Starting Over’s Hard To Do

I completed another trip around the sun recently and my lovely wife thought it would be fun for us to do a 5K.

Actually, to be honest, I mentioned it to her in passing because the run was being held in a place I really liked.  It was to be a trail run, there was no entry free, and it wasn’t an officially “timed” event.  I thought it would be fun for HER to do it.  However, she had other plans and to celebrate yet another milestone, signed us both up.  Yay.

Keep in mind, I have not trained for a 5K, I hate running, and did I mention….I hate running?  But after much whining I reluctantly agreed.

I ran the first 10 minutes…but had to stop.  Exercise induced asthma got the better of me.  I finished the race with a time of 50 minutes…but ended up walking most of the way trying to catch my breath.

We left to head home and go to dinner with the in-laws and still I felt like my lungs couldn’t catch up and I could here wheezing deep in my chest.

We came home and I pulled out my nebulizer and gave myself a breathing treatment.  Just like that, I could breath again.

Tonight I decided I needed to start running stairs again for an upcoming trip.  10 minutes in my lungs were giving out.  While I was able to do 22 floors in 10 minutes, my lung capacity was holding me back.

As I sat in the car frustrated, it suddenly dawned on me.  I’ve had 2 major surgeries that took place within 45 days of each other.  While I think my body is in one place, we’re really just starting over.  I need to treat myself as if I’m starting to work out for the first time.  Push myself just a bit, but don’t get distracted with frustration.  Just like I’ve done in the past, I’ll build up my endurance and strength over time.

What do you do when you have a setback?  What’s your go to pep talk?  I think I’m going to have to go back to the YouTube motivational videos to get my head back in the game.  But 10 minutes on the stairs beats sitting on the couch so I’ll take it!

Till next time!

Let’s Do This!

On 2015 is coming to a close.  I would say I’m sad, but I’m not.  Too much has happened this past year.  My mom passed away and I ended up with uncertaintity around being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

On the bright side, my girl introduced me to a rockin’ Texas State Park, Caprock Canyons State Park, we got married (officially) in June, we got to spend time in Las Vegas (work trip), wine in central coast CA, and a day or so in CA.

So…2016.  What to do, what to do.

I’ve bought a new pair of hiking boots.  Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX.  $170.00 at REI.  Men’s size 8 width Medium.

I hope to put them through their paces tomorrow and we’ll see if they can hold up or if they get returned.  I have weird feet.   The left foot is a size 9 and the right is a 9.5.  I also have bunions so width is important.  The boots I bought today at REI are Men’s.  They feel okay, but I can tell there’s a few hot spots but I’m going to be hopeful.  Luckily REI has a great return policy; so if tomorrow doesn’t work out, then I can at least return them and try again.

So, to kick off 2016, a friend posted this:  52 Hike Challenge.  They actually have two challenges;  one is the 52 (your choice) and the other is around adventrue (your hike has to meet certain adventures).  Since my wife will probably divorce me if I started doing a ton of traveling without her, I think I may shoot for the 52 Hike Challenge.

Anyone else interested in joining me?  Could be fun.  We could start our own mini-group and share our stories; both good and bad (the bad one make great stories around the beers anyways!).

A Set Back…and a New Beginning

2015 hasn’t been as kind as I had hoped.

If you’ve been following along you’ll remember after my mom passed away, I was suffering from severe back pain.  As part of my investigation into what was causing the pain, a “nagging” thought kept occurring to me.  I should go back to my gynecologist and have my fibroid checked out.

Back in 2009 I was diagnosed with a uterine fibroid about the size of a small orange. We named it Orange and have joked about it over the years…particularly during “that time of the month”.  Wow…the Orange is really angry this week!  You get the idea.

Anyway….we’ve kept tabs on it through the years with no changes.  However, after mom’s passing, and the severe back pain it was time to listen to that “nagging” voice.  Off the my gyno for an updated pelvic sonogram.  Results?  The Orange now had two friends.  A fibroid about the size of a kiwi, and one about the size of a tangelo.

That’s right…I had a fruit basket living in and on my uterus.

My doctor said it was time for the hysterectomy.   We had been putting it off since nothing was causing me problems, but with the back pain and the new friends it was time.  My doc wanted to schedule this in June; but the stipulation was I wouldn’t be able to swim for 6 to 8 weeks…in June…in Texas…uh no.

So I told her I had some business trips occurring at the beginning of September and we would schedule for after that.  Like clockwork her folks called and we scheduled the surgery for October 1st.  This wasn’t going to be robotic because of the size of the fibroids.  This was going to have to be done the old fashioned way so I would be in the hospital for a few days.

The surgery went well.  They removed my uterus and cervix.  We left my ovaries in hopes of “easing” me into menopause.

11 days later everything changed.  I went for my post opt checkup.  The pathology report detected a cervical cancer.  Further tests of the tissue was needed to confirm the diagnosis; and we wouldn’t have those results for another week or more.

The results were confirmed.  Cervical cancer.  My doctor urged me to see a gynecological oncologist she recommended and thought I would like.  Another doctor appointment…another two weeks of waiting.

On the day we met with the oncologist I knew something was up when he walked in with a text book tucked under his arm and pages flag with sticky notes.  Seems that the “type” of cervical cancer I was diagnosed with only occurs in 1% of those diagnosed with cervical cancer.  His recommendation was not to even do any tests but to go straight back to surgery and take everything else out.  That meant overaries, lymph nodes, tissue; what’s called a radical hysterectomy.  This would do two things…determine if the cancer escaped or moved, and if it did, we’d know exact locations to target radiation.

I’m happy to report we did the surgery and everything came back clean.  There is no cancer left and the surgery we did on Oct. 1st did it’s job.  We found the cancer in it’s earliest stages…which is not typical.  This cancer is so undetectable that by the time it’s found, it’s typically already Stage 3 or 4.  Mine was at the upper end of Stage 1.

So…all this to say that I haven’t been on the trail…for too damn long.  I’m ready to strap the pack on and pick up where I left off.

My promise to you is to start writing again so you too can follow the journey.  Hopefully by telling my story it’ll give hope to others who are struggling to “start” or feel like they can’t.

You always can…all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.

Right now, my biggest walk is maybe 1/2 a mile at this point.  That’s around the block; and that’s okay…I know I’ll get there with each passing day.

My hope is for a easier, gentler 2016.  I’ve learned a lot of lessons this past year.  Namely I can face it all and keep my sense of humor about me.  That, and I have a ton of people who love me and are with me.

So…here’s to 2016.  Let’s get this party started!

One Year Anniversary!

One year ago today I was determined to get back out and hike/walk my way back to full health.  I had no idea what the year ahead of me would hold; but looking back, I’m proud of my accomplishments!

Today I officially hit the 400 mile mark.  Actually 403 miles to be exact!  To put this in perspective….I essentially have walked from Dallas to Oklahoma City and back.  Granted I did the miles over a year; but it’s a start.

We’ve been under water here in North Texas as I mentioned in my previous post.  So today I headed south to Arbor Hills Nature Preserve over in Plano.  Absolutely loved it once I finally figured out how the hell to get off the cement and hit the trails.  Lots of other hikers out there training along with trail runners.

Its funny; all the trail runners have their ear buds in.  I don’t blame them.  Running is monotonous.  You really do need something to drive you.  However, when I hike, I don’t listen to music.  The only sound is the Runkeeper lady who annoyingly tells me every 5 minutes how much I’m sucking on my distance and pace.  She’s sort of a bitch…but she’s a necessary evil.

I prefer the sound of nature.  With enough practice you get “nature ears”.  I can hear a large lizard rustling through the leaves.  If I stop and stand still, eventually I’m rewarded by getting to see what made the noise.  It’s pretty amazing.

Anyway…glad to find a place I can hike that’s currently not under water.  Still jonesing for a multi-day hike.  I’ll figure that one out eventually.  My first choice is Long’s Peak in Colorado.  But the latest I’ve seen is it’s still under snow and I don’t have much experience with “winter” hiking (using crampons and ice axes).  Hopefully, they’ll warm up and I can shoot for something mid to late July.  Keeping my fingers crossed!

And the hiatus is over!

I’ve been very neglectful this year.  I haven’t blogged, but trust me.  Stuff’s been going down.  Here’s a high level recap:

  • January 2015:  Honestly, I don’t remember much from this month.  It was cold.  I’m sure it was probably cold.
  • February 2015:  My girl surprised me with a weekend get away to Caprock Canyons State Park; home of the Official Bison Herd of the State of Texas!  Yes…we have an “offical” herd of Bison.  We also have an “official” herd of Longhorn, but that’s a different park.  I need to write a blog post on our time there.  Absolutely amazing!
  • March 2015: This was not a good month.  My mom got really sick.  She ended up in the hospital.  She’s been a smoker for well over 50 years plus she had a bad heart valve that she never took care of.   A combination of several things led us to the end and she passed away after three weeks in Cardiac ICU.   Time spent at hotels with bad beds and chairs in ICU, led me to my sciatic nerve back problems cropping up in a very bad way which leads us to…
  • April 2015: My back.  My back and I have been arguing for over a year now.  I had good days and I had bad days.  After March, the bad days weren’t getting any better.  If anything, it was all getting worse.  My acupuncturist (whom I love!) had moved further away and this was going to require constant attention.  I finally decided to see Laura’s Chiropractor.  It was going to be my last stop before considering surgery.  I went in whole hog and bought all the sessions my insurance would allow.  Three times a week I was in doing various therapies including aqua massage, roller and stem, stretches, massage, traction, and adjustments.  About two weeks into this, Laura found me laying in the floor on a Sunday bawling my eyes out.  Between grieving for my mom, pain, and everything else, I had reached my end.  I threw in the towel and went to my regular family doctor who prescribed muscle relaxers and pain medication.  I started with the muscle relaxers.   Within a week I started feeling like my pain had gone from 10 down to 6/7.  That’s a huge improvement for me considering  I have high pain tolerance.  A 10 for me is probably a 15 for the average person.
  • May 2015:  Can you say water-logged.  It seemed every time I wanted to try to hike we had rain, rain, and more rain.  We here in Texas have been in a severe drought for well over 4 or 5 years now.  We received enough rain over April and May to not only bring all the lakes back up to their normal levels, but to cover the state in 8 inches of water!  Yes…we’ve had flooding.  Nothing here at the house; but I know all my trails where I live are now under water.  Yes…I’ve already added my name to the list of folks volunteering for cleanup and trail restoration.  Its time I give back to the trails that have helped me so much!
  • June 2015: I’m finally able to get back to hiking!  All right…it’s walking around the neighborhood, but remember, all the trails around here now are under water.  I’ve been able to put in a couple of 4 mile hikes.  It feels good to get back out; although hiking on concrete is brutal.  You don’t realize how much reflection there is until you’re in it.  My hope is to figure out a good hike that will get me off the cement this weekend.  It may be I have to hike the easement for the electrical towers that run through town, but at least it’s getting out there.

At this point, I’m seriously considering a quick weekend trip out to West Texas, like El Paso to try and get some decent trail hiking in.  I better make those reservations soon.  My travel card is filling up this month with a ton of business trips .

Anyway…that’s the news from here.  What have you been doing?

Reading List – 2014

I know….where the hell have I been?  Why haven’t I been blogging?  What have I been doing when I’m not here?

All great questions.

The cold and rain have settled in here in North Texas.  This leads to my tendency to want to hibernate.  I have been on a few great hikes which I’ll cover in another post should the sun ever come out again.

In the meantime, I was participating in #hikerchat on Twitter (every Friday at 11:00AM CDT) and someone asked the question of what I’ve been reading related to hiking and the outdoors.  I figured that would make for a great blog post and since I’m still waiting for the rains to abate, now would be as good a time as any to play catch up and answer the question: “What have I been reading?”.  Without further adieu here’s my list.  It’s not any particular order other than chronological based on when I read.  Oldest is listed first.

1. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

I actually own the hardback of this book….but it never fails to entertain me!  Its a very funny look at hiking the trail.  Remember to pick your partners wisely!

2. I HIke by Lawton Grinter

A great collection of short stories from the trail.  I can relate to more than one of these!

3. A Long Way from Nowhere: A Couple’s Journey on the Continental Divide Trail by Julie Urbansky & Matt Urbansky

This couple has written several books chronicling their long distance hikes on the AT, PCT, and the CDT.  I liked that each other writes a chapter or two in their own voice from their perspective.  However, as much as I wanted to like this book, I kept having this nagging feeling.  Julie tends to whine; and while I get the trails are hard and she shared her thoughts on where she was just not on the trail but life in general, it sort of became annoying vs. affirming.

4. Footpath my Ass!: And Other Keen Observations Made by a Middle-Aged Woman Hiking the Appalachian Trail by Terry Croteau Bluebird

I know I read this book…but nothing “outstanding” jumps out for me at this point.  I think I picked it up being a middle-aged woman myself, but again, no epiphany’s here.

5. Measurable Mountain Days: A Father and Son on the John Muir Trail by Ron Erskine

I didn’t even really know there was a John Muir Trail.  This book was my introduction and while Ron focus’ more on his relationship to his son, this book led me to want to know more about the JMT!

6. In Movement There is Peace: Stumbling 500 Miles Along the Way to Spirit by Elaine Orabona Foster, Joseph Wilbred Foster

This story covers a hike along the Camino de Santiago in Spain; an 800km pilgrimage and the lessons learned.  This trail has been added to my “want to do” list.

7. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

I heard an interview with Ben Montgomery on NPR and knew I had to read this book.  It proves no matter how old you are you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to!  A very inspiring story about a woman who rises above abuse and raising a family to walk the AT.

8. Dances with Marmots by George Spearing

The PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) hike as told by a New Zealand firefighter with no experience in hiking.  A fun little read.

9. Man in the Middle: Journey On the 3,100 Mile Continental Divide Trail by John Illig

This is another book that while I read it, nothing jumps to mind.

10. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

This is more of a travel book than hiking…but I like Bryson, so I include it here.  This is about a trip he took to Australia where he encounters “…the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet.”

11. Key West: Tequila, a Pinch of Salt, and a Quirky Side of America…a year in Key West by John Breakfeld

This is another travel book; but OMG is it funny!  I love Key West.  I’ve been twice but I long to go any time I think of it.  John does a great job of capturing the “true” Key West and introduces you to characters who make Key West the great place it is!

12. Off the Map: Fifty-five Weeks of Adventuring in the Great American Wilderness and Beyond by Bryan Snyder

I started reading this book in June/July of 2014 and still haven’t finished it.  That should tell you something right there.  The chapters don’t really ‘blend’ into each other.  I’m having a hard time getting into it.

13. Four Boots – One Journey: A Story of Survival, Awareness and Rejuvenation on the John Muir Trail by Jeff Alt

I really liked this book.  The author’s wife’s brother commits suicide and he convinces her to do an “awareness” hike along the John Muir Trail.  This book has encouraged me to eventually take on the JMT as one of my first long distance hikes.  Very much worth the read.

14. Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts

Another great book about a hike along the JMT.  This time from a south to north perspective.

15. Rookies in the Wild by John Riha

A comical trip for a father an son along the Pacific Coast Highway.

16. Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales

Not sure how this one ended up on my reading list, but an interesting read none the less.

There are a ton more books.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I read a lot.  I prefer reading to television.  To speed this list up, I’m going to resort to lists vs. trying to find something to say…that way I can get on with my day!

17. Muir: Nature Writings by John Muir, William Cronon

18. My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

19. Rabid: The Pacific Crest Trail.  ‘Cause therapy ain’t working by Libby Zangle

20. Good Dog, Bad Mountain: A Memoir About a Dog, a Young Man, and a Hike on the Appalachian Trail by Joshua Kinser

21. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Basis on the Motion Picture 127 Hours by Aron Ralston

22. Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments by John Vonhof

23. The Trail Life: How I Loved It, Hated It, and Learned from it by Julie Urbansky

24. I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Coast Trail by Gail D. Storey

25. John Muir Trial: The Essential Guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail by Wilderness Press

26. The Hurt Artist: My Journey from Suicidal Junkie to Ironman by Shane Niemeyer, Gary Brozek

Granted, no hiking in this book; but the dedication to turning one’s life around and getting serious about training helped inspire me and the way I approach my workouts and hiking.

27. Off the Map: 25 True Stories to Inspire Your Next Adventure by Chelsea Fagan

28. The Backpacker’s Field Manual, Revised and Updated: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Backcountry Skills by Rick Curtis

29. Everest Pilgrim: A Solo Trek to Nepal’s Everest Base Camp and Beyond by Tristan Higbee

30. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

31.  Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer

I had a really hard time putting this one down.  It goes a long way to explaining mountain weather and why it can be so dangerous.  A mystery potentially solved!
34.  The Lone Star Hiking Trail: The Official Guide to the Longest Wilderness Footpath in Texas by Karen Somers

And believe it or not, that concludes my reading list for 2014!  Let me know if you pick any of these up to read and what your thoughts are!  I’m always up for a good book conversation!
Happy trails!

I decided to try something a bit different today.  Rather than sticking around home for a hike, I figured I’d make my way to south Dallas (Wilmer to be exact) and check out Goat Island Preserve.  This is another gem passed along to me by a friend and I got more than what I bargained for!

This place is a little “off the map”.  You can find more information here about Goat Island Preserve.  The link will give you directions to the trail head….but just know that Fulghum turns into Post Oak Road.   It may seem that you’re supposed to turn left onto Post Oak, but don’t be fooled.  You need to proceed straight ahead and take a sharp right.  You’ll make a few more 90 degree turns and eventually come to an area that has parking.  It looks like this.

Goat Island Preserve Parking

Goat Island Preserve Parking

Actually pretty nice parking area.  You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see this.

Goat Island Preserve Signage

Goat Island Preserve Signage

To the left of this sign you’ll see a road that’s blocked off by a metal arm; but you can easily go around the gate and walk down towards the trail heads.  You’ll eventually come to an old fence that was part of one of the original homesteads in the area.

Old fence

Old fence

To the left of this fence is the low road that brings you close to the Trinity River.

Low road to the left of old fence

Low road to the left of old fence

To the right of the fence is the high road that goes along the levy.

High road along levy to the right of old fence

High road along levy to the right of old fence

I started my hike this morning at the ass crack of dawn….also known as 6:30AM.  As I got to the old fence, I could hear dogs in the distance.  It sounded like they had something up a tree.  I figured I’d take the high road along the levy in hopes the dogs would clear out.

Just as I started along the high road I heard barking behind me.  Sure enough the pack of dogs had gotten my scent and had come up behind me.  I calmly turned by side to them and kept my treking pole where I could easily use it if need be.  The first dog started down the trail toward me barking.  He was quickly joined by several more…there were at least 4 or 5.  I continued to stand sideways to them and not move and not say a word.  When the pack realized there was nothing to see here and nothing to chase, they turned back and went away from me.  The first dog, most likely the ring leader, wasn’t ready to give up so easily.  He kept easing toward me and barking….but the barks sounded more like warnings.  He eventually realized his comrades had left him so with one last warning bark he too turned and followed his buddies toward their next adventure.

I’m just glad I wasn’t that adventure!

I continued along the levy and quickly started getting bogged down in mud.  LOTS of mud! We had a huge rain event yesterday.  I had to stop every 20 to 30 feet and use my trekking pole to try and knock the mud off my boots.   I also noticed that the road was pretty tore up.  It almost looked like a small bulldozer had come through the area.  I quickly found proof of hooves and realized there were wild pigs in the area.  Now I’ve never seen wild pigs, but everyone I’ve ever talked to has told me what mean little SOBs they are.

Sure enough, during one of my de-mudding stops, I looked up the trail to see a large black pig cross over the levy and go down the levy off to my right.  I stood still to see if any others were going to cross.  After a couple of minutes, I figured I’d slowly and cautiously make my way toward where I had seen the pig.

Sure enough on the left side of the levy, I saw what I believe was “momma” pig along with her current offspring.  Daddy (the black one) looked to be about 700lbs.  Mom looked to be about 500lbs and the babies looked to be about 200lb – 300lbs.

They were rooting around and I quietly unzipped my pocket to try and get to my camera.  It was about that time that the mom looked up toward the top of the levy and sensed something was out of place.  I quickly put my camera back in my pocket when I realized she was charging up the levy toward me!  Again, I stood stock still and didn’t utter a sound.  She stopped just short of the top, confirmed someone was there and turned tail squealing to call her babies to her and booked it down toward the river.   I could still hear and see the male on the right side of the levy and continued when he suddenly burst through the undergrowth crossing from my right to my left to follow the rest of his brood.

The rest of the hike entailed me stopping to deal with mud however my nerves were a bit on edge.  I eventually startled a barn owl….not sure who was more jumpy at this point…me or him.

Another 3 miles heading south and the trail comes out at Belt Line Road.  Let me save you some trouble here.  The link above doesn’t really give any specifics of where exactly the high road meets the low road.  I actually crossed Belt Line, walked over the old bridge and crossed over the Trinity River.  I quickly realized I was not on trail and circled back to join the high road.  Right where the high road comes out at Belt Line, if you look to the left, you’ll see a cement retaining wall.  Go to the left of that wall down under the bridge and you’ll pick up the low trail to your left.  Don’t be like me and cross over Belt Line.  You should never cross over Belt Line.

The trail turns back north and follows closely next to the Trinity River.  Here you can easily see one of the Locks that was built and abandoned.  I can easily see how folks would want to kayak this part of the Trinity River; although this time of year would be dicey considering the number of hunters I heard down stream!

Walking back north I still had my fair share of mud.  Needless to say I was probably more worried about running back into the pigs at this point.  I finally made it back to the car.  I hiked little over 6 miles.  Probably took me 4 hours.  Horrible time, but what with being cautious and trying to get rid of the pound and a half of mud on each boot it took a bit longer than I would have liked.

Would I do this hike again?  Absolutely….but next time I’m going to make sure it’s good and dry!

Me

Me

300!

300!  And I’m not talking about the movie.  Today I finally hit 300 miles hiking since I got back on the trail June 6th.  It probably would have been more; but October had me traveling for the “day” job and November was a vacation on the beach, then Thanksgiving and well, let’s just say I wasn’t doing as good of a job as I should have in keeping up with my workouts!

All that changes now!

The one thing I’ve learned is that if you “fall off the wagon” the easiest way to get back on is to “just do it”.  Seriously…today is a perfect day to start back at it.  You don’t have to do anything huge….take a walk around your neighborhood, change one meal to be healthy.  Pick just one thing.  Start small again and grow again.

Today’s travels took me to the Cedar Ridge Preserve.  This is located in south Dallas and well worth the trip!  The area is covered in cedars and is probably the northern edge of the beginning of the Texas Hill Country.  Evidenced by all the limestone rock and cliffs that cover the area.  While the hike today was only 4 miles, there was a ton of elevation changes.  I think this will be my hike spot for the next couple of weeks while I continue to work on building up strength in my legs!

CedarRidgePreserve12072014

While I saw signs of wildlife (and by signs I mean “poop” on the trail), I didn’t see much other than birds.  The day is overcast and drizzly.  Probably about 48° F but with windchill it was 44°.  I started out with my Columbia Titanium shell; but a mile into the hike I was overheating.  That came off, got stuffed into the backpack, and off I went.  I would have been better served by leaving that shell at home and using my lighter weight Columbia I’ve started carrying in my pack.  I also should have worn my wool cap instead of my baseball cap.  I forgot how easily my ears get cold in this type of weather.

It’s all about learning what works and what doesn’t work.  Better to find out what works when I’m close to home, vs. being up at 10,000 feet, thousands of miles from home and discovering something doesn’t work.

CedarRidge12072014

Hiking…anywhere…

I’ve been very delinquent in writing. Part of this “grand experiment” is simply me trying to find my voice and the discipline to keep up with writing on a regular basis.

So far I owe you:

– Review of backpacking trip in the Davis Mountains
– Review of Northshore Trail near Grapevine Lake (Texas)
– Review of Lake Lewisville Environmental Learning Area (LLELA)

However, this right now commands my attention:

IMG_0210.JPG

Yep…I’m at the beach. I suspect where you are at the moment it is freakin’ cold…at least the last time I checked it was. It seems our first “polar vortex” of the season has much of the country in its grasp. As for me….the waves, beach, pelicans, and dolphins have me in their grasp.

Location this week is Longboat Key, Florida. We’re here celebrating a friend’s 50 birthday. No complaints from me.

I’ve used the time wisely walking, running the beach. Day one I think I did 1.99 miles (run/walk), day 2 was about 2.5 miles (run/walk) and yesterday was a 3 mile hike (walk). I definitely prefer walking the beach over running. There so many cool things to see, pictures to take, and animals to learn from!

Here’s one now…I saw this gorgeous shell laying in the water. I couldn’t resist and picked it up only to realize it felt heavier than I expected! I turned it over and come to find out this house was occupied! I now know where are the crabs go!

IMG_0193.JPG

I love seeing his little eyes peeping at me!

While I’m not necessarily hiking hills or the forest, I have learned to respect the beach and the havoc it can wreak on my calves. I seriously need a massage or my acupuncturist to work out some of the knots in my leg and back.

However, in the meantime, I’m going to sit back, crack another Corona (or Bourbon & 7) and go back to getting my last tan of the season.

Where’s your favorite place to unwind and get away from it all? Let me know in the comments…I’m always looking for some place new! Read More

I’m back from my backpacking trip in Fort Davis!  I’m happy to report that I made it up and down the mountain without hurting myself, crying, having a nervous breakdown, or falling.  I also didn’t try and bribe anyone to carry my 35lb pack for me!  While I have a ton I want to write about, I figured I’d break it all down into small manageable chunks.  First up: Lessons Learned.

There were things I learned this trip I wanted to make notes of so I can refer back to as I start planning the next trip or adventure (whatever that may be).  I figured I’d share this list with all of you.  Keep in mind all of these are more around the tangible things and things I need to consider doing or keeping in mind for the future.  We’ll get to the intangible stuff in a later post.

So, without further ado…my list of lessons learned!  Enjoy!

Preparing

  • ABT: Always be training
  • The week before a backpacking trip, listen to your body.  If it needs rest, get rest.  If it needs help, get it that help.
  • Take the time to lay out your gear.  I organized into the following categories:
    • Essentials (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp stove, tent)
    • Gear (compass, multi-tool, etc.)
    • Water
    • Food
    • Clothes
    • Electronics
    • Toiletries
  • Weigh everything individually and track it.  Take care of the ounces and the pounds take care of themselves.  In my case I used grams.
  • When you do weigh everything, write it down.  Having this list makes it easy to quickly spot where you might be able to cut back should the pack turn out to be heavier than anticipated!  A spreadsheet is great for this.

Packing

  • Always pack your backpack yourself.
  • When you fail at packing the backpack yourself and it looks and feels lopsided, call in your analytical girlfriend to pack the backpack for you.
  • Stay in the room when she packs the backpack, no matter what else you think you need to be doing.  Knowing how and where she packs stuff in your backpack will be important….later!
  • Compression is your friend.

Hiking to Camp

  • A 35lb pack on level land at 591ft in no way will feel like a 35lb pack when adrenaline and excitement are running through your body and you’re at 5,000 ft.  Your lungs will try and rebel.
  • A 35lb pack on level land at 591ft in no way will feel like a 35lb pack when standing on the side of a mountain, looking up trail after having hiked a mile uphill.  It will feel like 50lbs.
  • Take time to look up and look around when hiking.
  • Hiking with a group is very different from hiking by yourself.  Be aware that the group as a whole can only go as fast as it’s slowest members.
  • Don’t feel like you have to keep up with the fastest hikers.
  • Hike your own hike!
  • If the weather is great, who cares how fast or slow you go.  Being outdoors beats being in a cubicle any day of the week!
  • ABL: Always be learning.  Learn how your body responds when it suddenly has a 35lb pack strapped to it.  Learn how quickly your body adjusts.
  • Be mindful always of your feet.  They are your tires and the only thing that can get you into or out of any situation.  Take care of them and listen to them.
  • On the way to camp you will consume all of the snacks you loaded into the top of your backpack.
  • Take your phone, throw it in the top of the pack and forget about it.  Unless you discover cell service…then post away!
  • Make sure you’re Kindle app on your phone is up to date in case you want to read at night.
  • Keep the book “Scats and Tracks of the Desert Southwest” in the backpack at all times.  Even better…see if it’s available for Kindle.  You’ll want it.
  • Bring binoculars.  Even better…find a pair of lightweight, good binoculars you can keep with the pack.

Selecting a Camp / Tent Site

  • Location, location, location.  Select a spot with a great view if you can.  Both of the surrounding area and the sky.
  • Once you arrive at your camp site, select a place for your tent.  I found I like being on the perimeter a little ways from the main group.
  • Look for a fairly level spot, not one pointing downhill.  You, your sleeping bag and sleeping pad will be fighting gravity….no matter how little the incline may be.
  • If you do have to sleep on an incline, remember to keep you head uphill.
  • Don’t sleep on rocks.  There is no pad known to man that can counter rocks.
  • However, select a site with big rocks around the area where you can either sit and lean against a rock or use a rock as a platform/table.

General Camp Stuff

  • Use the pockets built into the tent.  On the left side pocket, keep electronics (phone for reading, camera, head lamp).  On the right side pocket, keep sundries (inhaler, meds).
  • Rain gear makes a good pillow.
  • Keep a pack towel in the tent to wipe up condensation.
  • Change into dry clothes after getting to camp.  Do not get into your tent in the clothes you’ve been hiking/sweating in.  It will not be pleasant!
  • Remember that you keep weird hours.  While 8:30pm is an acceptable time for you to go to bed, when hiking with a group others do not share the same sentiment.  However, 10:00pm is a good cut off.
  • Get up before everyone else.  5:30am or 6:00am will work.  You will be rewarded.
  • Digging a cat hole takes practice.  Hitting the cat hole takes even more practice.
  • Thank God for sticks.
  • Explore the surrounding area.
  • Cliff bars pack a lot of bang for the buck!
  • Dehydrated meals: Make a list of the ones you’ve tried and like and the ones you’ve tried and don’t like.
  • When a meal says it’s for 2, break it down into two separate servings.  Ziploc freezer bags or microwave bags are great for this.  Just remember to mark the bag with instructions.
  • 5 liters was not enough water.  Plan on taking 6 next time…or take any remaining water and add it to the 3 liter hydration pack before going back.
  • You do not need clothes to sleep in.  Wearing what you plan to hike in the next day (assuming it’s clean) will work fine.
  • Get a longer spork.
  • Package drink mixes (such as Crystal Light and Coffee) in a ziploc in the food bag.
  • Package snacks (which are always in ziplocs) in a ziploc for easy organization in the food bag.
  • Baking soda and the disposable toothbrushes work great!  Baking soda doubles for other things (such as neutralizing odor in trash bags, or use for stings).
  • Take 2 gallon ziploc bags for trash and for trowel.  1 gallon was not big enough for trowel.
  • Never underestimate the power of deodorant.  It can make you feel like a new woman.

Hiking Back

  • Downhill is always faster than uphill.
  • There is no rush to leave.  Savor the last few minutes/hours you have on the trail.
  • The view going back is different than the view going to.
  • Aleve and Vitamin I(buprophen) are your friends…keep them handy.  In fact, add them to the pill box.

Misc.

  • Find a better water bottle for camp…something you don’t have to unscrew but can drink from directly.  Keep it lightweight.
  • Buy more carabiners.   One cannot have enough carabiners.
  • Unload all your gear to the garage first and leave overnight.  Do not bring into the house.
  • Take care of the gear after you get home, including cleaning, refurnishing, etc.
  • [there will be more to add later as I haven’t officially unpacked at the moment!]

Lastly, and I think this goes without saying, enjoy the moment!  The experience is what is going to get you through the dark days in the office as you look forward to your next adventure!