<![CDATA[On December 7th, 2015 – I began a 10-week journey of self-love and optimization. If you’d like to learn about my rationale, goals, and plans for success – check out the original post Day 1: Choosing to Love Myself and Own My Life. If you’d like to follow my journey and/or get caught up on all previous posts, CLICK HERE to be taken to the Superhuman Project Page! Days 33-36: Friday, January 8th-Monday, January 11th. Death Valley is Mira’s favorite place in the world. (Her words) She’s been going there with her family basically since birth, a family tradition started by her grandfather decades ago. It’s their special corner of the world – and I can now understand why. Previous to this trip, when hearing “Death Valley”, I would picture a Roadrunner cartoon, steer skulls, vultures, and miles of endless desert. Oh, and scorching, uninhabitable heat. My preconceived notions were not accurate. (Funny how often that happens, right?) I’ve decided to condense these four days into one post for simplicity sake… and I’ll outline our mini-adventure. As mentioned in my previous post, Mira and I were tasked with cooking/providing 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts for 6 people. (Us, her parents, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend) We’d be cooking everything in our Instant Pot and bringing the Crock Pot along for back-up! Her parents would be bringing lunch snacks including salami, canned sardines, fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, and a few other things. We also brought along some Nick’s Sticks. We’d be hiking rather long distances both Saturday and Sunday, so optimal nutrition was at a premium. Quality food isn’t very accessible in the small old mining town of Beatty, Nevada, where we’d be staying – so turning into hotel gourmets was our only choice! Friday was mostly spent in our adventuremobile (what we call our new Honda CRV) – a little over 6 hours in total. We ate some Nick’s Sticks, nuts, pork rinds, and fruit from a stand at a gas station along the way. (Mexican-style with chili powder, salt, and lime all over it!) The night before, I had marinated some boneless, skinless chicken thighs for fajitas – so that would be dinner when we got there. The drive was very scenic, a lot of rolling hills, mountains, and then into desert – which was a nice flashback to our time living on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona for 6 months in 2014. We listened to an audio book titled “Big Magic” on the way there, which discusses ways to foster creativity and have a healthy relationship with our creative side. Not the best book I’ve ever listened to, but definitely some useful nuggets and inspiration! I try never to do long car rides without audio books – especially now that I rarely drive and used to listen to books every day in the car. [caption id="attachment_5875" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Adventuremobile on the way to Death Valley![/caption] We arrived around 5:30pm, and quickly set up our makeshift hotel “kitchen” in order to prepare the night’s dinner – fajitas! Mira’s family had flown from Oakland to Las Vegas and drove over (2 hours) in a big SUV, so they met us there. I hadn’t seen them since our wedding last September, so it was nice seeing everyone! [caption id="attachment_5877" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Hotel Kitchen Fajitas![/caption] The Instant Pot is a fantastic tool. I used the saute setting to cook the chicken, removed it, and then cooked sliced onions along with red and green bell peppers. Once this was all finished, I tossed in some tomatoes, mixed everything together – and fajitas we did have! (They were delicious) We did warm up some organic tortillas in the microwave, which was the first time I’d used one in at least 5 years. Gotta’ make due with what you’ve got! The next morning we woke up around 7am and I got to work preparing breakfast. I diced several sweet potatoes, along with some onion, red pepper, and garlic. Once everything was ready – I cooked up (in Instant Pot again) some spicy lamb sausage that I’d acquired at Whole Foods on Thursday. When the sausage was cooked, I removed it – adding the diced sweet potatoes and some ghee. When the potatoes were almost cooked through, I added the other veggies and garlic, along with some Meat & Potato spice blend from Primal Palate. Once this mixture was finished, I mixed the lamb sausage back in, and a delicious breakfast hash was ready! We paired this with some fruit (apple, pear, orange, banana) and were ready for our day! (Forgot to take pictures, sorry!) Today’s hike was at Fall Canyon, one of their favorite places in all of Death Valley, which I was about to discover was an absolutely massive park filled with dozens (maybe hundreds?) of canyons, hikes, etc… When first arriving in the park, I was stunned with the massive size of the valley and surrounding mountains. Not at all what I’d expected – it was breathtaking! The Fall Canyon hike took us 2.5 hours going up the canyon towards the now dry “falls”. We stopped for some lunch (salami, nuts, avocado, fruit, sardines, and rice chips). After we ate, Mira, her dad, myself, and her sister’s boyfriend climbed up a canyon wall to access the area above and beyond the falls. It was a little challenging, and I pulled a muscle in my leg/groin – but was definitely worth it! Amazing narrow canyon walls and more amazing views! [caption id="attachment_5878" align="aligncenter" width="169"] View from atop the old “falls”[/caption] I posted about a dozen photos from this hike on Facebook – so if you’d like to see them all, find me on there and check ’em out! The hike back took a little over an hour, so all in all, it was about 4.5-5 hours of hiking/climbing and I was pretty beat up by the time we got back to the hotel. (About an hour each way in the car) In the morning, we had thrown the ingredients for Stupid Easy Paleo’s Slow Cooker Thai Beef Stew into our Crock Pot. When we returned, our room smelled amazing! We quickly (11 minutes) cooked some rice in the Instant Pot, and dinner was ready! [caption id="attachment_5879" align="aligncenter" width="169"] Red Curry Beef Stew[/caption] We were all pretty beat (except for Mira, because she’s some kind of athletic freak – who did a kettlebell workout after we got back!), so it was an early bedtime. Definitely one of the best hot showers I’ve ever taken (seeing as we don’t really have hot water in our shower at home – luke warm at best), followed by some magnesium and extra turmeric complex! I woke up feeling great, except for the significantly tweaked groin muscle. (hip adductor) It was noticeably worse in the morning, as would be expected. Oh well… the show must go on! I got to work on breakfast right away, which today was an egg scramble with chicken breakfast sausage and fruit. I haven’t really been eating in the morning for a while, so that part was a little strange for me – but with the amount of energy being expended throughout the day, was definitely necessary! [caption id="attachment_5881" align="aligncenter" width="169"] Hotel Gourmet Breakfast![/caption] On our second day hiking in Death Valley, we chose a more elevated, scenic site that nobody had been to before – called Dante’s View. We were a little concerned about the cold (maybe 40ish degrees up there), wind at altitude (5,400 ft.), and visibility (was a little hazy in the morning). We almost abandoned this idea and chose another canyon hike (which I’m sure would have been fantastic), but decided to go ahead and check it out. Holy. Shit. I have been to a lot of beautiful places in my life. For that, I am very grateful. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, all over Arizona and New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Boundary Waters in Canada, Mexico, Aruba, and all over California – and I can say that this was the most stunning view I’ve ever seen anywhere. The pictures absolutely do not do this place justice, but I tried to capture as much of the beauty as I could. We hiked along a path on the ridge, 5,600 ft. above the valley floor below (which was over 200 feet below sea level), and reached the summit, where we decided to break for lunch. (Best lunch view ever.) For those who don’t know, I spent 3 summers skydiving (I believe 2003-2005) – and I love it. Being in the sky, among the clouds, flying through the air, is where I’ve felt more at home, more free, and more natural than anywhere else. This is the first time I’ve felt that feeling while attached to the ground. The 360 degree view was so incredible that I can’t really explain it, aside from staying that I wanted to pitch a tent and just stay up there indefinitely. The cold, wind, pulled muscle, or fatigue from the day before vanished, and it was just awesome in every way. The salt flats below looked like an expansive white ocean, reflecting the sunlight in a very unique way unlike anything I’d every seen before. If you’re into amazing places, please go here. [caption id="attachment_5882" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Miles and miles and miles of Death Valley.