“Portland” – The Replacements

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Sitting here writing by a fire with a view of the stunning Oregon coast. What an honor to be included in this weekend writing retreat. A group of women writers, bloggers, pod-casters and trailblazers. Sharing our hopes, dreams, passions and some ridiculously tasty healthy food and lots of snacks!

Jenny and Rahawa picked me up from the airport we had a lovely drive out to the coast. This was only my second time in Portland but my first time going to the coast. The drive out is beautiful, foggy and rainy. The trip wouldn’t be complete without stop at the Tillamook cheese store! So much dairy, mmm. Jenny even took us down to Short Beach and to checkout the Cape Meares lighthouse.

 

 

We stayed at a lovely Airbnb in Oceaside. It was so great to meet the people behind the books, tweets, podcasts and emails. I was pretty stoked to meet Carrot Quinn, her blog was the jump off for me doing the PCT. If you are interested in hiking the
PCT check out her book Thru Hiking will Break Your Heart. Finally I caught up with Rahawa she’s a great writer that thru hiked the AT in 2016 when I did, but our paths never crossed. There was also Jenny of Unlikely Hikers, Nicole of Real Talk Radio, Lacy of
Liberation Barbell, Alley, Vanessa, and Kelly. I could go on and on about these women but I really think you should checkout their works and take it all in for yourself. Thank me later.

 

 

Now I know why people go away to write. There’s something to be said about removing yourself from the daily grind, a little nature time, waking with a clear mind to put words to paper sans distractions. Surrounding yourself with talented awesome people helps too! There was a lot of writing, eating, trail talk, life talk and getting to know each others quirky personalities. We even tackled a puzzle that was, I swear, missing pieces. Frolicking, yep there was beach frolicking!

Something magical happens when beautiful, strong, intelligent women come together.  Women laughing, dropping knowledge and supporting each other. Women carving their own paths, standing up for themselves and inspiring one another. Given the state of the world today a network of siStar support is crucial. Just because you carve your own path does not mean you have to go it alone.

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“Feeling Good” – Nina Simone

Life is not designed to make things easy for us, but present challenges that help us grow- Terry Laughlin

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photo cred?

I did a lot of growing 2017, thanks life! This year was an incredible journey for me, trekking up the Continental Divide, maintaining a social media presence, and deciding how best to share (or not share) my experiences with others. It was great hiking the CDT seriously, it challenged me and gave me new (trail/life)skills.  So grab a beverage and let’s reflect on the last year of hiking adventures and forward to the new year of possibilities.

Website and Social Media 
Wandering Chardonnay website and social media sites continue to grow by the numbers:
12,195 page views (1,066 followers)
169 Facebook Likes
578 Instagram followers
37 Twitter followers 
Thanks for checking it out. These numbers are not outstanding by comparison. But who should I compare with; I’m one of a kind! Like hiking growth takes time, patience and perseverance. I’m learning and putting myself out there more every day! I just hope my story continues to inspire people to get out on their own adventures. But navigating the www is like hiking off trail, you know where you want to go but can you get there, from here.  Not without some surprises and lessons.

I’m learning about self-hosting my own site, making trail videos and oh the hashtags (which will always be a pound sign to me, old school).

One lovely surprise for me was becoming a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador! If you haven’t yet checked out the HLAW website, what ya waiting for, hop to it! I’ve learned tons from these motivated ladies. There are some great podcasts (find mine here), tips, great articles and more.

 

Trail and Life Lessons
The trans-formative nature of thru hiking has always been a type of therapy for me. The trail is a metaphor for life and it reminded me of many lessons in 2017:

  • Just because someone comes into your life doesn’t mean they have to stay. Walking the trail and life with difficult people sucks. Don’t let other people tell you how to feel, act, or that something is impossible. Walk away, trust me on this. Be bold, show up as yourself.
  • Surround yourself with people who uplift you and believe in your crazy dreams. If someone is taking jabs at you (even tiny ones) those jabs only add up to knocking you down.
  •  Life changes aren’t easy, especially when evolving into the best version of you; it’s exciting and scary all at once. But with every challenge or struggle you grow stronger and more confident in your abilities.  However, it turns out my strength and change is uncomfortable for some, so I’ve had people closest to me disappear or just not show up, that hurts. 
  • But then there are other people that I barely know that have completely shown up, thank you.  See there are really kind people in the world (no matter what the news says) wanting to see you succeed. Go seek them out, find them, they are waiting for you…so am I.
  • Fear is part instinct, part learned, part taught. Fears are created by imagination, when you face them you realize that reality isn’t nearly as bad as your imagination. Like that grizzly bear I heard probably wasn’t nearly as big as I imagined, right?! Be courageous.
  • We need nature, whether or not we ever set foot in it. It’s where we come from, it’s our history (good and bad) and our future. We need to now it is there, a possible
    escape from the madness. My experience is proof that nature will and can be a refuge for all, no matter your skin color.
  • There is a whole lot of talk about POC (people of color) in the wilderness. Let’s stop blaming the lack of money or that we don’t see ourselves or fear of past atrocities. We ARE out there! The outdoor industry and past stories may not have included us,
    but a new chapter is being  written. Stop using the past as an excuse. Be the change, corny but true.
  • Solo hiking is great, but it is always great to get to camp and see a friendly face that is glad you made it. Or at least someone to laugh WITH you because you got lost or scared. I thru hiked the CDT with some top notch, bad ass, ridiculously funny people. Thank you for accepting the bare bones me. Cherish every moment, treasure every mile.
  • Experiences, get you some. Experiences become a part of our identity. We are an accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done and the places we’ve been. What’s your story gonna be this year?

Next Adventure and Opportunities 

So people have asked “so are you done hiking yet”? Answer: NOPE. It’s a big world out there with a lot of paths to walk, people to meet and lessons to learn. I am looking forward to more adventures and experiences in 2018….Like completing the Appalachian Trail, hiking the Arizona Trail, providing some PCT trail magic. Basically spreading black girl magic all over the place! Locally I’ll be doing some group hikes (with wine tasting!), some Get Out Doors presentations, redesigning this site, and some other things (I don’t want to jinx it). oh I’m excited, stay tuned!

Happy New Year and Happy Trails…………..

Living for the City -Stevie Wonder

In the perfect world I’d live in a small cabin in the woods where I could just walk out the door and go hiking. Alas, I live in the city. This can mean at times I have to jump in the car and head drive a trail-head. Not something I want to do or have the time for. That’s when I go for a city hike.  I consider myself lucky to live in San Diego, where there are canyon trails tucked in small pockets around the city, interestingly diverse neighborhoods, numerous parks and the urban forest that is Balboa Park.

Actually I used city hiking as part of my training for my first thru hike. I’d throw on my backpack hike down to the store, grab some groceries then hike a different route back to the house. Walking the city with a giant backpack, people may think your crazy or super outdoorsy. Either way your in good company.  Other option, grab a day pack or fanny pack even, find a local park on a map and head for it. Explore the wildness of the hood, the stunning views from a hillside, giant urban trees and surprise book nooks!

Hiking adventures are right out your backdoor, whether you live in the city or the mountains; the beach or the countryside. How many adventures have you passed in your car on the way to the trail-head, store, or work? Go on get out there, you can thank me later!

In The End – Linkin Park (GEAR REVIEW)

Before I go through my gear list and review each item, please note that most of my gear I have used for the past three years. While I ended up sending home some gear home and shaving a couple of pounds off of my base pack weight, the only gear I purchased while out on the trail was a poncho. Please remember gear doesn’t have to be expensive, I had gear gifted to me, bought things from Walmart/Thrift Store. That being said invest in some quality gear, take care of it and it will serve you well.

Sleeping bag –  Big Agnes Mirror Lake 20 degree
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes
This is the same sleeping bag and it is awesome. There are a lot more expensive bags out there but this one worked incredibly for me. After three years of getting it crazy dirty and washing it, that thing still has loft and is STILL toasty warm. Highly recommend it and take care of your bag.

Backpack: ULA Circuit
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes and Yes

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One heck of an investment. Love this backpack. Full disclosure I did tear the back panel on the CDT but nothing a little duct tape and sleeping pad patches couldn’t fix. That pack has held 7 days of food and 3 liters of water and all my crap at once. It rides nicely on my shoulders and rest nicely on my hips without chafing.pack

Tent: REI Passage 1
Rating:  Love
Take again: Yes

I was gifted this tent at PCT meetup! For me free standing tent is where it’s at. I’m just not that into staking out a tent. This is a one person tent but there is plenty of room in there for my pack and shoes. No condensation issues, it sets up quickly and handles the rain like a boss.

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Tent: Nemo Sleeping Pad
Rating: Good
Take again: Yes
First time taking a blow up pad. This one takes a bit to blow up but it is comfy to sleep on and it doesn’t make that crunchy noise some pads make when you lay on it. I also used a piece of my old z lite (for day sitting) underneath it as I was bit concerned about popping, but nope.pad

Tent: Jet Boil
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes
I went stove-less on the PCT and then the Esbit stove on the AT. Well it makes a big difference to be able to have hot coffee and a hot meal. Once I got to Montana, the weather warmed up (and being close to finishing) I sent the Jet Boil home. Overall it’s a great stove, heats quickly, fuel is easy to find and except for the large fuel canister I kept getting it takes up very little room. boil

Trekking Poles: MSR Talus Sure lock
Rating: Like
Take again: Yespoles

Honestly I don’t use trekking poles very much, mostly just for crossing streams or when I really want to move faster. Otherwise I just don’t like have things in my hands, constantly. These actually were gifted to me on the PCT from the Dinsmore’s (Hiker Haven) after I broke my other poles (at the time I needed poles to hold up my other tent).

Shoes: Saucony
Rating: Good enough
Take again: nah, going back to Altra

Full disclosure, I bought these shoes because a) they are inexpensive and b) the teal color matched my hiking outfit, don’t judge. They are great for day hikes and in the gym, but they took a real beating on the trail. Lesson learned, invest in some good shoes.  I did the AT in Altra running shoes, they were awesome and I should have had them on the CDT. Heck I’m wearing them right now……and they come in great colors to match your outfit, oh and gaiter traps! (side note: old shoes make great planters)plant shoes

 

Laundry Puffy Jacket
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes
This jacket came from…..wait for it…..Burlington Coat Factory! I got it for like $60 in their winter close out sale. Thing is great. Kept me warm and made a great pillow too! Sure you can spend twice as much on an ultra light coat, or not.

 

So that is me and my stuff. Oh that dress is totally from Walmart! (notice the bags on my feet, stepped up my game later with Neoprene socks) If you have any gear questions…..ask away!

 

The Samples – Could It Be Another Change

So I survived birthday month! Got a few more bumps and bruises but I made it. Managed to camp/hike every weekend except on my actual birthday. To say the least I did all the things. Camping in the Eastern Sierras (it was so beautiful with the fall colors and lakes) to camping at the La Jolla Indian reservation then camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert. The best part was doing it all with friends old and new.

Magical moments in nature is what keeps drawing me back out there. The winding creek under a star filled sky, climbing the same hill over and over, a light rain falling on my tent, avoiding poison oak as I scramble down a mountain while people in onesies laugh and dance the night away.  Disco camping! Ah, yes Youtopia, San Diego’s regional, it was the best year yet, magic on the mountain. While I was hiking the CDT I wrote this poem regarding the burner/thru hiking community, nature can really ignite your creativity.

Finding My Flame

I am only ordinary 
Not special in any way
Not even noticed
As I go on day to day

I went in search
Of something
But the dust made it hard to see
What was truly me

But the voices around me
Said what do you want to be
Confident humble strong
With that
I could not go wrong

From the desert city
To the woods I did flee
There I’d find what eluded me

The path was full of obstacles
Night dark as could be
Yet there was light from
The desert community

A flaming fire
Inspired encouraged
and restored my soul

From sunrise at a fence
To sunset on a mountain
I began to see
What I seek is
Inside of me

 

Now with the month of November kicking off I am reminded of all the things I planned to do but have not. So it is certainly time for me to reignite the flame. Time to start closing out this year and prep for the next.

Blue October – Into The Ocean

It has been a little over a month since I finished my thru hike. You would think after 3 long hikes I would be better at reintegration, but I’m not. Returning to
“regular’ life has not gotten easier. The me I am on trail is different from the me in regular life. The same but different, two sides of the same coin. I long to
be back on the trail because I love the person I am when I’m there. Stronger, more confident, inspired, independent, the stripped down basic beautiful me. If you
are wondering, yes I will be back on the trail. There are miles on the AT that stand between me and the Triple Crown and I want that, for me. If nothing else I’ve
learned not to let anything stand between me and my goals.

Being back in regular life means dealing with all the things. Adulting. There are so many things to do.

Had a lovely welcome back party with friends. (thanks everyone
who came and put up with my absence in the middle of it all!) Still so many people I would like to reconnect with. So much changed while I was away, births, deaths,
engagements, marriages, and situation rearranging. As I moved up the trail life moved on, I knew that it would. I’m catching up, processing and oh my gawd the politics.

My car needed to be repaired (darn little beasties chewed my wires). Posted one message and so many people offered help, thank you. (special thanks Nick for going
out of his way to repair my janky car and deal with my crazy that day, love you) I needed to find a place to live and work. I am deeply grateful to my friends for
taking me into their homes when I return. I’m finally getting some work but the commute makes me question my sanity.

TRAFFIC

Yeah…..back to work!!!

There are also the internet things to do. You might have noticed I have posted in a while. Some posts I only wrote half of and never finished, like my gear review.
Those awesome ladies over at HLAW (Hike Like a Woman) gave some great advice about blogging. That’s when I realized I really need to redo my blog too! Honestly it all
got a bit overwhelming for a bit. So when some friends invited to hike the Eastern Sierras with them I was like, “Yes, yes, and yes!!”

PSA: Prolonged contact with nature can promote positive mental health.

Four days in the Eastern Sierras, just what the doctor ordered. Short hikes to beautiful lakes, fall colors, laughter and marshmallows around a campfire.

Can’t think of a better way to kick of birthday month! Friends with birthdays (thanks Leslie including me in your celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, great time! All this time in California and I’m only just now seeing the Hollywood sign!)

Oh and MY BIRTHDAY! This being my 46th trip around the Sun, a time of reflection is in order. 20, heck 10 years ago I never would have imagined this is where I would
be in life. Even with all the craziness I love what my life has become. It’s not for everybody, but its mine.

elsyew

Emerald City

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Hanging out in Seattle processing the last 5 months. Sometimes it’s like a blur, while some moments I remember with amazing clarity. I’m fortunate to have amazing friends here in Seattle that allow me to decompress in their beautiful spaces. (Yes, I was here also after the PCT)

Cerrie and Chad (missed ya, but Flapjack took me on a nice walk about!) have taken me in this time around. Cerrie you’re the best taking care of me, working and whipping out homemade dumplings, you rock! This was a last minute stop over, too bad. So many awesome people to see here. Some I just didnt get to see. But they too are in the midst of decompression and dusting off.

I did get to catch up with a dear friend from Iowa Sheri! Old friends are best they remind you how far you’ve come but that ya haven’t really changed. On trail I dreamed of a ‘nice’dinner (ya know with silverware) got to share that with my friend James. Thanks man your energy is contagious!
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Today I’ll hop a plane back to San Diego. Feels like I’ve been gone foreva!

Where there’s smoke..

There was an Apocalyptic feel leaving camp for Many Glacier. Going to the Sun Rd was closed over night from fire. So it was weird crossing the road and there being zero traffic. Just the day before it was teaming with tourist headed for the falls. I am so coming back to Montana when it’s not on fire. First thing the permit was changed (Waterton was evacuated) so Chief Mountain it is! The rangers are keeping tabs on where hikers are in case conditions change, that’s nice to know.

Luckily, Garbelly told us about the Ptarmagin Tunnel trail it runs 20 miles, through a tunnel then right out at Chief Mountain at the border.

Another round of boys showed up that evening. Hikers are stacking up with the closures and rerouting. Moist, Roswell, Quicksilver and Mac (always fun to meet a blogger in person. We sat around laughing, chatting and eating.

I was excited and sad only one more day on trail. Had fun walking about the campsite talking to other campers, checking out their car camping rigs. A car camping road trip may be in my future!

Toasted Toad helped with us slack packing! That was fun for me, even the climb to the tunnel, then It was downhill  (except for the last 3 miles uphill, really). Embracing the Brutality, yep,…….almost there…..

 

Gonna miss this..

Well the first day into Glacier was great. What a beautiful area. There was only 11 miles to Two Medicine where we’d get our backcountry permits. About 2 miles out I ran into some goats on the trail!


Unfortunately at the ranger station we found out many other hikers beat us to the punch. Most campsites were full so our next day would have to be 26 miles, a long day, then 14 miles the next day. The other news was that the border at Waterton was possibly closed due to fires. We might not make it to the monument. The detour would put us at Chief Mountain…nooo (well ok, im being dramatic). Basically we’d have to wait til we got get our backcountry o Many Glacier for updated fire information.

Luckily Toasted Toad met us and had a campsite already at Two Medicine. He also brought drinks and dinner! Other hikers came in and enjoyed hot dogs, chardonnay and jack daniels shots!


Thanks to ME for grabbing my buff I dropped on trail! So glad I got to see Garbelly, ME, and Thor we werell on the same shuttle to the border the very first day….later sharing shade in the desert! There’s not a lot of people out here but the ones that are are pretty awesome.

To Canada….

So I managed to get my package, but Kelsey did not. Hanging around town we run into Flip flop and Quicksilver, apparently they were hiking about 5 miles behind us coming into town. We hung out that night and caught up over some beers. The boys were zeroing the next day and that is contagious. Suffice it to say we decided to stay and zero also. Plus we were hearing news other hikers were headed our way.

The next day we spent hanging out checking news on the fires. There are fires everywhere. Matter of fact turned out we had hiked through a fire closure. There were signs at the north end of the trail but not yet posted at the South!

Later about 10 hikers rolled in to town! Wow, I was super happy to see everyone. Garbelly, ME, Thor, Drive by, Scrapbook even Kate and Liam! We all went to the Mexican restaurant for dinner. Had a great night hearing everyone’s trail adventure stories. Funny how we are all on the same trail (sometimes within miles of each other) and have different but similar experiences. This was one of the best nights for me. The trail community really makes the experience. It sucks for those that had to skip the Bob Marshall wilderness due fire. We are not sure where some hikers are, hope they are safe if they pushed on into the Bob.


Today wake up early for one last hot coffee. We will wait a bit for Kelsey’s package then hit the trail. Most everyone else is doing the same thing. It would be awesome hike to then end with a fun group.

For now the CDT is open to the border, hoping that does not change and the fires stay to the east. I heard this is the worst fire conditions in 50 years. I’ve been looking forward to Glacier National Park for this whole trip.

Still can’t believe only 100 miles left about 4 days. But time to move, it’s getting chilly again. These last 5 months have been an incredibly crazy journey. Guess this is my last post til Canada…….see on the flip side!!