Monday, January 21, 2013

This blog has moved!

Hey everyone,
Just wanted to let you know I moved this blog to Wordpress for my next series of adventures. I played around with some features, and found Wordpress to be the easiest to update via smartphone 'cause, well, that's going to matter! I'm dropping my physical address and going mobile! It's time to put in some miles!

Check out the link below to see the new blog -- and don't forget to subscribe! I won't be updating here anymore.
The link below will take you to the entry that describes my next adventures! I'm really excited -- they're pretty big!
Thanks for following!

Click here to check it out!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another wetass hike

Wet camera lens = blurry photo!

Seriously, flashbacks to our last High Cliff hike. We started out hiking in a beautiful 45 degrees, overcast sky and no rain. 15 minutes into the hike we were putting on our raingear. That raingear stayed on for the remainder of our 20-mile hike. It did stop raining at one point -- when we were done hiking. Rachel and I are convinced we are being tested. When the hike is done, we might be wet and cold, but we're alive, we're well, and we could get up in the morning and do it all over again with a smile on our faces and a billion things to laugh about along the way. Test passed. But I tell you what... hiking in the rain is still hard, no matter how you look at it. But that doesn't mean it's bad. Not bad at all.

So it was another wet hike. Like I said, it's hard. It's harder to stop to do anything. Eat, sit, pee... especially that last one. All your clothes stick to you. It's hard to pull up 3 layers of wet clothing, and you end up wetter in the process because your raingear isn't in full-coverage mode when you're doing your business. Ahh such a rough life... :)

Parnell shelter snack bar.
We managed to stop and take a few breaks. Our first was at the Parnell shelter 3 miles in. It was the only covered shelter on our route so we had to take advantage. From there on it was short, standing breaks: take pack off, grab snack, eat snack before it gets wet and soggy, pack back on, continue hiking.

After 10 miles we turned around and ran into Randall. He braved the rain and met us on trail and hiked the rest of the way out with us. That was a nice distraction for us. Rachel and I don't really run out of things to say, but it's nice to have such good company and some fresh conversation. You can only talk about pickles for so long...

Yay! It's Randall!
When we got to the Parnell shelter we stopped in for another covered break. We met the only other hardcore backpacker on the trail, who introduced himself as Tony from Milwaukee. He was staying the night in the shelter and let us stick around so we could make some hot coffee and mashed potatoes. Much-needed energy for the last 3-mile stretch.

The last 3 miles were really cool, too. We experienced snow fog. There was still patches of snow on the ground and it was raining, so the forest floor was letting off this steaming, rolling fog. It was really pretty.

Snog (snow fog). It got super-thick once darkness settled in.
It got dark and we found ourselves trying to navigate some very hard-to-see trail in the fog. Our headlamps were only able to illuminate a glowing ball of light in front of us. I cold feel my senses were in hyper mode just to navigate the trail. It was fun and helped the last couple of hard miles go by a little faster.

 "This is what it would look like if you were stuck inside a marshmallow." -Randall referring to the fog.

Once back at the car, we jumped in, picked up Randall's truck and head back to his house where we decided against camping outside where it was still wet and cold. Camping on the warm and dry living room floor with our sleeping bags just seemed so much more appealing, so that's what we did. We ate pizza, had some drinks and worked on some wind screens for our stoves with Randall's expert help. :)

Brand-spankin' new Rooster/High Life Jetboil wind screen! Booyah!
All in all it was a great weekend. Hikes like that might be kinda hard but they are always so worth it.

Quote of the weekend:
"Wring us out. We're done."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Weight struggles

I wrote an entry draft about a month ago and never posted it. I don't know why... because I wrote it to hold me accountable so I would stick to a health "plan" that I was working up. I've done pretty well sticking to this plan since I wrote it but I certainly did slack off a little more than I should have. Especially during Thanksgiving. So after re-reading it, I thought that if I had posted it, maybe I would've gotten a message or two of encouragement, and that might have been all I needed to stick to the plan better. Knowing someone read it... and then I'd have to prove to them - and myself - that I could do it.

Better late than never, right? New plan, round 2.

But first a quick update - I haven't lost a pound since I wrote the entry I'll post below. In fact I've gained a couple. I haven't fallen completely off track, so I don't know what to blame. Wait, yes I do. I need to be real and kick my butt out of denial. I've been eating a lot. [head cocked to the side, looking upwards] There was that pint of Ben & Jerry's Red Velvet Cake I ate in one sitting... the giant, 3-foot long bag of movie-theater-style popcorn I ate almost all by myself (in 2 nights, and there's still some left! Really!)... the Friday night Taco Bell binge (I didn't need to get the burrito supreme meal AND the quesadilla - oy!)... there's also the couple bottles of wine I indulged in over a couple of nights... and I'm sure if I sit here in this thoughtful position staring at the ceiling I'll come up with more. *Sigh* The list does goes on.

Reality check. Robin, stop eating like you have the metabolism of a Spartan. You do not.

So here's the post from last month. From here I will try to get back into those 5 pairs of jeans sitting at the bottom of my pants pile by March... so I don't have to go shopping!

Original entry, written November 11, 2012

Last week I was throwing out some old things that have been sitting around my desk at work for... years. I came across my old Weight Watchers weigh-in booklets from when I first joined. It was incredible for me to think that I lost all that weight, and I remembered how exciting it was to hit that first 10%, then the second. I am very proud of how far I’ve come in my battle with weight over the years, and surprised at how much I’ve grown up in that department. I now exercise regularly and eat healthier. I do tend to “fall off the wagon” from time to time and go on a binge-eating adventure, but I can usually recover in a week... sometimes in two, depending on how bad the binge-session was. So I still definitely struggle today, and I will forever be obsessed with food and its tempting taste. I’ve come to terms with that.

However, in the past year or so, I’ve convinced myself that this larger pant size I’m fitting into lately is just my age, and that it’s okay, and that I look alright anyway, and that I guess I feel alright with it, and this is just the weight I’m “supposed” to be. Well, I think I’ve been lying to myself to justify a slow, progressive weight-gain that wasn’t necessary for my age or any other reason.

After looking through my Weight Watchers weigh-in booklets, I realized that just 3 years ago I weighed twenty pounds lighter. I know I felt great then – my endurance was amazing, I could train for hours at the gym and on trails, I was light and jumpy and energetic. I now find myself feeling frustrated in my aerobic classes because I can’t kick it quite as intensely as I used to. Again, I blame my age. And maybe that does have a little something to do with it, but I’m not 80 with brittle bones. I am a healthy, 33-year-old woman, and I have no reason in the world to not feel like I did just three years ago. This was a kick in the butt for me. I can do better. That’s what this is all about.

I really don’t obsess too much over the numbers when it comes to weight, but it’s a much easier milestone to shoot for. “I’ll get to this weight and then evaluate how I feel compared to how I am at this other weight.” It really is mostly about how I feel, and most of the time I do feel great at my current weight. But I also know how good I felt at 20 pounds lighter – not to mention the 5 or so pairs of pants I’d love to fit into again – sadly that is mostly so I don’t have to go shopping, which I now dislike so much I can almost confidently use the “hate” word... but I won’t. Because I very-much-dislike that word. So, anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to try to get back to that 2009 weight and see if there is a difference in how I feel between the two. If there isn’t, I’ll feel much better about using my 30’s as an excuse and let my body just settle where it needs to settle. But for now, as I wrote in a Facebook status, “It’s GO time!” and my goal is set.

This week I’ve written my meals and food out on a sheet of notebook paper each night so that in the morning I could be sure to pack the right foods I needed at work to follow the menu. I’m trying to switch up my breakfast and lunches so that I’m not eating the same exact thing every day, which is what I tend to do on a normal basis. I figured I had to do something different to see a difference – I actually already eat quite well during the work day because of the structure of working in an office – one advantage to this environment! It’s at night when I usually can’t stop eating, and so far, the written menus have helped. I write out what I plan to have for dinner, along with a dessert “if I feel like I need one.” The dessert has consisted of plain greek yogurt with blueberries and raspberries – and I can add some almond milk and cocoa powder into a smoothie if I want. It’s a treat, and is almost milkshake-like, which is my favorite [unhealthy] food.

To shock my body, I decided to do something different with my exercise that I’ve wanted to do for a while, too. Mornings. Ouchy. I love mornings SO very much, but I just hate getting out of my comfy, warm bed. And almost always, the comfy, warm bed wins. But this week so far, I’ve gotten out of bed three days in a row and dragged my butt to the YMCA for a walk/run on the treadmill, stretching and whatever else I feel like. It’s not intended to be my main workout for the day, or a super-hard calorie burn... the intention is to get used to getting up earlier, and get my metabolism roaring right away. So far, so good, and I'm just hoping it might have some sort of affect.

Side-effects? So far, I’ve got sore muscles and a rumbly tummy. The foods I’ve been making for my lunches apparently have a lot of fiber in them. For example, I made a super-yummy Mexican dish with quinoa, black beans and corn. I also eat a couple servings of carrots with it, then a couple servings of Brussels sprouts for dinner. Then add in the oatmeal, pita pocket, raspberries, blueberries and apple... and my fiber count is rising. I plugged in all my foods into a calorie counting website and discovered my fiber intake yesterday was 50 grams! Wowzers! I know fiber is good for me, but I might be pushing it. So once I’m through this quinoa dish, which packs in about 13-14 grams/serving, I’m going to try to dial it down a bit. I don’t need 10 trips to the bathroom in one day – unless it’s because I’m drinking so much water. Water intake is another thing I’ve been working on, but not doing so great at. One thing at a time, though!

So there you have it. That is where I am right now with my fitness and health. Not like you need an update or anything, but I wanted to write this down to hold myself somewhat accountable. It’s so easy to say to myself, “I’ve been doing so well... I can have a burger and a milkshake this weekend.” Which I actually can – I believe in the “everything is okay in moderation” theory. It’s the snowball affect I struggle with. Once I eat that burger and milkshake my portions on everything else go out the window. It’s a vicious cycle. Not that I need to be perfect, but I just need to be aware and honest with myself so that I can be strong and make better decisions. Writing this out will help me with that.

Thanks for listening. You really didn’t have to. :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Missing Nevada.

Walking into the sunset along Hwy. 50 in Nevada. (2006)


Endless road, clumps of sage.
Mountains, sunsets and lonely rage.

Glaring sun, lack of shade.
All by ourselves, but got it made.

Big culverts and a tree full of shoes.
Counting steps by ones, then by twos.

Far off ranch, deserted and still.
Would like to live there, maybe one day I will.

Gallon jugs of water, stashed along the way.
Just keep walking, day after day.

Dig up some sage, set up the tent.
Sleeping bag, hard ground, no rent.

Echoing coyote yelps, no breeze.
Crisp, cold night, sleep with ease.

Wide open sky, desolate land.
Beautiful and perfect, every grain of sand.

To walk every day... is true, pure bliss.
I think it’s mostly the freedom I miss.

There's always somewhere to go.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Backpacking in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve

It was a Halloween-themed backpacking weekend, complete with Franky, Ghost and Jack lanterns!

How did the Kickapoo get its name? Well I have my theories, which I conjured up in my mind as I hiked Saturday and Sunday along some really awesome regularly and recently used equestrian trails. There were many a’ poo I nearly kicked. But after getting home and doing a couple of simple Google searches, I learned that the Kickapoo is really the name of an Indian Tribe (which was my second guess). Kickapoo actually means “stands here and there” or “wanderer.” I like that. I like everything about the name – and everything about the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. What a wonderful place to spend outside. And it’s got a really interesting history. 

A super-quick history lesson by Robin: Because of some major clear-cutting lumber work done on the land in the late 1800’s, the water tables got all goofed up, causing too much runoff and some pretty major flooding, so in the 1960’s, several families were forced to move out of the valley because they were going to dam it all up and make a giant, man-made lake to help with the flooding issue and create some recreational opportunities. In fact, one of the businesses we stopped at was going to have lakefront property and be a yacht club. But the early 1970’s brought on the environmental movement, and they didn’t think it would have the positive benefits they originally thought, so the project was abandoned half-way in. There’s still half of a dam built, and it sounds like some local residents are still kinda’ ticked off about the whole situation. I don’t know how it would’ve been as a giant lake, but for now, it remains a beautiful valley of trees, trail, the Kickapoo River and some really cool bluffs and overlooks. And that business we visited? It’s a really cool bar/restaurant that invites in hikers and horse riders (the trail goes right by it!) and it also rents out canoes and river equipment... instead of yachts. Now that’s some cool stuff right there.

If the dam had been finished, we'd be lookin' at a big lake here instead of trees, hills and farmland.

This backpacking trip was another Fox Cities Backpacking Meetup trip, and one of my bestest backpacking buddies, Randall, was the organizer. He did a great job bringing all 10 of us to a new place, and the route he planned for us was really fun with some spectacular views. We started out on Friday night meeting at a cart-in campsite at the Wildcat Mountain State Park. We arrived during daylight, which is always nice, and we started off the weekend with a Halloween-themed camp. Randall brought along a few glowing lanterns for ambience, and later passed around some banana-liqueur-soaked gummy tarantulas. They were scary-looking for sure, but tasted pretty good! One of the Friday night highlights was a unique, random flyover. We had about 3 GIANT planes fly over our camp – I mean RIGHT over our camp. RIGHT over the treetops. It was super-loud and super-awesome. We all stared up into the sky and followed them out of site. I have no idea what kind of planes they were, but I was so excited that I exclaimed, “Hey! I can’t believe those flanes just plew over like that!” Sigh... yeah, that was the beginning of my oral-ambidextrousness during the weekend. All in all, we enjoyed a nice fire and slept in warm sleeping bags at night as the temps dipped down to 22°F.

Gummy tarantulas! Scary!

The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast and packed up camp. Rachel was first to don her Halloween costume. Returning from the bathrooms, she came up the trail towards camp dressed like a bee! We later learned that Darth Vader also enjoys backpacking – although sleeping out in the cold leaves a chilly layer of frost on his helmet. We also had a prison inmate amongst our group, but he was a pretty cool guy, so it was cool with us. I went as a two-part costume. I wanted to find something easy and not too expensive, so I safety-pinned about 50 mini Snickers bars to myself and went as “Bear bait” or, as a few of our Meetup members would refer to as a “Snicker Locker.” My costume lasted about an hour on the trail before I stopped and unpinned the remaining Snickers that hadn’t already fallen off and/or been eaten. It didn’t look like the hikers behind me minded as I dropped them along the way!

Costume: Bear bait/Snicker Locker

Saturday morning, after shuttling cars, we hit the trail for a little over 8 miles. We hiked some nice rolling hills, through woods; down into a little river valley with a snaking creek and bluffs on either side, then through some farmland, and then the trail went right past the Rockton bar. Well, why not stop in for a quick drink!? We all enjoyed a drink of choice, then head back out on the trail, past a line of “parked” horses (riders were having lunch in the bar – what a great idea!), and then continued towards camp. We hiked past some gorgeous fields of seeding wild grasses that glowed in the sunlight, and back into some hilly forest until we came out onto a dirt road where our campsite was located.

I was a ball of energy, and I’m not really sure where it all came from. Maybe it was the jelly beans; maybe it was the crisp fall air. But I cruised up the giant hill next to our camp and sat on giant tree for quite a while as I looked down on our camp and everyone milling about getting tents set up, starting a fire, and chit-chatting about this and that. It was a nice moment. Then I got another burst of energy and started to collect some big downed branches for firewood and had fun dragging it down the hill with me. I felt like a plow through the crisp leaves, using the steep decline to give me some momentum. Fun!

Pretty-colored pheasant feathers

After that, with still a little left in me, I explored the area around our camp. There was constantly-flowing water well at our camp that created a small stream, so I followed that for a while until I came across an area where local pheasant hunters decided to clean their birds. We saw a couple of live pheasants on this trip, which was pretty cool – they are beautiful birds. Even though the butchering area I stumbled upon was kinda’ nasty, I did enjoy getting some pictures of their pretty feathers close-up. The colors are just amazing. Then it was back to camp for hot drinks, dinners, more Halloween-themed fun (Randall broke out the temporary tattoos!) and an appropriately haunting nearly-full moon. I picked up a kid’s activity booklet for Smokey Bear at the Visitor’s Center on Friday, so I pulled that out while sitting around the fire, and as I read, I discovered the truth to his name... finally! I’ll get to that later. But for the evening, we again had a great fire, Mad Libs, fun conversation, laughs and more hot drinks until we all crashed into our tents and the warmth of our sleeping bags. This weather was getting COLD!!

Halloween-style full moon. Can you spot the food bags hanging in the tree?

On Sunday morning, I woke up at about 5AM with the urge to pee. I hate getting up to pee when it’s so cold outside – it’s so hard to get out of the cozy warmth of that sleeping bag! I tried to ignore it, and was successful for about 45 minutes, but had to finally give in. I strapped on my headlamp and found myself enclosed in a beautiful dome of diamonds. No, I wasn’t dreaming. We had a nice, decent layer of sparkly frost covering the entire inside of our tent. It was definitely cold! We later found out that the temps dipped down to 14°F overnight! Awesome! Even more awesome that I slept nice and warm all night! Yay!

Anyway, I found my booties and put them on, crawled out of the tent and took my walk. It was still pitch black out, but it was really nice. It was completely silent, and the stars were super-bright against a deep, black sky. That explained why it was so cold! Everything in the forest had a sparkly layer of frost on it, just like the inside of our tent -- every blade of grass, every edge of bark on the trees and every fallen leaf. It was pretty amazing. But... not amazing enough to keep me from crawling back into my warm sleeping bag for another hour!

Bear rope stash bag all frosty.

After I got up again we had breakfast around the fire. I tried something new, and that was fun – and successful. I mixed an instant packet of Jell-O vanilla pudding in a bottle with 2 cups of water and a scoop of protein powder. It was tasty and nutritious! I’ll be doing that again for sure. I also had a packet of oatmeal, a latte and wouldn’t ya’ know it... a couple pieces of bacon fell from the bacon tree right above us and landed right next to me! That was a nice treat... it had been taunting us since all the low-hanging bacon had already been scavenged.

Packing up the cold, frosty tent was a serious reminder of winter. Snowballs of frost fell out as I stuffed the cold nylon into the stuff sack with quickly numbing fingers. After the job was done, I ran over to the fire to rewarm them and continue with the morning chores. It didn’t take long before we were all packed up and ready to hit the trail again.

Things got really interesting right away Sunday morning. Just a little ways down the trail was a stream. Our trail crossed that stream. The outside temp at the time was a chilly 35°F, and the river water was even colder. And there were not any places for a dry cross – no downed trees to balance over, no rocks to hop across on... just a wide, low, running river. And it was wide enough that there was no chance of jumping across. We had one choice. Wade. Boots came off, pant legs were rolled up, and we all followed one another across through the chilly water. The water was definitely a bit shockingly cold, but the killer was the sinking mud on the other side. Our feet would sink down into the mud just over our ankles as we quickly crawled ashore. By the time I sat down I could not feel a single toe. I took a towel to them to wash the mud off, and it may as well have been someone else’s foot altogether! I could not feel a thing! Once I got the mud off I pulled out my booties and put them on to try to get at least a little feeling back in my toes before putting my socks back on. That worked pretty well. 

One of the trip's highlights was having to wade through a freezing cold creek and up a muddy bank! Awesome, but cold!

I like to think I’m invincible, but admittedly, I am not. I think my nemesis is cold feet, and walking through that freezing cold river gave me flashbacks from my childhood. Whenever I went ice fishing with my parents, they knew to bring along at least one set of extra boots, socks and snow pants, because EVERY SINGLE TIME, I would step in an ice-fishing hole up to my hip. Every time we went. At least once per trip... right up until my feet were a little too big to get in the hole. Then I just tripped over them and fell onto my face. I don’t know what it is with me and ice fishing holes. I am happy to say I’ve gotten less clumsy over the years and haven’t stepped in one in a long, long time. But how much do you want to bet now that I said that here, it’ll happen this year!? That’s the way it goes! Hah!

Anyway... so once I got my feet dried, cleaned and a little bit of feeling worked back into them, I strapped on my shoes and hit the trail hard. Thankfully there was a hill right away. My feet warmed right back up and felt normal within 10-15 minutes. Ahhh, yes.

Fun scrambling rock bluff.

The trail came to a neat overlook that had a rock that jutted out over the forest, and it was perfect for climbing on. A few of us scrambled to the top and snapped some photos, and then we hit the trail once again until we reached another amazing lookout over the Kickapoo Valley. We ate lunch there, and I discovered that I really love cereal for second breakfast! I mixed my powdered milk with cold water and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and really enjoyed that. It was a sunny spot, too, so the break felt great, and it was warm! The next stretch was back out to the visitor’s center where the cars were parked and the hike was over. We all met up at the Rockton bar for burgers and drinks before heading our separate ways back home.

And, as promised, back to Smokey Bear – to top off such a great weekend, I was really excited to come home with the story behind the famous Bear’s true name. This has been a conversation that has come up quite a bit on past trips – in fact; it was quite the conversation on a Pictured Rocks trip a few years ago when a group of guys were actually conducting a survey to see what other people thought because they couldn’t stop arguing as to which one was correct.

So, what is his true name? Is it “Smokey Bear” or “Smokey THE Bear?”

It’s amazing what you can learn from a children’s activity booklet! His real name is just “Smokey Bear,” and the confusion came in when they added the word “the” as his middle name – get this – because they needed an extra syllable for the “Smokey The Bear” song! There ya’ have it folks. That’s the story! It was a serious revelation for us backpakin’ folk. For reals.

Here it is in writing! It's a big deal!

“Hey, I just ate pizza grass.”
This trip was awesome. Bacon trees and pizza grass. What else could you really ask for?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hiking in the rain is hard.

Those are some seriously, soaked-through backpacks, folks!

Hiking in the rain is hard... but just like any tough experience, it is also rewarding.

I remember back to 2007, shortly after my mom and I finished thru-hiking the American Discovery Trail. We did a few speaking engagements to a variety of audiences. There were a few questions we were asked each time. The most popular was “How long did it take?” to which we’d answer, “8-1/2 months.” The second most popular was, “How many pairs of shoes did you go through?” to which we’d answer, “Nine each.” And third, “What did you do when it rained?”

I thought back to that question and it came back to me, quickly and clearly... as I hiked along, soaked to the bone. I have a poor memory, but with repetition things tend to stick.
“What did you do when it rained?” My answer to that question? “We got wet.”

We were totally soaked through at this point (about 12 miles in). Still smiling, though!

There's just no other way. You just get wet. Water is tricky. It’s not like snow that will pile up, and might get damp as it melts, but still allows you to brush most of it off. Rain seeps into every nook, cranny, wrinkle, divot, weak spot... and it just gets you wet. Plain. And. Simple. When you’re hiking in rain, all day, and there’s no place to hide from it, there’s no way to avoid it. You just get wet. And to go out into the wild thinking you’re going to stay dry because you bought a $400 “waterproof” rain jacket is just going to bring you down. If you are in a light rain or an off-and-on rain, and you are naturally granted the opportunity to give your gear a break, “waterproof” works. It’s perfect. And you smile and think to yourself, “I’m so glad I spent all that money on this jacket!” I’ve been in that exact situation before! But when dealing with an unrelenting, all-day downpour? Nope. It doesn’t matter – it’s not going to work. It will get in. Rain will find its way!

I consider hiking in 35-45°F temps with an all-day rain without a break one of the toughest conditions out there, right next to a strong, cold, nonstop wind – that’s right up at the top of my list, too. The toughest conditions usually end up being in the “they never give up and go constant all day long” category – because you don’t get a mental break from it. And 9 times out of 10, I’ll break mentally before I break physically. Which can also save my ass, to be honest. If I break mentally, I’m more likely to set up my tent and curl up in my sleeping bag to get warm and start over again in the morning – or high-tail it to the car and crank up the heater. Even if I wanted to hike 20 miles, but only hiked 16.5. Conditions can sometimes create an equally or even tougher challenge than what you originally set out to do. And know what? That’s one of the coolest things about this kind of stuff. That’s why I love it so much!

One big advantage to rain-hiking? It makes the late-fall colors even more vibrant!

So let’s go back to the rain thing. When Rachel and I were hiking on Saturday we had the 40-50°F conditions, with the all-day downpour that never let up. We did just fine for the majority of the day, but as the day wore on, the rain came down harder and harder and the temperature actually dropped about 5°. Our trails became rivers in some places, and in others it became ponds 6 feet in diameter. The rocks and roots were slick; the leaves covered some of said rocks and roots, as well as some deep puddles. Cruising along on the trail, you wouldn’t even realize there was an eight-inch-deep pool of rainwater built up until you stepped in it. When I’d find myself stepping into one of these pools through the pretty, floating layer of leaves and feeling the cold, fresh water hit my warm toes, it reminded me of a booby trap. Remember when you were kids, and you’d dig a small hole, then cover it cross-wise with small twigs, then cover that with leaves? Then you’d sit behind a tree and wait for your sister to walk by and step in it? I was never successful with this kind of booby trap, but my brother and cousin sure were! Well, it made me think of that. Thankfully, by the time I started stepping in deep pools along the trail, I’d already given up on dry feet, so it just made me laugh and feel a little nostalgic for my childhood... and miss my brother.

We did manage to find a pavilion to take a break in at about 9 miles in. Hot caramel latte to the rescue!
However you look at it, my and Rachel’s 20-mile dayhike on Sunday turned into a 16.5-mile crazy-rain challenge. We tested gear we weren’t originally planning on really “testing.” It was all good stuff, though. We smiled, laughed, hiked and had a typical good hikin' time – even when we lost our trail and had to bushwhack up and down a steep hillside full of unstable, moss-covered rocks, wet leaves, tangled vines and lots of downed trees. Towards the end of the day, though, we knew we were done when our gloves were so soaked we had to wring them out, our fingers were freezing cold and our bodies were starting to follow, despite the layers we switched out throughout the day. Everything was wet, and once that happens thrown in with a chilly temperature, and no matter how much you walk, you just get and stay cold. Hypothermia can set in during just these types of conditions (wet + cold = bad), and we weren’t at that point, but we sure as heck weren’t going to push ourselves another hour or two and see if we could! We were going to keep this a happy hike, and that’s exactly what we did! We were smiley and happy when we finally got back to the car, stripped ourselves of the heaviest and wettest of clothing and gear as quickly as we could, jumped in and cranked up the heat. It was fabulous.

We drove straight to the nearest gas station, changed into a dry set of clothes, grabbed a hot cocoa, a corn dog and a rice crispy treat, and went back to Rachel’s house to unpack and just see exactly what kind of “wet” we were talking about.

First observation? The giant puddle underneath where we set our packs on her entryway. Um, yeah. Kind of wish we’d had rain covers on. Mostly everything else inside was wet, too, with the exception of a few things that were in sturdy gallon-size ziplock bags or a hardy waterproof stuff sack.

Last observation? That was a brutally awesome 16.5 miles that we took on strong, laughed at, tumbled over, cruised on and got totally 100% completely soaked through on. Thanks, rain. We’re always up for new learning experiences when it comes to backpacking.

Even the waterproof camera struggled in the pouring rain!

Things we learned and/or were reminded of:

1.       Nothing is waterproof when it rains really hard, constantly, all day long. Nothing. No matter how you describe it, no matter how much you pay for it, and no matter how you use it. Water will get in. It is really sneaky that way.

2.       It’s important to eat and drink when you’re hiking lots of miles, even if the weather makes it difficult. Unless you enjoy bonking and feeling random parts cramping and hurting. Eat. Drink. And keep eating and drinking.

3.       A good pack rain cover would be worth gold on an all-day-rainy kind of hike. Even referring back to #1 above, it won’t keep water out completely, but for the amount that it would...  it would be worth it. Packs get heavier as they (and everything in them) get wet. Ugh.

I’ve ready SO many opinions about “oooh, yaaaah... just make sure everything INSIDE is in waterproof stuff sacks and ziplock bags.” First, it still gets heavy; second, your pack is SOAKED and no matter how you look at it, that sucks; third, that only works in a sprinkle, not a pourdown; fourth, it’s hard to get at anything when everything is tucked away in ziplock bags and stuff sacks – referring to #2 above, even food, and that’s no good.

Lesson learned! This is my new opinion – rain covers are GOOD.

4.       Bathroom hand dryers are the freakin’ BOMB diggity when it’s cold and rainy outside. If you can be lucky enough to find one on your route.

5.       Black squirrels are super-awesome. And they’re not afraid of the crazy down-pouring rain. Just like me and Rachel. (Can you hear that horn tooting? Yup, that’s ours.)

Enjoying the hand dryers in the bathroom. Aaaaaah.

It was a great hike, we were totally worn out at the end of it, and that exhaustion even carried over to the next day. It was good. As challenging as the weather can be when backpacking or hiking, it’s always good to have a plan, and we did. We took the opportunity to talk about our strategy if we were actually out backpacking and needed to spend the night in the woods – how we’d first set our packs down on our sleeping pads and get the tent set up as quickly as possible. Pull whatever was dry out of our packs and toss it in the tent. Then we’d take turns getting in and putting on dry clothes and rolling up in our sleeping bags to get warm. We’d toss as much of our soaking wet clothing in a trash compactor bag and tuck it under our feet. Then we’d pull out a cold dinner – probably the bagels and peanut butter we didn’t eat for lunch because it was too hard to stop and get out in the rain. Then we’d sleep and start over in the morning. Hopefully it wouldn’t be raining. But if it was...

We’d get out, we’d hike, we’d get wet, and we’d talk about how awesome it was to be out hiking.