Month: April 2017

Bored and Nervous to Tears

Although it technically stretched over three days, the train and bus trip blurs into one cohesive segment of time. I never actually ‘slept’, I simply lost consciousness for a bit. It was long, it was exhausting, it was boring.

The views were captivating, however.

At the very least, Evan and I eventually opened up and started talking to others. And by others I mean just one person, who very much looked like they were headed for the Southern Terminus as well. Their name was East, and within a few minutes of some awkward hellos they offered my starving face a vegan BBQ sandwich. I may have been a little excited and forced a hug on them. My bad. I must remember that not everyone is a hugger and most people are too polite to say no. Ask first, hug later.

Some thirty hours later, as well as too much money spent on train food (I regret this terrible bottle of wine so much), we arrived in San Diego around midnight and were whisked away by an amazing trail angel named Betty. She gave us a bed, a shower, vegan pancakes and sausage, and a ride to our hosts house in the morning.

Over the course of our trip, Evan’s nausea had evolved into a dizziness, the chills, and a high fever. Well shit. It didn’t improve by the time we woke up at Betty’s gorgeous house (we listened to the waves of the Pacific all night).

Seriously though. Look at that view!

We were driven to our second and main host: Scout and Frodo’s. These two are the trail angels to end all trail angels, and I don’t know how I can ever repay their kindness. We arrived and instead of setting up camp in their backyard in big party tents, we were placed in a bedroom where it was requested Evan stay for the day just in case he was contagious.

While he rested, I toured the neighborhood and got our errands out of the way. I picked up our munchies for the first few days of the trail, mailed half of current food to Warner Springs (so we don’t have to carry it all the way there!), all while allowing myself to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather. I’ve always said that I sod never move someplace hot like the American Southwest, but… damn. It is so lovely here. It’s perfect.

That evening we were swept off to Adventure 16, a gear shop hosting the premier showing of the Class of 2016 PCT video. Let me say, I was honestly just expecting a few people hanging out and a video on a projector. I did not expect packed room with probably a hundred outdoor enthusiasts, as well as several members of the PCTA board. It was an inspiring evening, and while I knew there were tons of people who loved the trail, I’ve never seen them all in one place. This was a proper send off for this year’s class of hikers; filled with love, passion, and respect.

But tomorrow is our big day! Or at least I thought it was.

Evan’s condition had not improved as much as we would have liked, so Frodo generously allowed us a second day in her home.

Nerves and anxiety are terrifying things, and they can take control of your mind and your body. Take care of yourselves, folks.

I spent the following day mingling and trying to get out of my comfort zone. I’m trying to me friends, dammit!!

The view from Frodo’s. So many flowers!!

Anyways, long story short, we start tomorrow! No matter what, we’re putting our feet on that trail. I’m still not nervous, and I still don’t understand why. Am I repressing it to better support others? Did I get it out of the way a while back? Have I been ingrained with the ‘Fake it until you Make it’ mentality?

Who knows. I guess I’ll find out soon enough when I’m really smacked in the face with my new reality.

P. S: I’m currently locked out of my Patreon account and I’m trying to get back in. So if you’re a patron, I am SO SORRY that I’m not posting! I’ll get this fixed!

And if you want to receive updates via email whenever Evan or I post, look for the box at the bottom of this page (or on the sidebar to the right)!

Some more photos:

I *am* making comics! Don’t worry.
I’m bummed that I can’t keep this.
Look! At! How! Cheap! Corn! Is! In APRIL!
Local flora appreciation.
Do not upset the inky gods.

The Beginning before the Beginning

I’m on this train, right?

This actual train, heading toward California.

Seriously?

Union Station. Portland, OR

The previous week has been such a blur. One day I’m trying to decide which items to pack first based on household need, the next I’m sleeping on the floor of my now vacant dining room. I realize my sleeping pad is not actually all that comfortable; or do I just hurt from slinging boxes and furniture up and down three flights of stairs for two days? I roll over to check the time; I have a voicemail. That’s odd. Nobody ever calls me.

What I hoped would be a well wishing message from some friend or family member not in my contact list turned out to be a service alert from Amtrak. A landslide up north and a derailment down south has disrupted my route. I’m too tired to even complain. Customer service informs me that my 32-hour train ride to Los Angeles is to be split by a 8 hour bus ride, right in the middle of it. Great, effing great.

There is a full carafe of coffee on the counter from yesterday, but the microwave is now in storage. I clean the one pot not stored away to reheat half of the day-old liquid and pour it back into the press. What once was delicious is now equivalent to gas station coffee. My back hurts. When my roommate is sufficiently conscious, I invade her personal space and sooth my aching muscles on her bed. We hung out here for a while, Evan eventually joining us with a bout of mystery nausea.

Cuddle puddle.

I’m not good with emotions, and I struggle with admitting my love for friends. I’m almost reluctant to even say the words. We’ve lived together for almost four years, and now Evan and I are about to take off for five months while she moves elsewhere. We’re splitting up the family. Breaking up the band.

To avoid any unnecessary messy feelings, we depart like a ripped band-aid.

First the bus to the light rail, then two transfers, and a half hour wait at Union Station. While washing my hands in the restroom, transit police burst in and start pounding on the stall behind me; I escape quickly but I can only imagine they would soon be showing the door to a transient.

While in line, I panic. I can’t find my little baggie containing my tech charging kit. I’m texting my roommate and crafting ways for her to overnight it to Frodo and Scouts (our hosts) when Evan pulls it out of the extra day bag we brought. I feel like an idiot: I put it there!!

Neither me nor Evan have ridden a train before, so this adventure is just full of Firsts. He longs for a sleeper car; the nausea he woke up with hasn’t passed yet. Nervous, I guess. I start to wonder if I’m broken: I don’t feel anxious or nervous at all. I’m antsy to get a move on, but impatience isn’t anxiety. Maybe I got all of my worries and nerves out of the way in the weeks leading up to now, I did cry myself to dehydration a few times, so it’s not unlikely.

Now I’m on my way to San Diego!! Evan is sleeping off whatever bug he caught, and the train rocks too much to draw my comics. It’s also cloudy and rainy, so the views leave much to be desired. I’ll just twiddle my thumbs and try to resist biting my nails.

3 hours down, 29 to go.

Double the fun, double the mischief

See you soon, SoCal.

So Tell Me, My Man, You Happy Here In The Big World?

“Thrilled.”

-Korben Dallas

It is the twenty-first of April, in five days I will be escaping, with my partner in crime, from the tedium of every-day life in the city. Running off into the wilds of the South California backcountry to start along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,659 mile long trail that runs north, from the border of Mexico to Canada. In one week we start on the adventure of a lifetime, or something like that…

Incoming Hobbit references.

Not to say that I don’t think of it in that way, but eventually you stop framing it like an adventure. The sense of adventure is still there, pins and needles mostly, only wanting to get out on the trail and go. But with the impending deadline, my concentration (or lack there-of), is more focused on the knot of anxiousness and self-doubt that is lodged in my chest. Kerstin and I are giving up a lot for this, we both worked long and hard to get to this point. I constantly worry that something will pop up at any minute that will keep us from going through with it.

This is something I have always wanted to do.

For me personally, backpacking the PCT will be the biggest challenge I have ever come across, and I need that in my life now more than ever. You’re pushing your body and mind to the breaking point. Being constantly on the move, taking breaks regularly at first, then more sparse until you hit your groove. Setting up camp every night, tearing it down every morning. Taking a day off at a lake or campground (Luxury!), or in town at a cheap hotel (Super Luxury!). But mostly just walking, enjoying the scenery, and being engulfed in nature. Accountable only to yourself.

Freedom.

To all my friends and family, I love you all. I wouldn’t be here without your love and support. Thank you.

Check out my blog on The Trek!

CORRECTION! I will still be blogging here, and so will my husband, Evan! 

But I will ALSO be blogging occasionally at TheTrek.co, covering more personal topics about trail life. Evan and I will make this a group project. 

 

Sorry for any confusion. I’ll set up a mailing list soon so you can subscribe here as well <3

This blog will be moving over to TheTrek.co, where I have more blogging tools and a wider audience! There you can also subscribe to the blog so you can receive updates whenever I post, as well as read the trail journals of other thru-hikers on the trail with me. 

 

 

A Backpacker’s Obsession with Food – Part II

It’s no secret I love food. I LOVE food. I wake up in the morning, eat food, and start thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. This is an entirely privileged way to think about food, but circumstances have made it my experience so far in life. While backpacking, this love increases ten-fold. I become ravenous. Through particularly tough stretches I focus on my future dinner. I think about savory, creamy ramen… spicy, chunky chili… or creamy banana pudding… while I try to forget the pain in my toe as I just stubbed it for the fourth time that afternoon.

However, in the backcountry, your kitchen is lacking. In the middle of nowhere–carrying only what is on your back–you can’t exactly whip up a meal worthy of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Or at least, I can’t. As much as I would like to be Samwise Gamgee, I’m not willing to carry an entire kitchen set on my pack.

I appreciate your priorities, dearest Sam, but I think I appreciate my spine more.

Realistically, I have seen other hikers sporting frying pans, spatulas, pancake mix, etc, etc, etc… I don’t know if anyone thru-hikes bring those… but… dang. That’s commitment. Maybe the only thing scaring me away from getting more creative in the dirt kitchen is cleaning up the mess of more complicated cooking methods like sautéing and boiling. At the end of a long day of walking, the last thing I’m going to want to do for more than a minute is dishes. Fuel is also a concern, I need to stretch it out as far as possible.

HOWEVER, comma, while a backwoods foodie I am not, I’d like to toot my little horn and at least say I think my meals are better than some of those pre-packaged, freeze-dried meals you can pick up in sporting good stores. Y’know, the ones with overly huge bags, small portions, and pictures of happy, smiling faces of campers on the front?

Y’all look TOO clean to be eating outdoors. You’re missing out on the wonderful taste of sweat and dirt.

-THE MENU-

I created a menu of 15 different ‘meals’ and made 10 each for this thru-hike. I define a meal as anything that requires heat, hydration, or is more than 500 calories per serving. I tried to pick foods with a wide variety of flavors, textures, and nutrients; the last thing I want is to get bored of eating the same thing over and over again. Since we have 15 resupply boxes to be mailed out, each box gets (about) one of each meal. It’s unlikely we’ll be eating the same thing twice in a week unless it’s by choice.

Tortilla Soup Chili (3 different recipes) Chix Noodle Soup
Spaghetti Red Lentil Curry Curried Rice
Lentil Stew Cheezy Baco-bit Mashed Potatoes Chili Mac
Yellow Thai Curry Ramen Hot n’ Sour Ramen Curried Couscous
Veggie-tomato Couscous Oatmeal (5 different flavors) Pudding (5 different flavors)

Can you tell I like curry? Also, fair disclosure, I follow a plant-based diet, and all the foods I made are vegan.

Dehydrated meals aren’t as terrible as they sound, honestly. The texture is different, but it’s not horrible. Pasta is dehydrated, so are macaroni & cheese packets, and instant soup. I did dehydrate my own rice though, which actually has a different texture than Minute Rice, and I’m okay with that! It’s chewy and is less likely to become mushy.

Speaking of which, there are few things that turn me off food more than bad texture. If my jaws get tired while chewing it or it feels like I’m just gumming it, I won’t eat it. I don’t care how hungry I am, I will probably never eat instant hummus again. I also have chronic dry mouth, so anything that dries up my saliva glands will not make it past my teeth.

My camp kitchen: A 1 quart Imusa aluminum mug with a DIY cozy to keep it warm forever, and handle wrapped in paracord. A Light My Fire double-ended spoon/fork (because honestly, sporks suck). A Snow Peak Giga stove. A lighter, and a typical bag of food. 

Anyways! Food! I promised a recipe, didn’t I?

I’ve made this recipe for all of my backpacking trips to date, and it gets better every time. It’s a version of a soup I make the day after taco night, and it’s spicy, savory, and goes great with tortillas.

-Hiker’s Taco Soup-

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup instant/dehydrated brown rice
  • ½ Cup dehydrated beans, any variety.*
  • ¼ Cup Textured Vegetable Protein
  • 2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated red enchilada sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato powder
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated chopped bell peppers
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated sliced cabbage
  • 1Tbsp dehydrated corn kernels
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tsp dehydrated minced onion
  • 1 tsp chili powder and granulated garlic
  • 1 packet Lime flavor crystals (optional)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)**
  • 4 tortillas (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (on trail)

*Any variety EXCEPT instant refried beans.
**Chia seeds will add 60 calories per tbsp, as well as fiber, calcium, and iron, but are not required.Ingredients:

At Home: Place everything except for the tortillas and olive oil in a Ziploc bag. Pack with tortillas and your bottle of oil.

On Trail: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add mix (remember to unwrap the bouillon, and set aside lime packet), stir, and remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir in lime to taste, and add oil. Enjoy with tortillas!

Do you have any favorite trail recipes? Share them in the comments if you got ‘em! And happy trails (:

A Backpacker’s Obsession with Food

The sun is just starting to touch the tips of the trees, and today’s hike is starting to weigh you down; much like that 30lb pack on your shoulders. There’s a new hole in your shoe and every so often you’ve been shaking pine needles and dust out from between your toes. It rained that morning, and that afternoon was warm, leaving the trail muggy and hot. Your head hurts a little. The last day hiker you saw didn’t say hi or even make eye contact. Today’s been a pretty meh day.

The taste of the last Clif bar you ate still lingers in your mouth, or was it a Snickers? You don’t remember, as eating constantly has become a habit that you aren’t even giving the food second thought anymore. Food is no longer food, it’s fuel.
A quick mental calculation and you figure you’re less than a mile to your proposed campsite for the night. You’re not completely exhausted and may even have some time to wind down before snuggling up in your sleeping bag with your pillow made of balled up clothing in a sack. Maybe tonight you will pull out your stove and prepare one of your dehydrated dinners. Maybe ramen? Do you still have that curried rice? No, you ate that two days ago. Your stomach rumbles. The lentil stew that’s been sitting at the bottom of your food bag for a few resupplies suddenly doesn’t sound so bad.


Later that evening, when the sound of your footsteps and breathing has been replaced with crickets and the occasional hooting owl, you check your watch and uncover your warm pot. Savory steam with hints of bay and cumin tickles your nose, and you barely take a breath before shoveling the brown gruel into your mouth. The hot food fills your gut and warms you from the inside out and relaxes you like a hot bath. Maybe today wasn’t that bad. Things went pretty well actually. Your mood improves, and you curl up under the stars ready to get up tomorrow and do it all again.

Food is important. To expend energy you must consume energy. Backpacking requires a lot of energy, so lots of food is critical; around 5,000 calories a day. In the front country, 5,000 calories could be easily consumed. In fact, one could meet that goal by eating a Big Mac meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a McFlurry for dessert, and grazing on other simple carbs throughout the day. But try carrying all of that on your back, and then try carrying 5 days worth of it on your back. Food is heavy. Calories are heavy. When planning fuel for hiking excursions, careful consideration must be made to what you are taking with you. The more food you carry, the more calories you burn to carry that weight, resulting in the need for more calories. A balance must be made.

On top of that, eating the same food every day over the course of a week or longer is very boring. When your spirits are dwindling and your body is hurting, a surprisingly delicious, or soothing comfort food, can change your day. A special chocolate bar after you climbed an especially difficult pass serves better as a mood booster and reward than the same cliff bar you had for breakfast.


Hunger will also affect everything about your day, and if your food choices were poor you’re going to have a bad time. Food deprivation leaves you distressed and distracted, disrupts blood sugar control (leading to headaches, mood swings, trembling, sweating, and fatigue; on top of your already established sweating and fatigue from exercise). It can also cause brain fog; poor memory and attentiveness, which in the wilderness can lead to absolute disaster. You could forget gear on a stump after taking a break, miss a turn, or become lost. Eating poorly consistently as some do on long-distance hikes can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Iron is essential for carrying oxygen through your body and to the muscles you abuse every day. Vitamin C is vital to iron absorption and is important to healing wounds. Vitamin A is also used in wound repair and fights inflammation as well. Calcium helps to move nutrients around your body, and etc etc etc. I’m sure most of you took a health class at some point in your academic career.

To get to the point, food is important both physically & mentally and therefore is even more important to hikers. Most of you reading this probably already know this, so I applaud you getting this far.

Beyond simple nutrients, the food of my upcoming PCT thru-hike has been my obsession. I’ve spent more time working on my food resupply than anything else. I love to cook, this is an established fact. I also love prep work. I must have put at least 130+ hours into our resupply strategy, including dehydrating and preparing various foods. I came up with 15 different meals and made 10 each. The likelihood of eating something more than once in a 7-day stretch is rather slim.


Coming up next: My favorite backpacking foods, my least favorite, and some recipes!