My name is Diane Soini (was Diane DeVore). I was born in Santa Barbara and grew up in Goleta. I graduated from Dos Pueblos in 1983. I went to SBCC and UCSB and graduated with an AS in Geoscience Technology and a BA in Women's Studies. Other subjects I've studied were Film Studies and Graphic Design and a little Computer Programming.
I've had many different kinds of jobs:
- Flower stand (7.5 years)
- Asbestos testing and soil testing
- Flipping burgers at DJ's (Remember DJ's?)
- Residential rehab of the mentally ill
- Web designer/developer
- PCT Thru-hiker and semi-retired layabout
- Author of Piper's Flight and Adventure and Magic
- Listener to Whales
- Web developer at UCSB College of Engineering
I started hiking because a friend of mine was going to go to Nepal and she said I could come with her.
She frightened me with tales of steep trails in Nepal and the high altitude. So, I decided I'd better start hiking. Good thing I had a year to get in shape.
At the time I was, well, basically, a fat girl. I started hiking on Tunnel trail a couple of times a week, and on the days I didn't do that I would walk from my apartment downtown over the Micheltorena bridge to the Westside and up to the Mesa Coffee Companyabout 5 miles. I would take a backpack with me on Tunnel Trail some weekends to backpack up to my friend's cabin at the summit at Grahamm's Ranch. While there, I would read her books about Nepal and look at her singing bowl, silk painting and other things.
The cabin was pretty rustic and one night I locked myself out when I went to use the outhouse. It was drizzling and very cold. I really didn't want to hike all the way back down to Santa Barbara in my flip flops and long underwear, or sleep in the outhouse! Fortunately I picked the lock in the dark with a piece of wire I found.
Eventually I was hiking 4 days per week on Cold Springs Trail. Once I even hiked all the way up and over to Forbush Flat and beyond to Blue Canyon for a solo day hike before work. But that was too much.
My friend eventually had some hard times and tried to commit suicide. After that she moved to Seattle. I haven't heard from her since. (I heard several years later she finally succeeded committing suicide.) Her trip to Nepal was cancelled. I decided I would have to go by myself.
I kept walking every day. I lost over 30 pounds (sadly a great deal of that has come back after 10 years sitting behind a desk). I rode my bicycle up Gibraltar road nearly every day. I was buff! But I was getting pretty lonely hiking all alone. So I went on a Sierra Club hike.
Finally! People as crazy as me! People who enjoy being outdoors, who understand that it's just taking a walk and not some sort of bizarre thing to do. People who know how to have fun like a kid and laugh because hills are steep or the temperature is 99 degrees and for some reason it just seems really funny! People who can spend hours plotting and planning new routes to make, the crazier the better.
While hiking with the Sierra Club, I met a very nice man named Tony who also had a desire to see Nepal. Thanks to him, we went together. Here are my photos. Nepal is the most wonderful place in the world. It was an amazing adventure. I hiked to 18,200ft and saw Mt. Everest with my own eyes close enough to touch! I walked on the Khumbu glacier, which is part of Everest, and stood 2000ft higher than base camp. I know what that kind of altitutde feels like.
Things have really changed since I made that decision to go to Nepal.
One change: I have a new body. Not just a thinner one, but one in which I can feel confident of its abilities. I was a size 12-14 and now I'm a size 4-6. I'm not a dieter or a fitness junkie. I never excercise, refuse to count calories or miles, never drink sports drinks, and I don't even know what I weigh. I eat normal food and drink plain water. To me, being active is not about measuring out your daily dose of physical movement and balancing it out against your daily vitamines, daily calories, electrolytes or whatever. That's just like taking your medicine to me. It has to be fun or forget it. Stairmaster? No way! I'd rather walk uphill outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air.
The reason I made this web site was a little less profound, however. I built this thing from scratch myself with the hope that I could somehow get a decent job. Helping schizophrenics get their lives back together is very important work, but you can't live on it, especially in Santa Barbara. I went to college, graduated at the top of my major, highest honors, blah blah blah. But educating myself, and making the job transition was a much harder thing to do. It took me over two years.
I did get a good job, but I guess I like a challenge because I quit Web development and all the status and security that comes with it to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I hiked from the Mexican border to Mt. Shasta, coming shy of my goal to hike to Ashland, OR due to sore feet and forest fire wilderness closures. I wrote a book about my adventure.
The following summer, thinking a wilder adventure was in order, I set off out my front door, hiked across the Santa Ynez range, over to the Sespe, and all the way to Pyraimd Lake (getting a tad lost on the way). I joined the PCT near Lancaster, hiked to Lone Pine, then did a few other sections of the PCT I had missed the year before, then got on where I left off near Mt. Shasta and hiked all the way to Canada.
After that, it took a while, but I got another web dev job and I'm back in the work-a-day world once more, chipping away at the Continental Divide Trail here and there.
Maybe hiking won't be such a big part of your life as it is for me. Maybe you don't like power-hiking adventure hikes from hell like I do. But it is my hope that my web site will help someone out there get out and enjoy our backcountry. I also hope my site helps you not take hiking so seriously (it's just taking a walk after all), but still remember to bring enough water. Maybe you will find some new trails. Hopefully you'll take notice of the subtle, muted beauty of our wildlands, and in the experience of it all, reawaken a sense of childlike wonder and feel the connection we have with all the living things of the earth.
Please also share with the readers of this site the things you know. Everybody has a different perspective, and some people see things that I don't see. I've been told I don't always do justice to the beauty of these places!
About the Dragonfly
Way back in the browser war era, when this kind of thing was considered bleeding edge cool, I put this floating dragonfly on the site. Eventually I removed it. But I kept getting requests from people on the trails that they missed it. That is why it is here. You can turn it off by clicking on it. If you can catch it.