I’m always up for a challenge. I enjoy setting goals for myself, seeing them through and then bask in the glory of accomplishment. Who doesn’t, right? Validation is a wonderful drug. My goals are usually something short and simple, therefore, leaving less room for boredom which leads to failure. Until now…..
I just signed up for the 365 Mile Challenge set up by Rebecca Walsh, founder of Hike Like A Woman, and a few of her friends. The object of the challenge is to complete 365 self-propelled miles in 2017. It’s a great challenge that comes with an online community loaded with fun, exciting and enthusiastic members who encourage each other throughout the challenge. What more can you ask for? Oh, and did I mention, you are eligible to win cool prizes? There are no first place winners. There are no second place losers. You complete 365 miles, you are a winner! You come away from the challenge with the satisfaction of knowing you completed goals that you set for yourself.
According to my Fitbit, I earned the Great Barrier Reef Badge. That means I have completed 1600 miles since I’ve had my Fitbit (October 2015). So, I know I can do this, right? I mean, 365 miles in one year equates to one mile per day. I put on a couple miles every day at work and an additional few when I’m at home. So, 365 miles in one year is completely doable. And it’s a challenge that I’m not going outside of my comfort zone to achieve.
I need to complete this challenge. I need to do this for myself. Not for my husband. Not for my kids or grandchildren. But for myself. You see, in the past 3 years, I have become a lazy person. Three years ago, I was in good form both physically and mentally. Then I became complacent and lazy. As I struggle to get off the couch, I feel the need to jump start the new year with a challenge I know I can complete. This is all for me.
I will be taking you all along with me as I track my progress. There will be ups and downs. There will be tears and laughing. This will be real. No sugar coating here. So, come along for the ride ~ better yet, sign up for the challenge and let’s all do it together. Strength in numbers is what I say.
By the way, to make it a bit more interesting and to take myself outside of my comfort zone to push myself further than the 365 miles, I’m going to up the challenge and double my mileage to 730 miles. Now there’s a challenge I can be afraid of…
I love backpacking and hiking gear. I am a gear head. Dale is a gear head. Psst! I actually think he’s worse than me! He loves to research the latest and greatest that technology and his pocketbook will allow. Anything to make our experience a more comfortable one! As a friend of mine always says,”Your trip is only as good as the gear you take”.
My gear enables me to enjoy the outdoors. I have a great backpack. It’s designed especially for women, saves my back and fits my hips like a glove. I have hiking poles with shock absorbers built into them to help save my knees. I have the latest and greatest in clothing to keep me cool, dry, warm and from getting sunburned. I have the best lightweight waterproof boots for my feet. My sleeping bag is down. My tent is waterproof and has LED lights built into it. All my gear is meant to make my trip the most enjoyable it can be, with the exception of one thing.
I’m a girl. And you know what that means? It means I’m not built like a boy. I can’t draw my name in the snow. It means when nature calls, I have to shed my gear, unzip my pants and squat in the woods. It means I have to be careful what spot I choose to be one with nature. Stinging Nettle or Poison Ivy can ruin a squat in the woods quicker than anything else. So can a hornet…
So with that thought in mind, the hunt was on for a device that would shorten my bathroom break, would keep me from having to shed gear to pull down my pants and would also eliminate the need to keep a sharp eye out for foliage or insects which might invade my privacy. A female urination device (FUD) to be exact ~ I’m uncomfortable with the word, “urination”. It sounds so vulgar. Just like the words, “pee”, “crap”, and “shit in the woods”. I can’t say them without scrunching my face like I just bit into a lemon. Now ask me to say, “poop’, “potty” and “tinkle”, and you’ve got my attention and I’m giggling like a junior high schooler. I compare those words like I would compare the stench of dead animals to rainbows. Guess how the word placement fits on that spectrum…
I scanned the internet. I cautiously shopped the isles of REI and Cabela’s, while keeping a watchful eye out for any salesperson who might ask me if I needed help. Is this what a guy feels like when he’s buying condoms for the very first time? Sweaty palms, heart pounding in your ears, dry mouth and expelling gibberish when asked if there’s anything you need? Yikes!! All I want to do is to be able to go potty in the woods without all the production.
Finally, I found something that looked cute, discreet and user friendly!
I even liked the name, “Go Girl”. Like, “you go girl ~ that’s right!” “That’s the way to do it ~ I’ll never let you down.” “I’ll be there for you
whenever you feel the urge ~ my new best friend in the woods!!” The reviews for the product sang praises for ease of use. Women from all over love this de
vice. This must be the one for me!
I read the packaging ~ wow! I can use this anywhere! This is glorious! The instructions said I should practice with it a few times to get the routine down. Psh… Practice? I don’t need no stinkin’ practice, I just wanta play the game! But, being the team player I am, I practiced. Or attempted to.
I thought I’d try it out in my backyard. You know, to mimic being in the wild outdoors. I stood in the middle of the yard with my pants down around my knees ~ I looked around and thought, “This is a bad idea”. What if a meter reader came through? What if my neighbor’s son just happened to be home and looked out his second story window that overlooks my back yard? What if my other neighbor came out and looked over the fence to say, “Hi” like he normally does? What if my husband came home in the middle of the day?
Then I had a fantastic idea! I’ll go upstairs into the shower and try it out! No muss, no fuss! I took my clothes off (like I would be totally naked in the woods, right?), got into the shower and tried to use the Go Girl ~ my best friend ~ the one thing that has my back (or front). I positioned it like it said in the instruction ~ Okay. Now I can’t go to the bathroom. Not a single drop came out. Really?? Okay. Let’s run some water. I turned the shower on, which only resulted in me getting wet. I repositioned the Go Girl and…. still nothing. Great. Now what? Drink lots of water! So I positioned my mouth under the shower head and proceeded to drink massive quantities of water, which only resulted in me getting full and totally drenched.
Why does this have to be so frickin’ hard? All I want is to be able to go to the bathroom in the woods without pulling down my pants. That’s not asking for much…. Well, apparently, it is.
While I was thinking about what to do next, the urge hit me. Yes!! Here it comes!! Position that Go Girl and let it do it’s stuff! Wait, why is there no suction like there is supposed to be? I bent over, trying to see what went wrong. I fiddled with it a bit and just when I thought I had it right, the bodily fluid flowed. Right. Down. My. Leg. Yeah, you have a vision right now…. What in the hell?
I envisioned myself in the woods when nature calls, using the device, only to return from my potty break with wet pants. Seriously? Am I that technologically challenged that I cannot use this device?? Is my body not built for these things? It’s because I’m older and have squirted out two children and things are kind of saggy now, right? That’s it!! My body is old and run down, I can’t help it and the Go Girl can’t help me.
The Go Girl ended up in the trash and I still squat in the woods. And I’m good with that.
Dale and I own a cabin in the woods. It takes us exactly one hour to drive from our home to the cabin’s front door. It sits on a few acres on a remote site nestled in the blue spruce and aspens adjacent to the White River National Forest.
Our cabin in the woods
Dale’s family built it from a kit in 1971. It’s a 2 room cabin ~ no bathroom. It does have cold running water that is gravity flowed from a spring located up the hill from the cabin. The cabin was originally built as a hunting cabin. You know the kind ~ where good old boys sit around the table drinking beer and whiskey, telling stories of their latest encounters with elk, deer and bear. The kind of cabin where girls aren’t allowed to stay with the exception of when they come to clean up the mess left by the men who occupied it previously during hunting season. Summers up at the cabin were spent fixing holes in the fence where the elk had crashed through the winter before, or cleaning up the mouse droppings those nasty little rodents had left while tap-dancing all over the counters. It was work.
The ComodeDid I mention there are no bathrooms at the cabin? There is a little outhouse located about 20 yards down the hill from the cabin. It is insulated with dated pieces of gold, avocado green and blue carpet. Its decor consists of cobwebs, spiders, bugs and mice. It’s not an outhouse a girl would be comfortable in, but it serves the purpose. Making a trip to the outhouse in the middle of the night is every girl’s nightmare ~ grabbing a flashlight, I usually opt to hide behind at tree instead of making the trek to the hut. I always thing about bears waiting for me to make a midnight run. Every time I open the door, cobwebs hit my face and I end up slapping myself silly. When I sit down, I envision monsters living in the pit my bottom is hanging over.
Over the years the cabin has seen many visitors come and go. Everyone who visits is encouraged to sign the front door. It has become a journal of entries describing hunting wins and losses, snowpack depths, bbqs with friends and family, snowshoe trips, snowmobiling trips, hiking trips and even a couple of girls weekend with my gal pals. It has seen many loved ones come and go ~ there are entries on the door written by those who are not with us anymore. There are also short stories describing how our sons introduced their future spouses to our home away from home. There are now stories of our grandchildren’s visits.
Over the past few years, Dale and I have redecorated it from when his folks used to take care of it. The cabin has been passed down to us and is in our care. We have changed the look and have made it more family friendly. It’s been cleaned of all the junk that had attracted mice in the past. Because we’ve kept up on it, it is more user-friendly and a lot cleaner.
It’s now fun to go up to the cabin to get away from it all. There is a wood stove to cook on.
There is a stone fireplace built into the front porch to burn a few steaks on. Even though there is a small black and white tv up there (for watching Bronco games years ago), it’s not used ~ at least when I’m there. There is no cell service. No telephone line. No radio reception. It’s a glorious getaway where no one can find you.
Poker night with my peepsAnd because we remodeled the cabin to accommodate more visitors and activities, we added a new and improved bathroom system. Thank goodness for Cabela’s! I can now sit in luxury on the front porch and admire the scenery in style!!
The biggest plus about going to the cabin is the lack of cell service. We love going to the cabin to get away from it all. To unplug. To energize. To decompress. To recharge our batteries. We want to have so much fun that we forget all about email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. No cell service means we get to totally escape modern conveniences for a weekend.
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend visited me for for a few days. She’s from Denver and we decided to spend the weekend at the cabin. We arrived and much to my horror, found out that there is now 3 bars of 3G network at the cabin!!! What in the hell is going on? The cabin is not longer a safe haven from all the technology that supposedly makes our lives easier. No longer are we able to escape the world for a weekend to reap the benefits of what nature has to offer us. Technology follows us in the form of a cell phone. My friend was on the phone constantly ~ messaging with those on the front range, checking email, checking facebook, talking to friends. I sat and enjoyed the fire I had built in the fireplace and sipped on a glass of wine while she basked in the glow of her cell phone.
Why do we feel the need to be connected to the outside world? I’m just as guilty as the next person. I enjoy sharing my adventures and taking my friends along on a virtual vacation with me. Why is it so hard to enjoy the moment, the beauty and the simplicity which we are lucky to experience for one weekend, without letting the complexity of our lives invade our little bubble?
Because of the newly implemented cell service, I feel the cabin is no longer an “off the grid” place to escape to. Visitors now need to make a conscious effort to put down their phones and enjoy the benefits the cabin has to offer. And that’s too bad. I’m thinking of making a new rule when visiting the cabin:
We just returned from a Labor Day weekend trip to one of our favorite places to camp, hike and ride 4 wheelers at ~ the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado. We took our 4 year-old grandson, Jackson, with us. He loves camping, fishing, 4-wheeling, and just plain being outdoors. So, we decided to take him hiking on the Indian Trail with us.
The Indian Trail is a 9.6 mile trail which offers spectacular views of red rock cliffs in the Tabeguache Creek drainage. We thought a short hike on this trail would be a fun first hike for Jackson.
Late Sunday morning, I loaded up his backpack with water, extra clothes and lots of snacks that only a 4 year-old would love ~ string cheese, crackers and cheese, crackers and peanut butter and chocolate. Of course, those snacks are Grammie’s favorites, too!
We loaded our Polaris Ranger up and headed to the trailhead. As we were riding, I explained the rules of hiking to Jackson:
Always listen to what we say
Never lose sight of Grammie and Grandpa
Carry your own backpack
Always drink lots of water
Never wander off on your own
Never touch something without letting Grammie and Grandpa know what you’re touching
blah, blah, blah
At the trailhead we unloaded. Jackson wanted hiking poles just like mine. He didn’t care about how you use them, he wanted to be a hiker just like Grammie. So, Dale fitted Jackson with poles. We strapped his backpack on him and we headed down the trail mindful of the fact that if we lose him or hurt him in any way, shape or form, we’d have to answer to his parents. Not a conversation I was looking forward to. So, we kept a good eye on him at all times. After all, I have lost that child in a Penny’s store before. Not a problem for him. He knew where he was. I didn’t.
Along the trail we showed him acorns, Fireweed, a bovine jawbone, a snake, bear scat, a waterfall and how to use his poles to bushwhack through the tall Hawthorn berry bushes without getting scratched.
Jackson practiced his elk call and we ate snacks. Round trip? Probably a mile. We didn’t want to wear him out and make him not want to go with us ever again! It was a great first hike for him.
At the end of the hike, we loaded back up into the Ranger and headed to our camper. On our way back, Jackson wanted to recite the rules of hiking. Here are the rules through his 4 year-old’s eyes:
Always bring water, hiking makes you thirsty
Never lose sight of your partners
Always keep moving
There’s no crying in hiking, unless it’s Grammie
Carry your own backpack
Always carry out trash
Never go off on your own
Always whisper, never yell
Be quiet as much as you can
Always pack good snacks you will want to eat
Always hike downhill. Going uphill is hard.
Stay away from the edge of the cliff, it scares Grammie
Take lots of snack breaks
Always point your poles down in the dirt, never in the air like a spear
Always watch what you’re doing and where you’re going
Wear clothes that don’t make you sweaty. Sweaty is gross.
Always go with Grammie and Grandpa because you get chocolate at the end of thehike
Always take a nap in the camper after hiking (those where his words, not mine!!)
Later that afternoon, Jackson said he loved his hike and wanted to do it again. He couldn’t wait to tell his mom and dad about it. But, first he needed a nap. We actually wore him out? The next morning he woke up and wanted to hike the Indian Trail in the Tabeguache Drainage again. My job is done!
“Never give up! Never surrender!” These are the immortal words spoken by the commander of the NSEA Protector in the 1999 movie, “Galaxy Quest”. Proud words, I tell ya. The way he conveyed them, I wanted to jump aboard that spaceship of his and help him save the galaxy from alien attacks. Let’s go!!! Let’s fight and never ever give up!! And, hell no, I willNEVERsurrender!!!
Never give up. Never surrender. These are words I try to live by every day. I’m a competitor. I’m hard~headed. I don’t like people helping me. When Dale sees me struggling, I stubbornly refuse his offer to help saying, “I can do it myself!” Then I proceed to drop a 30 pound bag of dog food in the street because I have just wrestled it from him while he was trying to help me get it into my jeep. Silly girl….
Well, Commander, do you have any words for when you do give up? For when you do surrender? I do. And they aren’t for the faint of heart…
A few Sundays ago, we were on our way home from a weekend adventure with friends in Silverton, Colorado. We drove through the town of Ouray, which is nestled at the base of the rugged San Juan mountain range. We enjoy Ouray. We have jeeped in their mountains. We have hiked to the Box Canyon waterfalls. We have attended ice climbing competitions there and have snowshoed at Ironton Park above Ouray. The town has mining history galore. Ouray is also known for having numerous hot springs. Ouray is surrounded by beautiful mountains, cliffs and trails and is also home to our favorite pub, the Ouray Brewery.
Ouray is also home to the newly completed, Ouray Perimeter Trail, or as I fondly call it, The Death March. According to ouraytrails.org the Perimeter Trail is described as a moderate trail which circles the town of Ouray, with an elevation gain of 800 feet over 4.2 miles, which takes 3 hours to complete (must be the feel-good Chamber of Commerce description). Another website, http://www.gjhikes.com/2012/09/ouray-perimeter-trail.html describes the trail as a strenuous 5.9 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,426 feet and takes roughly 4 hours to complete (but only if you’re a effing mountain goat!). Seriously? Come on people, get your act together. In this amazing age of technology, how can trail lengths, elevation gain and difficulty rating be like night and day?? Wish I had known these discrepancies earlier in the day…..
Coming off Red Mountain Pass, just before you drop into Ouray, there is an USFS amphitheater parking and camping area. You can jump on the Perimeter Trail from there. Dale and I had noticed the sign numerous times and decided a quick hike around Ouray would be the perfect thing to break up our 4 hour trip home. So, we parked our camper in the parking lot, and proceeded to gear up for the hike. I put on my old trail shoes, not my boots which I always hike in. I didn’t have my hiking poles. No problem, the trail looked pretty level. I didn’t have my day pack or snacks. That’s okay. I was still full from breakfast in Silverton. No pack = no camelback bladder, either. No problem. It’s not too hot and Dale has a bottle of Smartwater in his pocket ~ we’ve taken longer hikes with no water. I’m all set. Let’s go!!!
We quickly found the trailhead and I went skipping down it like one of the seven dwarfs on their way to work ~ Hi ho! Hi ho! It’s down the trail we go!! As we hiked further down the trail, we would catch glimpses of Ouray down below us. Wow! Everyone looks so tiny down there! That’s pretty funny how tiny they are! Dale, aren’t all those tiny people cute down there? Wait. They’re down there. They’re way down there. We are way up here… Hey, wait a minute…. Don’t we have to cross the highway at some point in town to go around Ouray and circle back up to the camper? Oh well, no worries…
The trail took us higher and the people down below got smaller. I was out of breath and thirsty. Never give up! Never surrender! Then the trail turned sharply downhill. Small rocks were rolling under my feet forcing me to grab a hold of tiny aspens and the branches of pines trees that lined our path. Sweat was starting to form along my hairline and drip down my cheeks . I was starting to get really pissed.
What kind of trail is this anyway? Is that a hunger pain I feel? What time is it? I’ve been 3 hours without food? Crap. I need my poles. Where are my glucose tablets? Stupid trail…
I kept looking uphill behind me at our camper which was parked far away at the top of the hill across the valley. Shit. Oh well, it’ll get better. We must be halfway there! We made our way down to Lower Cascade Falls. Yay! Water! A parking lot! People! We’re home free!!! The sign there said we had only gone a distance of .40 miles. Hey! That’s not right! That sign is messed up ~ no way in hell can that be true! I’m sure we hiked 2 miles, at least! I turned around and looked at the camper parked way up on the hill across town. Then it hit me. What goes down, must go back up… Crap. I was spent. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I hated my shoes. I needed my hiking poles. I wanted to go home.
Dale asked me what I wanted to do. I said in my cheeriest never surrender, never give up voice, “Let’s keep going!!” You can catch the trail at numerous spots around town. Lower Cascade Falls is one of them. We bypassed the falls parking area and headed up the hill towards Upper Cascade Falls. Wait. Why are we going uphill? Town is downhill. We know the trail crosses the highway at the end of town. We were almost at the end of town. How can we cross when we’re headed uphill?? Oh crap. I want my poles. Where are my poles? I can’t do this anymore. I cannot continue. I need to… surrender. Wahhhhh!!!!
Have you ever had a trail chew you up and spit you out? I have. It’s not pretty. There are a lot of unladylike characteristics involved: swearing, crying, bending over and hacking. Yep. I’m not proud of what I did. It was an ugly moment for me. Dale asked me if I wanted to keep on hiking or if I wanted to…. quit. QUIT???? “I’m not a quitter!”, I snarled back at him. Quitters are losers who have given up too easily. I refuse to give up, give in or just plain give!! But, my body told me different. I was forced to give in. Dammit.
I told Dale I couldn’t do this anymore. I wanted to turn around and go back. I’m hot. I’m hungry. I’m gassed. I give up. I surrender. Wow, never saw that coming. He turned around and looked at me in disbelief, “Really?? You really want to quit?” Tears in my eyes, hanging my head, I said, “Yes”. I had been defeated by a stupid trail. Granted, I wasn’t prepared, but that didn’t matter. I gave up. And that pissed me off.
We hiked back down the the Cascade falls parking lot and reassessed our trip back to the truck. We looked across town and up the highway leading to Red Mountain Pass ~ the highway has 2 large switchbacks before you get to the amphitheater parking area. Some how, we needed to march back through town and straight up the hill to our truck.
I mustered all the strength I had left and we walked back through town towards Red Mountain Pass. We laughed and talked about how silly we were to think we could conquer the trail unprepared. We got to the end of town and looked straight up. There was our truck parked straight up the mountain from where we were standing. I dropped the f-bomb like it was confetti. How in the f*&king hell are we going to get up there? F*%k that $&#t!!!!!! F*%k, F*%k, F*&k!!!!
Well, hike up the effing mountain, dumb ass. I was actually thinking about hitchhiking when I decided to GPS the neighborhood. I found a trail that cut through private property, and led right to the road that would take us back to our truck. Glory be to God Almighty!!!! Let’s go!!!! We found the trail and started up the stairs that would take us to Heaven! Did I mention stairs? Stairs either lead down or up. In this case, they would lead up. And up. And up. Straight up. This is where I had my meltdown. A full blown hissy fit. I was so gassed, I hit a wall. I bent over and gasped for air. I even dry heaved. I cried, “I can’t do this! I want to go home!” Tears of anger and frustration ran down my face. I couldn’t stop it. Dale stood above me and let me have my moment. Then he calmly said, “Jill, you have to do this.” Never give up. Never surrender.
I gathered myself, wiped my face and nose with my bare arm and proceeded to trudge up the stairs like I was on a death march. We eventually got to the top of the hill and found the Perimeter Trail. We met another woman on it who couldn’t believe the trail was this difficult. She was led to believe it was a little more user-friendly than it really was. There, validation that I wasn’t the only one who thought the trail was a little more difficult than the trail head sign let on. We eventually arrived at the truck. I was never so happy to see our truck and camper! I kissed the side of it and happily jumped into the front seat.
Now that I think about it, I didn’t give up. I didn’t surrender. If I had, I’d still be sitting by the side of the highway in Ouray, crying, hacking and carrying on like a baby. We will eventually conquer the Ouray Perimeter Trail. And when we do, we will be prepared for the battle. I found out later from a friend of mine who is an experienced runner, that she had tried to run the trail and had failed. I don’t feel so bad. And as a side-note, we only hiked .80 miles….