Introducing the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation, a missing hiker resource

It’s a fact, hikers go missing. Most for a few hours, some overnight, others longer and then there are those who remain missing for far too long.

Having been involved with a few incidents I’ve learned getting the process started can be frustrating. First, when do you contact authorities? Second, who do you contact? Third, how do you get the word out and coordinate the search? There are a ton of details. It becomes overwhelming quickly.

As hikers, we can help by leaving crumbs to expedite the search. I wrote this post a few years ago specifically to help Search and Rescue (SAR): Dear Friends & Family, If I become a Missing Person . . . I was motivated after Sherpa (Kris) went missing on the PCT. The search was delayed unnecessarily which may have contributed to the fact that he is still missing. His stepmom, Sally, has been a warrior in the process and continues to advocate and mentor. 

I’m excited to join Sally in announcing the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation

Mission Statement: With safety and compassion as our core principles, the Fowler O’Sullivan Foundation provides assistance to families of missing hikers, connects them to vetted resources, facilitates searches on their behalf once official efforts have been suspended, and supports initiatives to prevent future missing hiker cases.

You can participate in several ways.

  1. If you are an Amazon Prime member, make your purchases through Amazon Smile (link) and select Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation as your charitable organization. It doesn’t cost you anything. It’s a WIN WIN! 
  2. Make a tax-deductible donation (link). Your donation will help our continued search efforts of missing hikers or those missing in the wilderness and help fund our preventative projects geared towards hiker safety. 
  3. Volunteer (link). Are you interested in joining our team? Do you have search or investigation skills? Are you interested in image viewing, mapping, research, communications, fund raising, base camp, ground search or other SAR related skills? Training available.

This was Sally’s introductory message:

When Kris first went missing, We didn’t know what to do. Who to call. What to expect or what we were up against. It was the kindness of a stranger, who had been through the same thing, and reached out to me with some advice, that helped us take the next steps. Since then, paying it forward to other families that are suddenly in that same position has been so important to me. Thanks to some amazing selfless people that have been involved with searching for Kris and for David O’Sullivan, our families will be able to pay it forward in honor of our sons for many years to come.

It is my honor and privilege to announce a new and amazing Non Profit foundation that has been created in honor of Kris and David and all missing hikers. The Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation has been created to help families of missing hikers navigate through the very difficult process of searching for a loved one. It will provide suggested steps to take from day one and if needed, also offer help, guidance and coordinate search efforts, after the official SAR efforts have ended. The Foundation will also focus on safety and prevention. There are many amazing Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) initiatives in the works already! In honor of Kris and David, they will also be giving away at least 2 InReach GPS devices to PCT hikers in 2021 and hopefully for years to come.

The Foundation is also excited to be a part of the Amazon Smile program, where you can simply click on this link and sign up and .5% of all eligible Amazon purchases will be donated to the Foundation.  I signed up recently and it was very easy to do! (Link)

Thank you to Cathy Tarr for getting this amazing, life changing NP organization off of the ground! It is NOT an easy task and she and her amazing board members have been working countless hours on this for over a year now. Please click on the link to the Foundation to learn more about what they plan to do to help other families like mine. There is a menu bar on the top right that will take you through the different segments of the Foundation as well as introduce the wonderful people responsible for making this happen.

I have always said the silver lining to losing Kris, are the changes for the good that have happened and the amazing people in this group, and now we will be able to pay it forward to others in a professional and comforting way. I am so very grateful and I know Kris is beyond proud to be honored this way. 💕
Thanksgiving started early…..the perfect time to make this launch!

http://www.fofound.org

One last thing, since we are in the season of being thankful and giving, consider a donation and/or volunteering with your local Search and Rescue organization. I consider this a given if you carry an emergency transponder. Don’t wait until you need it to contribute to those who might need to help you.

2020 – A Summer of Surprises

Spring was filled with much confusion. I was in Northeast Arizona when the COVID-19 restrictions began. Traveling wasn’t fun. I felt ostracized and unwelcome. Once I realized this wasn’t going to be a short-term problem, I scurried home and spent spring recreating locally while struggling to process this current reality. I wrote a lot. It will be a good reminder of this time in my life.

My county officially declared itself ready to move to Stage 2 pandemic reopening on May 6th. In celebration I ran away and visited a waterfall.

With temperatures climbing to the low 90’s, I took my #stimuluscheck inflatable SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) for it’s maiden voyage on Trinity Lake.

Little did I know how the SUP would help me set new challenges. Why not try to paddle around the perimeter of Whiskeytown Lake? GAIA proved to be a helpful tool, working as well on water as on land.

Living near this lake for several decades I’ve spent plenty of time along it’s shores and hiking the trails but this was my first summer ON the water. I learned about the old highway that runs under the lake and is still visible (the shadow line on the right). How is it possible for pavement to remain intact under water for decades?

While in general the joy of hiking wasn’t present during my paddles, I found satisfaction swimming, watching fish, frogs and birds, discovering the creek inflow channels, and imagining camping on one of the little islands.

Spending the last six summers in the mountain states, I’d forgotten how hot it gets in Redding starting in June; my melting point is around 80F. It was easy to start questioning my decision to stay local. Several times I considered running away.

I’ve become quite heat intolerant so I found swimming and paddling to be better options than hiking and biking. I spent time in cooler climates like this paddle at Castle Lake.

Life on the road gave me the opportunity to run from weather or fires and smoke. Staying home, meant daily checks of the air quality starting mid July. This was my last day of paddling. Soon enough instead of buying backpacking gear I was buying an air purifier and dragging out my N95 masks, for smoke rather than COVID-19.

But with smoke comes beautiful sunsets.

Rewind to May. I found the bike a better option than walking the nearby paved trails. I was thankful as the community reopened, the crowds mostly disappeared.

I also enjoyed blooms in my yard, watched over by my friend and namesake, BeeKeeper aka Queen Bee.

And then it was finally time! My local forests sort of invited participation with this statement, “We ask the public to please recreate responsibly. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing, etc., or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided.” Maybe a little selfish, hiking and backpacking in my local wilderness areas was a decision I didn’t take lightly, but one imperative to my personal well being. Trails were open, and with careful planning I selected options with few cars at the trailheads and rarely a human sighting while on trail. I didn’t stop anywhere along the way, no restrooms, no gas, no food or drink. I’d return home to resupply, do laundry and grab gas before hitting the repeat button.

Looking at this list makes me realize I didn’t have a wasted summer. It wasn’t anywhere near the #epic summer I had planned, but at least I got out. The biggest regret I have is giving up a month of opportunity. I suffered from the heat and was miserable during my early July jaunt on the PCT in the Russian Wilderness. I decided I needed to wait until fall. In retrospect I realize what I should have done was find places where I could lounge around lakes during the heat of the day. It’s not my style, but then again neither is staying home feeling sorry for myself. Once again, maybe I should have run away?

By mid August fire season was in full swing.

Air quality sucked. I was stuck inside left to wonder whether my fall hiking plans would be only a dream.

FINALLY, the week before Labor Day weekend, we had a weather change and were gifted a break from the heat and smoke. So off I went to find my happy spot, and yes more swimming. Did I say this was my summer of swimming?

And just as I was ramping up for some fall fun, my body decided otherwise. Little did I know this would mark the end of my 2020 season.

I spent September learning a lot about knee anatomy, followed by knee surgery in early October. For six weeks, it’s crutches and 8 hours a day in a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine, so basically 24×7 in bed. Oh fun!

With the mild temperatures I’ve been able to enjoy outside Vitamin D breaks. The sun is a huge mood booster. It looks like fall is due to arrive by the end of the week.

I took advantage of my downtime while I was cooped up inside, hiding from heat or smoke, to write my series on a decade of lessons learned.

I also worked on a few DIY projects.

Lastly I’ve been busy contributing to other communities, including my interview with Jester (link).

In Susan Alcorn’s recently released book, I’m one of the women interviewed and hear I have a dedicated chapter (I’m still waiting for my complimentary copy to arrive). It’s a little nerve wracking not knowing how content will be used and edited, especially in a project like this one. “In Walk, Hike, Saunter, long-distance hiker Susan Alcorn introduces you to 32 experienced outdoors women who consider hiking to be an essential part of their live. The common theme of Walk, Hike, Saunter is that there are many paths to incorporating hiking into your life. Whether hiking is one of many things that you enjoy doing, or whether you find hiking such an passion that you don’t mind living out of your car in order to pursue it–you can reap the rewards of exploring the world on foot. The women, all 45 and older and in the prime of their lives, are all superstars–shining examples of the richness that hiking can bring to our lives.” The book is currently available in paperback but at some point in the future will be an e-book as well (Amazon link).

I’m also happy to be contributing to the PCT Foundation Document (link). It’s a very interesting project. You can learn more and add your two cents if interested.

My blog will probably be fairly quiet for the next few months as I go through rehab. I’ll be spending a lot of time in my home gym, although I’ll be dreaming of being elsewhere. January will be my 3-month post surgery mark and April 6 months. I’ve been forewarned that patience is the key to achieving the desired outcome, which to me means full function of my knee.

My goal is to keep smiling, stay optimistic, work on creating photo journals from my blog, do lots of rehab and be ready for some #epic adventures in 2021!

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site. 

Links:

More Miscellaneous Jabberings

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Eats Drinks and More


Lessons Learned:

  1. I prefer simple and don’t mind repetitive.
  2. Food is fuel; fuel is power.
  3. Try before you carry.
  4. Quantity, quality and quickness matter.
  5. Homemade is best.
  6. It’s an evolving process.
  7. Repackage for weight savings and portion control.

What I take depends a bit on whether I’m prepping from home or on the road, whether I’ll be out for a few days or multiple weeks, and whether I’ll be mailing food in a resupply box.  Basically I’m lazy but I prefer homemade meals and I’m budget conscious. I don’t cook, instead I use boiling water to rehydrate. Figuring out how much food and drink is part science part art. It’s a formula each person needs to figure out for themselves. The biggest challenge is adjusting your personal formula for conditions and situations such as:

  • Day 1 vs 5 vs 21 (hiker hunger kicks in around week 3)
  • Base elevation
  • Temperature
  • Calories burned

Breakfast:

A few times a year, I’ll make huge batches of muesli. I’ve started using Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli as the base, then add flax, chia, brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon, nuts, etc. I fill snack size ziplocks using a wide mouth funnel. In camp I pour into a 16-oz Ziploc Twist N Loc Container, add hot coffee and let it sit 5-10 minutes. Yes, I said coffee. I use the Starbucks VIA packets and add one to full pot of water boiled in my Jetboil. It’s my two-in-one prep. I can drink hot coffee while waiting for my cereal to hydrate.

Lunch:

I tend to favor wraps. Most often I’ll bring hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks or extra sharp cheddar and tortillas. I usually throw in a bag of spinach or slaw and maybe an avocado or hummus/avocado spread. It’s convenient that these come in single serve containers now. They say refrigerate but I’ve traveled with them in my pack for several days without issue (except in extreme heat).

Dinner:

Keeping it simple I have a few items I rotate between with all repackaged in snack size ziplock bags. The requirement is calorie dense, tasty and suitable for quick rehydration with boiling water.

  • Mixed grains, beans and greens – I usually make and dehydrate a huge batch with rotating spices.
  • Idahoan potatoes – I prefer the 4 cheese variety and usually buy the family size.
  • Rice noodles with pasta sauce – This is my favorite meal. I make my own sauce and bring a cube of Lotus rice ramen which I crunch up and add to the dry sauce and then rehydrate together.
  • Other meals – I like to dehydrate what I normally eat at home. This might includes some of the following:
    • Turkey, barley, vegetable soup
    • Beef stew with potatoes and carrots
    • Teriyaki turkey, rice and veges
  • Knorrs rice sides are a reliable option. If I don’t have time to prepare meals in advance this is a regular in my rotation.

I’ve had terrible luck rehydrating pasta so as much as I like macaroni and cheese or other noodle-based dishes, they stay home. There are plenty of other options such as rice, quinoa, barley, couscous, and ramen.

Snacks:

Hard boiled eggs are my favorite. You can now buy them in 2 packs at most grocery and convenience stores.

For other protein options I usually brings nuts and might bring jerky or peanut butter. I prefer salty to sweet snacks.

I’ve tried lots of bars and have found I don’t like protein bars. I try to buy my favorites by the box when they are on sale so I always have them conveniently available. My current favorites are:

  • Nature Valley Almond Butter Biscuits
  • Nature Valley Crunch Oats n Dark Chocolate
  • Nature Bakery Fig Bar
  • Luna Bars (Lemon, Blueberry and Peppermint)

Drinks:

I don’t like sweetener in my water and will only go that route for really bad tasting water. I tried several options while on the Arizona Trail and found I preferred cold vanilla coffee, grape or orange flavoring, and recently discovered Cusa powdered teas. I suffer in the heat and have found Himalayan Pink Salt Crystals preferable to electrolyte tablets or drink additives.

How much water? That’s a challenging question and one I discuss further in my post “water, water, water.”

Related Posts:

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Water, Water, Water


Lessons Learned:

  1. Water is heavy
  2. Invest in your formula
  3. Don’t carry what you’re not going to drink
  4. Cow slobber/sh*t water needs flavoring
  5. Trial and error is required to find your vessel and treatment solutions

How Much to Carry?

At 2.2 pounds per liter, water is one of the heaviest items in your pack. So rather than arbitrarily starting a trip with 3-4 liters, I’ve learned it’s better to research available water sources. I’d much rather stop every few miles and replenish my water supply than carry the extra weight.

Figuring out how much to carry is based on a formula adjusted for conditions.  It takes time to build your own formula.

I drink more when I’m:

  • hot
  • ascending
  • at altitude
  • snowshoeing

When I started backpacking, I would track how much water I was carrying and how much I had left when I got to a water source. Then I could calculate how much I was drinking per mile and per hour based on conditions. The goal was to get to a reliable water source with none or very little in my pack.

This gets trickier in unreliable water areas and since I worry about dehydration I tend to carry extra as insurance.

Unless you camp near water, you also need to calculate how much water is needed for dinner, breakfast as well as hiking to camp and to the next water source. In general 3 liters is my magic number.

How to Carry?

I’ve found through trial and error that I like soft water bottles like Evernew. I have one marked for dirty water. The 1500ml size is my preference. I sometimes also carry a 600ml plastic bottle for when I want to add flavorings to my water. I’ll be testing CNOC 2L Vecto bags over the upcoming months.

I started with a bladder in my pack but discontinued because I didn’t like

  • worrying a about a leak
  • not knowing when I needed to refill
  • taking apart my pack to refill

I’ve tried a variety of bottles and while they work for some people they never found a permanent place in my pack.

Capacity is a consideration. I prefer smaller 1.5 liter storage containers to 3 liter because they fit my hands better and I feel like I have more flexibility when it comes to how many to fill. However, I switch to 3 liter in the desert where I have to carry larger quantities between sources.

Remember water is heavy, so figuring out where to carry that weight in your pack is an important consideration.

How to Treat?

Like most other things in backpacking I’ve tried several different systems. I currently use the Sawyer Squeeze filter although I prefer using the water treatment tablets such as Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets. I will be testing the Katadyn BeFree filter over the upcoming months.

Prefilter/Scoop:

Filter:

  • I squeeze from my “dirty” Evernew bottle into a clean bottle (I use a black hair tie around top to flag as dirty).
  • It’s time consuming.
  • I’d prefer using inline so I can scoop and go but the current Squeeze version doesn’t work.
  • I really hate protecting the Sawyer Squeeze from freezing and have had to replace a couple times when I’ve forgotten (sadly the BeFree has the same issue).

Chemical:

  • Carrying water for 20-40 minutes without being able to drink is not very weight efficient
  • I like drinking at a water source (cameling up) so I can be hydrated without carrying extra weight but with chemical treatment it’s not an option.
  • I’m lazy and sometimes compromise especially in cooler temperatures.
  • I prefer Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets over Aquamira liquid drops.

Flavoring and Additives:

  • Although I prefer unflavored water, I’ve had to in nasty situations especially in cattle country.
  • There are a lot of options but my favorites remains cold coffee or Orange/Grape Crush.
  • Electrolytes are important when sweating and drinking a lot. There are plenty of options but I’ve found I prefer to eat pink Himalayan salt rather than having flavored water.

How to Drink?

I prefer drinking from a hydration hose as I’m hiking. I can’t reach bottles easily and don’t like to stop to drink. I got the Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System to use with my Evernew bottles (ebay is best reseller). Many attach their Sawyer directly to a bottle and squeeze as they go. This can be an efficient system.

How to Clean?

When I get to town, it’s time to refresh my water systems. My preference is to use a little bleach in my water bottles, drinking hose, etc. If I’m on a long-distance hike without access to bleach I use denture tablets. Backflushing the Sawyer Squeeze takes a bit more effort than simply using the provided syringe or another system. I’ve had the most success following Sawyer’s advice of soaking it in a very vinegar hot water solution before banging the sides and flushing. I’m hoping for easier maintenance with the BeFree system. I know it won’t last as long at an estimated 250 gallons versus 100,000 gallons with the Squeeze. I average 1-1.5 gallons a day when backpacking and usually backpack at least 60 days per year so that means around 100 gallons per year. At less than $20, I consider it reasonable to replace my filter every year or two.

When and How to Cross?

Water crossings are an accident waiting to happen. I’ve had several minor injuries trying to keep my feet dry. Logs and rocks can be tippy and slippery. Vertigo is common when looking at rushing water. If I have a choice I’ll typically walk through (ford) rather than worry about injury. In swift water, I carefully evaluate crossing options. I honor the saying, “turnaround don’t drown” when I can’t find a safe crossing. Camping and waiting until morning is an option during snowmelt.

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Navigation and Planning


Lessons Learned:

  1. All miles are not equal.
  2. I’d rather hike than plan.
  3. Flexibility and back-up options are good plans.
  4. Learning to read maps is a valuable skill.
  5. Navigation skills are gained through experience.
  6. Being lost or disoriented is frightening.

Planning:

  • I remember being a planner. I enjoyed the process but somewhere along the line it became more of a burden and I learned to be prepared but not to worry about the details. This philosophy works better when:
    • I’m hiking solo and don’t have to provide expectations or details to others
    • My time is flexible and I can enjoy the journey rather than worry about being driven by time and location
  • These days planning for me includes:
    • Usually having a paper map.
    • Downloading digital maps for offline use.
    • Photographing pages from my trail books or taking screen shots from web pages or saving web information to an offline app such as Pocket.
    • Obtaining permits and getting updated trail/road conditions information from ranger stations and visitor centers.
    • How many days of food do I want to carry?
    • Where’s my first water source?
    • How do I get to the trailhead?
  • Many hikers like to plan for each night’s campsite with daily mileage goals. With limited vacation, many have to get permits 6 months to a year in advance. The process becomes more complicated the more people in a group. This process leads many to what I call analysis paralysis whereby worry or detailed thinking takes priority over actually doing.

Mileage:

Predicting daily mileage is a huge challenge since a trail is rarely consistent. These factors slow me down:

    • Heat
    • Technical terrain
    • Trail obstacles
    • Sustained elevation gain
    • Routes requiring navigation skills
    • Carrying too much weight (usually water or seasonal extras)
    • Being out of shape

I track most of my hikes using a phone app. I’ve done this for many years and one of the best tools is daily mileage per hour versus active miles per hour. The daily average takes into account breaks, for me that means a lot of photo and breathing stops. I also pay attention to elevation gain and loss since those affect my average and also are a telltale sign of my current fitness level.

Navigational Skills:

  • Map Reading – I love maps, so learning to decipher the details has been fairly easy although there are still a few things that give me pause. There are plenty of resources to help you gain map and compass skills but practice and curiosity have been my keys.
  • Digital Maps and Tracking – Using the tracking feature on digital maps has improved my skills and confidence in areas such as these:
    • I can compare where I think I am intuitively to where I am in reality.
    • When a trail disappears on the ground, I can verify that I’m nearby and heading in the correct direction.
    • When there isn’t a trail, I can verify I’m heading toward my trajectory and can adjust based on topographical lines.
    • I like to mark my track with waypoints that might be useful on future trips or during my exit such as water sources and campsites. I’ll indicate whether the water source is seasonal or is a wet feet crossing.

I currently use Gaia as my primary digital mapping app and pay for premium membership which includes helpful layers such as National Geographic, National Parks, USFS, snow levels, fire history, geology, etc. You can find great tutorials on YouTube and the Gaia blog. I also use Avenza and wrote this blog post with helpful tips, Hiking with Geospatial PDF Maps (Avenza).

I don’t have an internal compass or landscape memory. I work really hard at “staying found” as they say when teaching map and compass classes. I know I’d struggle if I couldn’t depend on my phone but I’m very aware of that possibility and try to take precautions. Obviously I could drop and break it, lose it, or run out of battery (although I carry an external battery to minimize this risk).

Itinerary and Safety:

I’m the first to admit that I’m not very responsible when it comes to leaving a detailed itinerary with friends and family. Of course this directly relates to my lack of planning, and even more so to my disdain to commitment. My way of staying responsible and accountable is a little different than many but works for me.

  1. I have a network of friends/family who I text my loose itinerary which basically says the trailhead from which I plan to start, how many days of food I’m carrying, and my exit date ETA.
  2. I’m faithful about using my inReach for check-ins. I send a message at the beginning and end of my trip indicating the location of my car, every evening and morning from my campsite, and each time I change trail or find myself crossing sketchy terrain including uncomfortable water crossings. I can also text any major change of plans.

I wrote this blog post after working with SAR teams on rescues where they lost significant search time not having this information, Dear Friends & Family, If I become a Missing Person . . .

Links:

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Solo, Partner or Group


Lessons Learned:

  1. Finding available and compatible partners is challenging.
  2. Being in the right place at the right time opens opportunities.
  3. There are pros and cons to each option.

Groups:

As is common, I started my backpacking career by joining an adventure group where more experienced folks would host outings. It’s a great way to meet people, learn about trails and gear. These trips created some great memories with lots of laughter and fun. Naturally, subgroups were formed based on compatibility and personality. I’ve also taken advantage of permit opportunities by joining up with a group when invited.

  • Positives:
    • Introduction to trails and gear
    • Mentorship by the more experienced
    • Safety in numbers
    • Shared gear and knowledge
    • Assistance available
    • Unlimited conversation
  • Challenges:
    • Group think and decisions can be sluggish
    • Conflict is common between the slowest and fastest hikers, the bossy and the timid, etc.
    • Sticking to a planned itinerary is more important
    • Campsite choice is more limited
    • Breaks and chores seem to be more lengthy
    • Less likelihood to see wildlife and to experience silence

My worst experience was with a guy who did a great job planning and communicating our group trip. We met several times in advance to talk about the itinerary, gear and logistics. However, on our first day as we carpooled to our destination, the plan was already falling apart. The next day, was even worse as the planned miles became a march for more and more which was a problem for at least one participant. This person was shy and wasn’t able to say this isn’t working instead she trudged on getting hurt and being miserable as a result. Another member was really upset as he’d scheduled time off work and now the leader was pushing to end the trip early. All in all it was poor communication and revised itineraries that weren’t in the best interest of the group.

Partner(s):

If you are dependent on group outings, you may find yourself limited on number of trips per year. Are you available when those trips are scheduled? Do you want to go where they are going? Finding one, two or three friends or adventure buddies might be easier.

Is two the right number? If you have a compatible partner, it might be perfect. It takes time to find that partner and they might not be the perfect one in all situations. It’s rare that compromises aren’t needed.

How about three or more? Sometimes having a third member of the team helps with decision making and provides additional conversation and perspectives. Much like groups, the more there are is not necessarily merrier. I consider more to mean more complicated.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about this very issue (Partnership Commitments, Compatibilities & Compromises). You might find it a useful tool although I’ve learned some people don’t necessarily have enough self-awareness or experience to answer the questions honestly. Perception vs reality may be quite different, or might be biased in favor of an opportunity no matter what.

Some of my best memories are with companions. If you’ve followed me on my jaunts, you know that my Team J&J (Jan and Joan) adventures have been epic. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Joan has supported me and I her. We bring to our team unique skills and perspectives, where one may be weaker the other stronger. We’ve tested our friendship and compatibility by working together to overcome challenges. I’ve shared more miles with Joan than any other companion and look forward to many more J&J jaunts.

Solo:

This is the ultimate freedom. Pick your time, date, location. It’s easier to get permits and to find campsites. All decisions are yours and yours alone. But there are some negatives:

  1. Fun – Having the right partner or group can make the adventure more fun. I love being silly, laughing and giggling, singing and dancing. Those elements are missing when I’m solo.
  2. Sharing – I enjoy sharing moments and miss not being able to do that in the moment. Sure I can take photos and share on my blog later but it’s not the same as witnessing something special together.
  3. Decision Making – I might be more conservative when solo, or at least more cautious. The consequences for a mistake are bigger.
  4. Assistance – Having a friend who can help with obstacles is a huge advantage. I have to work harder getting over and around things solo. I also might turn around if it’s something I worry about not being able to get back up or down. If I were to get hurt, it’s up to me to figure out how to get out or get help.
  5. Equipment Failures – You need to be fully self supported and know how to make the best of a situation when you don’t have a friend with items to share if yours breaks such as water filter, stove or electronics.

When hiking solo, I’m more in the moment. I don’t have any distractions. I stop when I want to stop. I can take tons of photos, or sit by a stream or lake. I can go swimming or spend a day reading. I might want to hike off trail to the top of a ridge. I’m a slow hiker so it’s nice not feeling the pressure to go faster or keep up. But I cherish my partner and group times. Those are some of my best memories. I like mixing it up. I’m grateful for those who are willing to compromise on my behalf so we can hike together.

Links:

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . Bug Management


Lessons Learned:

  1. Prevention is better than consequences
  2. Pesky pests are my enemy
  3. Be prepared for war
  4. Life is better with pain and itch relief
  5. Evasion is a great solution

Prevention:

  • Pre-Treatment

I consider Sawyer’s Permethrin my secret weapon in this war against unwanted pests. I spray my hiking garb (long sleeve shirt, skirt, tall gaiters, shoes, gloves and hat), as well as my pack and the mesh on my tent. This treatment lasts 6 weeks or 6 washings so I usually try to time it with my first big bug outing. Tip: read the instructions especially regarding cats and also take precautions to protect yourself.

  • Protection

I prefer wearing body armor in the form of clothing rather than repellent, but since I’m also sensitive to heat I usually have some exposed skin that needs protection.

      • Clothing – long sleeve shirt, skirt, tall gaiters, shoes, gloves and hat plus headnet
      • Chemical – I start with least harmful and work my way up the spectrum if needed. These are my product preferences for ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes.
  • Evasion
    • Running is not a great solution, but it does work for short stretches.
    • When all else fails, hide in your tent. That’s my tactic during those highly pesky dusk and dawn hours.

Treatment:

I tend to get bacterial infections from bites and am extremely sensitive so for me it’s worth carrying something for pain and itch management.

First Aid:

  • Tick Key (don’t forget to save the tick)

Gnats:

These things are evil. They drive me batty and it seems they show up when I find myself without my headnet. One little trick I’ve learned is to hang something from my hat or buff that swings in front of my face while walking. I find that tall dry grass works best but I’ve also used pine needles.

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

 

 

 

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

2020 – A Decade of Lessons Learned . . . What’s In My Pack?


Lessons Learned:

  1. It’s an evolving process of trial and error.
  2. Choices are unique.
  3. Compromise is expected.
  4. Keep it simple.
  5. Weight matters.
  6. Plan for repairs, revisions and replacements.
  7. Label your stuff; loss happens.

Base Weight:

My standard base weight is 14-16 pounds. The items in italics are seasonal/conditional extras.

  • Pack
    • Gossamer Gear Mariposa
    • Gossamer Gear Pack Liners x2
  • Shelter
    • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 with ground cloth
    • Gossamer Gear Titanium Hook Stakes 6.5″ x 8
  • Sleep System
    • Custom DIY Quilt (modified from ZPacks 900-fill down 10-degree bag)
    • ZPacks Dyneema Dry Sack (for quilt when raining)
    • Big Agnes AXL Air Mattress (replaced with Thermarest Xtherm when temps drop below freezing)
    • Gossamer Gear 1/8″ Thinlight Foam Mattress (also part of pack frame)
    • Klymit Medium X Pillow with Buff as pillowcase
  • Kitchen
    • Jetboil Ti-Sol Stove and Cookpot (no longer sold) (in water shortage areas I’ll forego cooking)
    • Ziploc Twist ‘N Lock 12 oz container (for rehydrating meals)
    • Nylon Ditty Bag and 1/4 Sheet Disposable Towel
    • Sea to Summit Long-Handled Spoon
    • Ursack and Opsak (replaced with Bear Canister when required)
  • Hydration
    • Sawyer Squeeze, Full Size (may use water treatment tablets instead in below freezing temps)
    • Evernew 1500ml Bags, quantity 2-4 with one marked as dirty bag (may bring 700ml SmartWater Bottle)
    • Scoop and Prefilter (made with Platypus 0.5L, Steripen Filter Cartridge and, SmartWater Bottle Flip Top)
    • Insulated Tube, Mouthpiece and Bottle Adapter
  • Sleep Clothes
    • Icebreaker Merino Tights
    • Ibex Merino Hooded Long Sleeve Top
    • Smartwool Merino Socks
    • Smartwool Merino Glove Liners
    • DIY Down skirt, slipper leggings, mittens (winter below freezing conditions)
    • DIY Microfleece Balaclava
  • Clothing Layers
    • Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket
    • Patagonia Hooded Houdini Rain/Wind Jacket
    • Melanzana Beanie
    • Gloves/Mittens (various depending on conditions)
    • Rain Gear (Frogg Toggs UL Jacket, Pants and/or Poncho)
  • Extra Clothes
    • Underwear x1
    • Injinji Toe Socks x1
  • Toiletries
    • Poo Kit (Bidet, Dry Wipes, Dr Bonners, Deuce of Spades Trowel, Doggie Poo Bag, DIY Ditty Bag)
    • Toothbrush, Paste and Floss
    • Eye Drops
    • Lotion with Sunscreen
    • Foot Ointment
    • Ibuprofen and Vitamins
    • Lens Cleaner
    • Disposable Towel (1/4 size)
    • Earplugs
    • Odor Neutralizer Bar
    • Diaper Pins
    • Ziplock (pint size freezer bag)
  • Electronics
  • First Aid and Emergency Preparedness
    • Inhaler primary and backup
    • Pain reliever (ibuprofin, excedrin, norco)
    • Stings/bites (benadryl, pepcid, anti-itch & antibiotic ointments, antiseptic and alcohol wipes)
    • Blisters/cuts (Leukotape-P, gauze, moleskin, steri-strips, needle)
    • Tummy/intestinal (pepcid, imodium)
    • Heat exhaustion/dehydration (Pedialyte)
    • Repairs (super glue, tenancious tape, needle and floss)
    • Hydration tube bite valve (backup)
    • Chapstick (backup)
    • Hairband (backup)
    • Water treatment drops (backup)
    • Mini lighter and fire starter
    • Emergency Poncho
    • Sharpie for notes
    • Ziplocks x2 (pint size freezer bag)
    • Compass
    • Multitool (Leatherman CS)
    • Pepper Spray (grizzly spray when applicable)
    • ID, emergency contacts, medical history, advanced directive, permits in opsak
  • Miscellaneous (seasonal/situational)
    • Bug Management:
      • Bug headnet
      • Bug repellent
      • Tick Key
    • Sunscreen
    • Umbrella (rain and sun)
    • Excessive Rain
      • Polycro Sheet (layer in tent)
      • Larger plastic bags (use to separate wet gear during night)
      • Utility gloves (layer over merino or separate to keep hands dry and warm)
    • Snow/Ice:
    • Desert:
      • Comb and full size tweezers (jumping cholla)

Things I Don’t Carry:

  • A chair
  • Camp shoes
  • Extra hiking clothes
  • A weapon, hunting or fishing gear

Things I Wear and Carry:

Things I’ve Carried Since My First Trip:

As I reviewed my list, I realized I’ve changed everything over the years. There are quite a few items I’ve carried at least 5 years, in fact many probably 7-8 but even those might have been modified. This kit keeps me comfortable and happy through most conditions.

Ongoing Challenges:

  1. I’d love a lighter less bulky tent
    • Stake-dependent shelters are frustrating in hard rocky ground
    • Single wall shelters have condensation issues
    • Dyneema shelters are so expensive
  2. It’s about time to replace my well-loved pack
    • The GG models change slightly year-to-year and are expensive to return
    • All cottage company models require an investment in return postage
    • I’m tempted to make my own
  3. Simplifying water treatment is always on my mind
    • The Sawyer Squeeze takes time and has to be protected during freezing temps
    • The Katadyn BeFree has enough negative reviews to cause hesitation; the custom bottles don’t excite me.
  4. It’s time to do a pack shake down again with weight creeping up to 16 pounds; 12-14 would be better. Yes I know the changes I could make. Like I said at the beginning it’s all about compromise.

Related Posts:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

Note: The purple mat is not part of my gear.

 

2020 – A Decade of Section Hiking Long Distance Trails . . . my podcast debut and resume

As I prepared for an interview with Jester on Section Hiker Radio, I took a trip down memory lane. I had many stories, tips, tricks, lessons to share, but 45 minutes just isn’t enough time. During a recent hike, I came up with this solution. Why not supplement the podcast with blog posts? So here is the interview, an introduction and the first of several posts to celebrate a decade of hiking (PODCAST LINK).

PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) Highlights:

Between 2010 and 2020, I’ve hiked about 1500 miles on the PCT.  Many of my stories and photos can be found on my PCT page (link).

AZT (Arizona Trail) Highlights:

Between 2010 and 2020, I’ve hiked about 500 miles on the AZT.  Many of my stories and photos can be found on my AZT page (link).

CDT (Continental Divide Trail) Highlights:

My time on the CDT has been mostly unintentional. It’s been a mix of being invited by friends to join for sections or coincidental as I hiked other overlapping trails. Here’s a link to my CDT hikes.

PNT (Pacific Northwest Trail) Highlights:

Like the CDT, I didn’t make a plan to hike sections of the PNT. Sometimes I found myself on the trail and only realized by looking at the map. It’s rare to find a trail marker.

Wonderland Trail:

I can actually mark this one complete. It’s the only long trail I completed in one go. I’m not satisfied though as there are so many side trails I’d like to explore.

What long trails await (map link)?

So many trails, only so much time. I feel my personal timeclock ticking. Whether I’m section hiking a long trail or exploring trails with WOW per mile, I’m happy with that pack on my back moving my home each night while chasing sunsets, sunrises, wildflowers and so much more.

 

Safety First . . . says the Old Lady with a Tiny Pack

Perceptions vs Reality.

Little did I know when I stopped to chat with some construction workers that their perception of me was an old lady. I’m guessing they were in their 20’s or 30’s. To them 40’s is probably old. Remember when 20 seemed old?

As non backpackers, their perception of my pack was tiny, which in their minds the blue pictured above is probably more normal for overnighting. Funny I took this photo when I received my inflatable SUP (stand-up paddleboard) and included was this giant blue pack for storage and transport.

Why does this matter?

Well . . . about a mile before the trailhead, the road was blocked by ongoing bridge construction and wouldn’t be open for a few hours. I talked to the workers about parking and passage, then up the hill I walked.

Fast forward 4 days. I returned to my car and drove off thinking about my eventful adventure which included a serious dog bite and an obnoxious owner. A runner had been bitten by the same dog earlier in the day. This German Shepherd was off leash and aggressive. The owner didn’t have voice control. It was traveling with another male who also had two aggressive, off-leash dogs, one also a German Shepherd. I was seriously traumatized and angry about these guys who felt it was their right to terrorize others humans, pets and wild animals of this wilderness.

This is the story I shared on my facebook.

I’m hurt, mad, angry, sad, disappointed and so much more.

I was bit by an aggressive off-leash out-of-control German Shepherd while out hiking a wilderness trail. I have two 3” deep bruises covering 7 inches of my bum. Thankfully the dog released before embedding her teeth. It could have been much worse.

Those few minutes were absolutely terrifying, the following hours and days have been filled with pain and nightmares. The owner is a selfish ass who thought his freedom of allowing a vicious dog to run the wilds ranked above anyone else’s freedoms. I found out later she bit another hiker earlier in the day. His wounds were worse as it was his hand.

The back story:

Picture a triangle with a trail on two legs and a river on the other. This guy and his friend had decided to camp in this triangle. They had 3 unleashed aggressive dogs including two German Shepherds. One guy seemed to have some vocal and engineered controls over his dogs. The other guy had zero control and that’s the dog that bit me and the other guy.

The camp I needed to reach was along one of the trails. As I started down the trail, the dogs started barking. One of the guys (the non-bite owner) came up to greet me as well as the biting dog. He told me the dog was friendly and just needed to smell me. I stood still while she sniffed. She seemed to settle and all seemed normal. The guy escorted me down the trail. Meanwhile the dog came around behind and grabbed my butt. When I yelled, the owner said you’re coming into our camp. HELLO I’m ON the trail!

Why would you camp near a trail with aggressive dogs? Why would you tell someone your dog is friendly and have your dog off leash after it already bit someone earlier in the day?

I had a basic first-aid kit with me and was able to clean the wound with soap and water as well as antiseptic wipes, and then treat with triple antibiotic ointment.

I was in shock and scared. I just wanted out of the situation so sadly I didn’t get the owner’s information except I found out from his friend about the previous bite, that all the dogs were supposedly current on shots and where they lived.

It was a nightmarish night. The next morning as I hiked back to the trailhead I warned all the hikers heading the opposite direction. They were much appreciative but felt as I did. They did not come to the wilderness to be terrorized by a selfish asshole.

I left a warning note at the trailhead as the men planned to stay through the holiday weekend. Sadly I didn’t find out their itinerary. There were 10 cars at the trailhead, some could easily be ruled out as not appropriate for transporting 3 giant dogs, but none stood out as the owners.

The story continues . . . As I’m driving through the nearby town I spy a Forest Service Law Enforcement vehicle. I pull in behind and as the officer exits I say, hey just the person I need to talk to. He then says my full name. I’m in shock, WHAT? He says . . . well the construction crew you talked to when you parked (the bridge was closed for a few hours so I parked near it and walked the additional mile to the trailhead) were concerned when your car was still there the next day. They reported their concerns about “this old lady with a day pack” who hadn’t returned. The next day the LEO went up to check out my car. He ran my plates and noticed my PCT sticker as well as my open hiking guidebook noting the trail I’d be hiking. He said I know those PCT hikers, they have tiny packs (ha, with 6 days of food I don’t think mine was very tiny, and it sure didn’t feel tiny). So when I met him at the gas station he was heading back up to see if my car was gone. If it wasn’t he was planning to contact someone in Redding to check with my family and neighbors. If they didn’t know my itinerary, he planned to activate SAR the next day. Eh gads! All because they construction workers thought I was an “old lady with a day pack.” I like this part of the story much better than the dog bite.

I reported the two men and their three dogs. He planned to pass on the information to the wilderness ranger. Hopefully he’ll do more and go to the trailhead and run some license plates to find out who lives in Grass Valley.

I’m still not sure what to do about this anger. I don’t want to be afraid of dogs. I think I’ll carry mace in my pocket for a while. I don’t want to give off negative energy as I know that makes dogs anxious. I have friends and relatives with dogs I love. I don’t want this incident to stop me from going into the wilderness. In my 10 years of backpacking this was an isolated incident. I know that, but damn this was terrifying. I’m hoping I can overcome with mind-over-matter thoughts like I have after other incidents.

In the meantime I’m hoping to avoid infection. I took an epsom salt soak when I got home, treated with more triple antibiotic ointment, and am now icing and taking ibuprofen to control pain and inflammation.

Sorry for my long rant, but I needed to share the details.

Memorial Day Update – The offender was not caught today and the LEO is off tomorrow when it sounds like they’ll be exiting. He met several groups who encountered the bad group including one whose dog was bit. Another group was camped at a lake when the bad group arrived. They were so bad the group packed up and hiked 3 miles before finding a new camp. The officer believes he found the offender’s vehicle and will minimally be sending a warning letter noting infractions. He’s been doing some code enforcement research and is possibly going to contact Nevada County Animal Control about the dog’s license, rabies etc. I’m continuing to heal with no indication of infection. The bruising is turning dark purple with green edging. Oh so pretty. I haven’t had to ice today.

A few takeaways:

(1) I found a way to wear my pepper spray so it’ll be quickly accessible in the future rather than stored in my backpack pocket. If interested, check out these runner options (link). I wrapped the wrist strap around my pack shoulder strap.

(2) My neighbor is on my notification list and was aware of my itinerary and receives my inReach check-ins. They know about this story and are even more prepared should an officer come calling.

(3) The construction workers noticed the inReach on my pack. That was reassuring for the officer. Of course had my bite been worse I would have used it.

(4) I’m glad my PCT sticker and hiking guidebook alerted the officer to the fact I was most likely a prepared hiker.

(5) This was my first bite in 10 years of backpacking. I’ve had a few other tense encounters but never anything close to this situation where I was terrified all three dogs would gang up on me. It was clear from the bite that dog was ready to take me down. Hopefully I’ll never experience this again or at least be free for another decade.

(6) I didn’t seek medical attention due to COVID-19 concerns. Obviously if it had been worse I wouldn’t have had a choice. However, I’m sure if I would have gone to the Emergency Room, it would have been more likely animal control would have gotten involved with a higher likelihood the offender being caught and facing consequences. Had this happened in town, this dog would be in quarantine or dead.

Stay safe my friends. Be alert, be wise.