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!

 

 

Here we go!

So I had every intention of blogging every day this week about the packing process, the anxiety over not having enough, having too much, where the hell am I putting it all, this won’t fit, etc.

However, life.

Seems my body decided to take one last shot at me to see if I am really serious about all this.

It started probably a week ago; but I just haven’t felt 100%.  My right knee, the one I injured in the fall at Walmart, was acting up.  So my sciatic nerve in my lower back decided to act out too.  On top of this, I seemed to have picked up a gastric bug somewhere along the way.  I’ll spare you the details, but the anti-diarrheal meds weren’t cutting it.  In the quiet of my bedroom my stomach sang to me the song of it’s people.

This wasn’t going to fly.  Not with the Fort Davis camping trip this weekend.

So…Monday off to my favorite person in the whole wide world, Dr. Heidi Iratcabal.  I swear this woman has held my poor broken body together for the past 15 years.  If I break it, she fixes it.

Anyway…she did her magic again, including adding some acupuncture tacks.  I took Monday off (no workout) with every intention of working out on Tuesday.

However, Tuesday I was 2 hours into my day when I realized my stomach decided to take me down.  I went home, found some Cipro left over from an India trip.  I slept all day Tuesday, which tells me my body had been trying to tell me something was wrong and I needed pure rest.  So rest I did.

Yesterday I finally started feeling better.  Was able to walk/jog and do some upper body circuit work.  My appetite is still weak, but maybe that’s just me starting to get used to much smaller meals.

Suffice it to say, there were no pictures taken and no blogs written.

However, thanks to my girl, we were able to not only get my backpack packed, but the math on this thing is pretty amazing.  While to the eye it may look slightly lopsided the reality is that mathematically it is even in weight and the center of gravity is exactly where I need it.  She’s pretty amazing!  We weighed the pack and right now it’s coming in just at 35lbs.  Keep in mind that I’m carrying 5 liters of water which is about 11lbs of weight.  Remember where we’re hiking this weekend there is no water on the mountain unless we get rain.

Speaking of rain, I’ve decided that the Fort Davis mountains must be Mother Nature during menopause.  In the past two weeks I’ve seen the rain chances for Fort Davis go from 0% to 50% up to 80% down to 40% back up to 60% and the last time I checked I think we’re at 20%.  It’s a game of what will the percentage be every time I check the weather out there.  So I have to be prepared for “anything”!

I’m both anxious and excited.  I still question whether or not I can really do this and carry this much weight on my back while I hike up an 1,000 ft. elevation gain.  I still have that nagging voice in the back of my head.  However, I’m excited to get back out into nature.

….and yes…I have my driver’s license, yes…I have my insurance card, and my health savings card.  I should be covered should a hospital be in my future.  There is a story behind this.  It involves a camp stove.  While I’ll save that story for another blog, suffice it to say I did spend time making sure I could operate my camp stove last night and this time it did not end up with an emergency room visit.  I consider that alone as a success!

What are you anxious about?  Remember….fear is something we create in our own minds.  We can overcome fear!  It just takes patience, practice and learning to trust!

You can turn it around!

So I’m three months into this “grand experiment” of mine and I have to say….I pushed another button today and got a well deserved pellet damn it!

I went back to the doctor today to get my blood test results.  Somewhere in the past week I dropped another two pounds so I’m now at 188.   However, here’s where the rubber meets the road:

Type                                                Feb. 2014                               Sept. 2014

Glucose                                           182mg/DL                              101mg/DL

HDL Cholesterol                            52 mg/DL                                50mg/DL

LDL Cholesterol                            157mg/DL                                140mg/DL

Total Cholesterol                          234mg/DL                                207mg/DL

Triglycerides                                  125mg/DL                                86mg/DL

Tell you what…for someone 6 months shy of 50 and who has treated her body more like a honkytonk than a temple; I’ll take it.  We’re going to watch the Cholesterol to make sure it doesn’t go any higher; but I don’t want to go on meds and I’m not about to give up bacon and red meat.  Although I have to admit, I haven’t had red meat in a while now.

We’ll do this again in December and continue to track.  But for now…I’ll continuing pushing the button and getting those pellets!

What do you need help with?  What challenge are you dreading and need some motivation?  Hell…what’s your pellet?

No, I haven’t gone backwards with my miles.  That’s 200lbs to 190lbs.  I’ve lost 10lbs in three months.   I’m a very simple girl.  If I push the button I need a pellet.  I need some sort of confirmation that all the hard work done over the past three months is actually making a difference.  Push the button, get a pellet; push the button, get a pellet.  I’ve been pushing this damn button for 3 months and my pellet is losing 10lbs!  I’ll take it!

I’m hoping the next pellet comes in the form of the results of my blood workup.  Like I said…simple girl.

Now…on to yesterday’s hike.

I was back at Lake Ray Roberts and hiked the Jordan Park Trail.  That trail starts at Bluestem Grove Camping Area and goes all the way up to FM 1192.  You can then cross the road and head up to the Lantana Lodge and then hike beyond Lantana for another 3.5 mile loop.

Yesterday was a first for me.  I had to poop in the woods.  Now, let me explain.  Years ago when I actually hiked a lot and everywhere, I bought one of those orange plastic trowels and carried it all over the place.  Not once did I ever have to use it. Not. Once.  I still have it somewhere, but as I’ve mentioned, who knows where half of my camping equipment from the 1990s has ended up.

Off to REI I go.  Apparently today’s “trowel” is black, lighter and supposedly more sturdy.  Okay…not sure why sturdy is important…but we’ll soon discover why that’s a useful feature.

I am on my hike yesterday when #2 decides it needs to happen.  As with most folks, I kept thinking I could put off this business until I reached the Lantana Lodge and use a proper bathroom…but my stomach this weekend wasn’t in the best of shape shall we say.  I went as far as I could until I could go no more.

Now it was a case of trying to find the perfect place.

I used to make fun of the cats in my life for digging and digging in their litter box.  They dig in one corner, no…that’s not right…then they turn and dig in another corner….by the time they finally go they’ve dug the Grand Canyon 50 times over!

So it was with me.  I kept checking out this tree and that tree.  I kept trying to triangulate where the tree was in relation to the trail and who could see me or not see me depending on which direction they were coming.  I hadn’t really seen anyone on the trail all day, but wasn’t about to take chances.

I finally found a clump of trees that I could get to that seemed far enough off the trail and hidden relatively from the trail.  Great.

I took off my pack and pulled out my trusty trowel.  This was going to be my first official “cat hole”.  I start digging.  What “they” fail to tell you is that you are going to hit every known root in the woods….all those roots are going to cross at exactly the place your digging!  I now know why a strong trowel is a must….because you spend more time trying to break through the damn roots and get a big enough and deep enough hole!  And of course the whole time your stomach is threatening to unleash what ever hell its been bottling up for the last two miles and reminds you that you better hurry up!

Damn it!

After finally pulling out roots by hand (someone remind me why I have a trowel if I’m going to end up digging the hole by hand), it was time….down go the pants and just as I look up….there they are.  Two deer no more than 40 feet from me who have been watching me this entire time try to dig a hole and squat over it.  They just stood and stared.  In all honesty…if I was them…I probably would have stared too.  Thank god they have not outfitted the deer with iPhones yet…otherwise there would be pictures of my lily white butt posted all over the internet by now.  Eventually they moved off and I was able to finish my business.

So there you go…my afternoon pooping with deer.  Fantastic.

Have you had to poop in the woods?  If so, do you have a story to tell?  I’m all ears!  Don’t let me be alone in this.  I promise not to laugh…too much.

203 Miles and counting….

And just like that, yesterday I broke 200 miles.  Whew!  I feel like I’m just getting started!

To catch everyone up….last week I fell at Walmart.  You can stop laughing now.  No really….stop laughing.

I hammered my right knee. Not a good thing when you have a pretty good training schedule set up.  So given my knee was hurting what do I do?  You bet…I went right out, put my 25lb pack on and hiked 3.25 miles.  That’s what we all do right?

Thursday, I took the day off….that means I walked / ran for about half to 3/4 of a mile then used the circuit equipment at a park near the house.  Came home and iced the knee.  I then started putting Tiger Balm before bedtime.

I love Tiger Balm.  If you haven’t used it, go get some…right now…I’ll wait.  I love the smell, I love the heat, it’s my go to for muscle aches.  It’s sort like BenGay on steroids.  Do they even make BenGay anymore? I’m dating myself.  Icy Hot…it’s like Icy Hot.

Anyway…Friday was an off day (for real) and I went and got a brace for the knee.  It kept feeling like it wanted to pop.  I also put in a call to my neighborhood acupuncturist who typically fixes me…but alas, she’s on vacation.  I don’t remember her asking me if she could go on vacation, but I digress.

So Saturday I ran/walk, circuited again.  Sunday….well…a 25lb pack, 13 miles and climbing up an overlook at 350ft to test the knee.  I made it back alive and I’m still walking.

It still feels the need to be popped…and every chance I get I slowly can get a few pops here and there.

Today I hit the stairs with the pack…knee felt good and I kept the brace off it while I did the stairs.  I think as long as I listen to my body I’ll be okay.  Until my body starts cussing me…then we’ll have an argument.

I feel really good…it’s been 3 months since I stared all of this.  Friday will be the test as I’ll be having complete blood workup to see what my numbers are at.  To give my body the best chance of success I am not drinking any alcohol this week.

Yes…I know…shocking isn’t it?

I’ll report back when I get the numbers.  Otherwise, I’m gonna keep on hiking!

Spider Web

This hike is 4.5 miles from the Bluestream Grove camp area of Lake Ray Roberts and comes out at FM 1192.  However, I decided to actually start at the park Headquarters.  That made this a 6 mile hike; 12 miles round trip!  It was long…but luckily the path is pretty level.

I started out around 6:30a.m.  First up…this really cool spider web!  I love how the web refracted the light.

Spider Web

Spider Web

Now I don’t mind spiders.  However, I despise spider webs.  Unfortunately being “first” on the trail comes with a price….you end up breaking down all the spider webs on the trail.  And once you get wrapped up in one, you can’t help but feel like you’re wrapped in it and can’t get rid of it.  You can’t see it, buy you feel it and it feels creepy….<shudder>.  It was going to be a long morning.

Up next a couple of Harris Hawks kept watch and probably laughed at my poor attempts to rid myself of the latest round of webs.

Harris Hawks

Harris Hawks

From headquarters to BlueStream Grove is little over a mile.  Once you come out at the camp area head toward the restrooms and you’ll find the Lunging Area.

Lunging Area...what the hell is a "lunging area"?

Lunging Area…what the hell is a “lunging area”?

Apparently lunging a horse is to work the horse in a circle having them speed up or slow down based on voice commands.  Why a park would need one of these is beyond me…but okay.  Go past the lunging area along the right side of the circle and you’ll find the trail head for the Jordan Park Trail.

Not a bad way to spend the day

Not a bad way to spend the day

Tiny frog...almost missed seeing him.

Tiny frog…almost missed seeing him.

As I got within a mile of FM 1192, I had startled a flock of cardinals.  As I stopped to watch them flit through the trees I turned back to the trail just in time to see my first Bobcat!  He apparently had been out hunting as he had something in his mouth.  He didn’t seem to know or care I was there.  He was probably 3 yards in front of me as we quietly trotted across the trail with his kill and off into the woods!

I finally got to FM 1192.  Unfortunately there is nothing here.  There’s a pull out where folks with horse trailers can park, but there are no services beyond that….as in no place to sit, no restrooms etc.  Okay….about 2 miles back on the trail I came across this pit toilet….but no.  I’ll take a tree any day over this disaster.

I'll take a tree please....

I’ll take a tree please….

While I would have continued on the trail, I was already at 6 miles.  I stopped under a tree, had a bit to eat, drank some Gatorade and got back on the trail to head back.

I stopped to talk with several groups of horsemen out taking advantage of the day.  Just as I turned away from the second group, I saw something slinking through the woods….I recognized it as another bobcat.  Or maybe it was the same bobcat.  All I know is I was very surprised at how big they are.  They’re about 30 to 40 pounds…they’re just a bit smaller than my dog!

I did see a couple of deer as well during this jaunt as well as a variety of insects that were kind enough to stand still for me to take pictures.  Unlike the deer and bobcat who I couldn’t get to sit in one place so I could snap a picture!

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Praying Mantis - Restroom buddy

Praying Mantis – Restroom buddy

All in all a great little hike…although a little long.  I was probably ready to be done at mile 10!   I feel pretty good….just need to make sure I stretch before bedtime…else I may not get up tomorrow or when I do, I’ll be groaning….a LOT!