Thanksgiving 2020

November 26, 2020

Lake McDonald, MT Thanksgiving


 I asked myself as I looked in the mirror. I was all set to go to outdoor Yoga, but I was feeling wonky and looked even worse. I took a short hike. It didn’t help. I cancelled Yoga. Am I having a mini-stroke, vital organ failure? (Hypochondriacs don’t mess around with the small stuff.) What is up?

I finally remembered when I’d seen that look on my face before. I was having an anxiety attack. It’s amazing how a human can plow along until Life says, “Halt, we need to stop and debrief.”

 So I did.

I stopped everything and put on some music of the heart. I took a soothing lavender bath with humidified air of the same scent and reviewed this year of my life, reflecting on it all.

I REALIZED THAT THIS YEAR HAS BEEN off the charts crazy, unlike any year I have ever experienced and in spades. My heart was breaking for the kiddos, their schools and teacher’s challenges;  the jobs and business’s struggling or lost, sickness and even death.

These things had lodged in my heart; I felt them without even recognizing it.

I came to grips with the fact that all these things, the pain, grief, disappointments and heartaches, must be given time to be deeply considered and processed; it’s not in their nature to be simply brushed aside.

The realization of this being the first ever Holiday Season the Leichtfuss Clan will not gather together hit me square between the eyes. I cried which I don’t do often enough. This is the stuff of the “new reality” I am, we all, are trying to adjust to.

I took inventory. OK, I can’t see all my family and friends, but I have them. They may not be in the room with me, but I can connect with them.

 I had a huge “Ah Ha” moment. It was time to create a different kind of Holiday Season for 2020 and let go of what likely would not be. I needed to go with it and see where it would take me.

I began by calling an old friend that just lost his wife, another whose adult child is struggling, then a sibling that had also just lost his wife. Mostly I listened. I could tell it was important, it met a deep need of connection.

Today I began living this very new and exceptionally different Holiday Season.

Amidst this chaos of crazy, the anxiety I had not realized was in me left. It won’t be the usual Holiday Season, but it will be another new adventure. And though different, I’m glad to have one more.




November 2, 2020

FINLAND IN AUGUST IS MAGICAL. The summer sun is alive; its rays sparkle and emit an energy I’ve never experienced before.  The very air you breathe seems golden, suffused with aliveness. Mixed together, the sun and air is a heady cocktail, a warm embrace, nurturing, filled with life, giving you such a sense of well being it’s almost euphoric.

No wonder most of the country takes the entire month of August off. It’s as if the sun knows the very long, dark winter will be here before it’s wanted and the warmth and tranquility of the summer sun is giving strength to each person so they will make it through.

And here I was, out in a countryside bursting with greens and blues, filled with forests, flowers, meadows, lakes and streams. I stayed at a university whose lawns were littered with tiny tear drop trailers and families camping in the open everywhere, an August tradition.

I arrived with a handful of women, credentialed women, invited to speak at a conference. I wondered how I ever got asked to come along. Everyone had numerous letters after their names, degrees of all types. All I had was a PHT, Putting Hubby Through, I received when Dan graduated from USC. Being invited on this trip was like having Alex Honnold ask you to go climbing with him. Highly unlikely! But I’d been asked and who was I to argue—I was in Finland!

The purpose of the conference was to join together, to encourage one another in our hopes and dreams and bring fresh perspective to our lives. I was to speak at the opening presentation on Friday evening. I struggled to know what to say. I had no field of expertise to fall back on.

Then I remembered what has been my “bumper sticker” phrase throughout much of my life…Not Quitting Is Winning. Never quit going after your hopes and dreams. If you quit you have no opportunity to win. So that’s what I shared.

The next morning I was shocked and surprised when a number of the Finnish women came up to me with small boxes of candy with the word Sisu on them.

They were excited and smiling as the interpreter explained that the Finnish people have a national slogan very similar to the one I had talked about the night before. It is summed up in one word, Sisu, meaning extreme perseverance and dignity in the face of adversity. In Finnish it literally means guts or intestines. It’s the special thing that is reserved for especially challenging times. When we come to the end of our preconceived capacities, Sisu  kicks in.

They told me of the greatly outnumbered Finnish Troops fighting the Soviets in the Winter War of 1939-1940, saving Finland. And I thought of the Finnish mountaineer Veikka Gustafsson, famous for his many difficult and courageous alpine ascents.

We became friends that week, these women and I. And when we ran into each other on the campus we would laugh and grin and yell out, Sisu!

Far apart in miles and cultures, we discovered and shared what we had in common. We talked about how there will likely be times in our lives when we need to draw on Sisu.  Times when there is no one around to encourage us. Times when we need simple, outside-the-box perseverance, and one-step-at-a-time courage. Sisu  courage.

When my husband, Dan, went to heaven it was a time for that Sisu  courage. My mantra became: “A day at a time, a step at a time, with Peace, Patience and Perseverance.”

That week in Finland we strengthened the core foundation of our lives. We established a Sisu  base we could build on for the rest of life—a foundation a person could draw on in the tough times… like this year of 2020.

Perhaps the magic of that summer sun was at work in other ways that August. For the sun knows about the long, dark times and what it takes to walk through them.


October 19, 2020

The Western Front, Tuolumne Meadows

It was indeed a Dr. Seuss kinda’ day, magical and unpredictable. And I, like one of Seuss’s characters, found myself in a place I’d never planned to be…the base of a granite cliff in Tuolumne Meadows, the upper regions of Yosemite.

 I was with kids, grandkids, and their friends who were all good climbers. We were at a rock formation called The Western Front, elevation 8,444, which was a long slab of granite about 80 feet high with a half dozen routes on it and we had come to climb them. Well, they were sure they were climbing; I was still on the edge of undecided. I longed for adventure, but the big challenge for me was to take that first, scary step into it.

 Green Eggs and Ham was the first route we would attempt. The 5.9 rating intimidated me a bit and I thought perhaps I could fade into oblivion and play with the kids while the real climbers took off on the rock. How could I politely tell everyone I wasn’t too crazy about Green Eggs and Ham?

Much to my shock they all suggested I be the first one up the rock. “Seriously? What are you thinking? Never been here, never done this.” But they were relentless in a nice way.  I put on my harness, shoes and chalk bag, and then took a hard look at the rock.

This would be one of my first climbs ever and my first on Tuolumne granite, famous for its lack of features.  I looked again at the rock and the rock stared back. It looked pretty blank to this new climber. Where exactly would I find any purchase at all for my fingers and feet? I remembered a Joshua Tree climber that took me on my first 3 pitch climb. His only instructions were, “Trust your feet and keep moving.”

With that in mind I reached up for a small nub, pulled up and found a place for my feet. What was so amazing to me was how something the size of a coin could support your entire body. The answer was the Seuss-like qualities of friction and the sticky soles of my climbing shoes.

 I had some pretty anxious moments wondering just how I would find my way up the 80 feet to the top, that is, if I could even get a few feet off the ground. Each climb has a route up it and I had no idea what this one’s was. I hadn’t really thought I would climb first, so I didn’t look at the Topo, not that it would have meant anything.

 Just when I thought the rock was blank with no place to put my feet or cling with my fingertips another nub would appear, seemingly out of nowhere. My fan club below kept cheering me on. “You can do it Grandma,” and then the other little urchins would cheer. It’s amazing what encouragement can do when you attempt something way beyond your comfort zone. I made a mental note about that for future use.

So tempted to pause and think too much, I worked hard to keep moving and not get stuck on the face and use up all my energy. As I made my way up the rock I thought, “Surely that tiny piece of granite won’t hold me,” but amazingly it did! Wow! Then it happened…

 I got to the top!

And I’d figured it out with no help from a book or advice from below, and done it without falling once. What a tremendous feeling of exhilaration and joy of accomplishment.

What I found out that day, under the beautiful blue Sierra sky, is you just never know what you can do or what might happen when you take the first step into adventure.


October 8, 2020

I’m So Excited to introduce all you guys to a super special friend, and no, I’m not crazy. It’s a tree.

Lynne and Friend, I’m on the left.

When we first met, it was love at first sight. Trekking up to its base I sensed something significant. Hiking around it, I found evidence of hundreds of years of others who, along with me, have shared the life of this vast canopy.

I can’t quite put into words why I love this tree so much.  I’m curious, have any of you experienced something similar?

Today I was shocked to discover my friend is nearing the end of its long existence. I’m grieving but rejoicing too. My mind is at odds with these two feelings together in the same room.

I’m so, so sad that I have not been able to know my tree longer, yet rejoicing the years it has lived and all the creatures and peoples who have enjoyed its gracious, dignified presence on this planet.

 When I come up close and sit on the huge root system or try and climb up on its trunk and some of the fallen limbs I sense something big. Big spirited and big hearted, providing and nurturing, elegant in age and brokenness.

I feel connection and creation and the process of life and living life. I feel the march of the peoples through the decades.

There is bigness in creation that transcends the folly and pettiness of mankind.

When I leave the highway and take to the remote path, all this Tree represents is there to be discovered – or, perhaps, rediscovered.


September 25, 2020

I’d never been up Highway 120, the Tioga Pass Road, which leads into Yosemite National Park from the Eastside of the Sierra.


 Knowing my irrational fear of heights, Dan didn’t warn me ahead of time about things that would terrify.  He knew from past adventures it gave my brain too much to think about. Information led to thoughts, thoughts to terrors and terrors to horrible fantasies created by a fear filled mind.

 It was summer and the drive from Southern California to our Tuolumne destination had been long and hot. It was a relief to be at higher elevations. We turned off 395 onto 120 and started up what looked to me like a hill with some mountains in the background

At first the road, built who knows when, led past beautiful meadows and a trickle of a stream but I was getting a little nervous. It was a narrow road and had begun a winding, fairly steep ascent. There were no guard rails but thankfully we were on the mountain side so I knew it would be really hard to fall off the road. I didn’t look at the other side of the road. Well, actually there was nothing to see but a super steep drop-off.

The sweat started on my forehead, and the familiar hollow, sick feeling filled my gut. We began to drive past what is called the blue slide area. On our side of the road there was nothing but huge boulders and rocks perched like feathers in air, barely clinging to the straight up, steep, dirt mountainside rising high above us.

The almost nonexistent shoulder along the roadside was strewn with rocks of all sizes giving me the very real impression they had moments ago slid and fallen down there. A scattering of small rocks was on the road itself. I watched one huge rock in particular. I thought I saw it move. The other side of the road was nothing but a sheer drop for thousands of feet to the valley below.

 I freaked, my brain went wild with possibilities – none good.

I’d had enough. I crawled as far under the dash board as I could and cowering, begged Dan to turn around and get us out of there. Terror is not pretty.

As usual, Dan didn’t listen and minutes later we were at the top of the pass.

I’d lived.

Now, years later, I was alone on my first long road trip after Dan’s death.  I was driving from San Diego to Tuolumne to meet some friends and rock climb. In my excitement I’d forgotten about Tioga Pass Road. But here it was.  I was starting up the pass in my rather huge Chevy Van and the road was getting increasingly steeper.

 When you’re the driver with no one else around, hiding under the dash is not an option.  When I reached the blue slide area, something magical happened. I realized I was a different person.

 My life changed since my first journey up Tioga Pass with Dan. I learned to rock climb and to go places on my own, disowning forever two of my biggest irrational fears.

 I didn’t know it that day, but this wonderful bit of highway would soon become a much loved and very familiar friend. The road that terrified became a path to freedom.

I thought about the road less traveled. It was mine now.

“And I, I took the one less traveled by,

         And that has made all the difference.”         Robert Frost

Yurts and Dreams

September 18, 2020


Dan died in 2007. The economy in the U.S. took a huge dive. My financial life was like “The Perfect Storm, nearly everything that could go wrong did. I was 62.

I was beginning to find a niche in the rock climbing community, a close knit, wild and crazy, fun group of people often referred to as “the campfire.”  But I also needed to work.

I’d heard that Tioga Pass Resort, located just two miles from the Eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, was a hangout for climbers from all around the world. It was a small, very rustic resort consisting of 10 cabins, a café and a store, with an equally small staff.  I wanted to work there in the worst way but seriously, I wasn’t the 20 something crowd that most hired for work at 9,950 feet in a forest surrounded by lakes and mountain peaks.

A good friend in Joshua Tree, California, was hosting a fundraiser for a climber that had a rare medical condition. I offered to come a day early and help cook and set up. That evening I met a gal who would be instrumental in my life change. She worked at what was commonly called TPR…Tioga Pass Resort, the resort of my dreams. We got to know each other and she encouraged me to come up the first of June and apply for a job. I did. I camped in the snow (a new experience) at Junction Campground right next door to the resort and when they opened their doors the next morning I walked in and applied.

“Sorry, we just hired someone and don’t need any more staff.” That was it! No, “Why don’t you try later,” nothing! I’d driven 9 hours, I was tired, I was cold, I was alone, and as I walked back to my tent I was very, very, discouraged. Oh, did I mention they had no phone or internet at TPR so all I could do was show up.

Two months later I was driving home from the Outdoor Retailers Event held in Salt Lake City every year when my cell phone rang. It was my friend from TPR. “Lynne, someone just quit today. If you show up tomorrow morning when we open I’m pretty sure you’ll have the job.” Scared, excited, apprehensive and super nervous I camped again next door to the resort. Thoughts raced through my brain all night long. “Do I even have a chance? Will jeans and a sweater be OK to wear?” Heck, I’d never interviewed for a job like this before. I didn’t even know what kind of job I was applying for!

The next morning as soon as the Lodge opened, once again I walked in the front door. Directly in front of me a young man was sitting at a rustic desk made of golden pine logs. Yikes! Help! I thought, then a deep breath.

 “Hi, I’m Lynne Leichtfuss and I would like to interview for the job opening. May I talk to the manager?”

“I’m the manager,” he said, “and you’re hired. Find your friend and she can show you around and find you a yurt to stay in.”

That’s it! I have the job! My new home would be a yurt. Hey, I’d never been in a yurt before, much less lived in one! And I had nothing with me but some clothes and a sleeping bag. But the dream was no longer a dream, it was the beginning of a new life which soon became filled with great adventures and opportunities to climb and make this wilderness my home. I realized then, for me, there would always be reasons to stop me from pursuing and realizing my dreams. But daring to push beyond them can be a huge part of the adventure.


To read why I created this Blog please click here:


My home for nearly 8 years.

The Solid El Cap of My Life

August 16, 2020

Each one of us has something we feel drawn to, something we love to do. Since I was a small child I loved to write stories. In Junior College I enrolled in a creative writing class and our first assignment was to take a book we loved and create a screen play from it. I choose Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild.”

At the end of the semester my screen play was returned with this comment at the top. “Too Graphic, This will never be a movie”. I believed the teacher and didn’t return for the next semester. The movie came out in 2020.

The men that first climbed El Capitan also faced the negative comments of other people. No one had ever done what they were attempting to do. But they followed their dream. It took them at least 45 days of climbing over 18 months to finally accomplish it.

It was a wobbly course and though hard to ignore the naysayers, I followed my own dream and continued to write. I entered college and again signed up for a Creative Writing class and turned in my first piece with huge feelings of angst. It was returned a week later with a big red circle at the top of the page that enclosed a … what ??? … an A+ with the professor’s note, “Keep Writing.”

Time mixed with pain, taught me not to allow people to define me. What people think, good or bad, does not make up who Lynne is. The foundation of Lynne is made up of my own solid El Cap rock, Jesus, my best friend. He created me a unique individual with skills, hopes and dreams and with Him those hopes and dreams have and will continue to flourish.

Bless the Lord who is my immovable Rock.” Psalm 144


The Rock, El Capitan, Second largest in the World

December 8, 2008

El Capitan, Yosemite Park, CA

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, CA

50th Anniversary of the Original Ascent of El Capitan

November 14, 2008

Fifty Years ago a team of 9 climbed El Cap over a 47 day period. Today a two man team, Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama, climbed this incredible rock located in Yosemite Park, CA in a little over 2 hours. Amazing.

How like life. Sometimes your route is hard and long and perhaps seems not even doable.

Other times we fly up the tough spots.

No matter, climb the rock, easy or hard, each day is a gift, don’t squander it. And don’t forget to use the Topo. Cheers, Lynne