Backpacking has taught me what it means to be grateful. Somehow, in the process of not having access to anything but what is on my back, when I return from a trip, I can appreciate all the little facets that make “normal” living so wonderful. Some of these things seem silly to be thankful for, but if I weren’t a backpacker, I might’ve taken these for granted. Here are a few simple things that I am thankful for:
1) Hot water: How amazing is it that it just comes out of a faucet without having to protect your water heater from the wind and rain?? I am enormously grateful every time I have hot water from my faucet or my kettle.
2) Showers: infinite amounts of hot water to bathe in!?! No trying to light my stove in the wind required?? No nasty blue sponge required?! I am always thankful to have a clean body without having to “swim” in a frozen lake.
3) A roof:Could there be anything more joyous than watching it rain and snow—from the comfort and warmth of a covered area? I am grateful for a roof that I am fairly positive does not need to be patted multiple times during the night to prevent it from collapsing on my face.
4) Perishable, real food (and ice cream): After eating a lifetime’s worth of dried fruit and nuts and “food” with expiration dates set for when I’m eligible for Social Security, I am so thankful to eat any food that couldn’t survive a few hours away from a cooling source.
5) Getting from Point A to B in a car/bus/train/plane: Sure, I love walking, but when it comes to getting to work everyday or coming from a friend’s house in the dark, I really appreciate the speed, warmth, and imperviousness to the elements that not walking provides.
6) Clean water: How amazing is it to never have to worry about whether a cow/dead buffalo/algae bloom has befouled my drinking water?
7) Living in a four-sided structure: I am equally grateful for the walls around my living quarters that prevent wind, the cold, and the endless buzz of mosquitoes from disturbing my slumber.
8) A mattress: I actually enjoy sleeping on the floor, but there’s something incredibly luxurious about not having to worry about rolling of a sleeping mat or not getting a hole in a sleeping mat.
9) TV and movies: How many times on trail would I have given all my food just to watch School of Rock one more time?I don’t watch TV or movies everyday, or even every week, but just knowing that I could if I wanted to is pleasure enough.
10) Friends and family: I am thankful for both my trail family—all the people I have met on adventures—and to those back at home I miss the most when I’m far away and whose love and support make my adventures possible. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Has being outdoors made you grateful for something others may consider “common place”?
I’ve been through that area twice—once on the Continental Divide Trail in 2010 and once on the Colorado Trail in 2012 (the CDT and CT coincide with one another here).
Right now, the CDT/CT through the Cocheptopa Hills is routed on a roadwalk—oftentimes wide enough for passenger vehicles, but sometimes designated as motorcycle routes. My guidebook refers to this section as “a maze of roads.” The route that the Indiegogo Campaign will help raise money for will build trail for non-motorized enjoyment and will move the trail up back towards the divide, not in the cow-infested lowlands.
Looking through my photos from the Colorado Trail in particular, despite the thousands of photos I have from that trip, I have very few from the Cochetopa Hills.
Simply said: a roadwalk doesn’t make a great photo and isn’t a memory that needs to be kept forever and shared all over the internet. A roadwalk is just a way of getting from point A to B.
From the looks of my Colorado Trail trip diary, re-routing the Cochetopa Hills section may just save hikers a bunch of heartache. As it stands, that section is not the most straightforward section on the CDT. I hiked the Colorado Trail with Mr. Gorbachev, and we rarely squabble. The Cochetopa Hills was the only place where our Colorado Trail trip was anything but fun. Going through that roadwalk, we temporarily got lost. Only half a jar of cookie butter was enough to assuage a bad-tempered Liz and get her mind straightened out and back on-trail.
I feel good donating to this campaign and knowing that I was contributing to: 32 new miles of trail, giving kids an excuse to spend time in the woods as Youth Corps, giving volunteers the support they need to build trail, and making the trail more accessible (with three new trailheads).
Plus, each donation comes with cool CDT gear. I’m particularly stoked about my new Brave the CDT Shirt made by the best source of on and off trail fashion, Hikertrash.
So, if you’re a long distance hiker, thinking about becoming a long distance hiker, know a long distance hiker, or just like knowing that long trails exist, I highly recommend donating to this campaign or at least sharing the link.
For a lot of people just getting into backpacking, it’s easy to think that I was just born a Triple Crowner. But like a lot of serial long distance hikers, I came from a fairly sedentary, smart-kid restless lifestyle and transformed into a lady who lives to be on the trail.
Please check out the article(scroll down: the full version in English is there!!!)I’m hoping that by reading this article, a few people (teenagers?) may be inspired to get out there.
I’ve done some hiking, and done some eating, but never before has hiking actually yielded me more food than I started the trip with!
This fall, I went on my first mushroom forage with mycologist extraordinaire Lara from Portland, OR. I had always imagined mushroom foraging to be like hiking, except taking breaks here and there to pick some fungi. In fact, mushroom foraging is very different. I learned a lot on this trip, and got a taste of a new outdoor hobby with as many quirks, rules, and advice as any outdoor activity I know.
Lara drove us out to a top secret location in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. After a mile on-trail, it was obvious that other foragers had been through recently as the path was lined with the abandoned stems of numerous mushrooms. Not discouraged, we hopped off trail and hit the slopes. The bushwhacking in Pacific Northwest forests was steep and brushy, but, much as in hiking, it was amazing how just getting a little bit off the beaten path can be so rewarding.
I quickly learned that mushroom foraging is a forest adventure not steeped in making miles! We walked in many circles and often chose the path of most resistance. Lara advised us that mushrooms tend to prefer the wetter southern facing slopes, so off we tromped up and down hills, with no care for where point A or point B were.
At first, it was hard to spot the chanterelles, which popped up timidly from thick old man’s beard moss and pine needles. Once one of us spotted a mushroom patch, though, we all searched the area below. Lara explained that mushrooms reproduce through spores which tend to move downhill. Mushrooming, just like thru-hiking, has its own fascinating etiquette and one of the “rules” of the hobby is that after finding a patch, a forager should leave behind a goodly amount so that the mushrooms will continue to sustain themselves.
Once we found mushrooms, Lara explained that we should harvest the fungi by slicing the stem cleanly at an angle above the buds of newly forming mushrooms, aka the “babies”. Pulling a mushroom completely from the ground messes with the underground mushroom network, reducing the chances that new mushrooms will appear in the future.
It was especially easy to find the bright red and aptly named Lobster Mushroom, which creepily is not actually a mushroom, but a parasitic fungus that eats other mushrooms! Unfortunately, the hot temperatures and lack of rain the Pacific Northwest had been experiencing rendered many of the Lobsters a little too squishy and stinky to pick, but we still found enough for our friend Allgood to cook up two batches of glorious Hungarian Mushroom soup. Surprisingly, we hauled in more of the rare white chanterelles than the common golden chanterelles, which Allgood fried up with butter, onions, and eggs for a mind-blowingly great breakfast.
You can order chanterelles and scrambled eggs at fancy restaurants, but they’ll never give you THIS many mushrooms!
What I love about hiking is moving with purpose, and mushroom foraging is moving with purpose as well—just with the goal of collecting fungi as possible instead of amassing miles. This trip gave me a small taste of the rabbit hole that is mushroom foraging and it is clear that there is a library’s worth of information to learn. I greatly look forward to next season when I can further partake in this hobby.
Interesting notes: High in Vitamin C and Iron, does not contain any of the 8 major allergens. Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and GMO-free.
Ingredients I’m intrigued by: teff flakes, quinoa crisps, amaranth flakes, dried crimini mushrooms, freeze dried olives (did not know this was possible!), yellow corn chips (in a bar? Interesting…) black bean flakes (also interesting in a bar)
Price: $1 a piece, so definitely on the reasonable size. Note this is the price Gardenbar charged at PCT Days , so retailers may increase the price.
Overall thoughts: Mr. G really enjoyed the flavor, but these tasted too much like normal hiker dinner (dehydrated black beans) for me to be really excited about it. If I want black beans and corn chips, I’ll eat my dehydrated dinner with Fritos.
Getting out into the backcountry is not always as easy as it sounds. Between finding enough vacation time, getting permits, and bringing together the resources necessary for a trip, most hikers view each destination they visit as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. It is a rare surprise, then, to have an opportunity to repeat a long outing. This June, I was fortunate enough to do the 165-(ish) mile long Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) for the second time. In 2007, this loop hike around Lake Tahoe was my first end-to-end long hike ever. It was the trail that inspired me to live the hiking life. Yet my first trip on the TRT was also a blistered and painful introduction to long distance backpacking. This year, my goal in re-doing the TRT was one of personal growth—I wanted to use the trail as a gauge to discover how much I have learned in eight seasons of long distance adventuring and to see if I could hike it better.
I set off on the TRT to beat my personal record. By “personal record,” though, I had more in mind than what could be measured by a stopwatch. I wanted to hike faster, but also more comfortably. While I was on trail, I developed this spreadsheet to consciously measure my development as a long distance hiker and to evaluate how much I have learned.
Although I had improved skills and better preparation working in my favor for my 2014 hike, this year I also faced several disadvantages. In 2007, I was living and working in the High Sierra directly prior to my hike, so was well-acclimated to physical activity above 8,000 feet. This year, I was coming from a lower elevation and hadn’t been able to put in as many training miles. To add to my challenges, since 2007, the TRT had become even longer, gaining almost 10 miles of trail in order to keep hikers and bikers off of roadways. The distance I would need to trek to complete the loop hike was now even further.
I started the TRT feeling optimistic and making great time. My body felt strong. Unlike my hike in 2007, the campsite I chose for the first night was flat and I slept well knowing that the way I hung my food to keep it away from bears was actually secure (unlike all my bear hangs in 2007). Yet by my second day, although my body felt comfortable, I knew I was slowing down. The altitude was getting to me. Yet I pushed on, confident that I could work through it and excited to see what else the trail had to show me.
On the last day, I knew I would have to hike at night to make my time goal. However, unlike in 2007, the night and all of its unknowns did not scare me. I was energized by how beautiful and enjoyable my trip had been so far. In fact, hiking 20 hours straight became a highlight of my trip. For a few hours, time and space disappeared and I felt one with the mountain, the cliff drop-off on one side not intimidating me, but powering me on.
My preparation paid off and I beat my old time by almost 1/3rd, finishing the trail in sub-100 hours. I ended the trip not only feeling good about my finish time, but also with how I had experienced the trail. By breaking down what skills and knowledge I needed to achieve my goal, and then reflecting on what I’ve learned from other hikes, I created a worksheet to beat my old personal record.
The outdoors is a classroom and every trip you take has something to teach you. Even if you don’t retrace the exact same path, as I did on the TRT, each hike is an opportunity to reflect on what you have learned.
Whether you’re a hiker, hiker to-be, or friend or family of a hiker, there’s no more fun place to get all the information you need than from the people at the Trail Show. TTS is a podcast that’s been around for over two years with a well-respected repository of all news, tips, and tricks related to hiking.
After numerous requests, TTS finally put together a women’s issue show, the Red Tent Show (yeah, they really did call it that). Instead of the usual hosts, the Red Tent show utilizes the wisdom of 5 accomplished female long distance hikers with more than 50,000 miles of experience. I was lucky enough to be part of that crew (along with Angelhair, Trainwreck, Salamander, and our host, Princess of Darkness) so can give you a sneak peak at some of the topics we covered:
-Safety on Trail
-Women’s Outdoor Gear
-Women’s Hygiene (including dealing with “that” time of the month while on trail and sex in the woods)
– How Men can act better on trail
-Could birth control lead to hiking injuries?
Even though I’ve been hiking-while-woman for 29 years now, I honestly can say I learned a lot of tricks and tips from talking with these other accomplished lady-hikers.
I went into the Red Tent show expecting that we would all have the same advice, and was blown away by how different hikers have developed different ways of addressing the same issues.
Interesting notes: Very high protein (10g) and the protein is soy and whey free, Vegan, Gluten-free, GMO-Free
Ingredients I’m intrigued by: Almond-base, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds. I LOVE the BBQ flavors as these are all major umami tastes that I crave on trail.
Price: $1.50 a piece at Sprouts supermarket. Foods this price go into my “treat bar” category instead of the “utility bar” category. However, KIND bars frequently go on sale and has enough calories that it could easily become a utility bar.
Overall thoughts: The KIND Strong bars tasted great and had a hefty, nutty crunch that I really enjoyed compared to other savory bars reviewed. I really appreciated that it had the highest calories and protein of any the bars reviewed. The flavors tasted all fairly similar as they all use a similar base with a few spices added here and there—but that flavor was very satisfying (see spreadsheet of ingredients below). This is very different than the approaches the other savory bar companies have taken, which is to use completely different ingredients in their different flavors. I suspect that KIND’s model makes their bars easier to manufacture, which means we should expect to see the Strong bar’s on the market for a long time to come(definitely a good thing!).
Ingredients in the 4 KIND Strong bars tested. The bars all have similar bases with different spices added.
As a hiker, I find it silly that KIND chooses to advertise these bars as having 42% less fat than almonds alone—backpackers want that fat! As much as I enjoyed these bars, for those on a tight budget, it would be less expensive to just eat the bulk ingredient of all these bars: smoked almonds. That being said, I always crave BBQ flavors on-trail and the KIND and Strong bars definitely hit that spot! If you’ve got a few bucks to spend and a huge hankering for hickory on-trail, this was the best tasting BBQ bar we tried.
Where to get:Amazon, REI stores, major grocery stores everywhere. KIND has put a huge marketing campaign behind these bars, which makes me optimistic that they will be on the market for a long time (unlike other early developers of savory bars).
This past season, I’ve had the pleasure of trying out the NW Alpine Eyebright Jacket. At 4.8-5.4 oz for a small, it’s the lightest fully waterproof jacket on the market. Made with breathable cuben fiber, whose properties are covered in depth by HikeLighter, the Eyebright jacket is functional in a wide variety of climates and situations and can be used as part of an ultralight gear system in ways very different than a traditional backpacking rain jacket. This versatility and mutli-use gives it a clear advantage over other rain jackets on the market.
First and foremost–the Eyebright jacket fits really well. This isn’t something to be taken lightly in the backpacking world as more than one rain jacket I’ve had over the years has been overly billowy which is not only less functional and more susceptible to letting water in, but dumpy looking. Instead, on the Eyebright jacket, pull cords make sure that the hood stays secure whether I have a hat, a beanie, or nothing on under it. The Napoleon pocket is great for keeping maps and snacks, especially since I hate to stop to pull things out of my pack when it is raining and not all rain jackets offer that feature. Unlike other rain jackets on the market, the sleeves are long enough and Velcro keeps them snug. Lastly, the design itself is sleek (which is somewhat important to me, as in the past, I avoided taking photos because my rain protection was less than flattering).
My season started with multiple day hikes with temperatures as low as 0 degrees F in white-out snow storms in Colorado. Wanting to test out the Eyebright’s breathability, I layered it over my Western Mountaineering Flash Jacket and Patagonia Nanopuff down pullover. Snow piled up on me and I knew that if the jacket wasn’t waterproof enough, it would soak my down and make for a very cold and unpleasant dayhike. If the jacket didn’t breathe, the down would also compress. I knew a hard dayhike was the best way to test it because if something went wrong, I’d make it back to my warm home no worse for the wear. I was afraid to test it on an overnighter because it seemed too risky.
Much to my amazement, the down+Eyebright combo worked really well! The cuben fiber was incredibly waterproof and breathable and after several dayhikes, I felt comfortable that the combo would work on a thru-hike.
I next took the Eyebright on a really early season hike of the Transadirondack Route. This winter, the Adirondacks were hit with temperatures as low as -40F and late season snow. I was the only person stupid enough to be out there that early in the season and was postholing up to my waist for much of the trip. Although I didn’t have a thermometer, temperatures easily got into the teens (if not lower). It was so cold that I wore my Eyebright constantly throughout the trip. I was so confident in its breathability that I didn’t take it off to sleep, keeping it over my down layers and under my sleeping bag. There was no condensation inside the jacket and no compressed down!
I was concerned about the durability of the cuben fiber, especially on bushwhacks. The Trans Adirondack Route had multiple cross country sections bushwhacking through lots of trees and downed branches. The cuben fiber even got caught on a dead tree once but held strong against the elements. I’ve also used the Eyebright on some alpine 2nd-3rd class rock climbs/scrambles in the Sierra where I knew I was dragging against granite but had to do it or else I’d fall, and the Eyebright jacket held up well.
The ultimate test for breathability and keeping dry was taking the NW Alpine jacket back to its home region—the Pacific Northwest. Most of my miles this season were based out here—from the pioneering journey of the Chinook Route to all of Washington on the PCT to a thru-hike of the Wonderland Trail. Each trip presented me with cold rain or snow and steep, sweat-inducing uphills. On each trail, the Eyebright kept me dry from rain and free from sweat accumulation under the jacket—even on the uphills. It has the breathable feel of a windshirt with the waterproofing of a heavier rainjacket.
This season, I became so confident in the Eyebright’s breathability that I stopped carrying my windshirt altogether for several hikes this season, including a thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. In Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon in northern Arizona and southern Utah, I was expecting no precip, but brought my Eyebright in lieu of a windshirt. It kept me warm against the wind without sweating and I was especially happy when an unexpected rain + wind storm hit. I was warm and dry—better than I can say for my hiking buddies!
Although the price isn’t insignificant, hikers easily spend as much on a cuben fiber tarp or backpack. Frankly, I spend more time hiking than I spend sleeping in my tarp—so I’d much rather invest in a good rain jacket. I learned how to backpack in California and my dislike of hiking in the rain is so great, that I’m willing prioritize staying dry while hiking. The price also takes into account the jackets are made by a small business in the U.S., both of which I like to support with regards to my gear.
In conclusion, of all my new hiking gear this season, the Eyebright jacket is my favorite. Functional, versatile, and light, it’s a great addition to my ultralight long distance hiking system.
Disclaimer: NW Alpine gave me the opportunity to test out the Eyebright for personal feedback. I was not obligated to write an online review, but after 8 months of backpacking with the Eyebright, I wanted to share it with other like-minded backpackers. The post is my own opinion after hiking with the Eyebright as my rain gear for the last 8 months.
Each Spring and Fall, the Trail Show podcast sponsors a beer hike across Boulder, Colorado. If you’ve had the joy of listening to TTS, you can imagine how that crew’s idea of a beer hike is far better than a traditional pub crawl—think: ambitious mileage, a little cross country, and high quality beers. For the last few Boulder beer hikes, I‘ve been on trail and missed out on the shenanigans, so was stoked when I found out that I’d actually be in Colorado for the fall 2014 hike. This fall’s Boulder Beer Hike covered seven miles and eight breweries (one brewery twice) and one distillery, integrating roads, trails, and secret byways.
The 2014 Boulder Beer Hike “trailhead” was Avery Brewery, one of Boulder’s most well-known breweries and biggest beer exporters these days. From there, the troupe of almost 20 hikers–led by Disco, POD, Mags, and D-Low from the Trail Show* continued onto Wildwood Brewery and its close neighbor, BRU. After a mile along the bike trail to walk the beer off (an off-road route suggested by the locals), the crew hit Twisted Pine brewery, a TTS favorite, where the parade of hikers was informed of a “blue blaze,” an off-route side trip.
I’m not sure how the crew got off-trail and to Sanitas Brewery, but that’s where Teresa Martinez, Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Mr. Gorbachev, and I joined the party. The three of us were immediately outfitted with the official Beer Hike gear—a TTS sticker—which intrigued bartenders, beermongers, and dayhikers alike.
We joyfully continued onto Boulder Beer (our bartender even decorated her outfit with a TTS sticker), but sadly, we reached Redstone Meadery after its closing hours. Not deterred, we were determined to add a purveyor of non-beer palate cleansers to the hike. Mags recommended J&L distillery, which specializes in a spiced liquor that tasted like Christmas. Here, we enjoyed some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had in Colorado. We hopped back on the bike trail to our next destinations: J Wells Brewery and Upslope Brewery.
Now, it’s important to note that this urban beer hike had similar elements of hiking to traditional trails. At the end of the night, we’d seen owls, deer, rabbits, and a buck with a surprisingly huge rack. The route also required some nighthiking. Lastly, as the Boulder Beer Trail was developed by the TTS, unlike the AT or PCT, it lacked signage, so navigators had to pay careful attention to their maps.
The Boulder Beer Hike was a great way to meet the much-larger-than-I-realized Colorado long distance hiking community. I’ll take any excuse to see my good friend and Oregon PCT hiking partner, Pi, developer of the free Don’t Shake the Cat phone app. I even re-connected with Washpot, who I met on the PCT and at PCT Days earlier this year. Lastly, the BBH was also a great way to meet other hikers who have internet presences, such as Crusher, who put together this amazing video about thru-hiking the PCT with Cerebral Palsy: