Post Hike Rejuvination

Yes I was bummed that I wasn’t able to finish the Tahoe Rim Trail a few weeks ago, but the following 5 days provided such a boost of inspiration that I was able to quickly move past that disappointment and get over myself. There are so many more important things to spend time worrying about than my gimpy feet. (Update: my right shin is still sore, and after a visit to a podiatrist learned that my left foot has structural issues and I’ll be wearing a custom orthotic to mitigate that kind of pain again!)

I was immersed in the Patagonia Tools Conference. If you aren’t aware, the clothing company Patagonia has extremely strong environmental roots and ethics, and has been providing grants to nonprofits involved in a variety of conservation issues for years. This is a company that puts their money to good work, and if you pay more for your puffy, it’s probably because it’s sustainably sourced, fair trade, and a portion of the profits supports some local organization in your community. This year they granted over 800 different organziations funds to support their campaigns, and 80 of us showed up on the shores of Fallen Leaf Lake to learn some best practicies from professionals in the field.

Everything was covered from campaign strategy to communication tactics, fundraising to lobbying, and we dove in to the nitty gritty of how to be effective in challenging times like these. What I came away with was a renewed sense that we CAN make a difference no matter what is going on at the federal level…in fact some of the most successful environmental work is done locally.

I also walked away awed at the work being done around the country by those in the room with me.

One particularly moving plea for help came from Bernadette Demientieff of the Gwich’in Nation in the Artic Circle. Patagonia made a film about the threats to this region of the world and the people who have called it home for many thousands of years.

Here’s a bit more: https://www.adn.com/politics/2017/10/05/u-s-house-passes-budget-bill-that-provides-option-for-opening-anwr-to-drilling/

A bill is due to hit the Senate floor in the coming weeks, after the Senate returns from a weeklong recess on Oct. 16.

I’m not really thinking about my feet anymore…and this is just one issue out there, what’s happening in your neighborhood?

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Day 8 – 1.5 miles…backwards.

I woke, made my coffee, ate my instant apple  cinnamon oatmeal, popped a healthy handful of vitamin I, and faced the trail. I willed my left foot to feel no pain, but my powers of persuasion were lacking. The 12+ hours off my feet had no impact on the pain level in the bottom of my left foot.

I only stumbled a few minutes up the trail before I faced reality. This was not working. There is acceptable pain, and unacceptable pain. And this pain was unknown and acute, so unacceptable.

I felt failure throbbing in my foot, and turned around. When I told myself a few days ago that I would get back on the trail and see how things went, and keep my options open if my leg wasn’t feeling better, I guess I never expected I wouldn’t feel better.

Is this 40? Is this getting old? Or have I been lucky with my feet thus far?

Not. Happy.

I made my way back to the trailhead and stuck out my thumb once again. And the ride that stopped definitely helped pull me out of my pity party. Dave and his dog Ra picked me up. On the short ride down I learned he had been an outward bound instructor for years and had even worked in wilderness therapy like me too. We talked shop and he even treated me to breakfast. I’ll tell you, when I trust that the world will provide and is full of kind and generous people, that’s exactly what I find. Attitude is everything. And so that’s when I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I’m still in an amazingly beautiful place, have a few days off before my conference, and should enjoy what I do have.

So I got the car, picked up some fruit and veg at the store, and found a hotel room to put my feet up and chill.

I ended up watching too much TV, man TV sucks. It’s so full of emptyness.

But I did a good job of not walking, and tomorrow I’ll play tourist in Tahoe.

Day 7 – 16.6 miles – 88.9 miles total

I was the first out of camp this morning and walked into a chilly morning. I had all my warm layers on, and kept them on for hours. The sun was out though! And the day simply amazing.

I cruised a few miles until taking break and a making a hot drink to try and keep the chill away.

The next section to Mt Rose area was a mountain bike trail too. And I found myself there on a Sunday, so LOTS of bikes. Most were great and would stop for me, well trained bikers!

I finally warmed up and the miles were coming easy even though my ankle is still swollen. I took a nice long lunch and did some reading.

When I started again my left foot was really painful. Hmmm. I hoped to walk it off, but the pain only got worse. Was this related to the new shoes? Or the big miles in the sandals? Or overcompensatation for my other injured foot?

By the time I made it to the highway I was limping and in a foul mood. I crossed the road to an incredibly busy trailhead, and decided to walk about one more mile and make camp. I was going really slow, then i put my lunas on to see if that helped…nope.

I pitched my tarp and had a chill evening. I fell asleep to the yipping of coyotes and hooting of a nearby owl.

Day 6 – 9 miles – 72.3 total

I iced my ankle ankle off and on during my stay at the hostel, and while it wasn’t 100%, I decided it was worth trying to hike on. But, as my time was getting shorter and I didn t want to stress it out too much, I would skip some miles.

I packed up, wishing Tom Tom, Spider Bite, and Purina a good hike as they hopped back on the PCT, and went to a nearby cafe for breakfast.

Made myself a hiching sign, and walked to the edge of stateline to try and get a ride, and wouldn’t you know it, after only a few minutes an awesome couple and their dog Blue pulled over for me. I love how great people are here! Giving rides and helping you out. Love it.

I disembarked at Spooner Summit and began to hike up. Someone had been through today, it looked like 2 sets of footprints on the snow. I didn’t put my gortex socks on, a figured cold feet might help the swollen ankle…

The first few miles were in the trees. I slowed my pace considerably to not put too much stress on the foot, and slowly plodded through the forest. At one point I decided it was time for some music. I hadn’t listened to any music yet on this trip, so when Ben Harper’s She’s only Happy in the Sun came on, I practically burst with joy. This song was on heavy repeat when I hiked the Colorado Trail 10 years ago, and could be my antham. I love it. I love this. I love hiking. Suddenly nothing else mattered except the fact that I was walking through a gorgous landscape, exactly where I am happiest. This is me. This is happiness. It doesn’t matter that I won’t complete the TRT on this trip. None of that matters. I am here, and that is the most important thing. 

I was getting glimpses of the Nevada valley to the east, and Lake Tahoe to the West. Then I was above treeline and on top of the world. It was overwhelming.


I spent the rest of the day in a state of bliss. I worked Spotify to play me all the albums I had on the CT hike a decade ago, and remembered how wonderful that solo hike had been.

My feet were getting cold and wet by this point, but I didn’t care. I met 2 day hikers, and a young couple with their tiny baby in a sling on the dad. Yes! They are doing it! That kid is one lucky dude.

By late afternoon I was back in the trees and got to camp pretty early. Again, I wanted to take it easy, and do some reading. I haven’t read as much as I would have wanted, so now my slower pace and shorter days would give me more of what I want.

A group of 10 came in not long after I stretched out in my sleeping bag, cowboy camp style. They were a guided group doing the TRT together. Nice folks. I’m not used to so much company, but this was an established campsite and was recommended that hikers camp here instead of on their own in this area. Maybe bears? But it was ok. We were all in bed fairly early and sleeping towards another day on the trail.

TRT Day 5 – 0 miles

That soft dry bed was amazing. I wanted to save some money and decided to forgoe another night in cushy luxury, and head to a hostel in South Lake Tahoe. I needed a day of rest for my swollen leg. I waited until the last minute of check out time at the hotel, soaking myself in epson salts and icing the injury one more time. Finally I donned my pack and walked down the street to Heavenly Village. I had decided to see a movie, and was one of three folks in the theater for mother!

And while I heard the guy behind me say it was the worst movie he had ever seen, I don’t agree, and it will definitely give me food for thought in the upcoming days. Why not go see a movie you don’t totally understand and have to mull over? I’d rather spend $10 and walk away with something to think about, rather than just another violent action movie that means nothing.

So after that I walked over to Tahoe Sports and got myself a different pair of shoes. I love love love my Oboz, but due to the weird circumstances of my feet on this hike, needed to try something that put less pressure on my Achilles tendons. I found a pair that seemed ok, but really I won’t know until I put them through the paces on the trail.

Not much happened after, I sat down for some nachos and a beer while I puzzled over my map and crunched some numbers to see what I could potentially hike before I have to go the conference that I came down here for. I was invited to attend a 5 day workshop next week in Tahoe for environmental activists…Patagonia puts on this training every two years, and I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to chew over the big issues facing our organizations, landscapes, country, and planet. Regardless of what I decided to do with the rest of my hike, I had a place to be next week, and would most likely not finish the whole trail now due to my injury. So, my plan is to find a reasonable spot to jump back on, and continue to hike back to my car in time to make the training.

At check in time I walked over to the Mellow Mountain Hostel and got my bunk spot (top bunk, bummer), but it’s only $25! And wouldn’t you know it, the place is full of PCT thru-hikers also recovering from the massive rain/snow storm. In fact, it’s still snowing. This morning a few inches of snow covered everything in town, who knows how much was in the higher elevations. I met some of the hikers who I had seen on that dark and rainy afternoon a few days ago, and found out everyone was ok. I was surrounded by hikers, awesome!

I spent the rest of the evening resupplying at the near by grocery store, and chatting with some of the other hostel goers. I hope to hitch back to the trail tomorrow, but will let my leg decide in the morning.

TRT Day 4 – 5 miles – 63.3 miles total

I woke up, still alive!

Not trying to be melodramatic here, but that was definitely the worst night I’ve ever had on trail. Much worse than when I set myself on fire on the CDT.

I was determined to take the shortest route out, which was 5 miles on the PCT instead of the TRT. I made coffee, dug out my stuff from the frozen ground under the snow, and got myself ready.

It wasn’t bad! The sky was blue, and snow is much easier to deal with than rain. Snow, I love snow! My shoes were soaking wet, but I had my trusty gortex socks to keep my feet dry.

I hiked. There were no other footprints and I wondered what happen to those other hikers. At one point I turned around to see more snow clouds approaching, so then it became a race against the next snow storm.

I was on the PCT through beautiful snowy meadows, following another traveler’s prints by this point, a bobcat I think.

A few miles in, the lack of sleep and pure exhaustion got to me. I felt I couldn’t take another step, but had to, I had to get to Carson Pass. Just transcend the pain…

Each rise was not the road. Did they move it? 

Finally I could hear cars, but the blasted trail paralleled it for a while. Oh the cruel, cruel trail.

Finally I was there. But not. The pullout to the ranger station I remembered was a bit further up the road, and I walked the highway shoulder practically in tears.

A car I had desperately tried to flag down had pulled over and I could see they were rearranging the car. I walked over and couldn’t speak for the tears.

I was crying for relief, for the kindness, for the pain of the last 12 hours. At last I was able to communicate, and Mark and Mary from Racine Wisconsin gave me a ride half way back to South Lake Tahoe. My trail angels. Literally.

I composed myself and stood on hwy 89 to hitch again, and after only a few minutes Paula stopped to pick me up. She knew. She had been there herself in the backcountry before and was ever so gracious. So grateful for those kind souls who pick up a half deranged girl from the side of the road.

Paula dropped me off at a cafe where I ate breakfast and the night immediately seemed incredibly far away.

I got a fancy hotel room, stayed in bed all day, realized my shin splint pain was due to a swollen leg, an injury that had occurred at some point….but rest. Time for rest.

Tahoe Rim Trail Day 3 – 20 miles – 58.6 miles total

The day started out so good.

I slept! At least in spurts. I would roll over and think…I must have been dreaming, that was one hell of a dream…then stare at the stars a while, and drift off again.

The stars were gone by the time morning came…obviously, but the sky clouded up in the early morning hours. I made coffee and enjoyed my open air breakfast. Nothing beats a good cowboy camp.


I thought I would try my shoes this morning as there were miles of granite rocky terrain ahead…and it was manageable! I may just be able to pull this off afterall!

The clouds made for a dramatic morning on the pale granite faces of rock and pocket lakes. I definitely remembered some of this terrain from 11 years ago. By the time I made it to Aloha Lake the wind had picked up and it was easier to keep moving than to lolly gag and enjoy the views.

I felt good and couldn’t help but think about finishing the CDT two years ago today. Ahhh, memories.

By the time I was approaching Echo Lake I was ready for a sit-down lunch. I figured the store was probably closed, but couldn’t help but hope…and wouldn’t you know it, yesterday it was open, today closed. I met knee, another PCT southbounder who was super bummed, but we found relief from the increasing wind on the side of the building and I ate lunch and made a mocha for moral.

I swore off the internet for this hike, but made an exception for weather, and saw there was a 20% chance of showers this afternoon and evening. I could tell from the wind and clouds, but 20% is not much, right? Onward!

The climb up and out was a rocky boulder-field and I definitely remembered this section. It started to drizzle so put on my rain coat and trash bag skirt. My gortex socks made for too tight of a situation on my painful feet, so opted for the socks and luna look. I knew the socks would get wet, but I had a dry pair for the sleeping bag.

Soon it was raining for real and I pulled out my trusty Silver Shadow (Six Moon Designs Umbrella I designed the logo for!).

Then raining harder, then pouring. Straight up pouring.

I contemplated setting up camp early when a few other hikers came up. Soaking wet. They mentioned the rain was supposed to turn to snow…and pushing on to Showers Lake would be a drop in elevation…maybe a good idea?

I surveyed the spongy forest floor and decided to follow their direction and keep hiking.

Oh! Showers Lake! I remember you. I got lost trying to find my way around you.

I was ready to camp. Soaking wet, my umbrella had saved me, but I knew I had minutes before hypothermia would set in. Most of the ground was puddle, so I tried to find a higher spot. I quickly set up camp, just barely staying dry. Only my sleeping bag was dry….the line between security and disaster is so thin.

I managed to start my stove in the driving rain and maker a hot dinner. I kept an eye on the growing puddle outside my tarp with dread.

SHIT.

If it kept raining this hard much longer I would be in the puddle. I would be screwed. Rain to snow to doom.

I finally decided I had to move.

I tried not to freak out, and tried to keep as dry as possible, but that was pretty much impossible.

I found a spot near by, not exactly flat, but farther away from the massive puddles forming everywhere.

But my stuff got wet. My down sleeping bag was wet in spots, damp all over. As soon as I had everything set up again, the rain turned to snow. I was uncontrollably shivering. I knew I would make it, but it would suck. Suck bad.

I was unable to stretch out because of the panicked way I set up again. I could only be in the fetal position. It was agony.

I checked my phone to see if I had reception, and called Kirk to have him talk me down. Then I listened to podcasts to keep my mind off the situation. The very real situation.

About 3:30am, I thought I might be able to sleep so turned off the 3 hour Tim Ferris podcast I was listening to and actually got a few hours of rest.

Tahoe Rim Trail – Day 2 – 22.6 Miles – 38.6 miles total

Insomnia strikes again. It never fails the first few nights out lately. I assume I am getting some kind of rest as I’m usually able to function the next day. I got a few hours right before dawn and woke to a lightening sky and my tarp fallen around me. While I had a money spot last night with the view, it was slight tilted so I kept running into my hiking pole which was keeping it up.

It took me almost 2 hours to get on the trail, I obviously don’t have my routine down yet, but as I will be hiking shorter days I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Right as I was putting my pack on a girl walks by and I immediately knew she was a PCT hiker and not at TRT hiker. Small pack, steady fast pace, business. I start walking and not 20 yards from me is another tent. I had no idea he was there!

The morning is clear and the sky blue. The terrain mellow as the trail enters desolation wilderness. I meet the hiker at a stream. She is Lucky Charm, and has had a hell of a time flipping around, but now she is about 300 miles from finishing…and she got through most of the now closed trail before the fires… I guess that’s why she got her trail name!

The next few hours were fairly mundane in the trees. I wore my Luna sandals all day. Not too bad until the end of the day. Late afternoon I made it to the granite lakes this wilderness is so known for, it’s an incredibly  beautiful area. The rocks started to take their toll on my feet and I started to really feel the miles. I passed a trail crew and thanked them for their work. Not much of this looked familiar from 11 years ago. More lakes, more rocks. This is the area the ranger yesterday told me had problem bears that could open bear canisters and get bear hangs, so I wanted to hike past. The climb up to Dicks pass just about did my feet in. It was quite a panorama up top though. This looked familiar. I think NEMO and I glissaded down this pass.

Up top there were a few other hikers, I kept limping along, trying to keep up my momentum for the rocky 3 mile down hill. Finally I just couldn’t take it anymore and put my shoes on, but with the laces wide open. It seemed to work and give my heals some extra room, but as I was going downhill my toes were jammed in the front…I just can’t win. But 6 more days….hopefully I can limp through it. We thru-hikers are a stubborn bunch!

Finally I saw some flat ground and found a spot for a cowboy camp. Food, bear can away and done. So done. Hope I can sleep. 

Tahoe Rim Trail – Day 1 – 16 miles

A few hikers got together Friday night as we are headed to different trails…it’s fall hiking season! I’m off to the Tahoe Rim Trail, VirGo came down from Portland to start the Oregon Desert Trail, and Treehugger and Blisterfree are off to the Mogollon Rim Trail (one of Blisterfree’s creations).

My drive down from Bend yesterday was fairly uneventful, and got in after dark to find an expensive car camping spot along the lake. In the morning I went to the ranger station and picked up my permit to camp in the Desolation Wilderness, the only spot on the 165 mile trail where you need a permit. It also happens to be part of the PCT!


I decided to start at Tahoe City as there is a big parking area there, and I could resupply near the trail about half way around the lake. Tahoe City also happens to be at lake level, which meant I spent most of the day climbing up. The rim trail stays pretty far away from the lake as there are cities, and roads, and houses…it climbs the mountains around lake Tahoe.

Immediately in the parking lot I saw hikers. I knew I was on a popular thru-hike due to its short distance and spectacular scenery, but I hoped because it was late September that the big rush would be over. Regardless it will be a big change from the routes I have been hiking. I am looking forward to some trail and mindless hiking!

Immediately I started passing and being passed by another solo female hiker. When we chatted on the 2,000’ climb, it turns out last weekend she saw 140 hikers and 40 bikers! Holy #$@=£+%!

There was a wind advisory today, and when I got up over 8,000’ it was cold. I put on all my layers to have a snack. Brrrr. I was also carrying a lot of water as the trail can have long dry stretches, but it turns out I lugged all the water for nothing cause a few seasonal creeks had water. Seems to me they need a databook and water chart for this trail!

My Achilles on both feet had been feeling pinched, which had me a bit worried this soon in the hike. My trusty Oboz were hurting. I spent most of the summer in my Luna Sandals…. a barefoot sandal…so I decided to try those out even though I had a heavy pack (I have a bear canister on this hike…ugg).

Immediately my feet felt better. I need to be careful where I step as there is only about a ¼ inch of footbed, but for the next 5 miles I cruised with no pain. I guess my feet have gotten stronger!

I was back on the PCT at a windy saddle, and enjoyed cruising down in the quiet forest. Quiet that is, except for the howling wind.

Early evening I started to look for a camp spot away from any trees that might fall in the heavy wind, and happened upon the most amazing spot ever about 2,000’ above the lake, I could see heavy dark clouds swirling above Lake Tahoe a few miles away, and the mountains protected me just enough from the wind. Bliss!!!

Trails: Time to Give Back

Summer is most certainly coming to an end in Oregon, and while the days are getting shorter, we are still inundated with smoke from more wildfires than I can count. Oregon is burning, so I’m heading south for an upcoming hike. Stay tuned for more details soon. Blogging will happen, photos will be taken, but I plan to give myself the gift of unplugging from the internets (or 4G) during the hike…posts will come after a short delay.

Even though I haven’t been able to stretch my legs on any long hikes this year, I have been immersed in the land of trail work.

Part of my job as the Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator this year was to lead some trail work trips. It’s so satisfying to maintain trails, especially when they are as overgrown and neglected as some of the ones along the ODT.

But I thought the ODT is a route, not a trail…

Yes, you would be correct, but of the 750 miles (actually current count is 753.5 miles), 11% is along existing trail. These are trails our federal agency partners haven’t been able to work on in many years due to a myriad of reasons, including lack of funding and use. This leads to a vicious cycle of hikers not hiking the trails because they aren’t maintained, and trails aren’t maintained because hikers aren’t hiking them…

SO, we are harnessing the incredible hard working volunteer manpower to make a dent in some of that maintenance (last year over 500 ONDA volunteers contributed almost 10,000 hours to a variety of stewardship projects including riparian restoration and animal monitoring activities, WOW!). A lot of my work last year involved establishing relationships with the four different BLM Districts and two different National Forests that manage land along the Oregon Desert Trail in eastern Oregon, and this year I worked with those partners to develop four trips.

I’m incredibly proud of my volunteers and the work we did. It had been a full 10 years since I led trail crews around Colorado for the Southwest Conservation Corps, but the memories came flooding back as I swung the Pulaski and built berms along the drain dips with my crews. Trailwork!

A few numbers: 45 volunteers came out for 810 hours of work, and we:

• Built 2 miles of new trail in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, and transformed a .4 mile cross-country section into trail on the ODT. (See photos here)
• Cleared 11 miles of downed trees from the Fremont National Recreation Trail and ODT corridor, and maintained 3 miles of trail. (See photos here)
• Cleared all the downed trees from the Big Indian Gorge Trail in the Steens Mountain Wilderness (by hand), and brushed over 2 miles of heavily overgrown trail. (See photos here)
• Built a .5 mile high water alternate to the Blitzen River Trail out of Page Springs Campground in the Steens Mountain Wilderness. (See photos here)

I will continue with the work in 2018…there is so much to do! Are you interested in joining me on one of the trips? Some are backpacking based, some are car-camping based. We were packed in by a BLM horse team on one trip, and might even provide some chain-saw training opportunities for another…lots to help with. The ONDA stewardship trips get announced in mid February each year, so I’ll keep you posted here on when those go live, I’d love to have you join me on a trip or two!

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