Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April 24-28 Southern Terminus to Lordsburg - 84 mi

What a surprising first leg! This is a long post! I'm going to try to get better about separating the days more. I was pretty exhausted this leg. 

First off, I landed in El Paso and couch surfed with a lovely host. We cooked dinner together and bonded over our love of healthy lifestyles. The next morning, Brandon (Cousin T or simply Toast) came to pick me up and we used a body fat measure to see where we would start. I was at 23% and he was at 8%. He's super fit. Once our fellow hiker Charlie (Burly) landed we picked him up at the airport and headed toward Lordsburg.
(Me teaching Burly yoga in the Econo Lodge parking lot)

We spent a couple nights there with Johnny (Big Foot) and Andy (Malarky). It was great fun as we got to know each other and thoroughly explored the grocery store and local restaurants.

It was finally time to leave on the 24th! The shuttle left Lordsburg at 6:30am, after a quick breakfast at the Econo Lodge, and we took a very leisurely, but bumpy, 3 hour ride to the Southern Terminus at the Crazy Cook Monutment. The 10 hikers (Toast, Malarky, Burly, Big Foot, Fun Size, Jes, Delightful, Banana Pants, me) filled the shuttle. We shared snacks and mostly stayed quiet as we realized that this was really happening!

Then we got there!
(Malarky, me, Burly, Toast, Banana Pants, Delightful, Bug Foot, Fun Size, Jess)

Day 1: We were pretty good about getting pictures and getting out on trail. It started with sort of a trail leading to trail markers that were scattered around theoretically leading us to where we needed to go.

We did about 15 miles, getting to the first water cache, a metal box where the CDT coalition stores 2 gallons of water per person, and continued on. The highlight was introducing my calf to a cactus and then removing the spines from my skin. Yum. The other highlight was feeling VERY hungry for my dinner. A mountain House Beef Chili Mac. Yum! It was a fine day overall, and I was exhausted by the end and set up my ground tarp, Therma Rest, and sleeping bag and cowboy camped (no shelter). We all camped together except for Banana Pants who has done this trail before and has a LONG stride, so he was somewhere ahead. Here are some pics:
(Toast on top of the Southern Terminus Monument)
Snack break! (Jess, Delightful, Fun Size, Toast, Big Foot)
(Spring in the desert)
Burly and a cool tree
Fun Size and hiking a river bed
Water Cache box!
Rockin' my Duluth Lumbar pack in camp

Cowboy camping

Day 2: The next morning was a bright and early start.
 We did 20 miles. I had not done too many 20 mile days in my time. My feet took a beating and I pushed a bit too hard.
Our goal was to get to the 2nd water catch box and get 10 miles closer to the next one. By the time I got to the cache I was thoroughly dehydrated. Woops! Still figuring out my limits. We set up a tarp and took a loooong break. Lots of electrolytes were drank and food was consumed. This was a rough day for me and made me realize how I have not been living the active lifestyle I wanted for myself. I made it though and was very proud of myself. I cowboy camped again this time with Malarky, Burly, and Toast. The groups were beginning to separate. Here are pictures:
Finding shade with Malarky and Burly
Elevating the feet!

Day 3: 24 mile day. Went better than the previous day. It rained, a cold rain. A very cold, windy, rain! 
We knocked some serious mileage out because of it, but ended up getting too cold for safety. 

Luckily the sun came out just as we were making the decision to pop over the the nearest town for something warm. After putting on my MooseJaw puffy jacket, gifted to me by my private cooking client, Marisa (THANK YOU!!!), we road walked to the next cache and continued on to the 4th cache where we camped. This time I set up my tent. I did not trust the clouds. We also got into camp early, which allowed me my first opportunity to journal and tend to my sad feet. I slept so well! More pictures:
Cactus blossoms
Hiking with Malarky, Toast, and Burly
Very non aggressive rattlesnake. Too cold to care.
Early to camp!
Toast, Burly, Malarky just hanging out.

Day 4: This was another 20 mile day. We hiked from cache 4 to cache 5 and it was a lovely day. 
(Headed to pyramid peak)
The miles were smooth and the mini mountains were really nice to hike through. It was 36 F that morning! Cold day and the condensation settled on all of us. Not a sleeping bag was dry. I was actually woken up by drops of water falling from the ceiling of my tent. We all laid out stuff out to dry without actually getting the sun to shine on it. It was as if the clouds were chasing the rising sun. We ended up packing up wet and hiking on for a couple hours before taking rest and drying out our stuff. 
My right foot was not doing well. The arch was shooting pain and I was a limping hobble person. These 20 miles were harder for me than the 24 the previous day. At one point a HUGE cactus needle jammed itself deep into the big toe joint on that sad right foot. Pulling it out was a hollering event. I added a couple of blisters to my feet this day too. To say I Embraced the Brutality would be accurate. This day tested me. 
(Strange things out here)
(Windmill supplies water. Didn't need it today!)

When Toast and I caught up to Burly and Malarky at the cache, there was Apple, the trail angel! I almost cried with joy! I did tell Apple that I loved him. We ate chips, Ding Dongs, and ice cold Gatorade. Talk about a morale booster!

We slept at the cache that night. I set up the tent again and was happy I did. It was seriously windy and I did not sleep much. Everything got covered in a fine layer of dust. More pictures:
Burly makes a comfy chair at camp!
Sunset and Malarky's tent

Day 5: Nero into Lordsburg. It was an easy 7 miles from the cache into town. 
Toast and I cross countried a bit and walked over some large rolling hills until we got to town. We found Malarky and Burly in a room with some of Malarky's friends from the PCT. Burly and I and maybe Toast are staying in Lordsburg tonight and headed out early tomorrow. This is a Nero, a nearly Zero. A Zero is a day (full 24hrs) spent in town. My poor right foot needs a good rest after the shower, resupply box pick up, and Epsom salt bath! Lovely day of rest. I'm excited to sleep in a bed!

Monday, April 20, 2015

0 Days - 4 Days

What an experience!!  Seriously guys I have already learned so much and seen that crazy focused productive side of myself that I haven't seen since high school.  College was not as hard as my high school was.  This was like a Senior Project or something.  And it was so much work just for the preparation!  Now comes the lull, the hush, before the next round of hard work.  I have about 4ish days before my feet actually hit the trail.  Today was final prep day here in Stamford, CT with my mom.  It was map allocation day, teas, and deciding which tent to bring until my awesome tent arrives.  It could actually arrive tomorrow because it is en route according to the people at Mountain Laurel Designs.  I decided on the one I know, a small Cabela's solo tent that my dear brother, Khaled let me borrow a while ago.

I'm convinced I'm going to forget something important, but I know I won't.  Though I might.  But I probably won't.....
Something important like NO BAKE CHEESECAKE!
I'll know my base pack weight (weight before perishables like food and water) tomorrow, which will be really telling in how I've done with my attempts to keep the weight low.  The lower the pack weight the less likely you are to get injured, the easier it is on your feet, and the faster you can safely hike.

I have "completed" my spreadsheet with my locations where I will be in towns, including addresses and dates for New Mexico and estimates for Colorado. I would love anyone who wants to send along trail notes or yummy things to contact me directly and I will share the document with you.  I feel better doing that than publicly posting the dates and places I'll be at as a solo female thru-hiker.

I will be able to get emails and messages along the way thanks to the solar charger my dad gifted me and an external battery that a good friend Alex gifted me.  Signal is on and off, but it is there, so you'll be getting updates as often as I can manage and definitely when I'm in towns!  I love to hear from you all while I'm doing this, and any motivation is good motivation.

Off to a final restaurant meal with my mom before leaving for Texas tomorrow morning and New Mexico the day after that!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


A fair few of my friends and close acquaintances have told me that going on this trip and trying to help the camp that I love so much is inspiring. As flattered as I am, I can't help but feel slightly off about this comment. I think it is the ease of using the word "inspiring" these days or the disbelief that what I'm doing "just because" could be inspiring. Because, honestly, I don't think of what I'm doing as an inspiring thing.  I'm just doing what I've wanted to do for years.

Abe and Reid - the creators of Portage To Camp

The word inspiring is defined as"causing people to want to do or create something or to lead better lives" Thanks Marriam-Webster Dictionary. The "want" is the key here. Not necessarily to DO anything, but to WANT to do things. I think that is what throws me off when people say that too.  I think inspiring means it makes people DO things, but looking back I realize that there are many WANTS before someone can get to the DO.  Sometimes it takes many inspiring adventures before someone finally goes.  
It has got me thinking about this whole idea of inspiration and I even had a bit of a disagreement with my mom about what makes someone inspiring. This conversation was not actually triggered by my trip but about a comment I made about Abe living an inspiring life in many ways. The conclusion, really, was that when people live unabashedly the way they want, they inspire others to let go of their fear and restraint. It also interested me to think that if I truly inspired these people who say that they are inspired by what I'M doing that actually means that the people who inspired me actually indirectly inspired my friends.

Allison on the AT being inspiring

So I'd like to give a HUGE thank you to Allison Kieley, who I haven't made aware of her influence yet, for inspiring me. She started thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail a couple years ago/1.5 years ago (timing?) and really rocked the prep work and getting sponsors and I was inspired. I had the stirrings of a dream I had had for many years to do a thru hike and she unknowingly reminded me of that.  On top of that she totally provided me with the confidence to reach out to companies that I love for sponsorship (Duluth Pack ,Vigilant Eats Super Foods). In fact, I was told by an artist friend of mine that my, rather minimal, sponsorship was inspiring to him because that's what he has wanted for his art. So Allison actually triggered this little inspiration waterfall and I'm sure she had inspiration that triggered her.
Packing my Med Kit and in Camp stuff in the Duluth Lumbar Pack trying not to regret the decision to hand make all my meals
And perhaps my trip will inspire others to raise money for Warren or organizations they love and those people will inspire others to do the same. Or perhaps it will get them really dreaming about getting out on a long hike and reconnecting with Nature.  And maybe they will, maybe they won't. I do believe that the more of us who learn to live without fear of living the way we want will inspire more and more people to do the same.  There are many people who inspired me to let go of fearing things like discomfort, unfamiliarity, lack of control, etc. and I hope I can do the same for others along the way.

These are the kinds of ripples we leave behind that allow us to feel immortal. At least until the sun engulfs the Earth ;)

Monday, April 13, 2015

8 Days to Go

Today is about shopping.  As many of you know I am packing my food out on this trip and being a healthy chef I am really going out of my way to make this food nutritious, balanced, and delicious.  I spent my morning mixing dehydrated brown rice and beans with Mexican spices and dried tomato paste for an awesome meal.  I've also got one I'm really excited about!  It's quinoa with dehydrated pre cooked navy beans, coconut milk powder, garam masala, curry, mustard seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut!  I'm hoping to add some dried apricots to that one!

Costco, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods today followed by HOURS of dehydrated meal recipe creation and bagging.  I finally got to the Town Guides section in Yogi's Guide to the CDT and feel a lot more confident in my decision making abilities for how many days of food to plan for.  That was a huge stress for me.  I'm also aware that I won't always be correct as things change and minds change, so I'll be looking to supplement meals from grocery stores and hiker boxes (where hikers dump things they don't want or need like food and gear).

I got my pack in the mail the other day and seriously guys ULA!!  They will get it done and fast!  I ordered it and within 2 days had in on my doorstep.  Really amazing.  Short post for now!  I'll be looking to post some of my recipes on here as I go along, especially if they turn out well!

Maybe I'll find myself working the OCC (Out of Camp Camping) program at Warren one day and can pass along some great food finds.  Or I could do that anyway!

Until next time!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

12 Days to Trail - Last Minute Gear

Hello Connecticut!  And the final 12 days of packing out!  I have been getting my last bits of gear together, phew, and am almost all set.  I'm really excited for a Costco shopping spree next week!

The three big pieces of gear are getting upgraded now. That's my pack, my sleeping bag, and my sleeping pad.  What happened?  Well, my old pack got weighed this morning and it's a whopping 6 lbs without ANYTHING IN IT!  My new pack is too small.  I think I was in denial because I really didn't want to invest in another pack.  The new pack wasn't meant for trail actually, just for day trips and city living.  I got it before I decided to do a thru hike.  I got a little freaked out because I leave in 12 days, but I called ULA Equipment to ask about the shipping time on the pack I want and they said if I place my order in the next 2 hours it'll ship out today and get to me in CT mid next week! Perfect! Done. (edited to add: OMG Email confirmed it just shipped!)  Here she is, what should I name her??  Suggestions welcome!!
The Circuit! 2.5 lbs of awesome

Then there is my Thermarest, which I have been trying to get back for months from our cabin in upstate NY.  It was not picked up when requested and so I found myself without a sleeping pad. Oops.  Which means, I get to invest in a newer, lighter weight one. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to get this bad boy because it crinkles a lot when you move on it, but all I hear is awesome stuff about it. The sleeping bag rubbing on fabric makes noise anyway, so I don't think I'll notice it as much as I'm worried about.  Also my anxiety insomnia goes away when I'm on trail so I shouldn't be as sensitive to noise as I am now.  Here it is.  I got the short one because I'm short and it's cheaper!  Yay being short.  Not in ANY stores though.  So it's also gotta be shipped.
Thermarest NeoAir XLite

Also, after extensive research, I discovered that the reason my sleeping bag did NOT keep me warm in Alaska is because the loft died.  Well the fluffiness, to be less technical, has been worn down. Also it's a 20F bag, which is just NOT warm enough for me.  I am pretty much always cold unless it is in the 80's.  I sleep best in the high 70's.  I know I'm crazy.  It's weird because my body temp is actually lower than average, but my blood pressure is low and so I think it's a circulation thing.  When I was studying in Switzerland, my doctor told me I should increase my salt and red wine consumption to help!  Maybe I'll dehydrate some red wine?  Anywhoozelbees, I've been exceptionally overwhelmed with the price tag on sleeping bags.  Rather, on good sleeping bags.  REI didn't come through in their selection, but EMS, our east coast outdoors store potentially did.  I'm still undecided and may have to put in an order online because I'm still short.

Western Mountaineering has the bag I really want, the Versalite at 10F, but at $545 I don't know that I can do that... Maybe next year? or in another 10 years?

EDITED:  I got this one!  EMS is clearing them out and they are super low on Women's and have a 20% discount on top of the clearance, so bam!
EMS Mountain Lite 15 Women's - sorry no link.  They don't sell them online anymore