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Sight: colorful homes, sparkling water in the fjord, electric cars getting charged, overcast skies.

Sound: ducks quacking, cars zooming, clicking of ski poles for skaters getting ready for the winter.

Smell: damp air, burnt coffee close to the coffee factory, sewage smell in a couple of spots.

Touch: cool air, light mist of rain.

Taste: bread and cheese at the end of my walk.

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I promised myself that I'd go snowshoeing this year. I really enjoyed trying it last year and wanted to go on a "real" snowshoeing trek. My friend John belongs to a hiking meet up group and invited me to go along on their snowshoeing trek a week ago. Their destination was Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove, a group of redwoods near the entrance in the Oakhurst/Coarsegold area. I knew the trek would be more strenuous than I could probably handle, but I felt like it was my last opportunity to fulfill my goal this winter, so I decided to go with John, Doug, and the group.

I was really glad I did. For one thing, I got to see scenery like this:

I also got to hang out with the always fun Doug and John.

Most importantly, I pushed my body to its limits and managed to snowshoe for 8 miles, half uphill and the last half, gloriously, downhill.

I was exhausted at the end . . . and yet the next day my body felt mostly fine. We can handle more than we think we can. We can do more than we anticipate. We are rewarded when we try new things and push through our fears and/or limitations.

Lesson learned.

For the last few days, I've done something totally out of character. [Insert your thoughts about what that might be here.]

[Pause.]

I've been to the gym twice--and today I took the plunge and enrolled as a member.

Over the last few months, I've been concerned about the 5 pounds I brought back with me from Norway. I've lost it a couple of times only to gain it back, in spite of all my good intentions. I've also realized that I need to start lifting weights and doing more cardiovascular exercise, that this is something I should have been doing for years. Although I've loved my morning walks, during the winter it's more difficult for me to stay regular in my exercise routine, and walking just doesn't give me all the exercise I need.

So Friday, I met Toni and Bo at the gym. Toni has been a long-time gym rat--and she's been trying to get me to join her gym for years. While I was in Norway, she talked Bo into joining--and they've been working out regularly. Both of them are tiny and muscled. And they seem to really enjoy working out together.

First, we walked on the treadmill for about a half hour. I set my treadmill on an incline and I actually broke a sweat, something that rarely happens when I walk outside. After the treadmill, Toni and Bo had me lift weights. Toni is an expert on this stuff--she knows which machines work which muscles, and she did a great job of estimating how much weight I could handle as a beginner. And Bo has learned a lot over the years and would fill in when Toni was doing her own exercise. In fact, Bo often told me I needed to lift higher or less or lean back or otherwise perfect my position in order to maximize the effects. It felt really good to be working my muscles--and I loved having experts nearby to tell me what to do, how many repetitions, etc.

This morning, we did the same thing, but worked different muscle groups. It was harder for me today, since I hadn't really eaten anything substantial before I went. But I still really enjoyed the experience--and the anticipation of becoming more toned and fit at the same time that I'm increasing my bone density. Right now, I feel pleasantly aware of my muscles.

I like the idea of combining exercise with hanging out with two friends who I don't see enough. And I also ran into Asao who is training for a competition and Tobey, who is the principal of the school where my friends Esther and Kristie work (Tobey's wife just became co-owner of the gym). And I met an English teacher from San Joaquin Memorial (a local Catholic school).

So . . . I guess I'm going to become a gym rat.