I would not describe it as a particularly “blissful” crossroads. Definitely not my idea, but it is what it is.
For those of you who don’t know, here’s a recap. I returned to Saint Paul after walking over 2,000 miles in New Zealand to the news that my job was eliminated.
I know, I know, it was risky to take a leave-of-absence, but it still was soul-crushing to lose my career. All I worked for and organized my life around just kind of went up in smoke. I guess it’s a reminder that nothing in life is really secure.
Richard has been my rock over these past few months, but after enduring days and weeks and then months of my alternating sorrow and panic, he gently suggested I get out of town for another walk.
Why do I LOVE Lip Vibrance so much? First it’s the restorative emollients – shea butter, grapeseed oil and vitamin E. It feels smooth, and rich.
Then there’s the sun protection at SPF 15. This isn’t your zinc oxide for alpine climbing, but Lip Vibrance protects pretty darn well on most exposed sun-shiny days.
Next, it’s absolutely lovely color. Every blissful hiker gal needs just a touch of color. This is pink and a glossy.
There’s a little mirror on the back. I wouldn’t use as a signaling device but works great in case you need to get food out of your teeth or when you want to make sure you’re coloring within the lines.
A couple of years back, I was unable to find Lip Vibrance at my local drugstore, so I purchased a competitor’s lip protection. It melted in my pocket and when I went to put it on my lips, a huge glob came right off in a huge smear. Blistex Lip Vibrance never, EVER melts in the field.
I gotta have Blistex Lip Vibrance and so I give it FIVE ANITAS!!
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. —Amelia Earhart
How does the word ‘tenacity’ resonate as you take your walk today?
Post to Instagram or Facebook or simply comment right here with a picture. Share a quote, a poem a thought. Make us laugh, make us cry, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #blissfulhikers
Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams. —Ashley Smith
How does the word ‘potential’ resonate as you take your walk today?
Post to Instagram or Facebook or simply comment right here with a picture. Share a quote or poem or thought. Make us laugh, make us cry, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #blissfulhikers
Here’s something I get asked a lot – How the heck do you wash your down quilt or sleeping bag?
For starters, you should probably not wash down until things get really out of hand. So let’s use our imaginations to take us to that moment of out-of-handedness when a good washing is all one can do.
Imagine putting your face right up against your furry dog. If she’s freshly cleaned, this might be a delight of fuzzy, nuzzly therapy. But had you two just returned from a long doggie run, your nose would likely receive a less-than-pleasant whiff of mousy, musty animal-odor.
That would basically describe my Hammock Gear Burrow quilt after I finished walking the Te Araroa. It’s not a totally horrible smell, but it’s mighty strong and it left me no other choice than to go through the arduous, time-consuming, gently-caring, get-completely-wet-and-covered-in-soap, hand-washing process to bring my HG “Blue Moroccan” (full review and specs) back to her fresh, fluffy self.
It was so worth it not just because I’ll have her ready for the next thru-hike, but also because this quilt is now on the list as a go-to piece of equipment and I want to take very good care of it.
Instead, let’s inspire each other by making this June more about the en-counter not the step-counter.
Here’s how we’ll do it – each day of the month, I’ll pick a keyword as a topic for the day’s walk. Describe how this word resonates with you by posting a picture, a video, a poem, some humor, something you encounter on the way, or any great idea that bubbles up.
Next, share on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #blissfulhikers – or below in the comments section.
Join in the fun, be inspired, get involved, post your status update and don’t forget to tag our growing hiking community #blissfulhikers
A little surprise awaits those who walk together as #blissfulhikers…
Quick, what is the most important activity on a thru-hike?
If you answered, “Hike,” give that reader a Kewpie doll. But, indulge me just for a sec, and let’s rephrase the question just a little. To hike, you need to be strong and focused, and to get there, you need to be well fed and well rested. Each morning you have got to wake up replenished and refreshed, ready for the next day’s rigors or each step is potentially a misery. So I’d say, the most important activity on a thru-hike is a good night’s sleep.
Except for extra pairs of socks, undies and camp clothes that double as layers on cold days, there’s really no such thing as a “change of clothes” when thru-hiking. So when it comes to deciding what to wear, you better choose wisely.
I purchased a Smartwool long sleeved shirt to take on the Te Araroa. Sizes run small and it fit snugly and felt too hot most days. By the time I arrived in Hamilton on day 31, I knew I needed to make a swap for something looser and lighter. I was thrilled when my Kiwi tramping pal Irene mentioned the local outdoor store was having a sale. I headed right on over and nabbed a T-shirt made by New Zealand’s Icebreaker.
If you’re going to be outdoors for any significant amount of time, you are going to eventually get wet and if you plan to walk the Te Araroa, you will get very wet. I always carry sturdy rain gear on my thru-hikes. I know it’s a cardinal sin in the ultralite community, but on the TA, I saw a few trampers with minimalist gear shivering on the verge of hypothermia and I was glad I packed the full kit.
Obviously, top-notch waterproof gear that is also breathable is indispensable for hikers. It’s also hard to make. That’s because unless you’re a fisherman and want a heavy, 100% impermeable rubber coat that won’t allow water in – or out – you have to make some compromises.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me by phone on that cold, blustery and rainy day last March as I holed up in Otautau after an upsetting encounter with an aggressive male tramper. Your calming voice and sensible advice helped me complete the trail in Bluff full of joy and big smiles – a trail I set out to walk four months earlier from Cape Reinga. I am forever grateful that you pointed me in the right direction and sent me on my way feeling strong again.
When we talked, you asked that I share with you a few ideas about how the trail might be improved. I have had the opportunity to talk with trail friends as well as Kiwi trampers to come up with a few ideas that would not cost a lot of money or manpower, but might offer an opportunity for the trail to succeed in even more potent ways.
You might recall that it was one year ago, while hiking the Coast-to-Coast and aliloop-of-the-lakes in England, that I became a true believer in using trail runners for backpacking. It turns out this is not just a fling. We’re talking full-on love affair made to last for the long haul and that’s because for the Te Araroa, I had fantastic results wearing La Sportiva Akyras. (full review and specs)
In the words of Saturday Night Live’s Stefon – New Zealand has everything: the steepest climbs and the nastiest descents on ankle-twisting rock and mud, narrow catwalks of tussock-covered strips-of-slip requiring the twinkle-toes accuracy of an Alex Honnold, miles and miles of sand and sea, plus water, water and more water in the form of streams, rivers, and wetlands. By day five, my Akyras were sandblasted and mud-caked beyond recognition. But that’s just cosmetics. These babies kept me nimble and secure, one pair per island of over 2,000 miles walking.
The volume’s turned up at William O’Brien as I take a half-day’s walk on muddy trails, ears open to the music of early spring. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers’ rat-a-tat competes with the vibra-slap trill of the redwing blackbird. Ratcheting turkeys interject mirth in between chickadees’ mournful insistence. Wind-up toy robins, two-toned honking geese, a gold finch gushing a string of ‘tweety-bird’ before alighting on a C-shaped roller coaster, riding an invisible air-track. At a flooded stream, a warbler checks me out, coming close on hopping feet before darting out of sight behind a drooping willow.
It’s not that I have anything against baseball caps. I often wear them hiking, biking, kayaking, running, skiing, climbing – you get the idea. But for a long-distance thru-hike, I really need to cover more territory. I am a pony-tailed hiker most of the time, and there’s a lot of exposed skin. A wide-brimmed sun hat is de rigueur so I don’t need to go through the daily ritual of slathering sloppy sunscreen on my ears and the back of my neck.
Before I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2012, I wandered into Midwest Mountaineering here in Minneapolis and stumbled into a relationship with Kavu that changed my life. Kavu is an acronym for an aviation term describing the perfect day: “Klear Above Visibility Unlimited.” I mean how can you not want a bit of this sensibility on your body while hiking – especially on a thru-hike when some days might possibly be a bit less-than-perfect and you gotta push through anyway with a big smile on your face?
When I purchased the iPhone that would become my camera, typewriter, microphone, editing studio and means of communication with the outside world, I needed to ensure it was big enough to handle all those tasks, but small enough to fit easily in the hip-belt pocket of my backpack.
It’s gray and cold, my hoodie is tied tight at my chin. A tiny stream seeps from a pile of shriveled and melting black snow where a mummified squirrel is revealed, his tail a soft curve.
Last year’s fall display crunches underfoot in a seemingly barren forest. But green rises in round pools of life, topped by pink Dutchman’s Breeches hanging on a tiny green stem.
Frogs clackety clatter comes into hearing range. Red Wing Blackbirds flirt in clipped chirps, tight claws on swaying cat tails.
Bloodroot dress in their Sunday best, white and yellow, bonneted heads open-mouthed towards the sky in their tiny window of opportunity before the trees block access.
The wind tosses in those trees’ branches high overhead. Their tips hold a promise. Anxious and expectant, I marvel at their patience waiting in the wings for the cue to unfurl what’s now tightly closed.
My heart beats in time to this moment – this moment ‘before’ – when the orchestra tunes, when the lights dim, when all is quiet.
Going down, per usual, was far more difficult than going up as I picked my way over a slippery stretch next to an avalanche path. The wind lessened as I descended, but the path stayed hidden in tussock, muddy and strewn with loose rocks.
Fungus was certainly among us walking the Kepler Track in the South Island. Seeing these pictures again brings back for me all those long walks through the bush – especially its rich pungency. Follower Thomas taught me a new word – “petrichor” – which refers to the pleasant odor that fills our nostrils after the first rain following a dry stretch, a heavenly scent indeed. If only I could offer up a scratch-and-sniff…
…and don’t forget to vote for your top three in the avatar naming contest! deadline is this Tuesday…
Vote for your top three favorite avatar names… Deadline is Tuesday, April 23 at midnight
I am overjoyed with the number of entries I received on the website and on social media for this naming contest many replete with background stories and good vibes. While I convened a jury to select finalists – cos it was just SO many cool names! – I’ve included all the entries below for your pleasure.