My thru hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail is almost here, and I can’t hardly wrap my brain around the fact that I actually WILL be backpacking for 3 weeks straight!
And if I’m honest, I’m scared. Not of being out there alone or of things that go bump in the night (though I’m sure there will be jitters those first few nights on my own.) No, I’m scared that I’m going to fail. That my bum ankle won’t let me continue, or that other physical problems will crop up that will cut my time short. And while I generally have confidence in my abilities, there is still some fear that it’s too big of a task, that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, that my thru hike attempt will only ever be that, an attempt.
But then I remember the hike Hubs and I did a few weeks ago to the top of Black Mountain out in the wilds of Northern Nevada. That was one major hike. It was the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time. Hiking straight up an extremely steep, rocky mountain (see the picture at the beginning of this post) is not most people’s idea of fun. When we started out, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to try it (it’s was Hubs’ idea). But I figured I’d give it a shot. And not very far into the hike, my stubbornness kicked in and I decided I WANTED to make it to the top.
And we did! One step at a time. Assessing the safety and feasibility at every turn. Finding the best route and making the best decisions for the situations we found ourselves in. It was a tough scramble. Every so often, I would stop and take stock. How am I feeling? Do I want to keep going? CAN I keep going? Is the outcome of pushing myself worth the possible negative results? (ie, my bad ankle taking a turn for the worse or possibly putting ourselves in a truly dangerous situation resulting in injury.) And here’s the biggie: am I willing to live with my decision if I choose to quit?
I think it takes a lot of introspection and self honesty to be able to fully accept a decision to give up on a goal. And while I never got to the point of truly having to face that question on the side of Black Mountain, I have a feeling I will at some point on my thru hike.
The title of this post is, “I can do hard things!” And it is a two fold statement. On the one hand, I am strong. I am determined (some might say stubborn). I am brave. And I am going to do this monumental task of hiking 170 miles around Lake Tahoe. It’s going to be hard, but I can do hard things! On the other hand, I fully realize that I might have to face something much, much harder than continuing on. And that is making the decision to stop. But I can do hard things! And if it comes down to that, I know I’m prepared. For while I am extremely excited about this hike, I also know it’s not what is most important in my life. Though my pride may rear it’s head at my “failure”, I know that in the end, even an attempted thru hike is an awesome thing, and I will be grateful for the time I DO get to spend out there.
The next time you hear from me, I’ll be back from the Tahoe Rim Trail.
One way or another.
And I’m excited to be able to tell you all about it!
I have been inspired to create a blog post/YouTube video that highlights other female solo thru hikers on the TRT. I made a list of questions I might ask these ladies and one of the questions I have is, “What made you want to do a thru hike, and why do it solo?” I figured I should probably have an answer to that myself.
I’ve been following several stories recently of people who have hiked, or are are currently hiking, the Tahoe Rim Trail. One guy who shows up frequently on the #tahoerimtrail hashtag on Instagram did the whole hike recently in 7 days! He had to hike around 30 miles every day. I can hardly even imagine what that’s like .
But most people take about 10 days to 2 weeks to complete the hike. Doing the math, that’s an average of about 12-17 miles per day.
I’m planning on taking 3 weeks to hike it. That’s approximately 9 miles per day, with 2 “zero days” built in.
You see, my thru hike is not about doing it quickly, or being the first or the best. It’s not even about proving that I can do it. I KNOW I can. Heck, I’m building a house for goodness sake! If I can learn to do that from scratch, I can walk around a lake! And hiking is one of my absolute favorite activities. Who wouldn’t want to spend three weeks doing what they absolutely love to do?
No, for me, it’s much more introspective. I would not want to be away from my family for the amount of time it would take to hike the longer trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, but I am one of those people that do need some time on their own. This dream of mine was born in a time of turmoil for our family and I felt somewhat trapped in my life. I dreamed of being free to drop everything and hit the trail for months on end. Even when our circumstances changed for the better, the dream did not leave. Even though I do not feel the intense need to get away as I did 6 years ago, I know I still need some alone time to really think and ruminate over life. Backpacking for 3 weeks is a great way to get that alone time. I want to know what will surface when the normal everyday distractions of life are gone for a while. No cell phones (except for the occasional check-in – and for pictures, of course). No TV. No internet. No one to talk to.
I’m not even planning on taking a book to read, or podcasts or music to listen to. I don’t want the distractions. I just want to be.
To be really alone for a while. What a blissful thought!
So that’s why I chose to go solo, but why the thru hike and not, say, a section of the PCT? Well, to actually hike a trail in its entirety, to know that you completed it, (ie, a “thru hike”) is a very satisfying goal.
And the TRT is nearly in my back yard, and is the right length to give me a good amount of that solo time I am looking for, while still being easy enough that the average hiker can actually do it. In fact, I probably could hike it faster. But I don’t want to. I want to take my time. To savor the experience. To spend time in creation with the Creator. To be able to journal and sketch and really process what I’m going through, both on the trail and in real life.
So at the end of this thru hike, I hope to come home mentally refreshed, feeling closer to God, with a better understanding of who I am in the world, and with a great sense of accomplishment.
It’s gettin’ real, folks! Though it still doesn’t seem real to me. Am I really, really going to be walking around Tahoe for 3 weeks?
Yes, yes I am.
Well…most likely. There’s still the possibility that something might come up. A resurgence of Covid that closes down trails, injuring myself, family emergency, etc. But if it’s God’s will, then in just over 5 weeks I’ll be starting out on my epic journey.
And speaking of injuring myself, I actually did that about 3 weeks ago. I had worked up to a 7½ mile day-hike with my big pack. I did so awesome that day. I felt strong. I had energy.
5.5 miles into the hike and still feeling great!
Miles in the backcountry.
And I injured my foot. I had pushed too far, too fast, and with too much weight. I strained some ligaments in my foot that are STILL not completely healed, despite the fact that I’ve done very little hiking since then.
I did go on one fairly long hike (5.5 miles) a few days after my injury and had to tape my ankle half way through and was limping pretty badly by the time I got back to the car.
3 days post injury – decided not to carry the big pack – lots of pain.
The foot did really well on a recent 5 mile hike (2½ weeks past injury) and my hopes rose.
5 mile hike and no pain.
And a small 2-mile hike just the other day and no pain. I thought I was in the clear.
2 mile hike – 3 weeks post injury – no pain
But then, today I climbed around on some rocks at Lake Tahoe and felt the pain come back.
Jumping from rock to rock and climbing around flared up the injury.
I’m just a bit worried. Not that it won’t heal in the next 5 weeks, but that it won’t heal fast enough for me to do more training between now and then. That I’ll get on trail and it will flare up again and force me to quit.
So for now, I’m still moving forward, I’m still training and hiking when I can. I’m working with a physical therapist and doing what I can. The rest is in God’s hands.
Lord willing, in just over 5 weeks I’ll be setting out on my of my life’s greatest adventures!
Lord willing, in just 3 months, I’ll be several days into my thru hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Three months! Gah! It’s coming up so fast! (Really hoping and praying that Covid-19 will be under control by then!)
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that after my Havasu Falls hike – yeah I’m still planning a blog post for that – I took about a 3 week break from hiking. And then I realized my TRT hike was creeping up on me and I got back to it. But I wasn’t very consistent.
So I gave myself a challenge. I did not publicize the challenge or talk about it much other than with my immediate family. But I challenged myself to go for a walk/hike every day in the month of April.
No matter what.
I am proud to say that I was (for the most part) successful. There were 2 days when for one reason or another I just didn’t get a hike in. But that means that I went for 28 hikes in the month of April! Now, many of them were only a mile long. And I didn’t even start carrying a day pack until half way through, but I was out there (in the canyon behind my house – mostly on my own property because #socialdistancing and #stayinghome and #quarentine), and I was training. And here’s the thing. It may not seem like a mile a day is much, but I’ve learned that it does help. Today I went for a 2.25 mile hike with 630′ elevation gain. Just a couple weeks ago, that would have been a lot harder on me than it was today (nearly all the elevation gain/loss was in the first and last quarter mile!).
And you know what else happened? I set a new personal record for the number of miles I’ve hiked in a single month! My previous best was 27.05 miles. As of today, April 30th, I am wrapping up the month with 37.35 miles – a full 10.3 miles more! And that’s by doing baby steps.
So where do we go from here? Well, I definitely know I do better when I have a challenge the meet. So I’m setting a new one: 40 miles in the month of May. #40mileMay#MoreMilesInMay
April’s challenge was about frequency, May’s is just about getting in the miles no matter how. In fact, I need to start going on longer hikes, but I don’t have time to hike higher miles every day. That’s the main reason why many of my hikes in April were only 1-1.5 miles. I am so busy. Yes, even during quarentine. We are a homesteading, homeschooling family and we’re building our own house. We are busy! So by doing more miles on fewer days, I can have more days to devote solely to projects around the house. And I get in those much needed longer hikes.
So yes, more miles in the month of May. Including some longer hikes. And loading up the big pack once more and taking it out on the trail.
And I gotta get the family hiking more, too. They are going with me for the first several days of my thru hike. They need to get in shape, too! And we have plans to go camping on our property to test out all our gear once the weather warms up a bit more.
Oh, and I’m still continuing with the 52 Hike Challenge. I only count my daily hikes toward that challenge if they feel like a real hike, not just a walk in the “neighborhood”. Usually that means more than an hour of hiking, taking my pack, and doing a bit of exploring, etc. Today’s hike was #23. With my new goal for May, I’m sure I’ll be logging in quite a few more “official” hikes. So far, I’ve gone on 23 official hikes and logged 69+ official miles since November 12, 2019.
Oh! And speaking of miles logged, I recently surpassed 100 miles for the year! That’s right, as of today, I have hiked 103.65 daily/training miles since January 1st! I totally didn’t realize it on the day I hit 100 miles or I would have taken a celebratory picture. All I got were some pretty wildflowers.
It’s good to have goals. It’s good to achieve them. It’s good to feel accomplished. And it’s good to set new ones, to always have something to be striving toward.