Sunday, July 8, 2012

Adventure Treks

Well, I've been plenty busy the last few days. After spend all that lovely time at Casa De Luna, I was back in Park City with my little goose balls. We got two full weeks of hanging out, goofing off, and enjoying the heat wave of early summer. The kiddos finished with school and we got to have some good times before we went our separate ways for summer.

Funny enough, we were all headed up to Oregon, just not quite the same place. I passed through some familiar places on the PCT in Cali as I headed north, and completed the missing two miles of my hike near Burney CA. Then I hit Lassen national park for a night, then Crater Lake. There was a ton of snow still around the rim and most of the hiking was limited, so I grabbed a back country permit, slogged up some of the snowy peaks near the rim, glissaded down, and then stealthed on the rim with a great view of the sun rise over Wizard island. While I don't want to condone breaking park rules, it was completely worth it for the views!!

From here, I rolled into Bend, OR for a wilderness first responder course for my new job. The class was a blast, a fun crowd of active people, and even though the weather wasn't always cooperating, we had a hooting good time! Although it seemed to be a refresher for alot of info I already knew, I was glad to get it done and meet some incredible people while at it.

From WFR training, I headed over to the coast for some less than relaxing.time, but that story is for another day. Anyway, I headed up just north of Portland for some damp and soggy job training, then met my staff crew for the summer and hopped in our 15 passenger van and drove back into Cali.

For the past few days we have been scouting our trip, visiting trailheads and campsites and dialing in our plan so that when the kids arrive we can perform some level of organized chaos. It's been very quiet, but hopefully with the arrival of our kids tomorrow, the summer can get under way! Our trip includes backpacking in the Shasta-Trinity Alps, mountain biking, climbing, rafting, climbing Mt Shasta, more rafting, and a backpack on the Lost Coast! Should be a wild and crazy 3 and 1/2 weeks!

From there, plans are still up in the air, but it's looking like I'll be paying a visit to Minnesota. And maybe taking a bike tour somewhere. And toss in a wedding. It'll be another busy fall, but then again, why not?!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


After a two week hiatus, I'm back to blogging.  I was too busy relaxing to take the time to write.  Life is tough. 

So, you might suspect a lot has happened in two weeks, not really.  I navigated, with some strife, from Arizona to the Andersons' home, Casa de Luna, where I posted up and spent the last two weeks mingling with trail angels and hikers alike.  I cooked taco salad, consumed ample beers, caused mayhem, and assumed the role of "Social Chair."  I squeezed in about 4 showers, and rotated my two changes of clothes almost every day, but essentially, I just lived the life I love.  When the hardest decision you have to make is, "Should I walk .3 miles to the store today or can it wait until tomorrow?"'s a pretty awesome existence. 

Beyond the food and fantastically crappy reality television I enjoyed, the best part of it all was the people.  On the biggest evening, we had roughly 75 hikers staying the night, but over the last two weeks I think there was between 300 and 400 hikers that showed their faces around the area.  I got to meet some super awesome hikers, and heard all sorts of awesome stories.  Old faces that I recognized from last year appeared, some of whom were hiking this year, such as No Amp and Speedbump Sr.  The wonderful Liz came in for a few days to help shuttle hikers around and make sure that I ate healthy.  (Thanks LP!)  Current year hikers that I met at Kickoff and while doing trail magic with Unload trickled in a few at a time.  I even met two gals that previously worked for Adventure Treks and were taking the summer off to thru-hike.  And the Wolverines took over Memorial Day weekend with Jackass, Molasses, Steve Climber, Bounce Box, Upchuck, Scarecrow, and Bloodbank.  Both new and old faces consumed my days, and there was nothing more satisfying than just sitting around and feeling the constant buzz of energy. 

This community is the strongest I have ever belonged to and while I might call Park City "home" these days, I will always feel at home around these people.  Any time spent here makes me forget the fact that I hate walking!  I hate the walking part, but if that's the cost of admission, it's a steal.

And now, having arrived at the airport, I can starting looking forward and see the great things that are in my future.  I successfully got a position this summer with Adventure Treks!!!  I will be on the California Challenge II instructor team as a first year instructor, joining 5 other instructors, 24 kids, and tackle northern California this summer.  My trip will include backpacking in the Trinity Alps on the PCT, a summit attempt on Mt. Shasta, rafting, climbing, mt. biking, and backpacking on the Lost Coast.  I'm stoked!  I am currently bouncing back to Utah for the next two weeks, hanging out with my nanny kids, then redirecting to Bend, OR, for a wilderness first responder course, then immediately jumping to Portland to start training for the summer!  I ended up turning down working for Canyons for the summer to pursue this opportunity, but I think that this is the best choice for me be making for myself.  Again, I'm a little bummed that I won't be spending my summer in Park City, since I know that it has amazing things to do, but then again, there's always fall...

Busy, busy, busy...but I couldn't be more excited for this adventure to continue.  When I left for Arizona, this was not "the plan."  I don't think I could have ever planned for it to be this incredible.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Deja vu?

Back at the Phoenix greyhound. Returning to Cali. Hopefully I don't miss my bus this time!

Away from the heat and fires, into the mayhem and community of the PCT. I won't deny that it has been a bit of a bummer to have to walk away from the AZT but with alot of other pieces of my life falling into place, it's not a tragic event. And I feel at ease with my choice knowing that I'm not walking away because I miss home or can't take the pressures of hiking, but that Mother Nature isn't on board with this trip and is sending back to Cali to help make the 2012 PCT hikers successful in their adventures.

During my interview for this dream summer job, a question came up of, "how do you define community?" A tricky answer to put into words, but immediately my mind went straight to the PCT community. So dedicated and committed to helping others succeed, at financial, physical, and emotional costs. I have said time and time again, that I actually hate hiking, but I keep coming back for the community. Based on common interest, not demographics, the hiking community is the largest group of friends I can imagine. I think you would have a hard time drawing a 2663 mile line anywhere in the world and find anything close to what the PCT offers. So away I go to do my part to help, as so many did last year for me!

And in a fun side note...

I was checking around the website for the company Adventure Treks that I might get to work for this summer and found some cool things.
2 instructors previously worked at Camp Jewell with me.

1 instructor hiked the PCT last year. 2 are hiking this year, and 1 hiked in 2010.

2 have hiked the AT.

4 attended UNH in the outdoor education department (my original major.)

4 live/work in Park City.

I'd say that's a pretty awesome lineup!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ciao AZT!

265 miles in and I'm done.  It was hot. Insanely hot.  I felt like a piece of plastic in the sun slowly being warped by the rays.  This last section of trail had no shade cover and temperatures crossed into the 100's.  Water sources are few and far between out here, and to rely on iffy sources was a risk I had no choice but to take.  I was carrying 8 liters of water at a shot, and still getting dehydrated and feeling miserable.  After two full days of trying to convince myself I was enjoying it out there, I gave up and let the rational part of my brain turn on.  I was approaching the Gila river with a few remaining sips of hot, green, nasty tasting water left, dozens of heat-resistant pestering gnats trying to sneak into my ears, eyes and nose, and feeling the sun bake my shoulders and legs.  I finally sighted the river and tossed my pack on the ground, ripped off my shoes and walked straight in.  And I laid there.  The muddy water rushed over me and my mind cleared.  I needed to get off the trail before it got worse. 

Thankfully, I was close to a major highway, and after a few hours in the shade of the bridge, I walked up the road to the intersection and stuck out a thumb.  After only 20 minutes or so, a car passed, then pulled a U-turn and came back to get me.  They were headed my direction and felt sorry to see a "little girl alone hitch-hiking" and felt impelled to pick me up.  Works for me!  It was a mother and her two grown children, returning from visiting grandma's gave on Mother's Day.  After a quick trip up the road, I was checked into a motel with AC and chugging a large bottle of Gatorade.  The hotel manager was shocked to see a hiker come in this late, and proceeded to show me the forecast for the next 4 days.  Daily highs? 104, 104, 108, 108.  And to boot, a wildfire was burning just north of here, and threatening to burn across the trail if it hadn't already. Hmm.  Plan B?

Well, it just so happened that another hiker was in town, and after we discussed options, I decided the risk was too great, and I was throwing in the towel.  He opted to keep going.  I hope he stays safe!  Things quickly started to fall into place.  I was able to contact the company that was interested in interviewing me for summer position working for Adventure Treks, and was able to start that process.  I also got a hold of Casa de Luna and Jackass, and decided that instead of jumping north on the AZT, I would return to California and do my part to help the Wolverines and Trail Angels.  Back to the PCT I go!

I am saying goodbye to the AZT after completing 1/3 of the trail, and going to try and earn my trail angel wings.  Hopefully I can help Mama T and Papa Joe and make the class of 2011 proud.  I will be helping out until Memorial Day weekend, and then I will head back to Park City and return back home the the family I nanny for.  I'm excited to see the little rascals again and get some fun times in before they take off for the summer.  Hopefully I too will be headed out for the summer and be leading a sweet trip in Cali!  None of this was the plan a month ago, but it doesn't sound too bad!?

Now for a few pictures....


 papa sneaking into mexico...nice fence....

gila monster!

my cave shelter...and one flick of the bic fire

monster western diamondback thick as my forearm!
 hard to spot...but yes, that is a dead bird floating in my water source

...and finally, rinse #2 of my socks.

And in parting...the wisdom of the sign on my motel room wall...

"How we spend our days, is how we spend our life."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

First day back..

Boo. So this return to hiking wasn't as smooth as desired. I was unable to get a ride to the trailhead from the end of the bus route, so I had to tack nine more miles onto my day. 5 of them flat, 4 of them a grueling climb on pavement. I ended up not even making it to the trailhead before dark and had to camp on the side of the road in a wind tunnel apparently. Sadly sleep was not easily found, and I had a restless night being thrashed by huge gusts of wind. The moon was pretty though!

I tried to rally a better attitude for the morning, and almost did for the first few miles, until the climbing started. 6000 feet of climbing. With a pack filled with water. About halfway up, I caught a glance of Tucson, and saw the storm clouds building. The valley floor was quickly shrouded with the smog-y haze so indicative of rain. Exposed and around 6000 feet with another 2000 to climb, I cranked some tunes and started to haul ass. Thankfully I made it over the peak and dropped into some marvelous pines that comforted me amidst the cracks thunder ripping around me. Having just made a wrong turn and taken an extra half a mile, I was feeling fairly low, and no amount of Mumford & Sons could help me now. Exhausted and feeling defeated, I decided to rest and consult maps, secretly hoping I was further along than I knew I was. Just as I sat there realizing I was further back than I hoped, I started to feel the clouds spiting on me. Small harmless drops that indicate more to come. It was still early in the day, but I could see a nice fire ring and campsite right next to me and figured I would "check it out." Well it was splendid. Perfect camping among elderly pines, and a little rock cave complete with fire pit and enough overhang to shelter me from rain! In likely the fastest pace I moved all day, I had a tent pitched and dry wood harvested. I built a lovely "one flick of the bic" fire and watched the skies open up and let loose. My little tent performed immaculately, as expected, and after an early dinner, I tucked in with my book and got the best 12 hours of sleep I had had in a long time.

The miles the next morning were much better, whether from a change in sleep, attitude, or weather. I rolled into Summerhaven to one of the friendliest post offices, got my resupply box, and chowed down on a corn beef hash-wich and maple bread pudding. (shout out to Sawmill Run Restaurant!) Spirits are high again in a way only a full belly and thoughts of downhill miles can do.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2 Weeks Later...

I'm back! No, not really, but I'm getting closer! As I crossed the Colorado River, I waved farewell to California, and accepted my hot and lonely fate hiking the Arizona Trail. But not before a chance meeting with a good friend from southern Utah that happened to be passing thru Phoenix.

Now I'm not the most likely person to search for hidden signals and meanings in the day to day life, but I have to wonder if the cosmos have kept me away from hiking for a reason.  As soon as I hit Cali, there were endless reasons to stay and play, and up and down the coast were offers to stick around and adventure. I even had a suggestion to go hiking on the Wonderland Trail in British Columbia. Then Cinco de Mayo snuck up, giving me a less than necessary excuse to relax by the pool sipping frilly drinks with my sister and her friends. And the tacos. I probably would have stayed in Cali just for those amazing mouth fiestas. Then a friend I haven't seen in months just "happens" to be in Phoenix to guide a trip with some teens? Heck, I almost joined them as they headed up to Flagstaff!

And then, the latest hint...while sitting at the Greyhound station I somehow managed to ignore that my bus loaded and left without me. Oops! No tears or sweat lost over that one though, when you don't have anywhere to be, it doesn't matter when you get there!

This trip has been a good test for me to see of I can just let go. Let go of the planning, the stress. I have my trusty pack filled with the essentials, shoes on my feet, and a carefree attitude typically reserved for young children and dogs.

I've had a great time, and the chance to relax. There's no pressure to follow anyone else's schedule, and to be honest, there's not even pressure to hike the Arizona Trail at this point. I'm going back because I want to, I want to see what's next, I want to challenge myself and see if I can handle the heat and loneliness. But should I want to leave, I'll leave. Last summer, I think that I talked a young guy off the Pacific Crest Trail because he didn't know what he was doing out there, but he was there to prove it to all the doubters on his life. If you're doing something to prove it to others and not yourself, you give them a huge portion of your success. It's not driven internally, and the ownership is shared, but why should you share your amazing accomplishments with someone that didn't believe or support you on the first place? I hope one day he makes it back to the PCT, but I hope he makes it back for himself, not for me, or anyone else.

Thankfully, I have come to a point in my life where I have surrounded myself with the most supportive and non-judgmental people I can find. (And if they are judgmental they have at least kept mum!) As a result, I don't think failure will every be an option for me. Not that I won't fail at things, (you should see me ice skate!) but I have learned to be gentle with myself and know that everyone around me will treat me the same. To me at least, failure is the feeling that happens when I have let someone down. And sometimes the most important person to not let down is yourself. So should I hike to Utah, fricken sweet. Should I bail out on the next 5 miles, it's still good, I've gotten exactly what I wanted out of this trail.

Oh...And the people I've met...amazing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Funny story...

So, this Arizona trail adventure was meant to be about hiking, but lately it has been about everything but walking. In a quick run through, I flew into San Diego last Thursday and jumped straight into PCT mode. Tons of amazing people, food, and the stories flowed as wildly as the beer. I met some cool current hikers, and got to enjoy the long missed company of some fantastic people. I was having so much fun that I ended up voluntarily missing my flight back to Tucson, and have been bumming around So Cal ever since. I have spent ample time with Little Bug, cruising the sights and attractions of San Diego, hooked up about 30 PCT hikers with their first dose of trail magic just north of Warner Springs with fellow 2011er Unload, and goofed off lighting fire crackers on the beach with 4 fantastic friends. But I have done very little walking...

The time is approaching that I will need to abandon this life of fun and recklessness and return to walking, but really I hit the Arizona Trail to relax and unwind, and So Cal has hit that spot for me. I am still committed to the physical and mental challenge of the trail, but for right now, letting loose of the planning and stress was exactly what I needed. In the past few days I have been able to do exactly what feels right. The feeling to return to the trail has been growing and soon I intend to place one foot in front of the other and get back out there.

Even if only for a couple days, allowing myself to be in vacation-mode has helped me get back into a good mindset and isn't that what this trip was all about?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

AZT...who cares!

HAHA...just kidding.  But to be fair, right now, I couldn't care less abut the planning and the hiking...I'm going to Annual Day Zero PCT Kickoff!!!  In less than 24 hours, I will be with the friends that I struggled and suffered on the Pacific Crest Trail with, and I can't even begin to think of anything else.  This is going to be an amazing weekend!

So for some AZT related news, I saw my first Gila monster the other day.  He was about the length of my forearm, and very cool looking, and while I snapped some photos, I don't think I can figure out where on this Mac computer the photo card goes. I also pissed off two snakes this morning, one a rattler that was kind enough to warn me when I was about 4 feet away, but he was certainly defending his territory.  The other one was lazily laying across the middle of the trail, and when I poked him (or her) with my trekking pole, I created a very angry snake, that reared up, and was not going to let me pass.  I ended up hopping through the grass hoping that I didn't find any others.  The two snakes were less than 100 yards away, so my concern was justified!  I also think I saw a baby coral snake the other day, and have probably seen 47,013 small lizards.  I had a coati run across the road in front of me, and have flushed turkeys, mule deer, and lot of cows out of the brush.  Hiking alone certainly has its perks!

Enough for now, I'm going to sit on couch and drink a bottle of wine in my 10 dollar dress bought from K-mart.  Life is hard.

Oh but first...I rode a public bus today.  By myself.  This is silly I know, but for those of you that know me, nothing freaks me out more than navigating public transport.  However with my dandy smartphone in hand, I conquered it with ease and grace.  Well maybe not grace, I hadn't showered in over 10 days...

Monday, April 23, 2012

So this is thru hiking...

This post will be a jumble of thoughts. I blame the 100 degree weather. The last few days have been insanely warm. So warm in fact, that I get up at 5:30 am (!) in order to hike while it's cool. Though even that only lasts an hour or two. And I am forced off trail through the middle of the day and required to retreat to shade and my Mylar umbrella for a large chunk of the day. Who doesn't love a 5 hour siesta?!

But, at least the temperatures drop a bit through the night, and sleep comes easy. I am currently siesta-ing surrounded by saguro cacti near saguro national park. Being my 7th day hiking, I'm pleased with my progress.

So now for the fun stuff. The list of ailments I enjoy. First and foremost, dehydration. A constant concern, though I have been able to keep the worst of it at bay. And now, from the feet up:
1-swollen, tender feet and toes
2-throbbing ankles (thanks soccer)
3-sunburnt calves
4-heat rash all over my legs and hips
5-extreme joint pain in my hips
6-aching back (water is heavy)
7-chafing on my biceps due to pack straps
8-daily bloody noises from the dry heat
9-blisters on my thumbs and ring fingers from trekking poles

ahh fun.

It's not all suffering- I get to eat oatmeal creme pies covered with nutella for breakfast. Along with my ibuprofen of course.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When does your smartphone get smarter than your brain?

So, I'm on day three. My body hurts. Like halfway thru Oregon pain. My legs throb, my back aches, and I'm tired. I understand that hiking twenty miles a day can do that to a person, but my hiker hobble might be at it's best (worst?) right now. but it's been lovely out there.

Since I spend alot of time thinking, I wanted to share what's been on my mind lately. I am undeniably tethered to my smartphone. My trail guidebook, databook, and water reports are all saved as pdfs. I have ten gigs of music, and all of my important emails saved. And I just downloaded the Skype app so I could make phone calls from towns with wifi, but without coverage.  I can check the weather, arrange rides, and balance my bank account from it. And to ensure that I can continue to do all these things I have a spare battery AND a solar charger. Are these good things? Yes and no. While on the PCT, I used my phone to call in I helicopter to help evacuate a fellow hiker. And if you ask my pops, I'm sure he is happy to hear from me often. But do I feel like I am a prisoner to my phone? Yes.

Well, if nothing else, you benefit from this, as this post is brought to you from that same phone...

Monday, April 16, 2012

What I've Been Doing...

So, it's been a long winter since I have updated this thing.  I was busy.  Way busy.  Piles of clothes and gear in my car busy.  Buying energy drinks buy the carton, busy.

In a quick recap, I returned to Park City, UT.  And started eagerly waiting for the snow.  Well its April and I'm still waiting.  It was a tough dry winter for skiers and snowboarder.  Luckily I kept myself so busy that I didn't spend too much time harping on it.  I returned to work at the Canyons Daycare, and to supplement my meager income, tried to pick up a few local babysitting jobs.  I never knew how lucky I would get.  I found an amazing family with 4 awesome kids, aged 5 to 13, and became a regular babysitter for them, then transitioned into their nanny.  But I was the cool type of nanny, burying them in the snow, and chasing them around the house, and getting them as tired as I could for bedtime.  The hardest part about leaving Park City for my hike of the AZT was saying goodbye to them.  They will be out of town for the summer, but back in the fall, and I can't wait to catch up with them and see what they have been up to.

But in my typical fashion, I worked too hard, too much, and I was burnt out and DESPERATELY in need of a vacation.  I was dating a guy and the relationship dissolved on my 25th birthday, and it was another disappointment of the winter.  But that's life. If I hadn't been sitting on the couch searching for the bottom of a bottle of wine, I might not have asked the FBook community "i will have free time from the middle of april until june. what should i do!?" in which 12 minutes later, Liz Chaplin responded with something like "check this out..."  And that's how it began...

So in roughly 3 weeks, I got new shoes, a Mylar umbrella, and tried to determine if I would shrivel up and die to due the heat (still a strong possibility- forecast is in the 90's this week).  I called Papa and told him that instead of visiting me in Park City, he should fly to Tucson.  Based on my past plans, I don't think he even batted an eye, and in fact had his tickets booked before I did.  I moved out of my condo, tossing everything into storage, and trying to tie up loose ends.  I think I made it happen.  Only time will tell.  

So, tomorrow, I hit the border.  With my pops, then start walking North.  There are a lot of thing worse in life than this.  As a popular slogan around Park City states, "My Life is Better Than Your Vacation."

New Adventure

In a quick change of plans (not that I really had any) I decided that I wanted to hike the Arizona Trail this spring.  I only learned about the trail around the end of March from Liz, and started researching it, and before I knew it, my dad had tickets to Tucson AZ booked.  So, I guess I'm going hiking!  I made travel arrangements, added a little mid-trail vacation to the ADZPCTKO in San Diego, started making weak Facebook connections with friends of friends of acquaintances, and started packing.

This can't come as too much of a shock to anyone.  I was bored, and having spent the last 7 months in Park City, I was one month over my usual "6-month adventure itch."  Walking is easy for me.  The gear was mostly owned and shoved into my closet.  I just had to sort out the details, my least favorite part.  Water caches, flights, mileage, passages, food drops, GPS, and of course, music.  The last week has been a hectic week in which at times I have to wonder, "why do I enjoy doing this to myself?!"  But for the most part, everything usually works out.

About the trail.

Roughly 800 miles, it runs from the Mexican Border to the Utah border, crossing mountain ranges and lots of desert, and tackling the imposing Grand Canyon by going straight down one side, and straight up the other.  It stays close to the bigger cities, paralleling just east of Tucson, Phoenix, and Flagstaff, finishing in the middle of nowhere in Southern Utah.  Yes, illegal immigrants can be a concern, but every trail has its unique character.  Hopefully friends (this means you!) will be out to join me for sections, however small, to break up the solitary experience I expect to find. Water is my primary issue.  I can walk, fairly well actually, but I cannot make water, and I don't care to taste my own urine.  But that sure would be a fun story.... 

Flight to Phoenix is boarding.  More details later!