What it means to me

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 .

And then there’s the ultra trail runners who can complete the thing in less than 2 days! I REALLY can’t imagine that!

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.

Oh, and fun. It’s gonna be a blast!

T – 5 weeks

“5 weeks”

“Next month”

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!

Backpacking food prep

I’ve never been one to count calories. I believe our bodies treat calories differently depending on where they come from. It’s more than just the calories that count. The 680 calories from a Costco muffin is much different for your body than the 680 calories from an 8oz steak. So, I’m one to look at the carb count long before I even glance at the largest print number on the nutritional panel (the calories).

But in its simplest terms, calories are what your body burns for energy. So lately, as I’m starting to wrap my head around three weeks of meal planning for the Tahoe Rim Trail, I’ve been paying more attention to the calories in the foods I may (or may not) be consuming on the trail. Specifically, their weight to calorie ratio.

According to www.backcountryfoodie.com a good goal is around 130-150 calories per ounce for ultralight food (calculated at approximately 2lbs of food at roughly 4000 calories per day for a thru hiker). Basically, the higher the calories per ounce, the lower the weight can be, or the more calories you can have for the same amount of weight.

My personal goal is about 3000 calories per day. No real scientific reason, just that I put together what I thought was a good menu for my upcoming trip to Havasu Falls, then started adding up the calories. A high mileage thru hiker may need upwards of 5000 calories to fuel them in a day. But I won’t be hiking that far or that fast. I usually eat 1500-2000 calories per day in my normal life, so I figured 3000 calories per day would be a good starting point. I added up the calories in the foods I had laid out and realized I needed to add more calories someway, somewhere. So I added cream powder to the oatmeal, and cheese powder to the fajita bowl, and an oil packet to the scrambled eggs, etc. I also added in a few more snacks, and voila, my calorie count is up around 3000 each day. And then I weighed each day. My heaviest day’s worth of food is 1.75 lbs. The rest are under 1.5lbs. Winning!

Another consideration is how much protein is in the food. Protein is needed to build and repair muscles. My personal goal is about 100g of protein per day. I’m happy to say I met that goal, too!

Recipe creation and testing. Hard work, but someone’s gotta do it!

Since I’m trying to keep my pack as light as possible, I want to get as big of a bang for my buck (pound?) as I can. It’s a lot of calculations, but in the end, I think it will be worth it to get the nutrition and energy I need for as little weight as possible.

How about you? How do you determine what kind of food you’ll need on the trail?

Oh, and that bear canister? No, there are no bears in the Grand Canyon, but there are raccoons, squirels, mice, etc. There are other options to use at Havasu Falls to keep your food away from the critters, but the official recommendation is a bear canister, and I will need one for the Tahoe Rim Trail anyway, so figured I’d give it a trial run.

I fit 4 days worth of food in it, with room to spare – enough for another day of food I think.

I will need to package the food differently for my Tahoe Rim Trail thru hike this summer in order to be able to fit more days of food. I wouldn’t use the bags to separate the individual days (seen in the first pic) since they create pockets of unused space. But Havasu Falls is only 4 days, so no problem. And for the TRT, I think I’ll be able to fit all my food in there for the stretches between resupplies (6ish days – I think – more research needed.)

Discovery Beauty: an unexpected benefit of my training

In my last post, I mentioned that a couple of the hikes I have been on recently were on an urban trail in the outskirts of town.

I had been avoiding that trail for a long time because it is “urban”. By looking at the trail on satellite photos and reading descriptions, I always cued into the fact that the trail is essentially lined with houses. When I go hiking, I like to be out away from town and civilization. It also looked rather barren and boring since there wouldn’t be much of a view seeing that it was down in a ravine. Some of the descriptions mentioned trees and it being a pretty trail, but I didn’t have very high hopes. But in trying to find a trail which I hadn’t been on that wasn’t already covered in snow, I finally decided to check it out. And was very pleasantly surprised.

The creek is rather substantial, and is lined with aspens, cottonwood, willow bushes, and wild roses.

Yes, the rim of the creek ravine is lined with the back yards of the neighborhood houses, but the burbling of the creek easily shut out the noises of town, and the beauty of the creek and the trees eclipsed the fact that there was no view to speak of.

It is a beautiful little gem, and so accessible.

But I wasn’t really expecting much from the next trail I decided to explore. I knew from the descriptions that the only trees along the route were at the very end (the turn around point), but that the attraction at the end (a man-made irrigation canal that comes straight out of the side of the hillside) is pretty cool.

Again, I was very pleasantly surprised.

So, on December 28, I decided to explore this trail that had intrigued me since I first heard about it.

A slightly overcast sky lent a beautiful light to the rolling hills around me.

Up near the irrigation canal, the hills level off a bit and you can see for miles.

At the very end of the trail, there is a small stand of trees, which after miles of nothing but sagebrush, seems magical.

The canal exit from the hillside is not nearly as awesome as described when there’s no water rushing from it.

A lone pine tree sits along the canal.

As I traveled back along the canal on my way toward the car, I saw another trail that headed down through a little rolling valley. I quickly checked the GPS map on my phone and saw that I could take that trail back toward the trailhead.

As beautiful as it was in early Winter, I just couldn’t help imagining what it would be like in the Spring. Crystal clear blue skies, warm sun, green grass covering those hills, dotted with wildflowers.

Yeah, you can bet we’ll be headed back there in, say, April or May!

Or even having a picnic under these trees in the summer. Or playing in the creek.

This trail ended up being just over 3 miles and it took me 1½ hours.

If I hadn’t started training for my thru hike and if I hadn’t joined the 52 Hike Challenge, I might not have been looking for new trails to hike. My experiences in hiking these new trails has taught me to not discount any trails in the area. There is always beauty on any trail you might be hiking, and more often than not, it won’t even be that hard to find.

Kinda like life, I think.

So enjoy the trail you’re on and look for the beauty. It’s there.

1st major purchase

I did a thing!

Or should I say I bought a thing!?

My first major, and hopefully most expensive piece, of gear needed for my thru hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail in 2020.

I replaced my old (1996!), heavy (over 7lbs!) North Face pack with a Gregory Jade 53.

Coming in at 3lbs 9oz, it is not considered an ultra light pack, but it is almost half the weight of my old one. It’s somewhat smaller (55 vs 65 liters), which will force me to pack less. And, it’s PURPLE! Oh, and I got it on sale. Win-win.

And to make things even better, I found a slightly smaller size one for my 13 year old daughter for even cheaper than mine (only the gray one was steeply discounted for whatever reason and I REALLY wanted purple 😕). I bought both through REI’s website.

I’m still going to need a few more pieces of essential equipment (shelter, stove, sleeping bag, etc). All of my old gear is OLD and HEAVY. But until I can afford more, I can still be training. At least I can throw a bunch of water bottles in my new pack and go hike the hills.

Happy Hiking!

-MammaBear

PS isn’t it so pretty? (Yes, I freely admit that I like my gear to match and if I have a choice, I will almost always pick purple or the closest thing to it. Purple makes me happy. 😊)

TRT pre-planning

I love maps. So as I start planning for next year’s thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail, I’m loving the opportunity to dive into studying the section maps provided by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

Some may think I’m starting a bit early. But I know how my life goes. I had a break from building our house since I broke my rib, so I used it to do some planning and dreaming for NEXT summer. Now that I am somewhat recovered and we are started back on our house, I won’t have much of an opportunity to think that much about it. And then it will be spring and the summer and the busyness that comes from those seasons here on the homestead. And then fall and the holidays. And then it’s finally next winter when I’ll have time to get to the planning again.
And I’m too excited to wait that long. 😄

-MammaBear

Nervicited

I’m excited yet nervous about the idea of spending three weeks on my own.

I’m “nervicited”!

(Thanks Pinkie Pie!)

This article came up on my news feed today.

https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/how-to-start-solo-adventuring?cm_mmc=sm_fb_76514-_-content-_-news_journal-_-soloadventuringtips

As I start planning for my solo-hike of the TRT, this is some good info to keep in mind. I do plan to do some smaller solo trips before then as well.

I can wait!

-MammaBear

The Journey Begins

January 10, 2019

If you’ve read my About page, you’ll know that I started this blog almost a year ago. Yet this is my first post.

Yeah, not a great track record so far.

I didn’t go on a single real hike in 2018, and only the occasional short walk. Too busy with building the house and family emergencies.

However, I was able to find most of my gear in storage, figured out what I’m gonna need to replace (most of it unfortunately), and even worked on updating my hiking wardrobe.

But, its a new year and I am committed (and slightly terrified that I won’t be ready) and so I have actually finally started training.

So here we go!

I found this little trail journal recently and fell in love with it. I love journalling (shocking, I know) and like to keep records of my hikes, etc.

Today’s entry:

1-10-19

“No challenge is too big for you.”

Gosh it seems like it might be at this time. My legs are weak! They hurt! How can I think I’ll be able to backpack for 3 straight weeks by next year?

By pushing myself and never giving up! I got this! No challenge is too big for me!

Training:

Daily walks: I’ve started my daily walks in the hills near my house. So far, I’m keeping it short, just around a mile or so. I’m not fatiguing my muscles yet, just trying to get my knees used to the ups and downs. I also have been very conscious about using the correct muscles every time I go up or down the garden stairs between the trailer we’re living in and the house we’re building. I’ve had arthritis in my knees for long enough now that I compensate with other muscles when doing stairs and my quads have suffered. And I’ve made a point that every time I go to stand in front of the wood stove to warm up, I’ll do a set of calf raises. As the mile route starts to get too easy, I’ll add on length to where I’m going at least 2 miles every day and then as that gets easier, I’ll add in speed and carrying weight. Eventually my goal is to be able to do a 3 mile hour with a pack on daily.

Weekly hikes: haven’t started these yet, but my goal is to go on hikes each week ranging in the 3-5 mile range to start with. One, so I can take the kids with me, and two, because that’s all I (and they) will be able to handle at first. As we all start out, I’m imagining these outings will take the better part of a day. I could push myself, but then I might not be able to walk the next day, and when you’ve got a house to build, that’s not a good idea. Eventually, we’ll all get stronger and we’ll be able to do the hikes faster and easier. Then we’ll look for longer hikes to do weekly. Eventually, my goal is to be able to easily do 5-10 mile hikes every week.

Monthly outings: as the months progress, I want to then focus on longer hikes once a month, and eventually a few shorter backpacking trips. By late summer we’re hoping to be finished with our house and I can shift my focus to longer trips. My goal by the end of summer/early fall is to go on a week long trip. I haven’t been on one of those since I was a teenager! But this one will depend entirely on timing issues with the house.

So there you have it. The official real start to my Journey to the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

-MamaBear