Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hiker Hunger

I remember the day my hiker hunger kicked in. It was the day after Mission Creek Canyon, the day before Big Bear.

I struggled up Mission Creek Canyon with no energy at all. I could barely make it. I couldn't figure out how it could feel so steep and look so level. At the end of the canyon it gets really steep as it goes up to Mission Creek Camp. I thought I would never make it.

The next day I was sitting by the side of the road casually snacking on one of my tiny little bags of dried fruit and nuts. I would normally ration one bag for the whole day. Before I knew it I had eaten the whole bag. I suddenly had more energy. Then I found bananas and mountain dew a little further on the trail. Now I felt great. I did my first 26 mile day. Duh! I need food! In Big Bear I really started eating.

In the Sierras I shrunk and shriveled up from starvation. At one point in the Sierras, because I didn't expect to do so few miles each day (I started doing 20-ish but then two passes a day was too much so had to cut back), I ran out of food and was rationing. A handful of nuts for lunch, diet Crystal Light for dinner. Oddly I wasn't really that hungry although I was very hungry, if that makes sense. I lost whatever was left. My breasts became empty sacks. I became an emotional wreck.

They say hikers need anywhere from 3000 to 10,000 calories on the trail. Closer to 3000 if you hike less than 10 miles a day. Closer to 10,000 if you're up to 30 or more. It's really strange to need so much food. But you learn soon the more you eat the farther you can go. In 2009 I was regularly hiking 30 miles a day. No way was I eating 10,000 calories, but I bet I was close. My typical day of food was:
  • Two trail bars, or 1/4 bag of fig newtons, or one bowl of dense cereal with powdered milk
  • 1 stack of Pepperidge Farm cookies (some have 2 stacks per bag and some have 3)
  • About 2 inches deep of hummus in my 1 liter pot with crackers to scoop it up
  • 1 King sized candy (M&Ms, Reeses Pieces, Candy Bar)
  • 1/3 box of Cheese-its, sometimes with a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter
  • At least one diet hydration drink and 2 Emergenc-C packets
  • Almost 1 liter of dense pasta with 1 packet of Alfredo cheese powder, 1-2 individually wrapped cheese sticks and maybe some dried veggies
  • 1 King sized candy or large candy (gummy bears, 1/2 giant Hershey bar, M&Ms, Reeses or Candy Bar) for dessert
I don't think that adds up to 10,000, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's over 5000. I can guess that some of the trail towns I was consuming close to 10,000 calories to make up for the deficit on the trail. The truly great thing about long distance hiking is that it's the only time in your life when it's not just guiltless but it's your grave responsibility, your duty, your job to eat all you can.

In 2009 my hiker hunger hit quickly within about 200 miles. I made sure to eat as soon as the hunger kicked in. I lost the padding from off-trail life, but otherwise I had no sunken cheeks, no shriveling.

I still get hungry easily but I'm getting better. The hunger has mostly subsided, but it comes back easily. I think I'm actually starting to lose the weight I gained since returning home again. Maybe I'll finally even back out to normal or reach a place where I can lose weight and be fit like a hiker without having to hike all day like a hiker. I can only hope.

Letter to someone on how to keep going

Someone asked me how to deal with emotions on the trail and how to keep going when the desire to quit comes over you. Since I had said that I got emotional quite often on the trail, I was contacted for advice.

I don't know if I have useful advice or not. I don't really consider myself too terribly emotional, but something about being on the trail I felt more of everything. Everything was so magnified. I would cry most often just because I finally had something good to eat or somebody was nice to me! So many times I would be blubbering over a plate of food in a restaurant. It was embarrassing.

I guess what helped was that I wasn't hanging around anybody, especially not 25 year old guys. The only person I had to prove anything to was myself. I did hike with people a few brief times and that was helpful, too. But I preferred to go it alone.

As for wanting to quit? I wanted to quit only twice. Once was in the High Sierra. It's just too rugged there or maybe the high altitude messes with my mind. I gave up before Muir Pass and actually hiked out to Bishop, rented a car and drove home. I cried the whole way up and over Bishop pass. When I got home I was like, what the heck am I doing home?

My boyfriend said let's go back to the trail and hike a small section together so we drove back and hiked from Mammoth to Yosemite. Along the way he said to me that I had to keep going, I had to finish what I started. My story didn't have a happy ending and he was living vicariously through it. He said it was the only thing making his work stress manageable. So I agreed, but no more High Sierra. He bumped me up to Sonora Pass and I hiked north from there.

I have since completed the section between Yosemite and Sonora Pass, but I have not completed the 60 miles I missed between Bishop Pass and Mammoth. Hike your own hike. My hike just doesn't include that part and I'm at peace with it.

The other time I wanted to quit was after putting up with the mosquitoes for several weeks in Oregon and then being rained on for a couple of weeks in Washington. But I didn't want to quit enough to actually quit. I knew that if I quit so far north I would never return. I knew if I quit I would feel disappointed and angry with myself. So I just kept going.

Little things kept me going, things like knowing that I was doing something I had always wanted to do, feeling at home in the forest and hating how awful it is in cities with all the cars and ugliness, and being able to eat as much as I wanted didn't hurt! The beauty of the wilderness and knowing it was my home, feeling so completely at home in it, was uplifting.

Taking rests helped. I spent 3 days out of the mosquitoes in Oregon and after that I was able to laugh at them a little more. I spent 4 days out of the weather in Washington and after that I was ready to keep going. Anytime I wanted out of the wilderness I just got out and rested. I was so strong I could look at 60 miles ahead of me and know I could be out tomorrow if I wanted. As long as I never went home, I knew I could continue. So that was my rule. Never go home. I carried a Canadian flag on my pack to remind me.

The kindness of others helped. And having people be really interested in my experience helped. They would help me remember that what I was doing was worth completing.

What I wish I could have done differently was have a better attitude about the mosquitoes and rain (actually, it was the overgrown, wet bushes on the trail). I wish they hadn't ruined my morale. I was having the time of my life until then, and then I let those things get to me. I couldn't snap out of it. I wished I could have changed it, but I don't know how. So I just kept going no matter what.

I have to say when I got to the last day on the trail and I wasn't able to find the sign-in register at the Canadian border, the idea of going back the 8 miles to sign the register was something I turned down. I was ready to go home. The time when I had gone home from Bishop I hadn't really been ready. The times I was miserable with mosquitoes and wet bushes I wasn't ready. But when I got to the border, I was ready. Even now, with my boyfriend planning to hike from Campo to Kennedy Meadows I have no desire to do all that with him. I am very happy that I completed it. Knowing that I would be happy with the completion is what really kept me going.

Good luck and I know you can make it. Just don't go home no matter what. It's totally worth it to have this kind of achievement. You will carry around a secret understanding of how powerful you are, what you are capable of, that nobody, no mean boss, no petty co-workers, no abusive people can ever take away. You will know where the hole in the fence is and that this so-called "real world" isn't real at all and you know where to go to find the true real world. It's incredibly powerful to have this knowledge.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The nature of success

I feel that success isn't all it's cracked up to be. I've worked in a high-quality corporate environment but I just didn't feel like I had the drive to be like the ones working their way up to the top. That kind of success didn't appeal to me.

Quitting to hike the PCT had opportunity and professional costs but in the end it worked out. I left my good corporate job and came back unwilling to go back to that. Instead I eke out an existence at half the wage but I have a little more freedom, a little less pressure. I get to see the sun during the day. I'm happier. I think happiness is important.

I feel like hiking offers me an area of achievement and success that I probably won't ever attain at the same high levels in a job. I often joke that my web site about hiking and being pretty good at hiking are the only truly successful things I've ever done. With those things I've achieved a small measure of fame, a lot of respect, some admiration and even, embarrassingly a little big of adulation. Yes, I have fans. Ha ha.

As long as I'm still hiking and still able to pay my bills, it's all good. As long as I'm happy and not taking pills to get through my crappy life (I've been there, too), it's even better.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Trying to stay dry in the rain

I really wanted a Packa/Parcho for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the rain, but I wasn't willing to spend the money or sew one myself.

For rain I used an umbrella and rain chaps and some plastic bags. I liked the rain chaps a lot. The plastic bags didn't work very well because they got sweaty.

I really like hiking with an umbrella. It's so sensible. Doesn't work too well in overgrown, head-high wet brush, however.

I went over 7 days straight with wet feet in brushy Washington. My shoes and socks disintegrated. They only time I had dry feet was when I slept, but it turns out that if your feet are dry overnight, you won't have foot problems.

I used a big garbage bag for a pack cover. It worked great. It would puff out and make a lot of noise so I had to get creative with how I stuffed it behind my back. I don't think anything sold would work better than my trashbag. I cut little slits for my shoulder straps so the bag covered the entire pack. I stuffed the open edges into the back pad pockets and the thing was completely watertight. I wanted to keep my pack dry because it would get very heavy when wet.

I ended up buying a vinyl rain poncho in Snoqualmie Pass at the Chevron because of the inability to stay dry in wet, overgrown brush with just an umbrella and rain chaps. Naturally it stopped raining as soon as I started carrying it. I had it all rigged up with an elastic waist band that would wrap the back under my pack and leave the front free for ventilation. A poor-man's Packa/Parcho.

I don't think you need to worry about your pack while you are setting up your tent. You can usually find a sheltered spot under trees to set up your tent. It can often be surprisingly dry under a tree. Dry enough to set out your pack and get dinner cooking while you set up your tent.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Healing feet broken by shoes

After my hike in the summer of 2008, I came home with hurt feet. I healed them by walking around town barefoot. Because it was my shoes that injured me, I started doing research into what it was my shoes had done to me so that I could be sure I didn't choose shoes like that again.

I found a lot of stuff out there about how bad shoes are for your feet. One good web site I found was The Society for Barefoot Living. They had a lot of articles in there about some of the design flaws built into shoes, things like toe spring and inflexible soles. I learned there were even some doctors out there who believed that shoes caused a lot of foot injuries.

The shoes that had injured me had felt like they were very rigid and that they forced my toes to be in an unnatural upward-pointing angle. I tried everything while I was on the trail to negate the problem. I had insoles for just my heels and insteps, hoping that that would erase the difference toward the toes. It didn't work. Eventually it felt like the bones at the base of my toes were crunching right into the ground and that the long bones in the middle of my feet were starting to break. It actually felt like they were flexing oddly and there were shooting pains that would double me over in pain as I walked. So I had to go home.

With my new knowledge about the evils of shoes, before I hiked in 2009, I went to the shoe store and asked the guy to find me some flexible shoes. I didn't want motion control or a rigid sole. I wanted cushioning because after 25 miles the ground really hurts and roads feel especially painful, but I still wanted to feel the rocks and things on the trail. I also needed them to be wide enough for my toes. Nothing should interfere with my toes.

The shoes I got turned out to be pretty good. Yet I still ended up with foot injuries. I think this time they were due to the fact that since my feet are pretty wide with toes nearly at an even length, I have to buy shoes several sizes too big in order to get them long enough to put my littlest toes at the widest part of the shoe. That means that where the shoe curves inward, it hits the bone under my big toe. I have a sesamoid injury there now.

I did manage to find some 4E width shoes in Washington with just 250 miles of trail left to go, but I wore them with slippery socks the first day out and managed to twist the sesamoid area really hard. I never recovered after that. I still feel a lot of pain.

The treatment for sesamoiditis is to keep the foot on an even plane. Always flat or have the big toe even pointed downward a bit. In other words, the typical toes-upward shape of shoes, even of shoes not as extreme as the ones that sent me home in 2008, has the power to injure me yet again.

Recently the news has been full of barefoot running articles. Seems that barefoot runners have decided that shoes are hurting them just like I figured out from my hikes. They've been trying all kinds of creative things in order to have functional shoes that don't cause problems. One long-distance runner likes to cut off the heels of his running shoes. I've seen a movie of it but it goes by so fast and they don't show a close-up so I can't see how he did it. He also describes it in his blog, but no pictures. I took a stab at it and found out my shoes were full of some kind of slippery silicone liquid and sticky, blobby green gel.

Being a long-distance backpacker, I'm pretty understanding of making your own gear. Long distance backpackers have had to do that since regular manufacturers can't or won't make things light enough. I made some of my own gear and found that some of my gear ideas were superior to anything found at REI. So make my own shoes? Why not?

Since I returned from hiking and found I had few shoes in my closet, I've been adding new shoes, choosing the flattest ones possible. Now all of a sudden, I can't tolerate shoes with any heel anymore. Maybe a half inch is the most I can stand. I've been wearing cheap aqua socks as I try to do a little jogging to get in shape. I really like them but they are too hot. Recently I cut off the uppers of my aqua socks and turned them into huarache sandals, following the lacing instructions from Barefoot Ted. I think these will work well. Maybe I can even hike in them.

I do hope that the whole barefoot running thing will catch on and that the shoe makers will start making more choices. I really need wide, minimal yet protective hiking shoes if I'm going to be able to keep going. If I can't find them, I'm going to have to figure out how to make my own.

I've decided doctors are not worth the money

I have done a sort of experiment (it wasn't one at the time) and have decided that doctors really are not worth the money paid in insurance to retain their services. If the government decides that we are all forced to pay money to insurance companies, despite being 45 years old, I will purchase the absolute minimum for a catastrophic plan, if that.

I have overuse injuries from my time on the trail. I scoured the Internet and figured out what sort of injuries they were. Not being a doctor, I figured only the doctor could really tell me. When I went to the doctor, he told me the injuries were exactly what I thought they were: Sesamoiditis and tendonits. And like 99% of the things I have gone to the doctor for, there was nothing he could do. The prescription for everything that happens to me is something along the lines of rest, or time with a little ibuprofen or some other over-the-counter medication.

Once in a while I am offered a prescription. I think I'm going to join the legions who drive to Mexico and buy medications there. The only prescriptions of any use are antibiotics. Anything stronger than that usually comes with side effects. Thanks to taking a depression medication I am left with life-long tinnitis. You know what works better than depression medication? Not working at shitty jobs where people treat you like crap. I should have taken the depression medication long enough to quit the shitty job and then stop before my ears were ruined.

I have absolutely zero faith in the prescription drug industry anymore. They make lifestyle meds for chronic illnesses and then after people have taken them for about a decade, we learn that besides the constipation and dry-mouth, the sever muscle weakness and liver failure, a large portion of people are left with debilitating heart defects or are dying. No thank you!

Our medical industry is not worth paying for and I resent that I will soon be forced to pay for it. With the Internet it seems I can diagnose myself and find a simple treatment for 99% of what ails me. If we could just go to the pharmacy and buy what we needed like they do in Mexico or Nepal, I could maintain good health without the expense and the bother of doctors and insurance companies. I certainly wouldn't have had to take blood tests and get X-rays to be given a diagnosis I already figured out, be offered a treatment of rest, ice and ibuprofen, and now be stuck paying for it all.

Let the doctors put me back together if a car runs me over or take me apart if some internal organ has a big problem. Otherwise, leave me alone.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hiking fast and far

I like to hike far. You do not have to hike fast to go far. You can hike a 30 mile day at 2.5 miles an hour easily. Just start early and go late.

I regularly hike as fast as I possibly can, which I'm sure is slower than most younger guys. Still, I am usually the only person who ever actually literally stops to smell a flower.

Most people are totally oblivious to their surroundings and it seems to me the slowest are the most oblivious of all. I am one of the fastest hikers in the group I go with and I'm the only one who can tell you what flower that is, where that side trail goes, what kind of rock that is, what kind of tree that is, etc.

People who say they like to go slow to smell the roses are really just making an excuse, thinking they're in a race with me or that I'm in a race with them. I'm not racing anybody. This is my natural pace. I am happy to wait if we're hiking together. Hiking fast lets me be lazy and rest a lot longer than hiking slow.

I prefer to keep up a good pace because I always want to know what's around the next bend. Going too slow keeps me from covering new territory. There's only so much time but there's so much trail yet to explore.

So, if I'm leading a Sierra Club hike and there are slow people, I will wait for them without annoyance. But if I'm on my own, I will hike far and fast and try to see as much as I can.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cabin living

I read an interesting thread by a guy who lives in a cabin. It is worth reading all the comments because he opened it up to a Q & A and the comments are all the questions he was asked and his answers. I don't know how to link to individual responses, but there are some really good ones about how when you let things happen, the things you need come to you. It's just like trail magic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Don't defer

I asked The Man why he suddenly decided to hike the PCT. He said it was because of having all his money stolen recently. He realized that he defers most things he wants to do in order to save money. But having all his money be instantly gone made him think that putting off the things you want to do may mean that you'll never get to do them. You may lose all your money or you may get sick or who knows what will happen.

Yes, that is how I felt.

Here's an interesting article I read that is somewhat related to this called The Dropout Economy. The Man is by no means dropping out of anything, but I sense all over a feeling that if all of this could be gone someday, what are we waiting for? Let's do what we want to do right now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Too much exercise!

I'm feeling pretty exhausted. I think I have overtraining syndrome, which is a fancy word for it's time to take a little rest.

Last week I hiked Rattlesnake Trail on Tuesday, did a big loop of a run on Thursday, lead a strenuous 6 mile Sierra Club hike on Saturday and went on a strenuous 10 mile Sierra Club hike on Sunday. On Rattlesnake trail I hiked as fast as I possibly could going up and ran going down. On my big loop run I ran from the West Side to Alamar and Foothill and down the Rocky Nook trail and back to my house. On Saturday we did an off-trail adventure and I hiked as fast as I possibly could up from Forbush Flat at the end. On Sunday the trail was really steep and we climbed up to almost 7000 foot elevation.

On Saturday night I got a terrible case of the hiccups. Sometimes I get these killer hiccups that won't go away. I was left with pain whenever I breathed deeply. Not being able to breathe deep made it hard to do the hike on Sunday.

In short, it's time to relax a little, take it easy.

I miss being invincible and super human like I was on the PCT. I'm sad that my super human abilities are lost.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Will I be a PCT widow?

The Man is planning to hike the PCT! He is being very vague about whether he'll be gone for 5 weeks or 5 months.

I'm looking forward to driving him to Campo, hopefully meeting him in Warner Springs and making little care packages to send him. I'm looking forward to being able to share the experience I had with him. It's already begun. He made fun of me for wanting to weigh all my gear but now he totally understands!

Best of all, I can sense The Change happening. At least I hope so.

For years before hiking the PCT I had been coasting through life waiting for a shoe to drop. I just had this feeling like something might change. We almost moved to Georgia once. It seemed like maybe we might move to Indiana or who knows where else. The Man was looking for a job and all the jobs he was finding were elsewhere.

He got fired and for a few months he was out of work. He seemed so happy then. He went back to the same job and all his stress came back. Since I had a good job I kept trying to tell him that if he needed to spend time not working so he could find a better job, I would help out. I kept hoping for a change, waiting for a change, believing and worrying with him when he'd come home saying he was sure he was going to get fired. But nothing changed. So I went hiking.

One of my goals for hiking was to enact some change. Maybe if The Man saw me doing something wonderful and being happy he would want to do something like that, too.

Now here he is planning to do something wonderful and I can feel his happiness growing. I asked him today, what if he comes back from the hike and doesn't want to work anymore? He just laughed and said then I would have to support him. Of course I never could do that, so it's more like I sense that he's relaxing about life and the future and seeing that maybe it is true that everything really does work out okay and that it is better to live life fully in the present than to suffer in pain hoping for a better tomorrow that may never come.

I may be making more out of this than there is. He may just be going for a quick 5 week hike. I'll pick him up in Kennedy Meadows or wherever and he'll go back to his job. But I know that even 5 weeks will change things. He'll be so much happier, so much more grounded, more creative, and more alive with the knowledge of where the hole in the fence is and how to get back to that place where he can be free.

What worked

Before hiking the PCT, I read Ray's 1992 PCT Hikers Handbook, too. At first read, I thought his ideas were pretty crazy, but as far north as Washington, when I would try something he suggested or fail at something because I didn't try what he suggested, I would think to myself, hey, he was right. (I know he wasn't the first for some of his ideas but his book lays them all out.)

I read a lot of Colin Fletcher's Thousand Mile Summer, too. He gave me an appreciation of the desert and a desire to do a solo adventure, although I struggled to keep reading after he killed the snake.

Going light really worked for me and that is why I am so adamant about it. At my hiking weight, I weigh 125lbs. A 60lb pack would be ridiculous for someone my size or smaller. My pack was easily 10 or more pounds lighter than the previous year. I easily walked an average of 10 miles a day further with a lighter, happier step. I was astounded and joyous at my ability to walk so far. Within a week I was regularly hiking close to 30 miles a day. I kept up that pace easily, hiking 25-35 miles a day all the way to the end. And this time 30 miles felt easier than 25 did last year.

Other things that worked for me:
  • Writing the water report as notes in my Data Book so that I would never lose the water report or fail to look at it
  • Trusting the trail to have water when I needed and trusting myself that I could get to the next water. Worry wastes a lot of water.
  • Emergence-C joint health formula and Crystal Light Hydration
  • A positive attitude, focusing my attention on how trail magic was providing everything I needed
  • Not going home even when it seemed like forward progress was impossible
  • Accepting that some parts of the trail would not be completed this year and that the important thing was the adventure, not the purity
  • Flexible shoes that allowed as much of the full range of motion of my feet as possible--no motion control
  • Asking others for help (all I asked for is if I could tag along through a dangerous section, no assistance needed, I just didn't want to be alone.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Authentic life

You need to try to be who you really are before you die.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You gotta start somewhere

I'm the worst runner in the world. But you gotta start somewhere.

I've decided to try running again (I try it every now and then) because it's quick exercise. A little seems to go a long way. You can lose weight pretty easily by running. I'm pretty fat since the PCT.

I'd also like to do it because I liked how it felt on the PCT to be so strong and powerful that I could walk 35 miles in a single day and get up the next day and be able to do it again. I figure that, no longer as rich in time as I was on the trail, the best way to have that feeling again is to be able to get those miles in in a shorter period of time. The only way to do that is to run.

I'd also like to run in the 40 mile endurance run in the fall that starts at Red Rock and goes to Romero Trail and back.

So, I went running today. I wore my aqua socks. Aqua socks are really hot, so I cut off some of the neoprene and sewed in some mesh that I cut out of a jacket I found lying in the dirt on my way home from work. It seemed to help. I like running in the aqua socks because it seems easier for some reason. It's quiet, too. I seem to be able to go further than I can in normal running shoes.

I want to be able to run far and well like real runners do. I saw a movie trailer the other day on youtube of a long-distance runner who looks like a thru-hiker. He makes it look so effortless. He usually runs 28 miles every day. I tried to imagine myself running like him.

Before I knew it, I had run from my house on the West Side, over to Alamar, up to Foothill and down the trail in Rocky Nook Park. That was a pretty long distance. Other times when I've been in really good shape I've never run that far. I figure I'm off to a good start.

What made me think I'm the worst runner on the planet though was when I was running on Alamar there was a chubby Mexican lady running in her jeans and sandals with her two pre-school-aged little girls. They'd stop running and I'd slowly catch up, then they'd start running again and they'd break away. I can't even keep up with pre-school kids!

Well, you have to start somewhere.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Dehydration and hyponatremia

I have read a lot about people struggling with the heat at the beginning of the Pacific Crest Trail. I wish there was a good way for people who don't live in Southern California to train for it.

I have learned a lot over the years dayhiking in Southern California. Learning about my body and water has been huge.

I've been dehydrated a million times. It really isn't that big of a deal to get a little dehydrated. You can get over it easily by drinking water.

The real problem is when you find yourself drinking a lot but you are still dehydrated. No matter how much you drink you can never feel your thirst being quenched. Then you start to feel really horrible. Weak, queasy, thirsty and generally not good.

When this happens you need to lay off the sugary stuff. Stop eating energy bars and drinking sweet drinks, and stop drinking the plain water, too. It's really hard but if you are having this unquenchable thirst and are feeling worse the more you drink, you have to force yourself to stop drinking and have something salty. You might have to cook a little soup or maybe you'll have some Pringles or something extremely salty in your pack. Not Gatorade! Real salt. A diet lemonade with a big pinch of lite salt will do, but no sugar.

After you get enough salt in you, you will be able to drink water again and be able to quench your thirst. You will start to feel better, but it might take a little while.

I have read so many trail journals of people starting out and I can tell by reading them that this is happening to them. Living here in Southern California I have had this happen to me so many times that I can recognize it and fix it before it spirals. I had it happen to me coming in to Walker Pass. I recognized it, forced myself not to drink anything until I could make soup at the campground and get some cold water out of the trough. It was really hard to do, but I lived. At least it was all downhill.

I have a crazy boyfriend who loves to wake up on 100 degree days and he'll say to himself, hey I think I'll go hike Hurricane Deck (the hottest, remotest most awful place we have here where the sun bakes the rocks to the consistency of broken china dishes and there's no water anywhere). He went out there once on an overnighter in 100 degree temperatures with only water and energy bars and loppers to cut his way through the bushes. I decided to drive up to meet him on his way out at the trailhead with cold drinks and salty stuff. Here he comes barely alive stumbling down the trail. He nearly cried when he saw all that stuff. He had almost killed himself by not having anything salty and he wasn't sure he was going to make it out of there. He's nuts, but together we've learned a lot.

Nobody told me the people would make such an impact

There's a saying about trekking in Nepal. You go to see the mountains, but it's the people you never forget. That certainly doesn't trivialize the breathtaking Himalaya. It just points out what a surprise the people of that country are, how much they affect you.

It is a profound experience hiking the PCT to have so many total strangers make such a positive impact on your life. Especially for the younger people who have grown up in a world of Amber alerts and being told never to speak to strangers and not even knowing their neighbors or playing outside unsupervised by adults. To find out that the world really isn't a dangerous place full of predators is an incredible experience of freedom.

As Americans we are so well steeped in pushing ourselves and achieving and trying to be great. The effort to walk border to border is immense, physically and psychologically. But we all do this kind of thing all the time. We strive. We're rugged individuals. There's another world out there on the trail and some are going to find it to have a very profound impact on their lives.

That I, too, found the hike to be all about the people doesn't negate the fact that I also found the hike to be all about the wilderness, and all about the solitude, and all about the effort and achievement, and all about the food.

I'm glad nobody told me about the people before I started my hike. It was a pleasant surprise.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


A thought occurred to me yesterday. In our world we are expected to spend the vast majority of our time in a business setting. If business is not important to you, this means the vast majority of your time is spent pretending to succeed or pretending to try to succeed at something that is not important to you. It's a recipe for some kind of failure despite the fact that there are many ways of being successful. I wish we measured success by happiness instead of by business measurements.

40 mile ultramarathon

I think I would like to do the Santa Barbara Red Rock 40 Mile Endurance Run.

I took a look at the cutoff times and the 20 mile cutoff is only one hour faster than I'm able to walk with my backpacking gear on. If I run the downhills, I ought to be able to do it. If by then (November) I can run more than just downhills, so much the better. I think it would be really fun.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Rainy adventure on 7 trails

Trailhacker was telling me he needed a big adventure. So I gave him one today.

He didn't think we'd be going on my Sierra Club hike today since the weather report called for a 60% chance of rain. But I was determined to go if it wasn't actually raining in the morning. Most of the time if it isn't raining at the start of a hike, by the time it does eventually rain it never seems as bad as if it had been raining before you left the house.

The trail combination I made up would have us following 7 different trails and 2 roads.

  1. Wiman Trail
  2. Old Pueblo Trail
  3. San Ysidro Trail
  4. East Camino Cielo Rd.
  5. Cold Spring Trail
  6. Hot Spring Trail
  7. Edison Rd.
  8. Girard Trail
  9. McMenemy Trail

We set off with a fast pace. Very early on one of the hikers in the group could not keep up the pace. At the waterfall on San Ysidro trail, which was flowing spectacularly, I asked her to drop out of the hike and wait for us at the car.

Then it was a blistering almost run up to East Camino Cielo Rd. where we ate lunch hurriedly as hypothermia was building. The valley down on the other side of the mountains seemed to be in sun but we were in a cold cloud.

We hurried down the road to the Cold Spring Trail where we saw two forlorn backpackers who were looking at us with hope that maybe one of the cars at the trailhead was ours and we could give them a ride. Instead of rescuing them, we plunged down the trail, again nearly running. Sometimes we did run.

As we approached the Montecito Peak area, it began to rain. The rain was not bad. It was actually nice. We put on rain coats and I whipped out my umbrella. We hustled down even faster now, but it wasn't clear why we were in such a hurry. The rain posed no hardship. It was more like we just felt like running because it was fun.

Next we flew down the Hot Spring trail and took a second to feel the hot, sulfur water. Walking on the wet, slippery bamboo was a bit difficult.

When we emerged on the Edison Road, it was almost sunny. We continued on our merry way to the Girard Trail where it began to rain again. We ran down the trail since the trail bed was smooth and easy.

We reached McMenemy at the horse post and bench, our 7th trail for the day.

As we descended on McMenemy trail, it began to hail! The creek at the crossing roared, but when we reached it, it was not overflowing more than usual.

We joined McMenemy again and the rain let up. We only had a short distance to go to reach the end. We were having a lot of fun, running like kids, being rained on, pushing ourselves. I really believe we are meant to work ourselves hard, that it's not work at all but fun and joy.

We reached the car at 2pm. I think it was a record time for this hike. Unfortunately, the woman I turned back earlier at the waterfall was not there waiting for us. Now it was a matter of finding her.

I called the number she had left me but it was not her number. I needlessly worried the person who owned that number, but I tried to assure her it would all be okay and that we'd find her soon.

It started raining again so we piled in the car hoping for a short wait. Fifteen minutes later she arrived and we drove home, happy that we had had a good time and nothing bad had happened.

After my travails in Washington last summer on the PCT it was nice to have a happy day hiking in the rain. It was a big adventure today and we kept joking that from now on, people who come on my Sierra Club hikes ought to bring an EKG and an EEG. They have to pass the EKG and fail the EEG.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Favorite trail drinks

Emergence-C (I like the Joint Health formula)
Crystal Light Hydration (often combined with Emergence-C)
Zip Fizz (special treat, way too much packaging!)
Muscle Milk (sometimes with Emergence-C)

I never was a big fan of special drinks, always preferring plain water, but when you have to drink so much all the time, I found that flavored drinks helped keep my hydrated. It's much easier to gulp down a liter of water all at once if it's tasty.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

On the hunt for work

Guess I'm on the job hunt track again. I submitted a resume. The same day that I turned in my paperwork to be a non-contract employee at the current place. I'm bothered by the profanity in the office and the disorganization. It is nice to work part time and have a chance to work beyond my skills, to push them, and to be able to save the day once in a while, but I don't think it's a long-term place to work. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


I keep wanting to get my personal belongings down to a manageable size. It's proving to be an impossible challenge.

Every time I even look at the clutter I get discouraged. What if I need that stuff later? What if I miss it even if I don't need it? What if I throw out stuff I just have to go and buy again later? Isn't that a waste?

At least I moved some of the clutter today. Moved it from the coffee table to my bedroom. Threw a little bit away. Put some electronic accessories into their original boxes and put them in the closet. A drop in the bucket soon to be overwhelmed once more when more clutter appears.