I’ll be the first to admit. I’m lazy. All my backpacking gear is from the 1990s and who knows where all of it has ended up. Okay…I know where some of it is…it’s in the garage…but back in the 1990s terms like “ultra-light” weren’t even part of the hiking lexicon. If it was, it was all about sawing off the handle of your toothbrush to save 1oz.
So off I went for a trip to my local neighborhood REI. I’ve always liked REI. They actually hire people who have hiked, lived on the trail, and know the demands and the gear. I probably spent about 2+ hours getting the following:
Backpack (and rain cover)
Tent (and footprint)
Sleeping bag and pad
Camp stove and cook gear
Spork (seriously, you have to own a spork)
Additional hydration packs
As I sit here typing, I can think of a pile of things I didn’t get and should have. Rain gear, extra sock liners, maybe synthetic underwear (don’t judge). That’s why I started early…so I can think of these things.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be documenting exactly the gear I bought, the weight, and my initial thoughts “before” the trip and my thoughts “after” the trip.
Oh…the trip. Have I mentioned it? I’m doing an all women’s backpacking trip in the Ft. Davis Mountains. I’m very excited and eager. Yes…this will mean loading up all that gear mentioned above and hiking with it. But I figure I have time for that.
So if you see a woman straining under a backpack load simply stop and offer a few words of encouragement. She and I will be very much appreciative!
For the past two weeks I’ve been running stairs at my office at least twice a week. Today, all that hard work and sweat paid off!
I decided to hike the Elm Fork Trail up at Lake Ray Roberts. For those of you just now joining us, I did a bit of this trail about two weeks ago and paid dearly for it with some of the most horrendous blisters on my feet to date! I think several things happened during that episode:
- Feet got wet
- Out of condition
- No experience hiking in soft, deep sand
By the way, do not ever underestimate what it takes to hike soft, deep sand. This isn’t the compact stuff you find at the sea shore that’s been beaten down. Hell no. This is the “take a step, sink an inch or more, feel your foot slip off balance; take another step, sink, slip; repeat”.
Here’s a sample:
Now…if this was 25% or 40% of the trail, it’d be okay. But this is nearly 85% of the trail! I had to learn how to navigate it real quick since it and I were going to be best friends for the next 4 hours! In case your wondering, I tried to take smaller steps and actually lift my feet out of the sand, then place the next step solidly and slowly in place. You can’t “fast hike this”…well, you can, but then you end up with ugly blisters!
This is a great hike. Lots up ups and downs, rocks and lots of woods. Despite the fact its summer in Texas the day was relatively cool in the shade of the woods and the big pines.
I didn’t see much wildlife today. One rabbit, a couple of frogs, a couple of lizards and I don’t think these qualify as wildlife…but still fun seeing them on the trail. By the way, in case you didn’t know…you always yield to horses. Stand to the side of the trail, don’t make any sudden moves and say good morning to the riders so the horses know you’re a two legged and not a cougar.
I still have a few more hikes to do around Lake Ray Roberts. Stick around as I introduce you to them!
About a week and a half ago I posted on Facebook that a transformation was about to take place. I offered no other explanation other than each day since then I have been posting on Facebook what my workout routine is for each day.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what’s going on, what am I training for. This post will hopefully answer those and other questions.
Since about November of last year, I have experienced a decline in my health. Nothing major….but just enough irritations after irritations to finally take it’s toll. If you know me, I don’t do well with irritations. I like being 100% at all times.
It started after I came back from a trip from California with the trifecta of upper respiratory diseases: bronchitis, sinus infection, and pneumonia. Just as I was recovering, my annual mammogram found a lump in my right breast. It turned out to be nothing…but this is the second time a “lump” caused all sorts of stress and consternation and turned out to be nothing. Once that was settled I ended up throwing out my back, not once, not twice, but three different times. Each time worse than the last. Finally I dislocated my right shoulder, but it popped back into place pinching nerves and taking weeks to heal. On top of this our company’s annual “health check up” showed me with a 41″ waste, labeled me as “obese”, a fasting glucose of 182mg and my bad cholesterol “borderline high”. All of this and I’m on the downside of 49 pushing 50.
I finally got to a place where I was sick and tired and of being sick and tired.
I racked my brain over what I could do. I HATE running and walking the concrete jungle didn’t have any allure for me. So I started thinking. In another lifetime I used to hike. I loved hiking. I would go to Colorado every year to go hiking and bouldering. Somewhere along the way life happened and I left that love. The time felt right to find that love again.
So I hiked.
I discovered some great trails right here in my city. I started expanding to state parks as folks started following this blog and telling me about new trails. The act of moving and discovery started bringing life back into my tired old body. I started hiking on June 7th. By July 7th I had put in 58 miles. By August 7th the total miles was 146. I stand at over 160 miles at the time of this writing.
But it wasn’t enough.
In my twitter feed the Texas Parks & Wildlife announced a “Women’s Only Backpacking Outing in the Ft. Davis Mountains”. I talked it over with Laura, and with her blessing I signed up. It’s time to get back on the trail. This also gave me something to shoot for beyond just hiking. I have a firm date at the end of September and I need to be in shape for that weekend. So I stepped up my game.
My week now pretty much now looks like this:
Monday: Stairs (20 minutes): Effectively I’m running the stairs in my parking garage at work.
Tuesday: Running: Remember…I hate running…so this is more run/walk. But I try to do 1.5 to 2.0 miles.
Wednesday: Hike 3+ miles.
Thursday: Stairs (20 minutes): I really like running stairs
Saturday: Upper body stuff (which I’m really doing upper body every day if truth be told)
Sunday: Long Hike….usually 7 to 12 miles
I’m currently in my second week.
Now…if you are still with me….let’s move on to the next phase of my rambling.
See the picture below?
That’s Long’s Peak in Colorado. At one time, I had a dream to hike this mountain. I never made it. I got as far as the parking lot of the trail head in the middle of the day thinking “One day I want to climb this”.
Well damn it…that’s changing. My goal for my 50th year, is to make it back to Colorado and climb this mountain. Everything I’m doing now is preparing my body for the long hike and climb up this mountain. I will do it. I have to.
So what am I training for? I’m training for myself…to help my body to feel better, to clear my head, get away from the city, and rediscover my first love…nature and all that she has to throw at me.
Have I lost weight? I’m not sure…the scale keeps bouncing around. But I know my clothes are fitting better. I can tell by the way my center of gravity has shifted that my body is starting to change. I didn’t get to be 200lbs overnight, and I’m certainly not going to lose the weight overnight. But as long as I keep putting small goals out there I will get there.
I plan on having blood work done in the next week or so. We’ll do a comparison then of where I was in March to where I am now. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a change and how much of a change.
So my question to you….what are you doing? What’s been nagging at you and you’ve had a hard time finding the motivation to do it? What excuses do you keep putting up? Why? What can I do to help you? We’re all in this journey together….and there are days I don’t want to go run or hike in 100 degree weather….but I do it. Because the only thing standing between me and my goal….is me. Fear is a manifestation of ourselves. It’s not real and it doesn’t exist except in our mind. I will boldly go where I am meant to go.
So if any of you have been following along at home, you know I’ve suddenly entered into the Gladiator of Blister Death Ring and have been having major battles with my feets.
Funny that none of this started happening until now.
So I decided to take stock and headed over to my neighborhood REI. Now…I wish this REI was really in my neighborhood…but alas it’s like miles away from where I live now. I used to live near an REI and that freakin’ rocked. It was also dangerous to my pocket book.
Anyway a quick chat with the dude in the boots department, and he made some sock suggestions (as they do) and asked when was the last time I washed my boots. What? You have to wash the things? There’s like maintenance? And surprisingly there apparently is some maintenance.
Today I took them out back and hosed them off, getting off probably two months of dirt, dust, and mud. Not only did I hose off the outside, I hosed off the inside. I should point out that currently here in Texas the average temperature during the day is what you would find in Hell, so I didn’t worry about the inside of the boots drying. The next thing I did was take some Castile Soap put a few drops inside the shoe, fill with water, swish, empty, and rinse.
Next, I figured after 143+ miles, I suspect the insole was shot. So I bought some Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel insoles, cut to size, and outfitted the boots with those.
Lastly, I had bought some NikWax Leather Conditioner. I applied that to all the leather and polished them up. Not bad if I do say so myself.
My hope is all this TLC will convince my boots that I do love them, that I haven’t been meaning to take them for granted, and can we please call a truce over the blisters!
I’ll let you know if any of this works!
So Sunday ended up being a very rough hike. I ended up with three major blisters. Here…let me show you….you’ve been warned.
So yeah….that’s the one on the right foot. I had a matching one on the left foot that apparently “popped” while I was still hobbling. So needless to say the first part of this week was dedicated to foot care. I’ve learned more about blisters in the last 4 days than I care to admit.
So..the current status is that the right foot, which had two major blisters…one being on the bottom on the ball of my foot, are healing nicely. Twice a day, I wipe them down with alcohol and then tea tree oil.
Let’s talk about that left foot. While the blister has drained, there’s still a lot of pain in that area. I know and recognize this pain. I’ve had enough injuries in my lifetime to know when a wound is infected. This is infected. Now luckily it’s not oozing anything “ugly”….but it’s red and hurts. So I started a round of Cipro. I did go ahead and hike last night, and tonight because it’s 101 degrees, no wind, and 45% humidity, I opted to do the treadmill. I hate the treadmill….but it’s better than nothing. It was after the treadmill that I finally had to admit things are not going well for that left foot. I’m going to take two more days off and see how things progress now that I’m getting Cipro on board.
Not much else to report other than yesterday I figured out that I can now tell the difference between domestic dog poo and coyote poo. I know you want to know more about this fascinating subject…however, I’ll leave that for another blog. And don’t you worry…there will be pictures!
Today’s Treadmill (aka Dreadmill)
Elevation: 450ft+ (our treadmill does an incline, so I popped that bad boy up to 6)
Don’t get me wrong..I LOVE our national parks. I’m just not fortunate enough to live in a location where I’m an hour or two away sadly.
So my question to you…where do you go to escape if you can’t get to a national park? Where do you go to “escape the concrete”?
Pretty cool to see the process of what it takes to bring a state park to life!
After last weeks disaster with the mosquitoes, I decided it was time for a change of scenery. So far I’ve done this Greenbelt trail from FM 380 to FM 428. I decided today would be a good day to start at FM 428 and hike up to FM 455.
You start out at the Greenbelt Park 428 Access. You’ll walk up and over a red iron bridge taking you to the west side of the Trinity River. For pretty much 3 miles, you’re hiking on that edge where forest meets meadow. The grass was as tall if not taller than me in some places!
Pretty good hike. We’ve been really lucky here in North Texas in that we had another rain event which has cooled things off considerably.
About 3 miles in you finally come to the southern boundary of Lake Ray Roberts. The last mile or so you’ll be hiking in woods. This was my chance to test out my grand experiment!
I can now confirm that Off Deep Woods Sportsman II with 30% Deet is effective against the damn bloody mosquitoes. You can thank me later for putting my body to the test for science to keep you all safe out there.
I even stopped at one point to see what would happen. I had about 40 of the blood thirsty suckers surrounding me….but they never would land. Keep in mind that this go around I even had on shorts so I had even more skin I needed to cover. The Deep Woods worked! If you’re looking for this specific Off product, be aware that you probably can’t just traipse into your local WallyWorld or Target and find it. Those stores tend to carry the 10% variety and when it comes to Deep Woods these buggers laugh at 10%. I ended up ordering 4 cans of the stuff off of Amazon.com; damn well worth it.
I took a break at the park at FM 455. Here you’re just on the other side of the Lake Ray Roberts dam. I grabbed a map to see where I could go next. As luck would have it, at the north east corner of the parking lot, the Equestrian Trail continues toward Isle du Bois. So far most of this “hiking” has been even trails…however this trail doesn’t disappoint. I saw a small deer; probably not even a year old yet. She was the only deer I saw today.
The trail from here toward the lake is fun and challenging in that lots of ups and downs, rocks, and deep deep sand. About a mile and a half past the 455 park you’ll come to an aquaduct that takes you under the road. I went in another 1/2 a mile and decided I’d have to leave the rest of this trail for another day. I headed back.
Since I was hiking through shifting sand and wet grass needless to say my feet were slipping every which a way. I could tell I had some nasty blisters building.
I stopped off at the 455 park for another quick break. This park is much like the one off of FM 428 in that they have proper clean restrooms. Be sure and read about the area before you cross the bridge…the Aubrey Clovis tribes were found to frequent this area nearly 11,500 years ago. Cool stuff.
As I headed back, I realized my feet were getting worse and worse. Despite my hiking boots, I could feel every rock, pebble, and grain of sand through the boots. I didn’t dare stop and take my boots off because I know I’d never get them back on. Luckily I got distracted by a couple of snakes. I don’t know what it is with me and snakes…guess since my Chinese Calendar says I was born in the year of the Snake they just naturally gravitate to me. I saw a green snake and a baby rat snake.
The last two miles were the hardest and longest I’ve hiked. I could feel the various blisters popping. I could barely walk. I continue to hobble along although at a much slower pace.
Once I got back to the truck, I immediately took off my boots and socks and confirmed the damage. I switched over to my crocks and looked forward to getting home and off my feet for the rest of the day. Guess I’ll be taking a couple of days off!
I’ll update this later with pictures. My camera is in my backpack and I really don’t want to get up and walk to get it…yeah…the feet are that painful. Ah well, this’ll continue to tough them up!
So…I used to hike a lot when I was younger. Probably the worst hike to date was getting trapped up on a ridge just below Flat Top Mountain in Colorado in a freak spring ice storm. That is until yesterday. Yesterday was the stuff of nightmares.
Let’s set the stage. It’s the Greenbelt Trail that I usually do on Sundays. However, lets look at what has transpired about 7 to 10 days ago. We had a major rain event here in North Texas.
So once again, being intrigued with the Equestrian Trail, I decided to try it again despite the fact they still had it chained off. I quickly found out why.
About 200 yards into the hike you end up walking along a pond…the entire area was still wet, drenched, and covered with MOSQUITOES! Now yes…I had sprayed myself with insect repellent; however, I didn’t realize how ignorant I was of the product I was using. I tried to get past the pond as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t seem to shake them. I finally got out into the open as the trail take a right and goes through the electrical right away for another 500 yards. However, with every step, the cloud of mosquitos would rise up and start their feast. About a mile into the hike I finally came to the railroad right of way and was faced with about 2 feet of water that was too wide for me to try to jump. I could tell walking through it would simply disturb what ever creatures awaited to devour me.
There was only one way out…to backtrack.
So…back through the mosquito hords….I passed under one power tower that was covered with vultures. I figured they were waiting for the mosquitoes to kill me so they could finish me off.
I got back to where the trail heads back into the wood and decided at this point to bush whack to find the main trail. After getting to the trail, I figured now would be a good time to reapply the repellent….
I quickly discovered the repellent was nothing more than laughing gas to these little bastards. I continued on my hike…but could feel them landing and starting to feed. At some point I’m sure I looked like the human helicopter waiving my hands and hiking stick trying to kill them. I tried to out hike them picking up my pace. Every time I turned around and looked over my shoulder, I could see them keeping pace with my sad 3 miles per hour.
I finally found peace once I hit mile 4 and I was out away from the woods, the wet and out in pure sunshine!
My hope was that it was all behind me and that the mosquitos I had to deal with were left over from my failed traipsing through the woods…how wrong I was.
I started heading back and the minute I hit the woods, here they came again. By this time I was out of repellent. I had nothing to protect myself. As much as I wanted to stop and rest, every time I stopped to take a breath, here they came. The descended on me like I was the first hunk of food they’d ever seen in their lives. I was tired and exhausted. I was nearly in tears. I was so tired and just wanted to stop and take a break. It’s not like I could call anyone. “Oh hey…I’m in mosquito hell, would you mind walking out here and getting me?” Yeah…that wasn’t go over with anyone. I had to push with no breaks to make it through the last 3 miles of a 13 mile hike. What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger. However, keep all this in mind if I come down with West Nile.
As the end was in sight, along came a family. It was a dad, mom, a 4 year old son on a bike and a baby in the carriage. They too were slapping at the bugs…I told them that it wasn’t going to get any better down the trail…in fact it gets worse. They too commented on the fact that nothing seem to drive them away. Hopefully they decided to do the right thing and abandon the day…..
…and for the record, I did some research on repellents. Deet at 30%. Accept nothing less. I’ve ordered 4 cans of Off Deep Woods Sportsman II. I’ll report back next week.
Tail of the tape:
Nothing like hiking 13+ miles only to come up 0.80 miles short of 100! Grrrrrr!
So despite the temperature being 94 degrees (but “feeling” like 104) I was bound and determine to put some miles in today. I probably ended up setting one of my best times today. I’ve decided my weekday hikes will be about improving my stamina and endurance. I don’t want to run trails or do “ultra-hikes”; but if I can push myself during the week, I think that will get me started in the right direction. Maybe its just my imagination, but my jeans seem to not be fitting as tightly…I hope!