Tumbleweed on the PCT and Beyond

A Journal

Archive for the category “journey”

PCT Prep Best Advice I Have to Give

Now that I’m off the trail I have some words of wisdom for all, older women in particular, who may be tempted by the PCT.

1-Think of something easier to do, like shopping or watching tv or chatting with friends or drinking.
2-Always keep #1 in mind while contemplating any outrageous activity.
3-if you do insist on doing something outrageous, do it where there are fit young people around to ogle. It makes the pain of egregious activity almost worth it.
4-if you are pushing 70 and haven’t seen the body you were meant to have for 50 years or so, outrageous activity is probably worth it if only for the few days you achieve that body again before relaxing into the activities listed in #1.
5-Consider again just sticking with #1.


Deep Thoughts on Tumbleweeds

tumbleweed-bonneville-utah_37585_990x742Noxious weeds, tumbleweeds. Everyone who lives near their habitat, which is just about everywhere the soil has been disturbed in arid zones, will agree on this point. I live in such a zone. They grow in my yard and blow in from the thousands of acres surrounding my yard. They can leap tall fences in a single bound and block the entrance to the house within hours in a good wind. They get hung up on the fences they don’t clear, creating a fire hazard. They prick the hell out of you when you try to eliminate them from your life. Full grown they take up too much space to haul off to the dump in a truck so have to be burned. They burn hot and fast so the fire has to be monitored very carefully. On no burn days/weeks you just have to sigh and wish for an opportunity to come soon. Once the yard is cleaned up another wind comes and tumbleweeds clog the yard and fences again. When you are out walking your dog a gust of wind can send tumbleweeds hurtling into your path like something out of a roadrunner cartoon. They can make driving downright torturous in a high wind. Tumbleweeds are a real pain in the ass. Ask anybody.

Before leaving to hike the PCT I surveyed my back yard with it’s abundant supply of tumbleweeds and thought on that as a trail name – briefly – then when all those negative thoughts entered my mind I rejected it. Why take on the name of a noxious weed just because my life is surrounded by them for most of the year every year. Nope. Not going to happen.

But it happened, as all good trail names do, right on the trail, and amazingly it happened within my first hour of hiking. It takes awhile to get to the trailhead at Campo, CA from San Diego so by the time I hit the trail I really had to pee. I had my handy dandy pStyle, a funnel type thing that allows women to stand up to pee, and was outfitted in a skirt for ease of execution. My hiking partner was close by taking notes, as we were both new to this and hungry for info on real time execution. It was really just gear testing afterall. Well I got bashful bladder and couldn’t do a thing. Finally I said, “Oh hell. I’ll just squat!” forgetting that I still had a 30 pound backpack on. I toppled bare ass over tea kettle and got my trail name immediately. Tumbleweed. There ya go. It was just meant to be.

In the next 800 miles I had plenty of time to reflect on my actual similarity to tumbleweeds. Yes I can be prickly but mostly only if people get too close and try to control me. I bounce along and leap happily with whatever change of wind comes along but also can get hung up on various attractants from time to time. I am quite capable of lying around waiting for the next gust to take me wherever, whenever. Mostly though while I may appear to be simply drifting along, as viewed from the usual cultural paradigm, I am tenacious, hearty, cover a lot of ground and sew my seeds everywhere I go.

By the time I was finished on the PCT at mile 800, I was indeed very connected with my tumbleweedness. I AM and I am happy to call myself Tumbleweed.

Blogger Failure!!!

hikingfeetI walked 800 miles on the PCT in just over three months. It was full of ups and downs. I didn’t mention one word of it here on my PCT blog to say nothing of even finishing the story about my Zion shakedown hike. That probably constitutes the greatest blogger failure of all time. You know how much I regret that? ZERO! Not at ALL!

I learned from two of the most awesome trail bloggers of all time, Carrot Quin and Wired that keeping a decent journal takes a LOT of time and ENERGY. While I applaud those who are able to pull off their blow by blow accounts of long trail hiking while actually hiking, I was pretty sure right from the start that I didn’t have the kind of desire and motivation to be a writer and a hiker at the same time. Now that I’ve been a hiker for quite some time and quite some distance I know I made the right decision to just let the writer have a rest and get on with the hike.

I did make a number of videos when my iPhone would allow me adequate battery power and storage space, which wasn’t all that often. Here is my YouTube channel where you can find a hodge podge of videos of the trek in no particular order with widely varying quality. Take a look if you have the interest and some time on your hands.

I do intend to maybe write a book with the trail experience as the center theme. It will not be a blow by blow account but a sort of life overview inspired mostly by my wildly appropriate trail name, Tumbleweed, the working title being, Drifting Along by Tumbleweed. Stay tuned 😉

Zion Shakedown Part 2

Stopping for a snack is a different sort of process for Lori and me. She eats something quickly and wants to get going. I eat slowly and like to linger for a bit. Once we learned that the camp was at the top of the hill, “and on a bit from there,” Lori was ready to get going. I was ready to linger so I told her to go ahead. Off she went while I enjoyed relaxing in the knowledge that someone had actually seen camp #3 and that I would find it in due course. As I was getting my pack on Lori waved and yelled from way up there saying it was loose dirt and slick and lot like Squaw Trail and to be careful. Squaw Trail is here in our little town of Kanab in Southcentral Utah and goes from the town up to the top of a bluff and has some tricky, slippery, straight up sort of footing, so I got the idea before starting up. It was a fine little scramble and while steep not so tricky as parts of Squaw. It was a lot like our familiar trail though and I enjoyed the hike up. She didn’t tell me about the rattle snake she’d come upon there until later. I’m really glad about that. I don’t think I’d have stopped to take video of the scenery had I known that there was a rattler under a rock somewhere along there! 

After several huffing and puffing stops and another shout out from Lori saying she’d found camp #3, I reached the top of the hill and strode out with ease until I came to a T junction in the trail. Each direction looked equally promising. There was a sign but the names with the arrows didn’t mean anything to me. Since our map had put the camp at the bottom of the hill, what I remembered of it didn’t give me much of a clue which way to go. I yelled for Lori but got no answer. I started one direction, looking for her boot prints but didn’t see them in the mass of prints on the busy trail. All the prints seemed to be going the other way though so I turned around and tried that way. Again I couldn’t find her prints and all the prints seemed to be going the other way from me. I engaged my intuition and turned around again. I tooted my whistle trying to raise Lori to no avail so kept going with the intuitive direction. Finally I heard voices! They came toward me and woohoo it was two women coming toward me. I asked if camp #3 was up there and they said YES! Well.

Shakedown Lesson #2. Don’t let the person with the map take off without getting some idea of what you will be coming to up the trail when it comes to a T junction.

My Zion Shakedown

zionhikeSo I thought I’d take a real life hike rather than just endlessly trying to buy gear to cover every imagined scenario that might be encountered on the PCT.

My friend Lori and I decided on a perfect 2 night trip that would push my mileage a bit and offer temps around the high 20’s to check out gear.

We were unable to reserve campsites online so we showed up at the Park Service Station at 7:30 to make sure to get there before anyone else to claim our chosen campsites.

We were the first to get there but alas, tis Spring Break and all the wilderness campsites but one were fully booked. So we took the one, on the southwestern desert trail that may may have higher temps and may or may not have water. Okay. We’d stay at a close in campsite, 3 miles in, easy hike, then go to another the next day quite far in, 7 miles or so, on the preferred trail and add an extra day for another site the next day. Good. All set.

So we loaded up on water for the possibly dry hike/camp and set off. The first thing I learned is that my beloved Five Finger Spyridons were not going to work. A fully packed hike a couple of days before had left my feet tender and once I started this trail it became apparent my feet were demanding more cushioning. Thankfully it was an immediate lesson and I was able to run back to the car to change into my Altra Lone Peak’s. So I have come down to the Altra’s as the one shoe I will take on the PCT. Sad but good in that I won’t have to take the weight of extra shoes to determine the best on the trail. One shakedown lesson down, off we went again.

Soon we came to the creek which we were told may or may not be dry and it was running nicely. We sat down and got some water, just because we could, and the sawyer squeeze filters worked a treat. My method of getting the water from the stream and into the tiny opening of the bottles that fit the filter worked perfectly. It was a beautiful day and I basked in the sun and did some stretches. Life was good. While we were basking there in the sun and enjoying the prospects of the short day and plenty of water, two spring breakers came down the trail and stopped to say hi. We said we were going to camp #3 and they said they were supposed to stay at camp #3 the night before but were unable to find it. They walked and walked and walked and finally turned around and stealth camped at another one they had passed. Hum…

Oh well. We are super sleuths. We will find camp #3. Off we go. Pretty soon we turn up the dry wash indicated on the map. All is well. It’s a beautiful day and we are feeling good. We walk the distance indicated on the map and by the ranger that should put us squarely into camp #3. None of the landmarks we expected had yet appeared. We walked some more, and some more, and a bit more. Hum…

So we decide to stop and have a snack. When in doubt, stop for a snack. That’s how we roll.

While we are snacking we hear people. Pretty soon we see people. They are about 800 feet above us. Above us as in straight up. We yelled, “Is camp #3 up there?” Yes was the answer, then as they came down to us they said it was up there and quite a way on from the top. Hum…

The ranger and the map had camp #3 before that steep trail to the top of the bluff. In fact we were snacking in just about the exact spot where camp #3 should have been in relationship to the proximity of that trail. Hum…

Okay. Fine. Off we go. More or less straight up. At one of my huffing and puffing breaks up the trail I took this video.


To be continued.


Part 2 Milking the Platypus 

I brought along my new Platypus Hoser 3L Hydration Bladder to try even though I’d had leakage issues from the bite valve ever since getting it and trying it out at home. I really wanted it to work because it is only 4 ounces as opposed to my tried and true Osprey at a hefty 10 ounces. If you can cut 6 oz. here and 6 oz. there you have a pack that you can actually enjoy hiking in as opposed to it being a grueling slog on the trail. And, being rather old for this game, I want to give my feet and joints every chance to endure a walk to Canada. So I have become not only a “gear head” but a real “gram weenie” in my efforts to reduce pack weight.

At home, since the Platypus was leaking for no particular reason that I could see, I installed a cut off valve from my Evernew system. Yes, I have gear for parts now. My dining table, kitchen counters and buffet are the equivalent of a redneck’s front yard. All that stuff may not work now but the parts could be valuable some day. With the bite valve and it’s new cut off valve in place and working as expected I thought I had every chance of success on the trail even though it did leave a tiny puddle on the dining room table while sitting there overnight. Hum…

From the first moment getting into my pack it was oozing a bit if I bent over or moved in any way it didn’t approve of. I tried various configurations of anchorage to my pack to no avail. It wasn’t a BIG problem, just a very annoying problem. Another annoying thing was that while it felt free to dispense water at will, it basically refused to dispense water at MY will. Getting water from the thing was really fairly tricky when I actually tried drinking from it. But hey, I’ll get the hang of it. Right? Hum…


Loving this Life

I’m hiking every day with a bit of weight to get ready for my big start day just three weeks from now.

Two miles into today’s training hike with 19 pounds on my back this shady place was just too hard to pass up. I kicked back to enjoy the view.

hikingshoes hikingtrish

All together I did 4.60 miles (I thought it would be further than that) with a hike time of 1:23 hrs. I took trekking poles which I have only used one other time and by the end felt like a pro  I think they quickened my pace a bit because I generally only do 3 mi per hour. The 19 pound pack was very comfortable and actually had everything in it for what I think would be the usual distance between re-supplies except for my puffy jacket (7 oz) microfleece beanie, gloves and some electronics.

It was a very pleasant hike and I fell in love all over again with where I live. Miles and miles of beauty and solitude right out my door. I am a lucky woman.

There are moments when we experience a supreme appreciation for where we are. I had that heightened sense on my hike today. I thought, as I saw all the beauty around me and felt so good in my body and in my life, that if for some reason this was the end of this whole PCT experience, it would have been worth it all anyway. It’s that good, this journey.

Chair to the 2014 Grand 2 Grand Ultra Marathon – HUH?

I started a blog last year, September 27th to be exact, because I had the bug. I called the blog, The Journey From Chair to The 2014 Grand 2 Grand, I’ve Got the Bug. To see how one can get that bug, here is the gist of the race from the g2g web site:

It is the first stage race to start from the awe inspiring north rim of the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and finish on the summit of the Grand Staircase, one of the world’s most iconic geological formations. The course takes you through a desert landscape of sand dunes, red rock canyons, buttes, mesas and hoodoos. You will navigate compelling slot canyons and cross a tributary of the Virgin River. Experience the remotest part of continental America in the way of the earliest settlers, Navajo and Paiute Indian tribes. This is where Montezuma’s gold is still reputed to be buried.

Observe nature up close in an environment rich in flora and wildlife – from unusual and threatened cacti to big horn sheep to the endangered California Condor, the largest bird in America.

Challenge yourself in the company of an international group of participants who are all eager to complete a world class course, one which has been experienced by very few people.

Here is a video taken during the 2012 race. It’s awesome:


I was volunteering for seven days out in the wilderness with the race support team, I had the bug and I wanted to race in the 2014 g2g. So I started a private training blog. This is how it started:

In the Beginning

I’m 68 turning 69 in a few weeks.

Very top end of “normal” BMI and Body fat.
*Height 5’3
*Weight 137
*Body Fat 36.5%
That’s all up from last winter so I really feel pretty fat.
*In physical therapy for chronic back and knee issues.
*Doing Power of 10 workouts 2 times a week.
*Walk the dog twice a day adding up to 2 to 3 miles.

I intend in the first month to intensify weight training, add consistent yoga, bike, hike with run walk run time as well as continuing my walks with Benny. He will enjoy a bit of run time too. I also intend to get my weight down to 115 before spring so that when I add a 20 pound backpack to my workouts I won’t be loading my knees and hips with any more weight than I am loading them with right now!

All the crew and volunteers and racers had a kick off meal last night. It was scheduled for 6:30 but didn’t happen till 7:30 so I had time to do a workout at the gym. It’s amazing how much more intense I made the workout just by having a super high goal. That’s a big part of this whole thing.

This is what I am going to do with this next year – train.

It’s going to be great!

I had someone take my photo for the “Before” picture on day one as we set out. Here it is:

mebeforepicI really honestly think I look a lot better than that but I did want a sort of objective photo which I hoped would make it look like I’d come a long way in training for the g2g 2014. On a side note, They don’t make tec t’s to fit the girls. Not a look I love :P.

Anyway; A few days ago I noticed that I had this blog from the ancient history of my life so I took a look to see what was there. I posted a little update:

Well this is Strange!

I have just revisited this blog that has been left abandoned for what seems an eternity. Everything about this initial post is exactly what I am now doing with one BIG exception! The event has changed from the G2G to the PCT.

The volunteer experience on the G2G left me cold. I thought it was going to be a wonderful alignment of the best of humans with the awesome best of nature and it just wasn’t. It was all about the race. It was a marvelous production. There is no doubt the thing took an amazing amount of orginizational klout and it really was a tour de force in that respect. And the athlets were awesome. I met some AMAZING people. I got reved up to push my own limits. Just not in that venue. I want more of a “becoming nature” experience for myself.

SO. I decided I’d do the Pacific Crest Trail. I will be putting in 25 mile days for 6 months rather than 6 days and It WILL be self supported! They call the G2G a self supported race. They have to carry everything WITH THE HUGE EXCEPTIONS OF tent, water, stove. No one will be welcoming me at the end of my long days with cheers and cowbells and hot water and a tent to dive into. Nor will a medical team be there for me and I’m pretty sure Ray Zehab won’t be dropping by to lend his motivational support. Nope. My adventure will be entirely self supported, mentally, physically and emotionally.

So the PCT it is. The training remains the same. I have been following the training plan I outlined in my first post except for the yoga. The teacher and I just never made it to the same spot at the same time. The physical therepy has been a resounding success. I sold my car to pay for the UL equiptment I need to have a prayer of finishing the treck from Mexico to Canada and so I do walk a lot, bike a lot, run the dog, all I set out to do a few months ago when I started this blog.

I am feeling great. I weigh 133 with 33% body fat. I’m just now getting back to losing weight but still intend to get to 115 – 120 so that I have less weight on my feet and joints. I still have a long way to go with training but it is all coming together and I have no doubt that after starting the PCT with 10 miles a day and working my way up to better hiking fitness as I go, I will be able to stay the course.

So there is another story about what got me going on this current obsession. Many starts to the things we do till we just find ourselves living them out. Strange.

My First Attempt at Tent Pitching

Growing Bolder

Well it exhausts me just watching this guy for a few minutes but he and I do share a mission. The question is, do we decline because of age or because of a cultural meme that says old people decline? As we get older do we expect, from what we have been shown all our lives, that we will slowly disintegrate and just relax into that belief, or do we stay active in every way, maybe even get more active since we have more time? We DO have a choice in spite of the mass hypnosis that serves to drag us into oblivion. We do. Check it out.


johnmuirClimb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
― John Muir, Our National Parks

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