Gear check and book updates

  I know this blog has been quiet as of late. I never updated or posted pictures from a lot of the hikes I've done in the last month or so, but I did them and will hopefully post about them soon. But first, just an update on the gear I used for the 30 mile hike:

First, I decided to get a water reservoir. I didn't really need one, as I'm pretty used to just filling up water bottles and carrying those in my pack. But once we got going on a lot of the longer hikes, stopping and starting to get bottles out of my pack because there aren;t any outside water pockets was getting annoying and slowing me down. Also, peer pressure, since everyone else on the CureSearch St. Louis team had some sort of hydration pack they used. The daypack I was already using had water reservoir capabilities already, so instead of spending a lot of money on a new fancy Camelback (which I would like one day, admittedly), I got a $10 Clyclone Hydro Reservoir from Walmart that cost $10. I really wanted a 3 liter, but they didn't have one in the store and I didn't have the time to risk ordering something online. The differences in price between the Walmart 2 liter and the REI 3 liters were so huge, that I figured if the Clyclone Hydro Reservoir fell apart and died on me, and least it had made it through the 30 mile hike and I would only be out $10. It worked out great, though. It was simple enough to attach the hose to and fit well into my daypack. The nozzle and pack didn't leak or break on me, held up well in the refrigerator, and kept me nice and hyrdated  on the 30 mile hike (and a few of the previous practice hikes, like the Berryman). The only issue was that it wasn't super easy to fill on my own (maybe none of them are) and I felt like the tube was just a TAD too long and cumbersome... I wish it had been a bit shorter. Other than that though, I was really glad I got it.

I also got a headlamp I found clearance at REI, the Black Diamond Moxie headlamp. I needed a headlamp because my group left the trailhead for the 30 mile hike at 4:15am, so the first 7 or 8 miles maybe were in darkness. I'd never done a night-hike before, and was really nervous. This headlamp which worked great expect that it is SUPER hard to open to get batteries in... seriously, I jacked up my thumb trying to open it and for awhile was afraid I wouldn't get it open before I left for Indiana. Luckily a hiking buddy managed to open it easily, so maybe it is just me. The light was bright enough for me to find the trail markers in the pitch darkness of the woods, was comfortable, and light. I didn't use any of the other features (the dimmer or strobe), but it was nice to know they were there. I even LED the group for awhile in the dark, and felt sercure knowing that my headlamp was the one finding the path and trail markers for those behind me!

I also made sure to make use of the trick of changing socks as often as possible. I started out with a thinner pair of hiking socks, then  changed socks at mile 10 and mile 20, ending with the thickest pair of socks I have.  It worked WONDERS. I know taking off your boots is not always recommended because your feet are swollen and hurting and it takes a lot to get them back on, but starting back on the trail with a fresh pair of socks feels AMAZING. I'm not sure exactly what brand of socks all of them are, but one of them is probably Wigwam and another is the REI brand of merino wool socks (the third I bought elsewhere and don't remember, and nobody wants pictures of my dirty socks so I'll leave them out).

I also used one Leki hiking pole that was given to me by a friend (the second pole was having trouble locking, so I left it at home). Because I couldn't figure out how to make it collapse all the way (I'm not sure it did), I left the hiking pole for myself at the last aid station to help me through the last 7 miles to the finish line. It was great.

On a slightly unrelated note, I've been reading too. I don't know if it was to gear myself up for the 30 mile hike, or to tell myself I could do it, or just because I'm still obsessed with the idea of doing the Appalachian Trail and other long-distance hikes one day in the future.

The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind -- and Almost Found Myself -- on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Dan White

Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
by Jennifer Pharr Davis

Currently reading:
Zero Days: The Real Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nellie Bly, and 10-Year Old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Barbara Egbert

Sleepy update

I've been meaning to write many entries here, but between hiking, work, and my Grandfather's passing this week, it always manages to slip away. Here's an idea of what's going on:

-Hiked about 15.5 miles at Castlewood
-Hiked 5.3 miles at Lewis & Clark with my Dad.
-Hiked about 18-20 miles at Green Rock Trail and others

Today I hiked 24-27 miles ( depending if you're going by the trail sign or someone's GPS) at Berryman trail body is full of aches. Bedtime, updates later.

14 1/2 miles -- my personal best!

This past weekend I hiked more than I ever had in one day... 14 1/2 miles! While this is still a far cry from the the 30 miles in one day I'll be expected to pound out in October, I still feel this to be a huge accomplishment on the personal level! I was hurting a bit by the end, but we had been keeping up a pretty intense pace the entire time (it was getting to be late afternoon and I was afraid of getting caught in the dark without a head lamp!). Now granted, only 11 miles of that was on a hiking trail, the other 3.7 were at Creve Coeur Lake, but I still count it all!

The day started out at the CureSearch for Children's Cancer Walk, which took place at Creve Coeur Lake. We joined people who had been fundraising for the walk, met some real heroes, and remembered the children lost to pediatric cancer. We then walked the 3.7 mile trail around the lake and took a break for bananas and Gus' Pretzels.

My painted tattoo, ready to hike the day away.

Some of the Ultimate Hike team.

Families, cancer survivors, friends, and supporters all walking for the cure.

A beautiful shaded section of the Creve Coeur Lake trail.

This section always makes me think of one of those "when the people are gone" scenes.

After the walk, a few of the group headed over to Lost Valley Trail between the Weldon Springs/Defiance area. The trail is only marked at about 10 miles, but two of the people on the hike had a GPS that marked it as 11. This is a beautiful hike. There are lots of bikes, but they aren't a huge problem.  The one main issues I had with this trail was that the sound of gunshots pervaded the hike for the entire first six miles of the hike. Six miles of echoing shots through the hills. Not only are we nearby a police training facility, but also a shooting range... and it was really distracting. Also there is a LOT of gravel and rocky areas that were really rough on my feet.

I love the trees lining the path here (plus the wideness helps with bikes)

I was so grateful for a dirt path after tons of gravel and rocks!
I've done Lost Valley before (and took much better pictures) in April 2010, February 2012, and July 2012. I don't think I've ever done one trail three times in one year! Not to mention one that is as long as this trail. In the 2010 entry, I mention the trail as being only 9 miles... it has either been rerouted since then or the information in the book was wrong -- I don't remember it being as well marked as it is now. Either way, despite the sounds from the shooting ranges and the harsh gravel, it is a lovely hike.

I have raised $835 in my CureSearch fundraising. Consider donating and helping me towards my goal of $2,500 at my donation page!

Pickle Springs and lots of wine...


     This weekend I was supposed to help celebrate my friend Molly's birthday with an overnight float trip/camping trip, but storms due to leftover hurricane Issac hitting us in the Midwest killed those plans pretty quickly (not to mention a previous fireban because of the drought made a campfire a no-no).  But we still managed to have a pretty good time. We went down to Pickle Springs for a quick 2-mile hike despite the rain that went between drizzle, a light downpour, and non-existant, and the very sticky humidity. This all made the trail feel a bit longer than it actually was, but didn't hinder the beauty of Pickle Springs, always one of my favorites despite not being very close or long. It was especially alive in the rain, with all the springs rushing and full of water and the leaves dripping and turtles crawling over logs at every turn. Absolutely gorgeous, as usual.

    The rest of the day was spent at the Cave Winery in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. Which is, as it sounds, a place to drink lots of wine in a cave. You buy the wine at the top of a hill, along with biscotti from their biscotti bar (oh yes, this is a fact. The goat cheese and herb one is delicious), fresh baked bread, cheese, and grapes. You are also allowed to bring your own picnic basket of food, so we had quite an amazing spread to share amongst the group! I got the   Then you walk or get a ride down the hill to Saltpeter Cave, where there are picnic benches galore, live music, and cool air.  I got a pitcher of Sangria instead of wine, and it was fruity and delicious. Definitely worthwhile way to spend a long summer afternoon... even if we didn't get to camp or hike as much as we wanted.

Also, been reading The Cactus Eaters by Dan White.

Kayaking and training continued!

I had to skip this weekend's hike because I managed to get a summer cold from the kiddos at work, but I have been busy busy busy lately! But taking NO pictures... I need to start bringing my camera again!

On the less physical side, I've been reading A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard about a couple's thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I was excited to find another hiking memoir at my local library... some of those books are really hard to find!

    I am still training for the 30-mile hike fundraiser for CureSearch for Children's Cancer. You can still donate to my fundraising effort HERE: I've raised about $650 and still have a ways to go! We are working up our miles slowly. On the 18th, we went to Greensfelder where we hiked about 11 miles.  This was a gorgeous little place I'd never been to before. Parts of it were very rocky and a little dangerous for a clumsy ankle-twisting person like me, but I survived. There were parts of the trails we were on that were absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Some more trafficked than others, with bike riders (as usual), but other parts of the trail felt very isolated and peaceful.

I can't remember exactly which trails we did, but I think we did the Dogwood, and maybe parts of the Declue and/or Green Rock trails.  For the first 7 or 8 miles, I really booked it keeping up with the hiking group. It's not my favorite way to hike, but I feel like it is a work-out and as much as I hate to admit it, that's part of what I need to do. But the last trail we did I fell back and walked the trail more at my own pace. I was able to walk in peace and silence and enjoy the surroundings. It allowed me to clear my mind and take a deep breath and think about what I'm doing and why. I absolutely love hiking for a cause that is important to me, and I love meeting new people who share my passion. The people doing the hike are interesting, fun people that I'm really glad I met! Sometimes I just need to remember to slow down and that I'm not in a race.

Sunday of last week, I also had a new experience of kayaking for the very first time! Aside from getting incredibly lost of the way there, it was an amazing and insanely challenging experience for me! We did about 7-9 miles on the Illinois River, starting out near Pere Marquette State Park. The wind was headlong most of the way, the current strong and felt like it was pulling me in the opposite direction I needed to go, and I spent most of my time trying to go in a straight line. I got blisters on both my thumbs, my arms and shoulders were screaming by the end of the trip.... but it was BEAUTIFUL.  Not to mention I felt really proud of myself once I finished. It was interesting to try something new and really challenge myself in territory I don't feel 100% comfortable with. The scenery was gorgeous, the breeze on the water invigorating, and my muscles were screaming for mercy. :)

Summer Trainings

So!!! I've actually been busy lately!

    The first change in my life is that my roommate got a dog. This will  be my first time living with a large pet EVER. I'm allergic to cats, and we never had dogs growing up, so this is indeed a huge change for me!

Her name is Tonks and she is a BUSY, active lady. And while I may be adjusting to life with a dog in general, something I do really enjoy is our walks together, especially our long evening walks after the heat of the day goes down.  Whether we walk for a half hour or more, it's good exercise, is getting me acquainted with my neighborhood, and gives me a lot of peace of mind time.  It is also making sure that I am getting out of the house and moving a little this summer!

Another thing keeping me moving is my fundraising hike for CureSearch:
Please consider donating to this cause! I've pledged to raise $2,500!

This has been a bit of a challenge for me too! Not only am I doing some summer hiking, which this year has been pretty atrocious, I am also getting used to hiking in a group!   There is a wonderful group of people doing the St. Louis chapter of this fundraising hike, and we've been training together for a couple weeks now. I find hiking in a group difficult... I love hiking on my own, and have rarely hiked with more than one or two other people at a time. But these people are great and there's a really good feeling to the team effort of training together, pushing each other, and knowing that we're all going through the same thing!

We've started out pretty slow, but did some walking and hiking at Tower Grove Park, Creve Coeur Lake, West Tyson County Park, and tomorrow we'll hike at Castlewood. We are slowly working our way up in mileage and difficulty, and should do a few 20 miles hikes before tackling the big one!!!

West Tyson park was new for me... we did part of the Chubb Trail and part of the Flint Quarry Trail, combining for about 7 miles. While I've done more than 7 miles before, this was a TOUGH tough hike!!!! It started out in a light-moderate drizzle, but that was actually the best weather the whole time! It was so muggy and hot that I don't think I've ever sweat so much in my entire life. I was EXHAUSTED, physically and mentally by the end. I seriously went home, showered, devoured food, and passed out on the couch. The trail was gorgeous with lots of ups and downs and changes in difficulty, which made it both great and super challenging in the mugginess.  The trails were marked well enough when they crossed, but I only saw mile markers on the Flint Quarry Trail, not the Chubb. The rain over the past two days had made the trail incredibly, incredibly muddy and slick, which added to the challenge of the overall hike.

The "Ultimate Hike" towards children's cancer research

So I've decided to challenge myself, in two different ways.

I will be taking part in this year's Ultimate Hike for the Cure.  It is an opportunity to raise a minimum of $2,500 towards children's cancer research while pledging to hike 30 miles in one day. The nearest area hike will be taking place on the Tecumseh Trail in Indiana. I will be attempting to raise $2,500 from now until about mid-November, though the actual hike takes place in early October. I hope you will take a moment to look at the cause (check out the Ultimate Hike website  and the Curesearch website for more information about the foundations and fundraisers).

I will be running my fundraising page HERE if you wish to make a donation online. If you can't make a donation, please consider passing on the cause on your own blog.  I am so excited to challenge myself to make this 30 mile hike, and the completely different challenge to raise this much money for a cause.  Thank you!

Again, my online Ultimate Hike fundraising page for children's cancer research is HERE.

Took a hike on June 3rd, my father's birthday. We did the 8.3 miles at Lewis and Clark. Which apparently I have done more than any other trail.  Other than that, I haven't hiked since Israel. It makes me sad and I feel the difference in both my body and mind.  I can't wait to get back out there again.  St. Louis is suffering through weather in the 100s (it hit 108 this past week) and it is putting a damper on pretty much any outdoor plans.

Taking my break from my usual single-minded reading of Appalachian Trail memoirs, I am instead reading this:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed, about a woman's solo trip on the PCT (the author's website [and photocredit] is HERE ). Though I've usually been focused on the AT, I've heard quite a bit about the PCT as well (a married couple I saw give a talk at REI had hiked both and showed pictures and stories of their experiences on both trails) and it has caught my interest quite a bit. It looks beautiful and challenging in ways that are both similar and completely different from the Appalachian Trail. One day maybe I'll hike BOTH. I wish sometimes I could just walk away from my life here for just awhile and immerse myself in a thru-hike. Hopefully one day I'll see what life brings.

Laziness and Lectures

So clearly I have not hiked or updated since my return from Israel (which was still amazingly mind blowing it is hard to realize I was there only a month ago). Returning to real life is always a hard reality. Teaching, parent-teacher conferences, paperwork (times a million), class, writing my final paper, moving to a new apartment, celebrating my 27th birthday... normal life seems to have taken over.

My allergies were pretty bad through most of April after returning, possibly because I was in Israel where my allergies were amazing and then flew back into the midst of terrible strong allergy season. They are still pretty bad,  but should be mostly gone (hopefully) by the end of May. I have so much hiking I want to do. Hiking still helps me de-stress, and I need that so very badly. Not to mention that stress makes me feel very unhealthy as I'm spending a lot of time sitting in front of the computer doing homework, not eating well, etc. Can't wait to get back out there.

On a side note, I was able to see Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (which I've read) as well as many other books which I haven't read yet (I've recently added his new book The Nature Principle: Reconnection with Nature in a Virtual Age to my reading list). He was speaking here in St. Louis thanks to the LUME Institute and other sponsers, and listening to him talk was fascinating. He had a lot of advice on what the educational world can do to bring children back to a sense of wonder with nature, as well as reminding us that children can learn math, science, social, and other developmental skills in nature as they could in a classroom. Very worth getting to see, a great opportunity. Made me really excited to start a nature group with families in my own class and bring my love of hiking and the outdoors to my students.

March 26th: Banias Falls Nature Walk

I did not post about my days in Jerusalem because despite the fact that we did a TON of walking all over, there wasn't really any hiking to speak of. In case you are curioius, though, here is what our days looked like in between. These are only SOME of the things we did in Jerusalem:
Friday, Mar 23 – Jerusalem
Haas Promenade – Panoramic view of Jerusalem

Welcome & ice breakers with Israeli peers
Jewish Quarter – Old City walking tour

The Kotel – Reflections at the Western Wall
Machane Yehuda – Colorful Jerusalem marketplace

Saturday, Mar 24 – Jerusalem
Group activity & Walking tour
Political seminar – The Situation Today in Israel
Ben Yehuda Street – Pedestrian Shopping Center

Sunday, Mar 25 – Jerusalem & The North
Yad Vashem – Holocaust Memorial & Museum
Har Herzl – National Memorial

But after leaving Jerusalem, we drove up north to the Golan Heights and Sea of Galilee. The north of Israel is insanely gorgeous and a huge contrast to the South. It was incredible to know we had just left the Negev Desert merely days before and were now in a lush, green, rocky, mountainous part of Israel that looked completely unrelated. For a country the size of New Jersey, the amount of geographical diversity in unbelievable. I never wanted to sleep on the bus, no matter how tired I was, because of how beautiful it was.

    The Banias Falls nature walk was not at all difficult, but beautiful and the falls/rushing water was powerful and invigorating.  The wildflowers up north were in bloom all over, especially my favorite red flowers I'd been in love with since the beginning.

You started at the top and worked your way easily down into the valley, where a white-water river was raging powerfully. It was very noisy, you could hear it in your chest rumbling, and the water looked deadly as it rushed over the rocks.

Which lead to the waterfall...

This was the last hike we took. There was lots more walking, lots more city exploring and beautiful pictures, but this was the last nature-based activity we had and I was truly sad about that. I could have done three times the amount of hiking we did on this trip... not that I would have said that in the beginning after those first two or three days. But by this time, I would have done a repeat desert hike in a second. However, I also appreciated the other days where I saw some beautiful cities and learned a lot. 

I may post more about Israel, but these were the main hiking events during my ten day trip, and I thought it was worth sharing.

March 22nd: Sunrise Masada Hike and Nahal David Waterfall

Wake up for March 22nd was at 3:45am. And keep in mind this was the day AFTER the 8 mile hike in the Negev Desert. By 4:30 we were on the bus and heading to Masada, not far away from Ein Gedi Field School Hostel where we had spent the night. It was still mostly dark when we arrived and started ascending Masada from the base using the Snake Path (the two other options being the easier Roman Ramp or a gondola ride to the top). Let me just say this is no easy feat. Once again, my self-image as somewhat in shape was challenged as I huffed and puffed and rested my way to the top. But the views were so beautiful in the pre-dawn light that it made it worth it.

 I don't know exactly how long it took me, but I didn't quite make it all the way to the top for the sunrise... but I was only one flight of stairs down from the top when I watched the sun come up over the Jordanian Mountains and the Dead Sea below. It was truly an amazing sight. And I still had time to get up the last flight to enjoy the sun climb over the ruins at the top. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, and for not the first or last time when in Israel, amazed that I was even there and that this was even happening.

Masada was gorgeous, of course. Hike to the top and then lots of history lessons, which doesn't really count as hiking, but hey... the scenery was legendary.

After some history and walking around on Masada, we went back DOWN the snake path and had breakfast before heading to the Nahal David Waterfall  nature walk.  Which was not much of a nature walk. While it was beautiful and there was a bit of walking, it was CROWDED like a THEME PARK.  Waiting in line just to continue walking up steps is not fun. But then again, swimming in an oasis waterfall in the desert kind of makes up for that. It was gorgeous. After swimming for only a short while, we hiked up to the main waterfall event, took pictures, and hiked back down.

 I was exhausted that day. But it ended with this:

A visit to the Dead Sea at Ein Bokek Beach, and a night out on the town in Jerusalem (after a long bus ride on which I mostly slept) with the group.