater sense of well being

How could one of the world’s richest, most successful nations be the poorest in its pursuit for happiness? Or, on the contrary, how can a developing nation be the most successful in its endeavor?

alking with a village elder
Learning life lessons from a village elder.

It seems it is all a matter of perspective.

While traveling through Sri Lanka, it was apparent the results of the study were valid.  Even in the poorest of villages the children were laughing and running up to greet us, women chatted and offered their local fruit for us to try, and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face even though their way of living was considered harsher than many would tolerate.

So why were they so happy even with the American’s version of ‘nothing’?

While exploring the foothills of Knuckles Mountain Range, I was lucky enough to have a village elder as a guide during my stay.  Walking with our 67 year old guide (don’t let the number fool you, I could barely keep up) and blissfully listening as he explained various purposes of the various plant parts he harvested, cut or crushed;  I couldn’t have been more in awe.

He excitedly pointed out numerous herbaceous species that could heal headaches, be added to ‘spice up’ traditional culinary cuisines, or induce a nasty rash if touched.  As we passed modest homes made of crumbling concrete and stone, he cheerfully chatted to each neighbor like they were family.

One could tell he was genuinely happy with life.  walking in village

Knowing I would not find a better candidate for my question, I decided to ask my dogmatic guide why the people of Sri Lanka seemed so happy.  He smiled once again and told me he had everything he could desire.  The things he was most proud of boiled down to these 3 things:

  • Purpose with Contribution
  • Social Support
  • Connection with Nature

We rested for a few second as he sat on a rotting log and pulled off a leech from his bare foot,  continuing to explain.

Purpose with Contribution

As a younger man, my guide worked in the tea plantation to earn a living like most of the villagers, but he truly enjoyed his side job as a brick layer.  While some would see it as just hard labor, he prided himself in making building for others to call a home, schools for children to create a better future in, and temples for his village to find serenity.

Social Support

Although I have seen many acts of ‘togetherness’ in the US, nothing seemed to measure up to the unity I saw within the villages I visited during my trip.  Neighbors helped harvest food for each other. Families united when building a new home or church.  Helping others and ‘paying it forward’ was not a past time, it was a way of life.

Have you ever found yourself getting a bit depressed when few people have ‘liked’ you picture on FB or IG?  Or maybe the opposite, felt a bit proud when your post gets flooded with smiley faces and thumbs up images?

Although we are networking, it seems we are not genuinely connecting with others in a way that is beneficial.  An article published by Huffington post looked into benefits  of volunteering and helping others, in particular, happiness.  It is quite the interesting read.

 Connecting with Nature

I am sure we have all heard the saying, “A little fresh air is good for everyone”, but what about the benefits of a true ‘connection’ with Nature.  When I asked the village elder why he felt this relationship was important, he said something I will never forget:

“When I am hungry, I know what plants will fill my belly or which ones make me sick.  When I am ill, I know which plants will heal me.  When I am cold, I know how to build a shelter to keep me warm. Do you think most people that buy their food in packages could do that ?  Be lucky enough to know the land that well?”

He looked me in the eye and shadow of sadness seemed to cloud over.

“Although times are changing, we once used to be the Jungle’s (Nature) protector.  It provided Life and, in return, we took only what we needed and and never tried to leave a wound that couldn’t be healed. ”

 

As this wise man said, times are changing.  With so much going on in the world, it may seem a bit naive to think that playing in the woods and community service could be a cure.

That is not what I am trying to convey.   I am not trying to share my resolution for world peace, but personal happiness.  We only have one life.  Let’s not scale our happiness based on the salary we make or the response we get on social media.

 

Step outside and challenge yourself.  
  • Challenge yourself to learn something new about the natural world around you.
  • Challenge yourself to one random act kindness a day.
  • Challenge yourself to volunteer your time without expecting anything in return.  

The benefits will far exceed the work.  I promise.

What is your favorite way of connecting with nature?  Please leave  a comment.

 

Mt. Baldy, Bighorns, and leaving Breathless

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As I looked down at my phone and read yet another article highlighting the successful rescue mission of more fallen hikers from the treacherous trails of Mt. Baldy, I no longer knew if the knot in my stomach was excitement or that ‘little voice’ that is supposed warn you when you are jumping into something that is way over your head.

According to the ranger station, conditions were clear and the main trail to the summit of Mt. Baldy was open. . . However, with 3 deaths and over two dozen rescues in the last month alone, all precautions were to be taken seriously.

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Some of my essentials: Murrell boots, Patagonia jacket, fixed blade by Rustick Knives, shelter and supplies kits by VSSL, first aid kit, trekking poles, camera equipment. . . And, for this trip, crampons and an ice axe. Say, what??

A week prior, Brady Pesola, co-founder of San diego School of Survival , called and asked if I would like to be an extra set of watchful eyes (and possibly a second camera) for a project he was working on.  Having hiked with Pesola before, I knew the survival skills gained would be invaluable and the view would be amazing.  So when you mentioned the location, I was immediately intrigued. . .

Ms. Mallory Adventures, Mt. Baldy, Mallory Lindsay
All bundled up and ready to go.

 

History

Mount Baldy is the most common named used when describing Mount San Antonio, the tallest mountain in the San Gabriel Mountain range at 10,064 ft (3067.5 m) above sea level,  located in the Angeles National Forest.  So why did my senses perk when I heard this name come from the other end of the line? Not only is this one of the most spectacular day hikes known, but also home to some of the most stunning flora and fauna in SoCal.

An ecological community known as yellow pine forest: lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, white fir, and sugar pine blankets the lower elevation areas.

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Although it is not the tallest peak in Southern California, it is one of the most poplar and its snow capped peak can be seen at quite a distance on a clear day.

Meanwhile, limber pine is seen at higher elevations mingled with the shrublike chaparral and oak savannah. As you climb further, the yellow pine forest community gives way to a pure lodgepole forest looks like something derived from the Hansel and Gretel fairytale.

Although the flora is a beauty all on its own and I already have plans to return for Spring’s aromatic bouquet of wildflowers, one can’t enjoy Nature without being captivated by her creatures.

For me, Mount Baldy meant more than flexing my hiking skills.  It meant gaining the opportunity to see a species so elusive and well adapted for inhospitable environments that it earned itself a notable place in the culture and mythology of Native Americans. . .

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photographer unknown

The Climb 

As an avid hiker, I feel like I am in fairly good shape. . . or at least I thought I was until I began this hike. The fun immediately starts with an almost 70% grade (house stairs are 60%, so add a little more steepness plus unstable footing and you have the ultimate stairmaster haha).

Ms. Mallory Adventures. Trekking poles
The use of trekking poles and switchbacks, the motion of ‘zigzagging’ the width of the trail, helped make the climb a bit less exhausting.

 

The crampons we brought were put to good use. Although the incline was much more tolerable when we reached the Devil’s Backbone, the 18 inch path and icy patches required precision stepping.

Devilsbackbone, Mt. Baldy, Ms. Mallory Adventures
It took constant mental reminders to maintain focus on my footing and not get distracted by the breathtaking view.

After such a hard climb, I could see where so many hikers could let down their guard on this dangerous, but beautiful, trail.  It took constant mental reminders to maintain focus on my footing and not get distracted by the breathtaking view.

From the constant thawing and refreezing, the ice had become too thick and slick for our naked boots; however, once we secured our crampons, they  bit in and gave us the traction we needed to continue.

 

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Crampons are ‘slip on’ spikes that add more traction when walking on ice or snow.

 

My hope of seeing the elusive creature that I had packed my heavy, long lens for began to wane.  As we descended from the peak, I knew it would require even more focus on my footwork than on the way up.  The chances of spotting a big horn sheep would be slim.

Then, I saw it!!  The perfectly sculpted body of an animal made for a terrain deemed too inhospitable for most. . .

The Desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni)

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Photo credit: unknown

Bighorn sheep get their name from the large, beautiful curved horns of the males, known as rams. The females, known as ewes, have smaller horns which do not have as much curvature. Due to their unique concave elastic hooves, bighorn are able to climb the steep, rocky terrain of the desert mountains with speed and agility. They rely on their keen eyesight to detect potential predators, such as mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats, and they use their climbing ability to escape.

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Habitat fragmentation, disease such as pneumonia contracted from domestic livestock, and lack of forage due to our state’s record drought are some of the many factors threatening the survival of the bighorn. Image: Ms. Mallory Adventures

The San Gabriel Mountains once held the largest desert bighorn sheep population in the state of California, with close to 800 individuals in good years. San Gabriel Mountain’s sheep numbers crashed during the 1980s due to disease from domestic livestock and habitat loss but have gained again in recent years with increased protection of the species and habitat, with an estimated 400 sheep now inhabiting the range.

If you are in the area and would like to work with these impressive animals, a sheep count is conducted every year by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep.  The count relies on volunteers to help biologists spot and record wild bighorns in one of America’s most heavily urbanized regions. The event takes place early March each year.  Click here for more details.

 

With little time left to reach the summit, my photo op had to be brief.  Sadly I was not able to witness a mature ram, but the ewes gave me enough to guarantee a return visit.

Gaining Altitude

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It was an eerie feeling as we reached 9,000 ft (2750 m) and the trees became krummholzed (German: krumm, “crooked, bent, twisted” and Holz, “wood”); their gnarled forms telling the tales of life on the merciless peak.

For some reason I am most comfortable and secure when surrounded by trees, much like a child with their favorite blanket.  So it was quite the surreal moment when we lost the protection of our wooden shield and wind bit at our nose.

By 9,500 ft (2900 m), we reached the barren subalpine zone where only ice and stone kept you company.

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The unforested subalpine terrain offered little, if any, protection from the sun or wind. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

We finally made it to the last stretch before we reached the peak.  Whether the others felt as beat as I did, they did a much better job at hiding it.

My thighs and calves screamed from being overexerted, and my pack felt five times heavier than we started.  With the ice getting thicker and the wind blowing harder, the fear of slipping became that much more of a reality.

 

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Insane last haul up the ridge to the peak. Image by Ms. Mallory

I knew I was prepared, had the knowledge, and a great team alongside me; but I felt like I could not take another step.  I was thoroughly exhausted and tried to think of every excuse why I shouldn’t take on this last challenge and complete the summit.

I had come this far.  That stood for something, right?

It is okay to just sit out the rest and watch the others make it to the top. I will be here to support them when they come down.

I accomplished two of my goals: help take pictures for my friend’s project and see a bighorn. 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.

Granted, sometimes sitting out may be the best option, but it should never be because something is ‘too hard’ or inconvenient.  As mentioned numerous times before, I had a great team and with a small rest and some words of encouragement we made our way up the last half mile along the ridge to the peak.

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Even though I was the last to step onto the summit, I couldn’t have been more proud (and grateful going ‘up’ was finally over, haha).  It was a great learning lesson that day.

Not only about preparing oneself for a potentially dangerous outing, but about the many components encountered when accomplishing a goal.  The many challenges.  The times when settling seems like the best route.  The importance of a support system.  The true definition of hard work.  And most of all, patience, something I struggle with daily lol.

Today I am living my dream of sharing my passion for the outdoors,conservation, and learning new things; but it has taken me over  a decade to get this far and it is still a daily struggle to move forward.

If you have a goal, dream, or aspiration . .  don’t give up.  Each day ask yourself what can you do to take one step closer to making it a reality.  Whether your steps are big or small, as long as they are in the direction of making it to the top, you will get there one day.

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Look up ecstatic in the dictionary and you will find this goofy grin.

What is your passion?  

Please comment below.  I love reading the comments and will always reply.

 

Thank you everyone for reading my blogs!  Please help me spread the word about the great outdoors by sharing this on your favorite social media page.

 

I also invite you to join me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for more adventures.

 

Until next time, this is Ms. Mallory inviting you to . . .

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A Beginner’s Guide to US National Parks:Exploring 100 years of Stewardship

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My first view of the majestic Grand Canyon.

 

With it being the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service, I decided this was going to be the year I explore the amazing beauty parks and wildlife reserves have to offer.  From sweltering swamps to pristine peaks, I invite you to join me as I go through the trials and tribulations as an amateur explorer and share the many lessons I learn as I venture to as many international, national, regional, state and local parks as I can possibly fit in one year’s time.

 

It goes to say. . .How can you truly appreciate and want to protect something unless you can connect with it someway, right? So let’s STEP OUTSIDE & ADVENTURE. . ..

 

WHERE TO START?

Anywhere!  Just start. . .But just for convenience, here is a great Link to help you find a national site near you. You can also search your local state wildlife/forestry resources page and find even more locations to explore.

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Image taken for San Diego SOS while tagging along on a Land Navigation course.

A bit intimidated to go solo for your first venture?  There are plenty of volunteer opportunities and guided hikes that many parks offer. From quick guided walks to multiple day events, there is usually something that can be found for every taste.  I have had some great experiences with both of these options and have met some incredible friends in the mean time.  The social app,’Meetup,’ is also quite handy when wanting to find new places or meet new travel mates.

 

HOW MUCH IS IT?

ANNUAL-PASS-2016-for-web-200X125While many parks are free to enjoy, there are a few that do require a nominal admission fee.  With so many destinations planned, I opted for a National Park Annual Pass($88) and am already see in the perks.  The pass allows admission to over  2,000 federal recreation sites.
MILITARY-2016-for-web-200X125Also, I was happy to see that free passes are available to current U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and also, Reserve and National Guard members. . . .A small token of appreciation for the men and women who sacrifice so much.

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Seniors can get a lifetime pass for $10 at any of the recreation sites.

And. . . U.S. Fourth Graders get in FREE!!  What??  So cool.  This also 2015-4th-Grade-Pass-199x125includes homeschoolers and teachers.  To redeem, you must bring a paper version (no e-files like on phones are allowed) to a recreation
site. This wonderful program is sponsored by Every Kid in a Park program, just click here and follow the simple instructions.

 

They even have a fun newsletter with fun facts and games!

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HOW DO I PREPARE?

This is all going to depend on so many factors: How long you want to stay (day hike vs camping)?  What will be you difficulty level?  What type of terrain? What is the weather going to be like?

All of these questions are very important to know and prepare for when traveling in the elements.  In 2003, San Diego county was decimated by the Cedar Fire that consumed 280,278 acres (1,134.2 km2) 2,820 buildings (including 2,232 homes) and killed 15 people- including one firefighter- before being contained on November 3, making it the largest fire in recorded California history. This unfortunate event was prompted by a ‘simple’ signal fire created by a lost hunter.

With proper planning and research, you can prevent many ‘bad situations’ from happening.  A good friend and creator of San Diego School of Survival, Brady Pasola, provides a great list of things to keep on hand when doing a day hike. Some may think it is a bit overboard for a 3-4 hour hike, but I have found myself being grateful for “overpacking” a small hike a time or two.

A handy tool that I have fallen in love (due to its simplicity and convenience) is the VSSL Supplies Kit.  This handy, all in one kit has all the essentials you need for your outdoor adventure.  From fire to fishing, saw to safety, it has it all.  After taking this bad boy out and using every part of the kit; I highly recommend it to all levels, even kids (with parent supervision) could benefit tremendously from this product. Be sure to check back again for my review and how to’s on this fabulous product.

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Check out all those canisters filled with so many survival goodies. They also have other kits, too!

 

Okay, let’s start our adventure. . .

 

loweprojump**As many know, I do not do any of my traveling or conservation work with sponsorships or extra income. . . just saved pennies and the desire to share my passion for conservation.  Please help by liking and sharing posts with friends and family.  It helps me more than I can describe; not only does it help promote, but it does wonders for my morale. lol.

Social Media can be a great teaching platform, and with your help, I believe we can teach our future generations that importance of getting dirty and developing a love (instead of fear) for the great outdoors.**