A Thief at Camp – Day 79: Nehalem Bay State Park to Barview Jetty County Park

Oregon Coast Trail

Date: July 9

I wake up and use Dexter’s shampoo in the shower and it is glorious. We get hiking, a beach walk, and I call my friend Sarah and catch up with her a little as I walk.
Then we get to Jetty Fishery, where for $10 a guy named Josh takes us in a tiny motorized boat across the bay. Josh is funny and makes a lot of quick, dry jokes. 

When we get across Katie spots free crab and decides she has to have some, so we put our bags down and she and Energizer Bunny order. I’ve never had crab so I don’t order any – I’m not sure I’ll like it. But Energizer Bunny cracks hers and gives me half and it is unbelievably delicious, though not very filling. 

As we are getting ready to leave, three other hikers – Donor, Quiet and Trooper – show up. Energizer Bunny is thrilled because she’d hiked with Trooper on the PCT. Quiet is carrying a kite he highbrow in Seaside that he attaches to his pack and flies as he Beach walks. We are definitely not on the PCG anymore.

They’re not doing much planning so we mention where we’re camping and the say they’ll see us there. 

We walk some abandoned railroad tracks and then get back to the beach. Later in the day we get to Rockaway. Katie dries her feet on the beach and Energizer Bunny and I go to town and to a cafe. I order food and charge my battery. I have a coconut lemonade that is totally delicious. I’m feeling super sleepy so I put my sunglasses on and take a nap right there on the chair. 
After that we get back to the beach. I call and talk to Mark as I walk. When I finally get to camp we find out it is not $6 like we expected but $20. We have to agree to only set up one tent or it’s closer to $40. 
Quiet, Donor and Trooper join us and chat. It sounds like we’ll be doing similar hiking for at least a couple days.
Energizer Bunny plugs her charger into the bathroom and goes and takes a shower, and by the time she comes back someone has taken her plug, cord and power bank. She’s had several problems with people stealing things of hers since she’s started hiking. Sometimes people just do unfriendly things. I tell her she can charge with my plug for the next day until we get to town and she can replace what she’s lost. Still, with a little hope we ask the register if they’ve had anything turned in, but no, so I leave a note in the bathroom asking for it’s safe return. But no luck. 
As the sun goes down we all set up our tents and no one bothers us about there being two extra. The boys camp in a secluded spot and no one notices. Infrequent and expensive legal camping is a reality of this trail. Energizer Bunny says she’s going to complain about it to whoever is in charge of the trail. But in a way, it adds a nice challenge and a bit of adventure. 

The Most Expensive Cab Ride – Day 78: Short Sand Beach to Nehalem Bay State Park

Oregon Coast Trail

Date: July 8

I wake up around 2am and look out and the moon is setting on the horizon, so bright orange it could be the sun. This trail is full of so many surprises. 
Nobody bothers us about camping and we sleep great. It’s a little confusing where to go when we get hiking but we figure it out – the trail signs are so infrequent that sometimes I even forget to look for them to help. 
Today we climb Neah-Kah-Nie mountain, which isn’t that long or hard, but gives us a gorgeous view of the ocean. I see Dexter scramble up a steep rocky area and follow her. About 3/4 of the way up I see a headstone which makes me a little nervous but even though it’s steep, the rocks are stable. Once we’re at the top we see an easier route down. But the view from the top is worth it. 

On the way down I see a lot of dayhikers and some stop to talk about where we’re headed, which is fun. From there we hike into Manzanita. We go to the grocery store, where the staff is incredibly friendly to us, to lunch at Left Coast Siesta where I eat a massive burrito with enthusiasm, and then to ice cream. Before we get to ice cream we see two other hikers and say hello – they’d jumped from the PCT, too, but had decided not to do the OCT and had just been hanging around town before heading north for a southbound hike. 
After ice cream, it’s laundry time. It’s two miles to the laundromat and we don’t want to walk it so we call a cab. The cab takes 40 minutes to head over and the two minute ride costs $25 and, well, that settles it: no more cabs for us (unless absolutely necessary.)
While our clothes wash I start planning the upcoming sections of the trail in my notebook, which has helped a lot. There aren’t any bathrooms so we change our clothes in the middle of the building since no one else is in there (we ignore the cameras.)
I make a sign saying “Oregon Coast Hikers to Manzanita” hoping we’ll get a hitch, but no one bites, so we end up walking all the way back. I get something to bring for dinner at the grocery store and get walking. 
When we’re almost to camp, I realize: the shampoo I’d bought at the store never made it into my bag. I’d been so stoked for clean hair and now I might not get it. Bummer. But at camp, Dexter says she has some I can use. Shower saved!
An older man with long grey hair says hello when we get to the hiker camp. Some bikers are there and so are the two hikers we met earlier. We all sit around and chat, the older guy plays guitar. He turns out to be quite the character, breaking into monologues about acid and starships and near death experiences. He says he’s traveling from state park to state park. It’s 1030 by the time I go to bed.

Waves Are Magic – Day 77: Arcadia Beach to Short Sand Beach

Oregon Coast Trail

Date: July 7

Miles: 12ish

Sleeping on the beach is amazing and our tents aren’t wet and I am happy happy happy. We’ve woken up early-ish to catch the low tide and get walking. On the beach I find a whole sand dollar – I’ve seen endless amounts of broken ones but never a whole one outside of a store. I put it in my pocket. 

Hug Point is totally passable. We climb up onto the old road and I feel a little bad – I try to step without touching the anemones and other living creatures attached to the flat surface. 

A man we camped with at Tillamook Head rides by on his bicycle and then chats with me and tells me about some of the trail coming up – namely that the suspension bridge we have to cross in the next mile looks like it’s on someone’s property. 

After the bridge we enter the longest stretch of forest in the coast, according to the guidebook. It’s beautiful. And also… a little overgrown. It’s fun to be on a trail, to dodge roots and tackle mud and push through bushes. 

And then we come across a small side trail that leads to a view and I sit down and it’s one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen. The ocean crashes against rocks and has created coved and it looks like it’s out of a movie. 

After a while we keep moving. We’re not allowed to camp at Oswald West State Park but we don’t have another 9 miles in us to get to the next camp, so we look for stealth options, but there aren’t any really. We get to the picnic area and eat dinner and decide we’re just going to wait out the surfers and families and then set up our tents here. In the meantime, the crows are loud and obnoxious – they sound like the kind of noise a human would make to be irritating, and their calls are so constant that I start laughing and laughing and laughing, and then Dexter and I start making the noises with them. Ba-caw! Creeeaw! 

Around 8:30 I’m tired of waiting and set up my tent and go to sleep. Dexter cowboy camps hidden behind a tree. Energizer Bunny waits a little longer and then cowboy camps too. 

The Best Sunset of Summer – Day 76: Tillamook Head to Arcadia Beach

Oregon Coast Trail

Date: July 6
Miles: 10ish
I take a while to fall asleep because I keep hearing scratching and running sounds, sometimes seemingly right by my head. But every time I look, I don’t see anything, so I put it out of my head and fall asleep.
In the morning we wake in the dark and open the door for some light. I crawl down from the top bunk and see it – mouse running across the log a few feet from my head. Energizer Bunny’s food bag has been chewed into. But otherwise, no damage. 
It’s a nice day and there is no condensation on any of our stuff which is awesome. The walk is super pleasant. We get to the trail for Ecola Point but the OCT is closed in this area, so instead we walk a forest road and dodge cars and eventually the ranger points us to a side trail with beautiful views.

In Cannon Beach, we have lunch. We go to a fish and chips shop, to the grocery store, to a coffee shop. I get a slice of pizza. We hang out there since there’s nowhere to go as we’re waiting for low tide to get around Hug Point.

People have been really nice and ask us about where we’ve come from and where we’re headed all the time 

But as I’m drinking tea and charging my electronics, I realize we’ve misread the tide – low tide is an hour earlier than we thought. We move quick and get to the beach, where we see some volunteers near one of the large rocks and tide pools. They say even the low tide tonight is probably not low enough to get where we need to go. Crap. We can’t legally camp anywhere nearby, but Dexter says we should try stealth camping so we push on.

Dexter found a starfish!

We end up at Arcadia Beach with one of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen, and an incredible sunset.

 I sit on a log and sing into the ocean breeze while Energizer Bunny and Dexter explore the beach. I have missed singing and I am thankful the sound of the waves still makes it a private thing. I call my family. At dark we set up our tents and fall asleep to the sound of the sea. 

The Best Magic – Day 33: Islip Trailhead to Sulphur Springs Campground

pacific crest trail

 PCT miles: 386.1 to 406.7 (+1 mile of detour)Miles: 21.6

I don’t sleep well, waking every hour or so. I think it’s because it’s warm out, maybe 65 or 70 degrees. I finally start getting my things together around 515 and am on the trail by 6. Maybe I’ll do 20 today, I think. It’s a climb first thing and I am moving slowly and unenergetically. I see Yoav (sp?) and Dean and they offer me coffee but I pass and keep walking. Some 20 minutes later I hear them behind me so I step to the side and take a picture of the canyon I’m in front of. 

“Nothing can capture it, but it’s good to try,” Dean says.

“It’s all in your head,” Yoav says. 

Even now that I’m going downhill I’m still slow. I get to the Eagles Roost picnic area and lay on a picnic table for a little while. Fish Fry catches up and we start to hike the two mile road walk that skirts around the section of closed trail for an endangered frog species. Road walks are hard on the feet and I consider sticking my thumb out for a very short hitch, but there aren’t many cars and it’s not that far so I just keep walking. We see an abandoned ski lift and meet some dayhikers who offer us water. 

After the road walk, we enter a campground that will take us to a trail that will take us back to the PCT. Fish Fry stops for some water and I continue on until I see a bathroom and a pit toilet and take another break. I stay about 20 minutes but don’t see Fish Fry so get started on the trail back to the PCT. It’s a little foresty canyon and I can hear the sound of water and the trees smell so strong and amazing, like the best candles you’ve ever smelled. I get lost in my head, thinking I am actually a day hiker taking a stroll and later I’ll be going back to a camper van and my husband and be in a bed tonight. 

Which is also to say, the trail is lonely today. I haven’t seen anyone but Fish Fry and I don’t have cell service so I have no idea where anyone in the bubble I’ve been a part of has gone. On top of that, where are all the other hikers? Usually many have passed me by now and I know where groups are going so I can know where to sleep if I don’t want to camp alone. 

I reach water and eat lunch and I’d like to take another extended break there, particularly a nap, but the mosquitos are bad near the creek so I begrudgingly pack my bag up and keep walking to the Cooper Canyon Camp. There I spot a perfect picnic table in the shade and lay myself down and fall asleep for 30 minutes. When I wake back up the shade is nearly gone and Fish Fry has caught back up. We chat for a bit and I eat a little more and I tell him I’m only going to go another 5.6 miles, falling nearly 6 miles short of a 20, and then camp, and to tell Mousetrap as much if Mousetrap catches up. 

I pass some dayhikers who ask me about the PCT and my pack and the age ranges of hikers and then don’t see anyone else. My feet are sore and I’m looking forward to camping. When I get to Camp Glenwood, where I’m intending to stop, it’s empty. I’m about to set my pack down when I hear voices and boom, there’s a group of hikers I recognize – Blues Clues and Scissors and Lynn and more. Blues Clues had camped behind my so I’m confused how he got there. “We just roadwalked the whole way,” he says. The PCT had crossed over highway 2 several times – I wonder if this is why we didn’t see anyone. Scissors said she saw Mousetrap so he must have done something similar. 

I ask how far Lynn and Scissors going and it’s another 6 miles, where I’d planned to go but had been too afraid of the possibility of night hiking by myself, or even hiking at dusk. “Can I hike with you?” I ask, and they say of course. 

I try to keep pace with Lynn but she’s too fast until I catch up to her at a highway crossing, where she’s stopped to talk to someone in there car. She’s holding a soda. Trail magic! It’s a hiker from last year, Shepherd, and he’s got soda and watermelon. I sit on the ground (my feet are pounding and I was just going to try to push to camp so they’re happy for the break) and drink a soda and we chat with Shepherd who answers our questions about the upcoming desert section. It’s the best magic I’ve had so far.

Powered by soda, I manage to keep pace with Lynn even though it’s her normal pace and it’s my hustle pace. I have armpit chafe that is stinging bad so I put my hand on my hip like I’m a teapot and hike like that. Unfortunately I don’t have any fun poses for the ass chafe that starts to make its presence known. We pass a bunch of poodle dog bush and Lynn stops every once in a while to see how far we are from camp. At one of these stops I must have briefly had cell service because I get a text from Mark saying I should turn on my InReach because my dad is worried.

We get to the mile marker for camp and there’s a junction for horses and Lynn keeps going on the hiker PCT and so I follow her before we realize we have to take the horse route to camp. We turn around and see Scissors across the canyon and yell out to her so she doesn’t make the same mistake.

At camp my feet are impossibly tender and I try to stretch but I am very tired. I turn on my InReach and send a message to Mark and to my dad. I get my tent set up and cook by leaving a small space unzipped on my door so the bugs can’t get in. My food is almost done when I knock my pot over. I rescue it and only some of the alfredo goodness has spilled out but it’s still sad. Scissors and Lynn try to make me feel better – do you want some m&ms? Lynn offers – but really I just want to finish my food and go to sleep, so I do. 

I’m Hiking the PCT! 12 Things to Know About Me

pacific crest trail, personal, Uncategorized

1. I’m 25. I live in Arizona. I’ve been working as an editor but quit my job to do the PCT.

2. I did not grow up hiking. I went on a handful of hikes and camping trips as a kid. I found hiking arduous and not fun. I’ve been fishing once and managed to hook a fish through its eyeball. That ended it for me. For most of my life I didn’t see the appeal of nature.

3. I’ve been hiking and backpacking for 2 years. I’ve been on a hundred or so hikes, mostly by myself, and 12 backpacking trips total. Two of those backpacking trips were solo.


4. The longest mileage I’ve done on a backpacking trip is 16 miles.

5. I’ve never seen a rattlesnake, a bear or a mountain lion. I’ve seen two nonvenomous snakes, massive muddy bear prints and heard a bobcat. (They don’t sound like what you think they sound like.)

6. I’ve only ever briefly walked on snow in the Rockies and Chiricahuas. I’ve never used an ice axe or micro spikes. This is one of the highest snow years for the PCT on record. I will have to learn quickly.

7. I am afraid of basically everything. Hiking has, in many ways, been a practice for me of putting my fears in context.


8. For example, I am afraid of heights. I have spent most of my life avoiding panic-inducing heights because my body tends to freeze. This year I have been actively putting myself in scary, high, scrambling/climbing situations to try to learn my way past it. It’s been working pretty well.

9. I hate bridges and walking on logs.

10. I have wide feet and tried on and tested about 20 pairs of shoes (yes, including Altras) trying to find one that would work for the PCT. I ended up with a pair of Inov8s. We’ll see how that goes.

11. I’ve been married for eight years. My husband is staying home and I’m hiking the trail solo. It’s the first time both of us will be alone.


12. My biggest fear for the trail is that I’ll let myself get too afraid of the idea of something and I’ll quit. It’s also part of why I’m going out there. I want to show myself that my fears don’t have to steer the ship.

My Mother and the Pacific Crest Trail

hiking, personal

In January of 2015, my mother died of stomach cancer. It took six months from her diagnosis. She spent most of it in a hospital.

A month before her diagnosis, but while we knew she was sick, we took a planned road trip for my birthday to Zion National Park. We drove through miles and miles of empty roads. We drank margaritas and ate Mexican food in Cedar City. We lounged in the pool in Springdale. We hiked through The Narrows.

“We should make a trip like this an annual tradition,” she said. We wouldn’t get a chance.


My mom and me at The Narrows

I’d first been to the Narrows in high school on a field trip. It was the first time I remember doing something and actually enjoying it while I was doing it. I had a habit as a teen of living in my head. The walls of the canyons, the cool wet of the river, the struggle to stay upright on slick rocks forced me to be there, in the moment. Still, I wouldn’t hike again for years.

Six days after my mother died, my aunt and I went on a summit hike. I don’t know why that seemed like the thing to do. The weather was nice, I guess. I didn’t want to sit around the house. I’d been on maybe two hikes the year before. I wasn’t a hiker.

We didn’t make it to the top. We hadn’t eaten breakfast. We’d taken on the second highest summit in the valley. We turned around.

Still, I remember thinking: There is something out here that helps. I told myself I’d try to go on one hike a month that year.

I read the book Wild when it was published. I’d been a long follower of Cheryl Strayed’s advice column Dear Sugar and got the book on it’s first printing. I devoured it. I didn’t think I’d ever do something as crazy as the PCT. I wasn’t athletic, I didn’t especially enjoy being outside, I didn’t see the value in putting yourself through so much suffering, and it seemed impractical to up and leave one’s life for several months. But I thought maybe someday I’d go on a backpacking trip. That would be adventure enough for me.

I passed the book to my mom. I often gave my mother books that I’d screened – she didn’t like it when books had sad endings. I wish I could remember what she thought of it. I know she liked it. I wondered if the book had made her think about what it was like to lose her own mother some ten years before. I remember being grateful that I loved my mom so much, that she was healthy, that I would have her for a long, long time. She wasn’t afraid of getting older. She liked to say she planned to live to be 120.

A year before the book Wild was published, my mother had emergency surgery for a burst ulcer. It was scary, dangerous, but they’d caught it. When I saw her after she came out of the hospital, she was weak, frail, thin in a way I’d never seen her, and it scared me. But I also thought: Of course you didn’t die. The universe would never take you from me. I wouldn’t let it.

More weeks passed after my mother’s death. In February I took three days and went north and stayed in a cabin my myself. I read. I made campfires. I went on a short hike to Tonto Natural Bridge, climbing over boulders along a creek. I stopped under the massive travertine walkway and watched other hikers trickle in through the morning and wrote in my journal.

I went home. I got a tattoo, a hummingbird, tied to a memory of my mother. I started painting. I read Wild again. I reread Tiny Beautiful Things. I clung to Cheryl Strayed’s writing like a bible for my grief. Backpacking. I would like to go backpacking, I thought. There was a hike I’d heard people talk about in Arizona that took you to clear blue waterfalls. Havasu Falls. Maybe I’d be a strong enough hiker by the end of the year to go there.

But then it was April, and a coworker posted on Facebook that they were going to Havasu Falls and had an extra permit.

When? I asked.

Friday, she said.

I had three days. My tattoo wasn’t finished healing. I had no backpacking gear. I’d never been on more than an eight mile day hike which had nearly destroyed me, let alone carrying weight. The trip to the falls was 10 miles in, 10 miles out.

I said yes.


The hike was the first really hard thing I’d done since losing my mom. On the way out, I convinced myself I couldn’t do it. I was going to take a tourist helicopter out. My group passed me and said they’d see me at the top. But then the helicopter was going to take longer than I’d anticipated, almost as long as the hike itself, so instead I hiked my way out. As I climbed the 1000 feet out of the canyon, I looked back at where I’d come from. I wished my mom could see it too. I stopped in every patch of shade to cry. And then I kept walking.

It was nearly a year after Havasu before I went on my next backpacking trip. I started to warm the idea that I might do the PCT someday. Someday, when I’m stronger. Someday, when I’m more confident in nature.

I went on a few more backpacking trips. I liked the way they made me struggle. I liked the way I so often had to do the thing I didn’t think I could do.

I started reading thru-hiker’s blogs. I followed them on Instagram. I saw something I didn’t expect to see, which was that they were just like me. They had all of the same fears and pains I had. The only difference was that they had decided to go.

A year and a half after I lost my mom, I decided for sure I was going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m a month away from starting at the border of Campo, CA.

Losing my mother was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live through. A close second was the six months I spent watching her die. It doesn’t escape me that for nearly the same amount of time, I will be putting one foot in front of the other, trying to reach the Northern Terminus.

Sometimes I try to imagine whether I would be hiking this trail if my mother were alive. One answer is no. I wouldn’t have needed to. I wouldn’t have needed to see just how much I could suffer and survive if she’d lived.

Another answer is yes. She would come with me. She would make friends with every hiker and trail angel we passed. She would insist we splurge in town on good food and a comfortable bed. She would probably pack wine. She would snore. She would be slow but steady. She would make sure we called home.

Before my mother died, I’d always seen her as a completely different species to me. We got along well, but we were different. Where she was positive I was critical. Where she relaxed, I planned. Where she schemed, I played by the rules.

When she died, an image came to me without asking for it. I imagined that she had shrunk back into a fetus and implanted herself inside my literal, anatomical heart. This essence of my mother would leech out particles of vulnerability when I wanted to be closed, compassion I’d never had capacity for, love for every ounce of my fear. It was as if she’d decided: I can’t be there to help you become this person anymore. I’ll have to show you how to do it on your own.

I don’t get to know what my mother would think of me hiking from Mexico to Canada. I don’t get to know if I’ll make it to the Northern Terminus, or if my pack will be too heavy, or if I’ll wither in the sun or sink in the snow. But I hope to spend as much time as I can being the woman I believe my mother knew I could be. More brave than afraid. More free than secure. More wild and alive.


Mom holding me at the Grand Canyon

14 things I wish I’d known before my first backpacking trip

backpacking, hiking, hiking tips

My first-ever backpacking trip was to Havasu Falls, Arizona, a three-day, two-night trip. I was invited less than a week before the trip, had zero gear, and had only ever hiked 8 (miserable) miles in a day. I gathered all my gear from REI rentals and Amazon and ended up with a pack that I struggled to lift onto my back. I had no idea how to secure a backpacking packs, so on the mile down the canyon the pack swayed side to side and repeatedly pushed my pants down. I slipped and fell three times or so, and I moved about as slowly as someone could without reversing back up the mountain. I arrived to camp two hours later than everyone else in my group. At camp, I gave away a bunch of extras – a fuel canister, books – to my group so that I wouldn’t have to carry them out.

On the way OUT of the canyon, the sandy uphill that comes directly out of camp ruined my morale (I’d woken up early to get a head start) and I stood in line for two hours to take the tourist helicopter out ($80 fee) before learning that I’d have to wait for another four hours. I furiously called my husband, had him drive four hours to meet me (knowing my group would have left by then) and hiked my way out of the canyon on pure self-hatred alone. I had eight blisters on my feet when I reached the top.

Here are a few things I wish I’d known.


1. Your pack is (mostly) as heavy as you make it

Ounces add up to pounds. Step on your home scale without your pack, and then with your pack. Decide if all that “just in case” stuff is necessary.

2. Somebody else will likely have packed all that “just in case” stuff

Borrow it if you need it, which you probably won’t.

3. That 2lb sleeping pad you brought slept on for two nights that just seems like a useless flat piece of plastic? 

It’s inflatable.

4. Your hands will swell while hiking/backpacking

You’re not gonna die.

5. If your shoes give you blisters, any at all, return them

Finding the perfect hiking shoe is an adventure all of it’s own.

6. You’re a slow-average hiker

Your pace is pretty much your pace, and there’s not much you can do about it. Luckily, this is not a race, so stop comparing yourself to everyone else.

7. Don’t sit down or take off your pack when you need a breather.

Save these moments for when you’re going to stop and eat lunch, or need to take care of your feet. Actually, someone probably did tell you this, and you probably cursed at them. They were right.

8. Tighten all of the straps on your pack.

This helps make your pack into one solid mass, which you can then do your best to secure to your back so that it 1) doesn’t wobble and throw you off balance and 2) transfers the weight more effectively to your hips.

9. Snaaaaacks.

Eat them regularly and as you walk. Don’t “wait for another 10 minutes” or “’til you get to X miles.” Eat and drink when you’re hungry. The delay between energy dip and energy crash is shorter than you think.

10. Don’t pack “healthy” food.

Remember that time you packed celery and carrots and cucumbers for a day hike? And the whole universe laughed at you? Bring easy fats and carbs, friend. Fats and carbs.

11. Fit as much as you can IN your pack, not on it

This will help keep the weight in your hips, which do not lie.

12. You don’t have to put your tent poles inside your pack

You can put them in a side pocket, strap them on top, etc. Just make sure they’re secure..

13. Context matters

If you’re having a hell of a time, ask yourself: Why? Maybe you’re walking uphill in sand for two miles, and it’s not that you suck, the trail does. Maybe you didn’t have enough for breakfast. Maybe you’re carrying 5 liters of water. Remind yourself that the suckiness doesn’t last forever – both your mental state and the terrain are subject to change. Then keep going.

14. You will be okay (probably)

Common sense and paying attention go a remarkably long way. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from trying something new.

Here’s a photo of my pack on the first trip I took to Havasu Falls compared to my pack 18 months later on the same trip.


**Admittedly, being able to evaluate and purchase your own gear helps a whole lot – REI doesn’t have a particularly great light-weight selection for rental (or it didn’t at the time. Not that I would have known to ask.)


9 tips to make hiking more enjoyable


1. Use your feet/ankles/toes. When hiking uphill, think of the way you get “up” the mountain as coming from your ankles, feet and toes propelling you, rather than your thighs/quads doing all the work. Another way to think of this is: Imagine your back foot pushing you forward rather than your front leg standing you up.

2. Take smaller, slower steps when hiking uphill. You want to push yourself to the point where you can keep a steady breathing pace so that you don’t have to stop to gulp for air every few steps. The way you do this is to take smaller steps, which means you might move a little slower. That’s OK! That’s how you get up the damn mountain. If it gets particularly steep, check out this video on a technique called a “rest step.” I haven’t quite figured out down hill yet, although I try to use my hips to take some of the impact off my knees (like so) and when all else fails, I have gotten pretty talented at falling.

3. Bring (a little) more water than you need. I always bring 3 liters, more like 4 (usually in the form of a gatorade/vitamin water) if I know I’ll be out for more than 5 hours, or if it’s especially hot out.

4. Bring SNACKS. In my opinion, hiking – especially backpacking – is not a dieting exercise. Your body wants fuel and it will demand it. Bring hiking bars (like Lara Bars, Kind Bars, etc) for shorter trips, and if you’re going to be out more than 3 hours, bring lunch (which you may end up eating early in the trip.) 90 percent of the time when I am grumpy and every step I take feels like the end of the world, it’s because I am low on fuel and need a snack (and probably a brief break.) Pay attention to when these things happen so with time you can learn to catch them before they make you hit a wall.

5. Start a mindfulness practice. Hiking is mostly mental. Certainly mental positivity can be easier when your calf muscles are used to the endurance of uphill hiking, but it’s still mostly a mental game. When I first started, my internal monologue was often: “I am so bad at this. I am so out of shape. Everyone is passing me. I’m never going to be as fast as them. I look like a joke. Everyone can tell that I’m new at this. I’m not meant to be outside.” Once I could *see* that I was saying those things, rather than just letting them keep talking, it’s easier to practice not believing them. I can say, “Huh, that’s not very nice,” or “That doesn’t sound entirely true.” Being able to recognize those thoughts means I’m a lot less likely to quit, turn around, or stomp along miserably for the next 3 miles.

6. Mess around with gear that’s within your budget. Although it would be nice to think that we could just find the top-rated gear online and know we have the best of the best, the truth is the best gear is the gear that works for YOU. If the top-rated shoes are giving you blisters, or they just feel weird to you, take advantage of the return policy and try something different. If all the other hikers on the trail go out there in tank tops but the sun makes you want to shrink into a hole, play around with long-sleeved options or a sun umbrella. Hiking can be made extremely cheap by hitting up Goodwill to find synthetic hiking clothes, hats and sunglasses. I’ve seen hiking and backpacking backpacks there. But if you find that the gear isn’t working for you – whether you paid $1 for it or $100 for it – give yourself the permission to try something different when you are able to afford it. You don’t know that it doesn’t work until you experience it not working. That’s OK.


7. Stretch. Admittedly this is something I’m still trying to make a habit, but it makes SUCH a difference. There are a bunch of different opinions on when to stretch (should you stretch beforehand? during? after?) and you’ll have to figure out what’s right for you – but if nothing else, stretch AFTER the hike, and then maybe even a couple of hours after you’ve stretched (like, before you go to bed.) I’m not a scientist, but it seems to remind my muscles to relax after a hike so that they’re not still clenching through the night, and that leaves me with much less soreness the next day. Here are a few good stretches specifically for hikers and backpackers.

8. Accept that sometimes hikes suck. Too hot. Too cold. Too uphill. Too rushed. Too brown. Too green. Too many people. Too lonely. Too bad an attitude. I don’t walk away from every hike with an untouchable sense of wonder, even if Instagram sometimes looks that way. Learn from the less-than-ideal hikes and tailor the next one to be a little different.

9. Hike your own hike. Do everything you can not to compare yourself to other hikers on the trail. There is no prize for being the first person to the end or for taking the shortest breaks. And when you go hiking with a friend, there’s no rule that says you have to talk the whole time or stay within a few feet of each other. As long as you’re both safe – plenty of water, low risk of hypothermia or heat stroke – let yourselves hike different paces and find a routine you’re both comfortable with to check in on each other. It can be a real fun-killer to constantly be trying to keep up with the person in front of you or wait for the person behind you. Don’t let something like different hiking speeds kill your fun.

What other tips have made hiking more fun for you?

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed


Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’m a big fan of the Sugar columns at TheRumpus.net, spending free time going through the archives and falling into the lull of Strayed’s words and her heartwrenching advice. When I heard about this memoir I knew I needed to have it — but I’d also promised myself that, since I had more time, I wouldn’t give in to spending money. I’d get it through the library.

The first night I got it (after weeks of waiting) I devoured about 20% (I read it on my Kindle). And then it got to the trail, really got to it, and her hours of solitude felt heavy on me and I set it down. I picked it up, got through it little pieces at a time, and thought about how difficult it is to effectively write something with only one person in the scene and keep it engaging. And then, just in time, new people joined her and the scene lightened and I found myself interested again.

That being said, as I read it, I wondered if when I got to the end I would feel disappointed. I’d expected something that would knock me out, over and over, like the Sugar columns, and instead what I got was solid, steady, a woman who was smart and interesting and stubborn but not necessarily a book that I would never let leave my fingertips. I started appreciating her craft — the Strayed/Starved necklace, the black feather, how her feet disintegrated while the rest of her body coped — and when I put down the book I knew that I had enjoyed it but wasn’t quite sure what I would say. I wasn’t sure if it was a new favorite, something I would throw at other people and say here, read this, please, you must.

But when I woke up this morning it was still rattling around inside me, and I realized that while on the surface it didn’t make me weep or make me force Mark to listen to page-long excerpts, it had buried itself deeper and made itself a home. I’m lucky enough to have never been knocked as hard as Strayed, but I could feel something, like I’d been taught a lesson I didn’t know I was learning, something about forgiveness and redemption and the way we are capable of much more than we believe. Read it when you need a book that feels like a deep breath, like a sore body after a long day, something like gratitude and triumph.