Hiking the UK in May 2018

There was a lot of planning for the adventure of hitting the trails with my friend who lives in England. Su had taken up hiking in the last couple of years enjoying the desert and all its beauty while on her annual extended stays to Tucson. But she had yet to trek the trails in England…until this May. Spring seemed like the best time to go given the UK weather. We could only hope for good weather since the typical English default weather is grey skies with rain. As we researched the hiking, there was a lot to choose from, we couldn’t choose, so we decided to rent a motor-home and try to hit all the hiking highlights in England. Not ever hiking in England before, I figured we could learn as we go.

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Lighthouse on Seven Sisters hike in Sussex, England

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White cliffs of chalk along the Seven Sisters hike-Sussex, England

We decided to start our adventure south of London in Sussex, near the white cliffs of Dover. We hiked Seven Sisters, which were high rolling grass covered hills that dropped abruptly off to high cliffs of exposed white chalk all the way down to pebbled covered beaches with dark blue waves rolling in. My first impression of “hiking” in England was that it would be easy. I had researched a lot and no elevation was higher or greater than 4413′. I thought after climbing Mt. Whitney at 14,508′ hiking in England would be a walk in the park. Especially judging from our first hike. It seemed easy. I didn’t even use my sticks.

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Durdle Door-limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorest, England

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Additional arches along the coast at Durdle Door in Dorest, England,

We continued to travel west along the southern coast. We stopped to hike down to see Durdle Door on the Jurassic coast near Lulworth in Dorest. That was a breathtaking view. The landscape became a little sharper in the up and down. Still hills, but not rolling, they were more pronounced. The rock formations stood with strength providing a different look on the coast altogether different when compared to the chalk walls in Essex. The trails were well worn and often filled in with rocks making the path and steps. The beauty of the coast was luring us to explore. And so far, the weather was nothing but blue skies and sunny.
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We drove farther southwest to a small village called St. Just which was just north of Land’s End. Our goal was to hit sections of the Coastal Path. The Coastal Path in England will be the longest managed and way marked coastal path in the world. When complete, it will be 2,795 miles in length. The weather was a bit rough the day we hiked to Land’s End. The coast was dramatic with rock cliffs and pebbled beaches. The winds picked up and dark clouds came in while the seas were getting rough. It was a great day for wet-suited-surfers out in the surf catching the big waves. We made it to Lands End drenched to the bone. I had hiked in jeans that day because it was a cool when we started. Jeans soak up the rain nicely, as I found out, as I walked with wet and heavy pants for about 6 miles. That day I failed to take my sticks thinking it would be like Sussex and I was wrong. It was a steep and tough trail in some areas.

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Jurassic Coast by Cornwall with wild flowers and incredible blue water

We spent several days in Cornwall camping in a small field filled with green grass and wild flowers situated behind a farm home built in the 1700’s, that was functioning as a bed and breakfast. The village vibes of St. Just and St, Ives, were welcoming with the Pubs all serving fish and chips, Cornish Pasties and local hard cider. There was a special feeling on the Jurassic Coast, one that makes me want to go back again. The next day we headed North and the sun shined on the vibrant wildflowers that decorated the trail. I was hiking in shorts and a t-shirt because the weather was perfect. We did just over 30 miles on the Coastal Path, on three different sections, before we headed up to the Lake District.

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A shipwreck below as we looked out at Land’s End-our destination that day!

The roads leave much to be desired in England. Many are very small, none are straight and the main motorways run more towards the center of the country. So, our journey of 418 miles was over an 8-hour drive. But once we got to the Lake District the long drive had been worth it. It was a completely different terrain than the coast and beautiful in its own right. There are 16 main lakes in the district but there are many water, meres and tarns ( ponds or lakes in the hills) in the area. England is GREEN. Very Green. Every shade of green possible. Given that is was Spring, the blue bells colored the fields in blue and wild flowers splashed color everywhere.

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typical English road just big enough for a single horse carriage-a little out dated with no room to expand

There were plenty of hikes to choose from in the Lake District and we wanted to hit the best. We did Old Man Coniston, which took us through an old mine before we got to the peak. We trekked Scafell Pike which is England’s highest peak at 3,209′ elevation. As we climbed up towards the summit, trees were few and far between. The closer to the peak we climbed there were large rocks of granite covered the hills where we had to scramble for the last mile and half to get to the top of Scafell. Local folk made comment on Scafell Pike hike being boring but Su and I found it to be challenging, technical and beautiful too.

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Top of Scafell Pike-Highest peak in England

 

(picture above: Helvellyn with snow and the ridge, Stone steps on path)

I was quickly schooled on the fells in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria. The climbs started at sea level so that equated to straight up to the top to reach each summit. My reality became clear in Cumbria that ‘up is up’ and there was nothing but up to get to the top. My idea of ‘not tough hiking in England’ quickly went to the way side as we were challenged on the designated paths that are laid with stone steps that resembled a stairway to heaven on every hike. I was giving internal thanks for all the times I had trained on the stadium stairs because my legs felt strong climbing up. It was the down part that seemed endless and bothered our knees the most. Water falls were common sounds and sights on the trails as were the sheep that grazed in the endless green hills divided into sections with thick rock walls.

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We lucked out again for our choice of camping in the Lake District. We were in a small caravan park that sat right out side of a village called Hawkshead that had one pub and a couple traditional English restaurants. It had a lovely bakery café that made beautiful cakes and scones, and of course served a variety of teas. I did indulge some in almost every carrot cake I saw, made myself the official taster and justified it with my daily hiking. Every village had a church that stood tall with steeples reaching towards the sky and historical graves surrounding the grounds. We had to stay out of the village centers with the motor-home because it was too wide to drive on the streets. So, we did a lot of walking even when we weren’t hiking.

(picture above: Hawkshead, Cumbria, England-Lake District)

We carried on from Cumbria farther north to Scotland to visit the Wallace Monument, which is my name sake. It was remarkable with lots of reverence towards William Wallace and his part in the Scottish history. It was in Stirling were a huge castle stood above the city. The monument and castle rose above the city on the hills (fells) to give the vantage point in war. They suggested that William Wallace had his strong hold and army on the fell in which the monument was built 500 years after he defeated the English army. We didn’t hike a lot in Stirling, Scotland but we sure did a lot of stair climbing. I honestly lost count of how many stairs we climbed but took it all in stride as continued training for our hikes.

(picture above: Wallace Monument and Wallace Shield)

After leaving Scotland we headed to Hadrian’s Wall. It was built by the Romans who forced 15,000 men to build it, in under six years to cover almost 80 miles. It was a vibrant frontier with multi-culture and commerce for about 300 years. Emperor Hadrian’s order demanded the wall built after he visited Britain in AD 122. The wall was used to stop traders coming to and from the south or north to pay taxes before passing through it. It is the most famous of all the frontiers of the Roman empire making the wall a World Heritage Site in 1987. Again, we just did sections of it, but passed through Sycamore Gap which is the most photographed section of the wall. The hike along the wall was up one fell and down the other side for the length that we hiked along the mile markers of ruins of forts where the tax collector gathered to stop the traders.

 

(picture above: Hadrian’s Wall and looking down at Sycamore Gap)

All in all, we hiked 160 miles and drove 1677. We saw nothing but beauty, blue skies and sun shine. We ticked off the highest peak in England and set our sights on the triple crown of the UK. We want to summit Ben Nevis in Scotland and Snowdon in Wales. We feel the pull to go back to the Coastal Path and see more of the rugged Jurassic coast. Just going on a whim with little “real” information about hiking in England we were pleased with all our choices. We learned so much about hiking in England while doing it and talking to other hikers. Through hiking in England is a little easier than the USA. We met many who were doing long sections of the Coastal Path and Hadrian’s Wall. They all hiked with day packs and dogs. The through hike secret in the UK is to use Sherpas to transport luggage and dog beds from one B and B to the next for the chosen daily mileage each hiker wanted to make. Maybe next time that will be the way we go too!

 

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Blue Bells painting the green blue.

55 and alive….

Whoosh! I made it through the actual day of my birth with the help of my tribe who brilliantly gave me a surprise party. A big thank you to each of them-especially Kimber and Gwen for organizing it. It was awesome to get together with great company and catch up over tasty food washed down with yummy spirits. I finally realized I made the discovery somewhere between the age of 50 and 55, apparently closer to 55, that there is a dramatic difference (at least for me) to be able to lose weight and strength train. OK, I didn’t discover it, but it came to fruition for me during the last 5 years. Getting back into the shape that will allow me to hike 175 miles in July with a backpack and run, at least, a half marathon in August has been a challenge …. But I am getting there. And my perseverance is paying off.

A Beautiful reward of early morning trail running and hiking


Embracing the gray with grace can sometimes be easier said than done. And I haven’t really embraced the gray as I have effectively covered it up. But the other signs of the aging process continue to rear their ugly heads. At 55, I have accepted new truths that I have come to understand. With age, it seems to me, that going forward takes more effort than it had in the past. It seems harder for me to run the trails or lift the weights but sliding backwards is far easier. It takes almost no effort at all and reaps 3x the backward benefits of having to work exponentially harder to move forward the next time. I do not like this part of aging and have re-made a stronger commitment to myself to not let my “hand-to-mouth” condition get the best of me ever again. (I know…. easier said than done, but after this recent attempt to get back on top of my game, I am more motivated than ever!)

I happily said good bye to the extra pounds because running with extra weight is extra work and backpacking with it is just crazy talk. If grams equal ounces, and ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain…. why would I want to run or hike with extra pounds on me? I don’t. My goal has been to get in shape enough to make my adventures as easy as possible; therefore, much more enjoyable. So, I have attacked strength training and have started to increase my running time and distances. TA DA!!!! Today was the day for the pay off. I felt it. All my daily workouts came to my benefit today. It was easier to run up the trail and to pull/push on the weights. I have made progress and that makes me want to keep doing it to ward of the effects of not doing it at all.

One of my many favorite trails to run on

One of the many trails I love to hike and run


The weight lifting, and strength training has made what I love to do easier. Running up hills on trails became easier today because my legs are stronger. My cardio has improved from running up and down the basketball stadium stairs which makes the distance not so challenging on the trails. Thankfully, my neck and arms no longer become sore after I run because they too are stronger now. I have been wondering when it was all going to click. And four-long-months-later the reward has arrived. The bottom line is don’t ever give up. Any day is a good day to start in the right direction and just keep going until BOOM… all your efforts pay off.

Now I get it. The message is loud and clear. I am 55 and very much alive!!! Commitment and perseverance has a whole new meaning at this age. That I will embrace, to help keep me on the right track. I continue to be motivated, even more now since the benefits are propelling me forward with greater ease. Hopefully this idea will help to motivate and encourage anyone who gets frustrated in their attempt to regain the health they seek.
It is all possible, if you want it.

Hit the trails stronger and lighter!

-Kat

The dawn of double-nickels

Age 50 didn’t daunt me as much as 55 is looming. Maybe because I was still grieving my late husband at 50, while trying to just get through day to day. Now, the perspective is wider as life has continued to move forward. At this junction, I feel far more alive! But living doesn’t mean living well. I’m within a week of 55. I clearly realize now, 55 isn’t nearly as old as I thought it was in my 20’s. 55 isn’t old at all. I had proudly said at the big 5-0 birthday that “50 was the new 30”. I believed it too, because I was the fittest I had been in years. What I didn’t know then, but I do now, is that at age 30 you start to lose muscle mass. Dang! We all know that “Aging is inevitable but aging well is not”(gethealthy.com). We have already touched on all the benefits exercise has in store for us in other blogs, but the bottom line is that exercise actually wards of the affects of aging. Exercise is the fountain of youth. The loss of muscle mass is the greatest contributor to the symptoms of aging. According to Muscle, Ligament and Tendon Journal the aging process is defined as “changes in the muscle mass and strength with decline of muscle strength after the 30th year of life.” Fortunately, muscle loss is reversible.
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I feel like the pieces are falling together better now, at almost 55, but they seem to be physically falling apart too. What’s up with that? Additional inflammatory issues, more degenerative disease, throw in more arthritis and have a happy birthday! Really? Yea…that’s not the gift I was wanting. But THAT won’t stop me. I have been working out like some crazy women. I watch calories, record everything, weight and strength train, stretch, run stadiums, hike, bike, don’t drink alcohol, but intake a lot of water, eat mostly a raw and vegan diet with a significant caloric deficit with TINY results. But results non-the less. I think it has to do with my age…. darn it. It’s been documented that “muscle loss nearly doubles after age 50.” (Humankinetics.com) Geezzzzz. That is motivation for me to keep it up with the strength training and keeping the cardio workouts too. If we can add even a small amount of heavy weight training, we’re combating against a lot of degenerative diseases caused by the aging process” according to Nikki Warren, founder and CEO of Kaia FIT, a women’s workout franchise with strength training and HIIT training as its core.

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strength training for all parts of your body is important-including your core


Happy Birthday to me. The best, most long-lasting gift I can give myself is strength and better health, bringing with it stamina and fortitude (and hopefully my slim clothes body back). We are our own best asset. With that idea, I take everything a bit more serious these days looking at the consequences while seeking results. But I still have a loud laugh that accompanies my sense of humor. I am happy and healthy. I live. I love and love to laugh. Every single moment counts. It’s a lifestyle choice to live longer. So, hit the gym and the trails. Just do it. Keep moving. Use it or loose it. I have adventures planned for my body, so I better take the very best care of it. Accept challenges. Break past your comfort zone. Expand. Live out loud and defy the aging process. Appreciate that you are ALIVE. The longer you live the more important strength and health become because the deck begins to stack against you. You can do it! Happy Birthday to everyone. Give yourself the best gift possible filled with love… be fit, be trim and be strong … for YOU. You are worth it!
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rise with the sun and stretch……its good for the body and soul


55 and alive. I’m looking forward to an outstanding year to come. I’ll celebrate and make it great. And I’ll keep hiking and working out too.

Cheers!

-Kat

Do you have “that” friend?

Everyone needs at least one friend who says, “Yes”, to their crazy ideas. Maybe, we all take turns being “that” friend. We either come up with the adventure or are willing to go along on it. I thrive on adventure and will do almost anything under the guise of “training” for the next big one! (Thru-hike that is!) I had two friends, both wanting to do Window Rock Trail, but couldn’t do it together, so I went with them both, on back to back days…. great training! I was excited. We were going to Window Rock in the Catalina’s near Tucson. On Saturday, we left out of Ventana Trailhead and on Sunday, we left on Esperero Trailhead in Sabino Canyon.

I met Brenda on Saturday at the trailhead parking lot at 6 a.m. I had my sticks, camel, and snacks.

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Early morning light on Ventana Trail

I was ready to go on round trip trail past Maiden Pools up to 7468’ elevation from the parking lot at 2950’. So, just shy of 5000 foot elevation gain and descent for the 17-mile hike. Off we went…. On one of my favorite trails. The canyon thins after you pass the pools and has beautiful canopies of oak trees that line the winding creek bed. There are Indian grinding stones carved into several of the large boulders that hug the trail close to the creek. The first peek of Window Rock from the trail is slightly daunting as it looks very far away and much higher on the mountain ridge. The desire to get to it wills us up the trail.The climb really starts once you leave the canyon. Up and around the rocky hillside winding its way up switch backs to the ridge.

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Indain Grinding Stone

The first ridge is a false summit. The actual destination is still some ways farther. On the west side of the ridge you can see as far as Pinnacle Peak towards Phoenix and the Biosphere near Oracle. Looking east, the sprawl of Tucson abounds with Kit Peak visible as well a peek into Mexico. AWE! Once you reach the vista the views are framed by the weather-worn huge rock. The views are worth the trek. There is the perfect place for a snack and rest before heading back down the same trail. We ended up back in the parking lot by 4 p.m.

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Looking towards Oracle and Phoenix from the top

 

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Looking through the Window Rock

I headed home for a light dinner, cuzzi time and early to bed. I was meeting Gina and her 12-year old son, in Sabino Canyon at 7 a.m., to head up the main tram road to get on Esperero Trail. I woke at 5:30 a.m. with enough time for a cup of tea and a bowl of oatmeal. I had prepared my camel and snacks the night before. I also packed 2 additional bottles of water for the hike. My level of excitement was high when we met in the parking lot.

I had never done the entire Esperero Trail and it had been years since I had last been on it. Our goal Window Rock to and from the Sabino Canyon entrance. The Esperero trail started with wide canyons traversing back and forth. After a considerable number of switchbacks, we made it up to the first vista. There were magnificent views, but we kept on into a grassy valley that led us into a wooded area. The trail became more interesting after that as there were huge pine trees, oaks and giant junipers. The trail meandered along a creek bed with huge boulders. The creek was wide with several areas of falls, had there been water. Past the last large fall area, there was a large campfire ring and a campsite, and the trail looked less traveled. It grew much thinner and overgrown as we continued up the mountain side. The trail often looked no better than a game trail which sent us off the wrong direction at times. My feelings and excitement about the trail was changing as we continued. I was beginning to have doubts about returning on the same trail.

We passed over several false rocky summits and had to scramble to continue in some places. The trail was a challenge. Finally, we made it to top ridge that we had to stay on for a distance to get to the window. At one point, the brush surrounded us and was taller than me. We heard branches breaking a head of us. We called out for a human response and heard only more branches break. Whatever animal was near-it was BIG! We stopped in our tracks and started to make lots of loud noises. We stopped. We listened. We didn’t hear it again, so we pressed on. My admiration for Gina’s son grew as we continued. He had perseverance. He was fearless and didn’t complain once. When we reached the window, we were all a bit weary.

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At the top-Window Rock

We ate our second snack and soaked in the views. Our feet rested as we sat in silence. We then started to take photos and got a case of the giggles. We were tired. We had already covered 13 miles. If we took the same trail back it would have been 26 miles total. Or we could opt for the Ventana trail at a mere 9-mile exit. We voted for Ventana and knew we had to beat the dark to the parking lot. We started down with a good pace, but we were all three tired. When Gina got phone service she called her husband to ask him to retrieve us from the trailhead at Ventana and transport us to our waiting trucks in Sabino Canyons parking lot.

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Trying to beat the dark to the parking lot

Timing was perfect. We made it off the trail into the parking lot right at dusk. It was 6:30 p.m. And as we walked onto the black top Gina’s husband pulled up, ready to take us to Sabino. Wow! We made it. A long day hike – all 21 miles of it! That was a GREAT training weekend for our upcoming thru-hike. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Weekend adventures with friends are the Best! Do you have “that” friend who says ‘yes’ to your ideas? I’m so glad my friends are “that” for me!

-Kat

PS. Next 21 mile day hike is Romero Pools in Catalina State Park to Sabino Canyon via Hutches Pools. That is Gina’s idea and I said “Yes”. Wanna come?

 

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.

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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.

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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!

-Kat

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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.

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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!

-Kat

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!

~Gwen

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!

-Kat

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What is the allure?

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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….

-Kat