As many of you know, I was accepted into the training program to become a certified Forest Therapy Guide. This training begins in September with a week-long intensive experience in NW Ohio, followed by six months of weekly mentoring calls and practical experience. By next spring I will complete my certification and will begin offering Forest Therapy sessions as a coaching business. (You can read more about this in the Nature Therapy tab on this website…)
I Need YOUR Help to get to this training. Will you CHEER ME ON? Will you DONATE? Will you SHARE my story with others?
Normally, our family figures out ways to personally pay for whatever projects we decide to take on. In this case, I have a one-time opportunity to complete training in my own state, rather than paying significantly higher transportation costs for a program in Northern California (or overseas!) at a later date. Unfortunately, this means we can’t just save money for a year or two to be able to cover the costs with cash up front. In addition, one son is finishing his final year of college plus hubby was unemployed last year. The time feels right to jump into this business opportunity that fits my passions…but the personal finances just aren’t available.
Thank You for your support!
The direct link to my Go-Fund-Me campaign is https://www.gofundme.com/ForestTherapyJill From that page you can read a summary of my story (and find links back to this website and blog). You can make donations there and see the list of unique perks I am offering for donors. To share with friends, you can email them this direct link or you can click the fb button on my campaign page to share via Facebook.
Don’t miss the really awesome perks for DONORS. Check out the list HERE (or directly on the fundraising campaign page above). I know many of us are very tight financially right now. THAT’S OKAY! I also need folks to SHARE my campaign with their own friends who might be interested in helping me. And this “putting myself out there” to ask for support is an uncomfortable stretch for me. I need folks to CHEER ME ON (in comments, Facebook responses, and emails) as I start this new adventure! Please consider how you might best support me.
Thanks in advance for whatever help you can give me!
In January, I participated in a snail mail group. Each week, we were given a topic to exchange notes with our assigned partner. The final assignment was to summarize life lessons we have learned from our mothers (or other women/mentors in our lives). Here is some good advice for anyone dreaming of living a life filled with “Big Epic” adventures:
Never Travel Without Your Swimsuit – Be prepared to say yes to unexpected opportunities!
If needs be, Travel Cheap! – There’s always a way to reach for dreams, even if you have to adjust your expectations to make it happen.
Spread the Love—Invite Friends to Join You – One year even the mailman came to Thanksgiving dinner! … yes, really! (It’s a long story… )
Here’s the summary of Big Epic Advice I have learned from my mama: Be ready for unexpected opportunities to reach for your dreams—and invite others to join you along the way. THANKS, MOM!
(Click HERE to read another post about my adventuresome Mama! And click HERE to read about my family’s heritage of women who love to wander.)
Raise your hand if you have (yet again) set New Year’s Resolutions. Raise your hand if you have (yet again) already broken those resolutions two weeks into the new year. Tired of repeated “failure,” I decided to try something different this year. Rather than setting big goals, I chose to find what is working and build on that. I took time to look back through my planner and summarize the activities of past year. Next, I decided which things I wanted to continue in the coming year, and which activities I wanted to change or add.
Far too many days, I find myself wishing for something new, something different, something more exciting. (Please tell me you do the same?!) The most interesting thing to me about this reflection process was realizing how content I am with my current life, overall. There actually isn’t much I really want to change!
Regular activities included church, getting together with friends, and taking Daughter to the city for church organ lessons (and visiting) with my Mom.
Significant time was spent getting Daughter to 4H meetings, homeschool co-op, Equine Therapy, and finding her an emotional support dog.
We continue to put down roots in our friendly small-town. In addition, hubby found a local job (after 4 months of unemployment) and we eliminated the hassles of commuting and of home ownership in multiple locations.
Family time included wonderful visits from grown kids, spoiling grandbabies, having our future daughter-in-law live with us for the spring, and celebrating their marriage when son got home from a semester spent in Ireland. On the other hand, there were far too many deaths this year (my dad, an uncle, and parents of friends and extended family).
Daughter and I had wonderful adventures last year: a few days at the Outer Banks for Spring Break (thanks, Sis!), taking my mom on a mini-adventure to celebrate her 80th birthday, dayhikes and local camping with friends. Of course, we spent time on another month-long AT adventure!
NO REASON TO CHANGE:
We enjoy regular contact with others and will continue most of the activities in the first three areas listed above.
Family will see changes this year as grown kids visit, graduate, change jobs and move around the country. But spending time together never gets old!
We are committed to enjoying Nature and going on adventures large and small. We will continue local exploration, hiking, and camping.
NEW ADVENTURES: We have a few big things planned. These are things you can expect to read about here on the blog in the coming year.
So many new possibilities to explore!
We anticipate an extended road trip to attend son’s university graduation in Montana in May. There are a number of National Parks we haven’t yet visited. We are updating passports so we can head into Canada for additional sightseeing. Heads up friends and family along the way—we hope to stop by for coffee, late night chats and sleeping on your couch!
Our AT Adventure this year will likely be a summer trip through the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine. Looks like we may also get to introduce another friend to the joys of backpacking!
I found my “Dream Job” and can’t wait to tell you more about it! I’m working out the organizational details right now. I’ll share details soon…
What about YOU? What are your plans for the coming year? What things are going well enough to continue largely unchanged? What new adventures do you hope to have? I’d love to hear YOUR story in the comments!
Andowen prefers to hike in a skirt–with shorts or leggings underneath. Unfortunately, the pretty skirt she used to hike in fell apart–so many mended tears it can’t be fixed any further! We talked about it, and decided to design our own skirt–wanting a a knee-high length and water-repellent material. Hopefully, this skirt will be more sturdy when sitting on rocks and climbing over fallen tree trunks. Ideally, it will also help keep her legs and butt dry when we hike in the rain.
We bought rip stop nylon and copied a wrap skirt she already wears at home.
We chose contrasting colors of thread to make it more fun. I even figured out how to make buttonholes with my sewing machine–followed by snipping the hole open with scissors. (The ribbon waistband pushes through the buttonhole to complete the wrap of the skirt and allow both ends of the ribbon to be tied.) Andowen tried the skirt under the hip-belt of her pack. At first, it kept sliding up–just like the old skirt did. Pulling her t-shirt over the skirt waistband took care of that problem.
After a few weeks of hiking, we can report she is highly satisfied with this skirt. In drizzling rain and when sitting on wet logs or mossy rocks, it has kept her dry as hoped. It shows some scuffing, but has not ripped like the previous town-wear skirt kept doing. Plus she appreciates the ease of movement this skirt provides. She can even practice “sword”-fighting with full freedom when we are in camp for the night!
She likes it well enough that I’m planning to make my own wrap skirt when we get home–ready for our next hiking adventure in the summer.
Hikers have to think about water all day long. Out in the woods there is no magic tap to turn for water to come pouring out whenever we want it. We have to find a water source, filter the water, carry water back to camp, and carry water in our packs for while we are hiking. (Read more about this process HERE.)
It felt weird at first, but we have gotten comfortable with using a “bite-valve” to have water at the ready the moment we are thirsty. We have been happy with the water reservoirs we have carried in the past. BUT…sometimes they leak when we don’t get them tightly closed. This means we run short of water when we need it…and it means the stuff in our packs get wet. Blergh! There is a nifty interior pocket for a water reservoir in our packs. BUT…the full bladder must be put in the pack before our other stuff and it is impossible to refill the reservoir without pulling it back out of the pack. That’s hard to do when the pack is filled to the top! And carrying a full day’s supply of water gets heavy. 2-4 pounds may not sound like much but it’s HEAVY to a backpacker! So…this trip we are trying a new method of carrying water. We bought a “Blue Desert Smartube” kit for each of us. This has an adapter to connect with any water bottle.
This solves the above problems with a reservoir: Bottles are easier to tightly close. They fit in exterior pockets, so no leaking inside the pack. In addition, we can carry less water and stop to filter more at water sources we pass during the day. This lessens the weight we have to carry–which always makes us happy!
Now that we are a few weeks down the trail, we can report that we LOVE our new system! We have made only one change to it which is to carry an extra bottle cap to use (rather than the tubing) when carrying both bottles back to the shelter from a water source.
When we are in the woods, it is important to protect our food from bears…and protect bears from our people food!
The most common way to do this is by hanging a “bear bag.” This involves putting all food (and other smelly things such as ointments or wipes) in a bag, slinging a rope over a tree branch, and hauling the bag high enough in the air that a bear can’t reach it. (I’ve written about the challenges of this process HERE.)
This can be a very frustrating process. There might be no appropriate branches (trees too tall or branches broken off from overuse by so many hikers near shelters). The rope might get stuck in the tree. Last time we tried, we had to cut off the rope and leave part of it dangling (bad for the woods and worse for my temper)! Enough is enough! Bears are getting bolder in some areas. And we are getting tired of hanging a bear bag.
We considered a “bear canister” — a plastic bin that supposedly prevents bears from getting to the food inside. This sounded like a great idea–and I was willing to carry the extra weight for the convenience of not hanging a bear bag each night. BUT…it took up most of the room in my pack. And I wasn’t about to figure out how to strap it on the outside of the pack. So back to the store that canister went… This trip we are trying out an “ursack.” It is made of kevlar–claw and fang resistant. There have been cases of a bear slobbering all over the sack and pulverizing the food inside, but by morning the bear will still be hungry and there will still be at least crumbly food for us to eat!
Because it protects the bear from getting to the food, it does not need to be hung from a branch. It can be tied to a tree trunk.
A few weeks into our trip, I have only one regret about switching to Ursacks to protect our food. I only wish we had done so sooner!
Hmmm…my head is full of trivia about shelters and distances and water-sources. My mouth aches from grinding my teeth in my sleep. The gear closet is mostly emptied. And the chaotic mountain of hiking “stuff” has been organized and contained in two simple backpacks.
It Must Be TIME! Time to head back to the woods. Time to get one more extended-release dose of nature before winter hits. Time to explore another piece of the Appalachian Trail.
We looked over our gear list. We set aside warm-weather clothes. We gathered a variety of layers for staying at the right temperature as we hike. (Goal: put layers on and off as needed to limit sweaty clothes. This helps us stay warm when we stop for a break or for the night.) We put together a cozy outfit for cold nights in camp. (By now, it is approaching freezing temperatures at night in the mountains down south.)
We went on a shopping expedition to the grocery store to fill our packs with 6 days of food. We like the foods we have tested on previous trips, so the shopping is quick and easy. Grab this, snatch that, pay the bill, out the door. But then the big job begins… repackaging this big pile…
…into two food bags. (Daughter carries breakfast and dinner, I carry lunch and snacks.) Heavy bags right now, but lighter each day as we devour more and more of the supplies.
This will be a short trip—just 6 days of hiking. We are wimps who prefer to avoid cold, rainy days. We even pushed back our departure so we will be driving on this gray, wet day instead of backpacking in the pouring rain.
See you in a week! It IS time! We are headed to the woods!
Envision the stereotypical scene in the movies: gullible buyer steps onto a used-car lot, looking for a bargain. He haggles with the sleazy salesman and kicks the tires of the cars he is considering. What? Why kick the tires?
Theoretically, this was a way to figure out if the salesman’s story was true and the little old lady who only drove to church on Sundays really did take good care of the car. Checking the tires could show if they were properly inflated, had even wear (indicating good alignment and regular tire-rotation), and were replaced before the tread was totally bald.
Why talk about this on a blog about adventures? In the same way that taking proper care of tires hints at a well-cared-for vehicle, taking proper care of one’s feet increases the probability of completing a successful long-distance hike.
At home, I rarely ever think about my feet. On the trail, they are often in my thoughts…
At the first hint of a “hot spot” it is important to stop and cover that area. (A “hot spot” is any bit of skin that feels irritated, tingly, or “on fire.”) Many things can be used to lessen friction: moleskin, bandaids, cloth tape, duct tape. This simple step is the most effective way to prevent blisters.
Next, get the right socks for YOUR boots and YOUR feet. Most hikers have a favorite combination they swear by. For many, a thin liner sock and thicker outer sock work well to lessen friction on skin. I usually carry a second set of dry socks to switch into if needed on wet days. My little toes normally curl under the next toes, which caused huge blisters last fall. Using injinji toe sock liners this trip have solved that problem.
Of course, it is important to choose boots that fit comfortably. Getting input from others is fine…but you MUST have the right fit for YOU! With wide feet and a need to wiggle my toes, plus a desire for strong ankle support, I love my Salomons.
As a hiker, I won’t get far if my feet are uncomfortable or injured. Good foot care is critically important to success. When buying a used car, go ahead and kick the tires if you want to. But when backpacking, protect those feet and please don’t kick the tires…or anything else!
We head back to the Appalachian Trail this weekend to backpack for a month. We love being in the woods and are excited to set off on another adventure. However, this time we aren’t newbies. We know we are saying goodbye to many comforts of daily life at home. Before leaving, we chose to consciously say goodbye, reminding ourselves that we will enjoy these things even more deeply when we return home again.
Daughter will miss the stuffed animals she sleeps with every night. She will spend even more time than usual outdoors, but on foot rather than on her kick-scooter. While backpacking everything must be as lightweight as possible since it all gets carried on our backs. This means daughter has limited access to costumes and her “weapon” collection. Her “gandalf” hiking staff, sticks and imagination will have to do…
I said goodbye to my art supplies, carrying only a few nice pens and some sketch paper. I will miss my cozy chair near the window with a big pile of books at hand. Somehow the hard ground and limited time on a kindle just aren’t the same! And extra clothes stuffed in a sack doesn’t really replace my comfy pillow on a soft bed.
Both of us will miss taking a shower and choosing from a large selection of colorful, clean clothes every day. We will miss seeing my folks each week, including organ lessons from Grandma. And our form of sweet treats and location of rambling conversations will certainly be different!
In the morning, we will say goodbye to our dog. She is already sad because we filled our packs. She knows we are leaving again. After our drive to the trail, we will say goodbye to hubby/dad.
Partings bring sorrow…but adventures are sweet. Goodbye daily life…see you in a month!
“We’re right on schedule, holding a line composed of principles I’ve carefully considered: I’ll run my own race and ignore everyone else. This time I’ll look ahead, never behind, concentrate on one mile at a time.” –Debbie Molderow, Iditarod Competitor (from “Fast into the Night”)
“Hike your own hike.” HYOH is a commonly used phrase among the long-distance backpacking community. At first glance, this appears to be a “duh” comment. Of COURSE, I will hike my own hike. I can’t hike for someone else, can I?
Over time, I realize this phrase is more complicated that it seems. Every hiker we meet along the trail has different ideas of what makes the ideal backpacking adventure. Comparing gear, food, and hiking styles is a common topic of conversation in the evenings. And most hikers hold strong opinions about these ideas!
Friends and family talk about how “brave” we are to set off on an outdoor adventure, thinking of the physical challenges. To be successful, we must also be brave enough to figure out what we personally want and need out of our hike. We need to “hike our own hike” in all areas of our trip: target weight to carry, type of food to eat, daily distance goals, hiking style (slow, fast, breaks, few breaks), where to stop at night. (*see our personal ideals below)
(thanks to Yaakob Gridley for this photo of us!)
Backpacking is an individual adventure. (Yes, I hike with my teen daughter. I love the time together, but considering the wants and needs of TWO people is always harder than “going it alone.” In our case, I’m the one that does most of the decision-making and planning.) I love to gather information and collect stories from others on what has worked (or not worked) for them. I enjoy sifting through what I find to figure out what would work best for ME. Asking for advice can be good, but eventually each individual must HYOH.
I’m a member of a number of online groups for long-distance hikers. I love the encouragement, the camaraderie, the commiseration, and the information that is shared. I do, however, have a pet peeve in these groups: it irritates me when someone asks others to tell them which XYZ they should buy or which section of the trail they should hike. What? How can ANYONE else decide what is best for someone else? It’s great to ask for information, but asking what piece of gear others use and why they love it (or hate it) or asking which section of trail others most enjoyed hiking in a specific season would be more useful questions. No one can decide what will work best for others, they can only share what works well for their own wants and needs. Then each individual must step out and make their own personal decisions.
The reality is that if a hiker follows the directions of others and buys the “perfect” gear and sets off to hike the “best” section of trail, they might find that the backpack rubs their shoulders raw, they dread every attempt to put up a tent that takes an engineering degree to successfully set up, their ankles and knees ache from the wrong boots for their foot shape and hiking style, and the trail is a miserable experience of walking along cliff edges and clambering up huge rock faces for a person afraid of heights.
C’mon folks, HYOH means you need to gather information and personalize it for YOUR perfect hike at YOUR favorite time of year on YOUR preferred terrain!
* Here are things that worked well for us on our 6 week backpacking adventure on the AT last fall. Remember, gather information from many sources and decide what you think will work best for YOU as you “Hike Your Own Hike!” (And if you have posted your own lists online, please post a link below in the comment section. I would love to see the choices you made for your backpacking adventure…)
Target Weight to carry: 30 pounds each, including food and water
Our Gear: I will be writing an update on our gear list before we return to the AT later this spring. You can read my blog post HERE about choosing gear for our first backpacking adventure last fall. The gear list for that initial trip can be found on Trail Journals HERE
Type of Food: Breakfast, lunch, and snacks were all easy to grab cold foods. We enjoyed hot chocolate/tea for breakfast and after supper. Our main meal in camp was made by adding hot water to dehydrated food then stirring in a pouch of tuna or chicken. You can read about our resupply routines HERE.
Daily Distance Goals: because we aren’t in good shape, we started our hike in the fall with 5-6 mile days. We were quite proud of the couple of times that we managed to push ourselves and cover 9 miles in one day! When we head out this spring, we will start slowly with 5-6 mile days but are aiming for regularly completing 9-10 miles.
Hiking Style: We tend to be slow hikers, wanting to notice and enjoy our surroundings along the trail. Both of us prefer to take short breaks every hour or so: just long enough to sit on a boulder, take off our packs, find another snack, and get back to walking. Before we started our trek, I envisioned a leisurely lunch break with time to sketch the scenery and write in our journals. The reality for us was that longer breaks led to muscles stiffening up which made it hard to force ourselves to get moving again!
Nightly Stopping Places: We aimed for shelters, preferring the social setting and the dry roof. Often shelters are farther apart than our daily distance goals, so we planned in advance where we wanted to camp that night. We were flexible about when and where to take “zero days” (sleeping two nights in one location, resting on the day between) but location of where to sleep and where to resupply were planned ahead. I wrote a blog post about this topic HERE.