Checking in on hips and giggles…..

Here we are almost through the first quarter of the new year. I thought by now my hips would be long gone like the holidays. They are still with me and I have fitness goals that are around the corner. So is my birthday. I will be 55 in April and it seems harder these days to lose the extra weight I have put on this last year. I have researched caloric deficits, appropriate water intake, all the while trying to find out what I am doing wrong.  I exercise at least 5 days per week. I eat healthy. I have documented over 150 days of what I have put in my mouth healthy and not so healthy. Not much has changed. I still can’t fit into my cute clothes. So I kept searching. I think I found the missing piece. I stumbled upon the importance of my heart rate range. The fat burning range instead of the fitness range with a high intense workout seems to be important.


That was it. I needed a heart rate monitor to be aware of  the range I was working out in. My mom bought me a monitor for an early birthday present….Thank you Mom. I needed to find my fat burning heart rate range by  knowing my maximum heart rate. With that you could find where you should be while doing your exercises. (Your maximum heart = 220 – your age. The fat burning range is 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.) My monitor display in on a wrist watch and also reads through my phone via apps. The apps are a great way to store the data and look for  fitness improvements in hiking, biking and running.


I have a hiking trip in May to explore the UK, a 175 mile through hike in July and a marathon in August, as side from the daily desire to just feel healthier. Plus packing extra weight while hiking, biking or running makes doing so more difficult. The fat burning heart rate range during my exercise routine has been beneficial  but I still wanted something to “shake up” my metabolism and get the process of weight loss to really be on its way. Again I started to research methods to do just that. I came across lots of information about fasting for several days to intermittent fasting as well. It turns out we humans have an innate ability to fast without negative consequences to our bodies. In fact the research supports more pro’s than con’s when it comes to fasting.  After I read all about fasting I decided to buy raw cold pressed organic fruit and vegetable juices to help me through the fasting process of the first few days.

The first day of fasting we utilize our glucose supply. The second day we start to use our protein supply which is our muscles. The third day we get into our  lipids which is our stored fats. I started my fast with drinking juice every two hours about 8-16 ounces and drank lots of water. I exercised daily up to 3 hours a day. I used the steam room, the jacuzzi and massage to help drain my lymphatic system. I did not feel hungry. I did not have a headache. I felt great. It was much easier than I thought it would be. By the third day I was still feeling great but thought for my first fast 3 days was plenty. I re-introduced fruit and protein shakes on the fourth day and by the sixth day my eating habits were back to normal. I weighed myself and I had lost 3 pounds. This set the stage for more weight loss and reset my metabolism. I was on my way to being lighter.  I’m finally seeing the results I sought. Yippee.

With all this due diligence I am hoping to stay on track and continue to condition and train while losing the extra pounds. I do however keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat so results may come slower if you are weight training. The weather is getting warmer here in sunny Tucson. The snakes have already come out to bask in it but that doesn’t stop me from hiking. Hiking is actually a fantastic way to get out doors, exercise and burn fat. So here’s to all who seek a lighter self…..get out there and be smart. Work out in the fat burning range and see the results you want faster and consistently.

Workout smarter not harder!



Sign of our times!!!

pexels-photo-346885.jpegWow! …. what a time we live in. Turning on the television can be scary for fear of what we might see and hear on the news. The daily story is often repeated throughout the day with significant tragedy often involving mass shootings, acts of terror or natural disasters of late. My initial feelings are often over whelming and the pit of my stomach aches making it easier at times to not watch or even want to hear the news. If we want a of sign of our times; we have got it.  The loss of human lives through pointless and meaningless violence is pointing us in a direction we need to investigate to see how we can affect the future starting today. Instead of letting events occur without taking note, saying a prayer, or wishing for things to change we could use each event as a springboard for ourselves to be propelled into the future with more love, kindness and compassion for our fellow humans.

In retrospect where I have been, what I have experienced and how I have changed brings me to today, every day, still holding out hope and feeling love for all humans and the life I have been blessed enough to be given.  Every significant event in each of our lives helps to form who we are and what we believe to be important. They are “springboards” from where we can leap from into the future we want to see. It is an opportunity to depart from what isn’t working and embrace a new thought or action that could be beneficial to overall change for the better. At least that is how I have learned to cope in my life from my own trails and errors, events and circumstances that have occurred.

How we feel and how we act, are in fact, personnel choices:decisions. This is a fundamental idea that seems lost in the shuffle of more recent impulsive and immediate behavioral displays that the current world has produced as a bi-product. Our human essence is being ravaged by the modern world and “advancements” that have not been thought-out regarding the consequences that ultimately can remove us from our very sense of self. It is affecting our human condition that is being ignored. And we are moving away from the personnel sense of self and the responsibility of being human on this planet that sustains our lives. It is not hopeless, but it is very scary given our current social climate. The social fibers are unraveling, and fundamental needs are going unmet or unrecognized.

The good news is we can make a difference in how we think, what we feel, and how we act. Through love and kindness, we provide a window of hope for those who might not feel it or see it. Through compassion for one and other we spread a sense of connectedness that humans thrive on. We are responsible for ourselves, yet our current atmosphere doesn’t seem to nurture that self-knowledge. My hopes and prayers for our future, our children’s future and their children as well is that love and kindness prevail first and foremost in any initiated change for a better tomorrow.

I could go on and on stating what I think are the “best” solutions for our future but I won’t. I will hold tight to my ideas but pray that the melting pot that America has always been will cook up some ideas that can make our children’s future our greatest investment while providing a safe environment to learn. No one has died in vain if we use the recent events as a springboard. My hat is off to the young survivors who are speaking out and demanding change. May we as adults embrace their desires with respect and support joining them in creating a safer future for everyone. And continue to shine with love and hope.


Wanderlust: A very strong or irresistible impulse to travel or wander

297I have THAT! Do you? It has been a life-long condition for me. I’m not sure there is a cure (nor do I want one). I have immediate and affordable remedies that help the ailment on a day to day basis. My first aid to the never-ending desire is to ‘HIKE’: being outside in nature releases some of the irresistible feelings of that “gotta go” sensation for me. Exploring your neighborhood to the local trails can curb some of the desire. I’ve lived in Tucson for almost 30 years and I continue to find “new-to-me” trails that sound just as exciting as the regular ones I always hike. Just a little bit of time and research can bring you to different destinations that will allow the desire to explore to flourish.

That wanderlust feeling creeps into my head and heart often and usually I start to set my sights on far-away places. Of late I have been taking a deep breath and refocusing on closer areas in Tucson or Arizona to satisfy the impulse. There are a lot of exciting places to discover  within minutes or a couple hours distance in the state. I bet it is true for you as well if you just did a little research to see what exists near you. Social media has assisted my search for the exposure to locations around Tucson and Arizona. Facebook hiking groups from Tucson and all of Arizona consistently add new destinations of wonder that I hadn’t heard about that are added to my growing list of must -sees!

Some where in my mind as long as I have a plan to go investigate a new location the bubbling feelings of wanderlust calms down. The desire to learn something new, be exposed to a different area or find an incredible hidden gem all propel the wanderlust in me. If you too have such an infliction you might try my remedies. Investigate your immediate areas by foot or by bike. Tucson just added a new leg of the already existing bike trail.  It connected existing parts of the trail making for longer distances easier to travel. Does your town have a bike trail?

At my age I have come to accept the feelings that float inside me. I continue to try to appease myself with budget friendly solutions. Hiking and biking my own town and surrounding areas can be the answer. It takes less planning and has immediate gratification. The familiarity you ultimately end up with adds to the comfort you can feel calling your town your home. I love Tucson and the surrounding areas that continue to surprise me with such unique beauty. I’m thankful I live in a place where my wanderlust compulsion can be satisfied.IMG_1176[1]

Honestly, it doesn’t mean I don’t dream of far-away places……it just means that while I’m in town I don’t need to stay in one place. GO explore!


I Hike…

20180101_084255.jpgI Hike because I love Gods creative hand…have you really studied how he put together nature, the colors, the materials, the smells, the feel, the patterns of leaves, rocks, clouds…I love the wild beauty as it was intended to be without the “help” of man. I love the dirt and the filth of the whole thing…never do you feel so close to the earth. The back country always brings a sense of wonder for me. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed and humbled that it brings me to tears; nature takes my breath away. On more than a few occasions I question what heaven must be like if I am so moved by the beauty of earth.

I hike because It is almost impossible to worry when you are on the trail. The part of your brain that ruminates, frets, worries, obsesses gets derailed by the experience of nature, exercise, the one foot after the other distraction. I hiked 225 miles straight feeling quite sure I was going to solve all of life’s problems but I didn’t solve even one, because when I was on the trail, I had no problems.

I hike because it is an opportunity for all to enjoy. You don’t have to be young or wealthy to enjoy this sport.  Hiking is not like Skiing or Yachting or marathon running…You only need a good pair of shoes, and some water. Anyone can enjoy it not matter what your status in life is, and we all get to enjoy the same exact benefits which is a sense of freedom, peace, calm, overwhelming beauty. Everyone needs that in their lives.

I hike because you must depend on yourself. Although it sounds a little melodramatic, hiking can be dangerous in the back country. Part of the intrigue is really using your smarts to plan water, food, shelter, sunscreen, trails etc. Unfortunately, people die every year hiking and it can be especially dangerous as a desert hiker. Finding water on the trail is 100% non-existent so one must plan on how much and how they will pack in water.  You must always have a plan “B” for the unexpected. But that’s part of the fun and part of the realization that you are strong and capable.

I hike because my cell phone doesn’t work. This has been my biggest test. As a mother and wifey, we all know that feeling that we are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Our families will surely fall apart if they cant pick up the phone and call with an “urgent matter” followed by immediate answer or battle plan from “Mom, The Problem Solver”. But then I remember my own childhood and my own parents…there were no phones. I would be gone for hours at a time with no communication. Or when I went to camp, I wouldn’t talk to my parents for weeks at a time. And I survived. And I became stronger for it…my own problem solver.  When my parents traveled without me, I loved it because I couldn’t get a hold of them and I would rarely hear from them, and I loved how I could always figured things out.  I even managed to not stave to death.

I hike to take a break from work, my computer, and all my 21st century luxuries…its good to spend down time with nothing but yourself and nature. It refreshes your body and clears your mind. It gives me a buzz and I feel high as a kite for days after a good hike.

I hike to hang in my hammock. I bring a hammock when time permits and I either take an uninterrupted, guilt free nap, or lie and look up at the trees and blue sky or occasional cloud float by. Or I lie in my hammock and talk to my friends, who are also lying in their hammocks. Hammocks are a true luxury in the back country.  All’s you do is hang. And sway. And relax.

I hike to enjoy my like-minded friends and hiking community. I love my non-hiking friends of course, but the common thread of the outdoors means you will be with a  fun bunch of women who are on the Wild Side of 50 enjoying the second half…exploring, staying real, living in the moment, not trying to impress but rather conquering mountains and valleys, playing in streams and rivers, stopping to smell the roses and  being our own force of nature!


Be wise….Be bright!


009.jpgI love to hike. I used to trail run every day now I hike every day and occasionally run. Living Tucson and in the high country of  the White Mountains of  Arizona allows me to have two very different and diverse places to explore. I see it as a blessing. I try to take advantage of each diverse location. As all of us hikers know it’s true …. something magical happens to us when we are out in wide open outdoor spaces surrounded by nature. I feel as if I am part of the environment I am exploring and just soak it all up.

Sadly, something happens far more frequently in the desert than in other areas where hikers explore. It seems that every year a few solo hikers goes missing. As I am out on the trails, often by myself, I try to be as proactive as possible always thinking safety first. The desert can be very harsh, to say the least, to any visitor. The temperatures can be extreme as well as the risk of venomous reptiles. I take plenty of water, make sure my phone is fully charged (find my iPhone down loaded), have snacks, a whistle, a sharpie and always let someone know where I’ll be hiking or running. But what I DO NOT do is dress like every other khaki wearing hiker, even the forest service wears khaki clothing with a shade of green. I understand that light colored clothing absorbs less heat in the hot sun, but it does nothing to assist you if you are lost. So, I dress like an Easter egg.

I dress bright…. Really bright. I prefer to wear running shorts and tank tops. I occasionally will wear a hat. And fortunately, the trail runner shoes I love are also brightly colored. Why you might ask? Well….my motto became very clear inside my head as I hiked on the trails that the missing solo hiker were said to have been on a couple years ago. I secretly prayed for them to be found….by someone other than myself. But continued to think why it was taking so long to find the missing hiker. My conclusion was always what they were wearing. Those Khaki or desert colored clothes allowed the person to blend in the desert instead of strand out. So, my motto then had significance. BE WISE … BE BRIGHT … BE FOUND THE FIRST NIGHT! Why not be really bright out there against the brown and light green landscape of the desert?

I believe in my motto so much I tell fellow hikers and runners who are also solo when we stop to exchange pleasantries on the trail. For some reason, I am often stopped by others to ask for directions on the trail. I usually know the trails very well and can give direction at which time I also divulge my motto. “Be wise…be bright…be found the first night!” The trails are supposed to be happy places for every hiker regardless of skill level. Proper trail knowledge and safety precautions are often over looked by the frequent visitors to the Sonoran Desert with unfamiliar conditions. Water, sunscreen, trail map, snacks and BRIGHT COLORED clothes can save your life in the desert.

I dress like an Easter egg in the mountains too, just to be safe. But hikers or runners going missing in the high country is rare. I’m not sure why that is true, but it is. Although I know many people cautiously dress with bright colors, so they are not accidently shot by a hunter in the woods. Maybe less people are out in the woods? Or the woods don’t have the dangerous conditions of the desert such as the likelihood of being dehydrated? I’m not sure but ‘safety is first’ where ever I am, and I will always BE WISE and dress very BRIGHT. I am often solo (because my hiking buddies work during the week) I want to be found the FIRST NIGHT!

Hope to see your bright self out there soon!



What is the allure?


There is a power that continues to call us to the wild. The wilderness wildness has a virtue that speaks to our souls. We are planning our next adventure into the depths of the Sierra Nevada’s on a 152-mile trek in July 2018. We are attempting to get our permits for Yosemite, desiring a final rush of hiking the epic Half Dome to conclude our hike.


But if we can’t finish there, we are wanting to at least start in Yosemite trying to squeeze in the chains of Half Dome before pushing Northbound to Meeks Bay of Lake Tahoe. After completing our John Muir trek apparently our enthusiasm became contagious and there are now three more women wanting to pursue the outdoor world of thru-hiking this summer with us on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Our direction will be northbound or southbound depending on what permits we get through Yosemite (that’s a whole story and process in and of itself).

The first ‘planning’ meeting took place in a booth in a bar (that was a bad idea-definitely not the best call so far). It was difficult to hear each other but we got to the permit forms and the process was explained. I brought all three maps out and had highlighted the PCT trail we plan to traverse. It is a little daunting to look at maps encompassing several different wilderness areas and follow your finger on the trail that goes top to bottom of the whole map-that’s a lot of HIKING! We started to discuss gear and food but figured it would be best to have an additional meeting, not in bar, to discuss both in detail. The other three women have done a lot of day hiking and some over nights but never gone for a long thru-hike. Hopefully, some of what Gwen and I learned on the John Muir Trail will be of benefit.

We are all over fifty and the allure of such an adventure could have been percolating in each of us for years just waiting for the right moment in time for all things to be perfectly aligned for July 2018 to be a thru-hike we will all do together. Our lives have all been very different and yet similar. We have all been wives, some more than once, some still are. Two of us are widows. We are all moms with ages of our children ranging from 12 to 35. Some of us work and some of us don’t but we all love to hike. We are approaching the planning of our thru-hike with experience and determination to be as prepared as possible. As always, the little motto is being repeated “grams equal ounces, ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain”. Our preparation for our trip includes physical training too. We meet at least once a week to work out together running the stadium stairs. And we try to hike together on a weekly basis also.

Living in Arizona is a blessing in the winter because the weather lends itself to being outside. We can hike in comfort and train on trails while using our “Alltrails” app on our phones. There are so many trails available in the Tucson area and using the All Trails app makes finding them and staying on them a lot easier. Gone are the days of a compass and a lot of guessing. Rock cairns are so beneficial but not always present. Using a user-friendly app takes the worry out of getting lost while getting familiar with new trails. Exploring Arizona is an endless task and “ExploreArizona” on Instagram provides inspiration for new beautiful places to be examined while hiking with ‘training’ as the pretense. From the desert floors with the Sonoran flora to the mountain tops covered in Pondarosa Pines the diverse ecosystems and topography of Arizona continues to provide diversity to our hiking adventures. Explore Arizona on Instagram consistently provides photographs of “have to see” places in our incredible state. pexels-photo-154140.jpeg

With a Grand Canyon hike coming next month it will give us a good gauge as to how far we have come in our physical training goals. March is planned with another trek to Northern Arizona around the Page area for day hiking. We are hoping to hit the Vermillion Cliffs, Coyote Bluffs, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and sneak into Utah for a day trip to Escalante Grand Staircase for one more day hike. We all agree that thru-hikes justify day hikes and that any hike feeds our souls through walking on our soles! W

I’ll keep posting in our planning in hopes to inspire and share information at the same time.

Hike on….


Training for a thru-hike…..


Riding a bike is great cross training for hiking

Well there is more to it than that: Being healthy and fit for a day hike is significantly different than being healthy and fit for a thru hike. Our body and minds need to be ready for the trail. Not to mention the detailed planning that goes into a thru hike adventure which we will discuss in another blog. But the training can start NOW! “The better the train, more the gain on the trail” ……says not just me. The idea of a week-long to a month long thru hike is romantic in my mind given that I will be out in the beautiful-middle-of-no-where-wilderness with all I’II need to survive on my back dependent on only myself-awe!!! That’s pure love. I don’t mean that selfishly I mean it supportively to the idea that self-reliance, self-confidence, basic survival skills and gaining the ambitious belief “I CAN DO IT!” is my means of attack for the encompassing objective in preparing and planning a thru hike. So, with members of my tribe we are working to increase our stamina, endurance, core strength and our confidence to be as successful as possible on our future journey on a section of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) from Yosemite to Tahoe where will make memories that last a life time.

The tribe members joining this journey in July 2018 will be Gwen, myself, Gina, Katie and Brenda. My goal has been to hike the entire length of the Sierra-Nevada’s after completing the JMT (John Muir Trail) with Gwen in 2016. The JMT was Gwen’s pick; this section of the PCT is mine (we take turns picking our adventures). Gina and I hiked Guatemala together summer of 2017 and she fell in love with that part of the trip craving more adventures. Katie wants more time on the trail after her introduction of 2 days on the JMT (read: Gwen’s “Ignorance is bliss” blog). And Brenda is new to hiking and backpacking but very eager with several weekends and overnights under her belt. Gwen, Gina and I will start in Yosemite with Katie and Brenda joining use a week later at Sonora Pass to finish the second half of the 152-mile section ending in Meeks Bay. This is all very exciting to think about but physically challenging to complete.

I have made additional summer commitments beyond the 152-mile hike following the weekend after our completion. They include but aren’t limited to hiking with my son, Cole, from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows including hiking Half Dome, and then the next week we are off to Alaska for salmon fishing and finishing with a half marathon in Anchorage. So, training can’t start soon enough for me. No one needs similar goals to find self-motivation to improve personnel fitness. Where ever you are and whatever your objectives are you can implement a training program to fit your needs or follow the one below. It is a simple comprehensive muscle building, core strengthening, endurance increasing workout plan. Take what you need and go for it!

Note: The section of the PCT we are doing has no elevation gains greater than 4000 feet. There are summits that will be challenging with our back packs weighing between 32-45 pounds.

Remember building all we need within us is a process over time….and we are what we eat. Eating healthy and drinking lots of water is important. Always have fun and respect your limits. Avoid injury by NOT doing too much too fast…. start somewhere but start slow if just beginning to train. A day of rest can do your body and mind wonders. To work out with tribe members is beneficial, motivational and keeps you accountable.


Training for a thru hike:

“The difference between a dream and a goal of a thru-hike: An action plan in place to gain momentum for the changes your body will need to achieve your dream while gaining the confidence you need to follow through.”   -BK

HINT: Make a commitment to the days per week for training and stick to it

Cardio and endurance is essential

-hiking steep and difficult trails for a minimum of 2 hours once a week (increase distance and time bi-weekly-gradually)

-challenging quick-paced cardio workout (running, treadmill, biking or stairs) with incline increasing over time for 1 hour a day

-engage in fitness class as an alternative for a shake-up to muscles 1 hour a week (swimming, abs of steel tape, Les Mils at a gym or boxing)

Core strength is imperative

-weight train 3 times weekly for a minimum of ½ and increase weight over time (do 2 to 3 sets of 15 repetitions of each exercise working arms, legs and core)

-yoga, TRK, good old calisthenics or swimming improves core strength (calisthenics: jumping jacks, wall sits, push up, abdominal crunches, chair set-ups, squats, side lunges, squat jacks, high knee shuffle, ski umps, chair tri-cep dips, plank, high knee running in place and mountain climbers to name a few that can be done in circuit form and done twice with 30 second rest between 1 minute of 13 exercises)

– stretching after a good hike or work out is the best time to stretch because you are warmed with blood flowing through your muscles. Basic stretching after each workout will decrease soreness and increase your range of motion

– Varying exercises with increase of time, incline, distance and weight improves stamina and overall benefits of training

Our tribe starts TODAY! We are starting with the stairs at McKale Center (@ U of Arizona their basketball stadium). We will run up and then down all of stairs for an hour -around and around we will go. We are trying to exercise be it hiking, walking, running or swimming 5 days a week with a long hike at least once a week. This Sunday we are doing Blackett’s in Sabino Canyon National Park which is a total of 8-miles, but the last leg of it is up 1.7 miles with a 1700-foot elevation gain. Tucson tends to have awesome winter weather making outdoor training easy and a multitude of diverse types of hiking trails to choose from. And the stadium stairs for not-so-good weather days. We will start adding weight to our backpacks and do a few shake-out overnights that will prepare our bodies to carry the weight of our packs on the 14-day journey.

Start today……. stick with it! You will only get better!



Looking in the direction I am headed… believing I CAN DO IT!

Gear you can’t live without…


Backpacking can be incredibly exciting while seeing untouched outdoor locations. Putting all the gear together can be costly to start. Carrying it all can be heavy but not having it is the difference between loving your experience or never wanting to go again. So, the preparation with through thought and a bit of anticipation that you will eventually need everything for a longer thru-hike is a great starting place. Or you could be like Gwen and I who set our sights on a goal of 200+ miles through the wilderness for our first major thru-hike. I had back packed before the John Muir Trail (JMT) but only for weekend outings that my aged exterior framed backpack that only held weekend supplies would never do for a 20-day hike on the JMT. And it also meant that my day pack for those weekly outings in our local areas wouldn’t do either as it only holds my water supply and snacks for a day hike.

Gwen and I had to gear up for a major thru hike and we were basically starting from scratch. The debate between ultra-light and not so ultra-light is yours to have with yourself. We had our own internal and external arguments about this topic but the 20 days on the trail ended up being the experience we needed to make up our minds. There are great reasons justifying either position. Being somewhere in the middle for weight could be a happy medium. The idea that makes weight a considerably important thought is “grams equal ounces, ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain”. With that in mind I’m sure you’ll come to your own comfort level. And whatever weight you choose remember you will feel it all as you hike the trails your planning on exploring.

Buying your gear is making a financial commitment to your new-found passion. The physical training flowed easier for me after I spent all the money in preparation for our through hike. I also realized once you are all set up and dialed in with your gear it will serve you well if you take care of it. There are big ticket items that you just don’t want to skimp on like your bedding (a bag or quilt), your bed pad you sleep on to insulate from the ground you are laying on and your tent. But most importantly is the back pack you choose to put it all in because everything you need will be on your back. To be accurately fitted for your pack and it being the size you will use now and in the future, is important.


Big ticket items ….

Tent- I chose a 2-man tent because I liked the extra room and didn’t mind the extra weight

IMG_1406 (1)

my home away from home

Back pack – get fitted at your outdoor shop

Sleeping bag or quilt -make sure you get one that the temperature will be right for your environment you will be in-sleeping bag liners can add additional warmth

Sleeping pad -the R value is important to your level of warmth at night (the higher the number the greater the warmth) and the thickness of the pad equates to your comfort

Not such big-ticket items ….

Stove -the Jet Boil is super-fast and kinda big compared to the pocket rockets sold on line that easily screw onto the fuel can while taking up little space in pack because they can be stored in a stainless-steel cup that you use for water boiling.

Water filter -Katadyn is super-fast, but bulky compared to the mini sawyer. For a thru hike I recommend the Katadyn and the mini sawyer as a backup water treatment.

Water source containers -these could be bladders or bottles. I prefer the 32 oz. bottles with the adaptor on the top that has a mouth piece and a hose that screws on in place of the cap. There are available on line and they save space in your pack because they can be stored on the outside of it verses the bladder on the inside. Exterior bottles it is easier to monitor your water supply while hiking.

Trekking poles – These are multi-functional for better use of physical energy. They improve your cardio work out and aid in over balance on rough terrain. They also reduce weight on knees 30% and help to slow or reduce fatigue (the power lock poles versus the screw type are better). It is also a suitable place to wrap your duct tape or medical tape supply around so that you will have it for repairs if need. Duct tape and a sharpie are musts for day hikes to thru hikes. Sharpies are great for first aid to mark injury times and monitor swelling.

Of course, you will also need a means of navigation (a map or gps-I used Inreach Garmin with 2-way communication via satellite and down loaded maps-that is a big-ticket item), permits if required and a journal with means to write. Your clothing should be in layers for all different types of weather, wicking and include Merino wool as it doesn’t smell after days of wearing it. I like to hike in running shorts and tank tops which are easy to wear under long pants and additional top layers if needed. I wear one set of clothing and then I can wash out the other, so I always have a clean (relatively) set of clothes. Clothing also consists of sleepwear (merino wool tights, t-shirt and undies-2 pair one to wear and one to wash out), down jacket, rain jacket, beanie, sleep socks (super comfy and they add warmth), hiking socks (again two pair-one to wear and one to wash out) and gloves. I also have one pair of long pants and one long sleeve shirt.

You will need fuel, water proof matches and a lighter. Make sure you have a basic first-aid kit and include lots of Ibuprophen or Tylenol for the aches and pains of thru-hiking. I liked to sleep with ear plugs too. A flashlight and head lamp are also important. There are solar light-weight lanterns out now that are awesome. Extra batteries weigh but you’ll need them unless you have a solar charger (another big-ticket item). A Swiss Army or Leatherman knife with multi-tools is a must and consider its weight. The stuff sacks available make organization of your supplies, clothes and toiletries much easier. Sunscreen, lip balm and dehydrated baby wipes reduce weight and make clean up without water at least feel fresh. And a quick -dry towel and washcloths are a must for bathing with bio degradable soap. I also like a bandana tied on my pack for a sweat rag. A spork to eat with is essential as is a bear canister in bear country or a sack for food to hang in a tree and then you’ll need rope (nylon or light weight at least 50’) which is a must anyways for a clothes line, swift water crossings or other applications.

Your foot wear is extremely important and should be worked out prior to long hike. I preferred light weight trail runners, not boots, but everyone is different. A pair of camp shoes that can double as water shoes is nice to give your feet a break. A poop bag is handy so not to pollute the outdoors. I make mine out of hardy Ziplocs covered in duct tape (so not to see contents) …it really only holds used toilet paper. A wag-bag is a whole different story that those who have done Mt. Whitney are well aware of wag-bags. You will also need a shovel to dig your potty holes. They make very light weight shovels. And extra Ziplocs are useful for your trash. Bear spray (if allowed) is weighty but it works, and insect repellent is also good to have. Pre-spraying Permethrin on all your clothes, sleeping bag, tent and backpack works well for insect repellent.


Pocket rocket with coffee cups waiting for a fill up


Re-supply time…it all had to fit in the bear canister


NOTE: It is important to taste your food before that is all you have to eat in the middle of no-where and you figure out you don’t like it!

For a general rule of thumb your food choices should have at least a 100-calories per ounce of food. Your daily consumption of food on trail will go up with your calorie burn through exercise. I liked to have three meals, two of them hot (breakfast and dinner), and as many as three snacks plus gummies or blocks for the demanding summit climbs.

If carrying a bear canister all your food needs to be re-packed to fit into the canister. Ziploc freezer bags are great for dual purpose of re-packing and then to cook the food in them. The dehydrated food can be re-hydrated in the freezer zip locks by just adding water to it. I love oatmeal so that can easily be my breakfast every morning. You can add nuts and dehydrated fruits as well as protein powder to your oatmeal to make the calories count and the taste better if need be. I also like my tea with sweetener every day and Gwen enjoys a cup of coffee with instant breakfast in too for flavor and additional protein.

My lunches are “pro-meals” that are packed with calories and small to carry. My snacks are an assortment of protein bars I have come to love. Peanut butter Balance bars are my favorite. And Cliff Blocks were imperative to my ability to make it up and over summits. I love them, energy jelly beans and pro-meal gummies. They are all made for “during workouts” with high carbs for quick energy and they work well.

The tuna packages are also great for lunch and tortillas with preservatives last a long time. Peanut butter and jelly in small packages are also yummy on tortillas.

Electrolytes can prevent cramps so supplement your diet with while hiking. I like the water flavor types that come in small squeeze bottles but there are many types to choose from. I recommend you use electrolytes at least one time daily. Again, pre-taste them too.

I bring additional salt packages but that is just me. I did find day in and day out that Top Ramen for dinner is yummy, but the entire season package contains a lot of salt, so I ultimately used only half of that at dinner or I would be thirsty all-night long.

This list is not inclusive of all that you should bring but it a good place to start if you have never gone backpacking before. Experience is the best teacher but being over prepared is better than under prepared when you’re in the back country. Hiking with a buddy can reduce weight you each if you can share. Hopefully this is helpful and useful information.

May all your trails be happy!



Walking through some of the big ones on the JMT

Benefits of Hiking and Beyond…


John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

Snack time an additional benefit of hiking

photo: Snack time is an additional benefit of hiking!


Hiking is a fantastic way to “use it or lose it” and to gain mental health benefits from being outdoors in nature. I am a chronic pain, fibromyalgia patient who broke my neck and jacked my back almost 30 years ago in a car accident. I look normal and try to act normal, but I know I have become a master at masking my pain. Pain is pain period. Not feeling good or not feeling motivated are powerful physical and mental sensations that gain power and momentum all on their own if we let them. If I’m going to feel awful sitting in a chair why not feel awful breathing fresh air?  Fibromyalgia, chronic pain and hiking all sound awful in the same sentence for some…. but for others it “can” define us. But I refuse to allow that and I beleive….Just fake it until you make it sounds simple and it is.  I hike to feel better.

The noted benefits for outdoor walking or hiking continue to expand with research. Research shows that everybody can benefit with better overall health from hiking. Getting up and out can reduce your stress and increase your energy. The more you do the better you will feel. You must start moving and then keep it up to get the consistent benefits of a hiking. As with anything start slow and start planning unfamiliar places to explore. If you can hike at least 30 minutes a day-4 days a week you will start to see the benefits. Ultimately your goal should be to hike an hour a day-4 days a week. If you were to do more vigorous exercise such as running, backpacking with weight or hiking uphill you would need half the amount of time to obtain the health benefits. Utilizing hiking poles decreases stress on your knees by a said 30% and increases an upper body workout during your hike. They also help in balance for rough terrain and help going up or down hills. Poles help reduce hand swelling that may occur and increase your cardio workout.

Hikers are said to be happier. The mental health benefits are endless. Just being outdoors and observing Mother Natures beauty is stress reducing. Hiking alone can increase your self-confidence (but take solo hiker precautions-safety first). Or hiking with members of your tribe is a wonderful time to discuss issues, brain storm current ideas and continue to bond. It’s your choice to make a solo hike for a spiritual experience or being with friends as a social experience. Whatever works best for you is what you should do. And while you are just out there enjoying yourself be aware that the following benefits of hiking are working for you.

Hiking’s health benefits are as following:

Improved cardio-respiratory fitness

Improved muscular fitness

Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke

Lower blood pressure

Reduced risk of diabetes 2

Lower risk of colon or breast cancer

Lower risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides

Increased bone density or a slower rate of loss

Reduced depression

Better sleep

Weight control (hiking can burn 350 calories an hour or more)

Spending time outside increases attenti)on spans and creativity

Improves anti-oxidative capacity (helps to heal from cancer

With the above list of all the possible benefits hiking can provide to you and your over-all health, it can inspire you to engage in a healthier lifestyle. It certainly has done that for me. I absorb the beauty I hike in and never fail to be intrigued by the amazing perfection of Mother Nature. What happens to me when I hike makes be feel seduced by the fresh air and energized to see what lies around the corner. I can honestly feel painless at times. I would much rather help my health hiking then sitting in a chair and feeling bad. At least when I am sore after a hike I feel as if I earned the aches from walking the miles I just accomplished.

Bottom line……pain or no pain Hiking is good for your over all health….so let’s get out there and explore more!


Ignorance is bliss…


Katie sitting on the top of Half Dome

They say ignorance is bliss, and for our friend Katie, her first backpacking adventure really was a blissfully ignorant experience. But for Kat and I, her “hiking chaperones”, not so much. Last summer Kat and I hiked the John Muir Trail (JMT). For the 2 years building up to our hike, Katie watched us plan and prepare every detail  for  this super intense thru hike and as she took it all in, decided she wanted to have a taste of our adventure. She had never backpacked and wasn’t much of a hiker but what she had was great athletic ability as a swimmer and cyclist and a shared sense of wanting something fun and challenging outdoors; our hiking plans had definitely  piqued her interest. The plan was for Katie to tag along for the ride and join us for our first 2 acclimation nights at Curry Camp in Yosemite where we would officially start our thru hike. We then went one step further and told Katie she should start out with us on our JMT hike and camp with us our first night at Little Yosemite Valley. It was the perfect plan and Katie was stoked and so were we…this was an epic adventure and we were happy to share in the excitement.

Upon arriving at Yosemite, Kat and I watched as the euphoria of being in nature and especially of being in breathtakingly beautiful  Yosemite take  hold of Katie. Before our very eyes, we were watching a hiking newbie as she was  overcome and overwhelmed by something she had never witnessed or experienced…she was seeing things and feeling things that she never knew she was missing but quickly realizing she needed in her life. Her excitement reminded me of a 4-year-old seeing Disneyland for the first time…but even better because there’s not much left that excites a 50 year to this level!

We spent 2 days  acclimatizing and mentally preparing for a hike of a lifetime.  They say that the hardest part of the John Muir Trail is the first 4.3 miles hiking out of the Yosemite Valley. It’s an elevation gain of 2100′ feet and its carrying a 35 lb pack on your not yet developed “trail legs” that gets you and I would whole heartedly agree with that assessment. Its straight up steep, climbing overly tall granite steps . Having left at dawn, we arrived at Little Yosemite Valley early, made first nights camp and relaxed for a bit, swimming in the Merced River, kicking back on the banks of the river, especially enjoyable coming from the dry dusty desert. We were feeling proud of our first day on the trail. But  we couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided although we were beat from our hike up, we just needed to get in the presence of  Half Dome, Yosemite’s tallest granite peak. Bravely admitting it just wasn’t in the cards to climb up this scary beast on this trip (for me, I just knew I wouldn’t have the strength to make it up 600′ of straight up chains) but still, we wanted to get close to H.D. and see for ourselves this wondrous peak known both for its beauty and it’s adrenaline  inducing thrill of making it to the top without plummeting to one’s death. It’s intense and you have to be on your game, and I had no game left that first day. We set off from L.Y.V. at 3:00 in the afternoon and made our way up the trail with the general idea of going as far as the sub-dome and then we would turn around. But very soon after we started out, Katie, who hadn’t hiked with a 35lb pack on her back that day got another shot of her new-found euphoric energy at the thought of seeing Half Dome, started hiking faster than us, pulling ahead and as quickly as you can say , “never separate from your hiking group”, she was gone and out of sight from us. Oh-kee-dokie. Kat and I didn’t love that she’d done that, but like I said, Katie is athletic, she’s smart…but…she’s not a hiker…and it was getting a little late to summit Half Dome and the icing on the cake; ominous thunder heads were forming quickly in the not too far off horizon. Sudden and fast moving  storms are the #1 way people die on Half Dome; when lightning strikes on that wide open granite, the valleys biggest and highest lightning rod, people have no place to take shelter.  Kat and I picked up our pace thinking we would catch up to Katie but we didn’t. We continued on and as we were passing people coming down from H.D. we started asking if they had seen a petite blond in a bright blue jacket. They would all pause to think, but ultimately respond with a “no”. We kept hiking up the trail and thats when I started noticing little trails that went off the main trail. I was getting a stomach ache. We kept hiking and asking, always with the same answer, “no, we haven’t seen her.” Luckily dusk was a few hours away since it was summer but the clouds were creeping in closer and closer and we were getting panicky. Which wrong trail did Katie take? Will she know how to find her way back? Is she scared being all alone and lost? Does she have enough water? Will a bear eat her? Will her husband kill us when we have to break the news to him that we lost his wife? By this time I was on the verge of throwing up. My already wobbly legs were getting weaker and weaker as the minutes passed. Kat was handling this much different…she was swearing with clenched fists, ready to take Katie out (if we ever saw her again). We came upon our 10th group of hikers who we  just happened to have hiked with earlier in the day. We stopped and traded a few pleasantries about meeting on the trail again and then quickly changed the  subject and once again asked if they’d seen Katie who they knew from earlier in the day. This time we got a different answer…”yes, we saw her going up as we were coming down.” I’m sure all the other groups had been too deep into their own Half Dome hiking experience to notice Katie but our new trail friends probably stopped to say hello again and thats why they noticed her. At the news that Katie had been spotted, I nearly started crying with joy. Kat now was able to really let loose knowing she wouldn’t regret her words since Katie was actually  still alive.

Hearing that Katie was safe and now headed all the way up Half Dome, Kat and I knew there was nothing we could do, that she’d be a few hours. Knowing we still needed  to filter water, collect our camp water, make dinner and  re-pack our bear canisters and prep for the next full day of hiking, we headed back down to our camp site so that we weren’t doing these tasks in the dark. The clouds were still a worry but I trusted that if the threat grew eminent, a “real” hiker would kindly grab Katie by the hand and yank her down as fast as they could go…she wouldnt be left behind.

Dusk fell and no sign of Katie but very soon after full on nightfall,  2 headlamps walked towards our campsite, one being Katie and the other being her new hiking buddy who just happened to be a world traveling hiker, quite famous on Instagram. She met him on the way up, also picking up another solo hiker on the way. And according to Katie, she spent several hours in the company of two of the most interesting and intellectual people she had ever met.  Part of what made her new friends so interesting was their wanderlust for nature and hiking and their lack of materialism that backpacking reminds us so beautifully of.  It was another piece of the puzzle that Katie didn’t realize she was missing, but was happily discovering thru yet another chance meeting of  enlightened backpackers who were happy to share what those of us who love the backcountry know.

To say that Katie enjoyed her Half Dome climb would truly be the understatement of the century. You couldn’t wipe the grin off her face, her feet were barely touching the ground…the woman was high as a kite!!! I explained as kindly as I could that she literally broke every backpacking/hiking rule in the book while Kat unleashed  on her ( in a scary but  loving momma bear way)…how it effected us as her hiking partners and what she did was the ultimate in selfishness. But it didn’t matter. Katie was too drunk on nature and she could barely concentrate  on what we were saying. She was giddy with the joy that nature always delivers. She interupted our lectures several times to relive her Half Dome assent…she couldn’t believe that this type of experience was out there waiting for the taking! It was infectious and we loved experiencing Katies first taste of nature with her…it had been a long time since our own first step into nature that would forever change us and it was fun to experience it again through someone else’s eyes. Lecture over. It was pointless.

Day 2 we woke up, had coffee and breakfast, packed up and walked Katie to the fork in the trail. Kat and I would turn right and continue another 207 miles to the summit of Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 and Katie would turn left, taking the 4.3 mile trail back to Yosemite Valley. The three  of us hugged and said our farewells, turned in opposite directions and set off…2 of us about to embarked on the most epic 211 mile of our life, one just completing the most epic hike of her life thus far, crushing Half Dome. And discovering her new found love of nature.