Once upon a time I used to hike with a big digital SLR camera. Then I downgraded to a little pocket Sony, which I still use on long trips, but now I just use my phone.
Unless you’re a photographer, or photography is seriously your thing, there is very little reason to carry a big camera and gear – especially when you’re already carrying a baby. Most cell phones today have very good cameras. They can take still shots, live shots, videos, panoramic pictures, and even have filters that can be applied while taking the photo. If you’re a social media sharer, it’s way easier to share directly from your cell phone than to download then upload photos on your computer. There are even extra zoom lenses that can be attached to cell phone cameras now. And cell phones are much easier to carry and fit in the hip pocket of most carriers and packs. Most smartphones are very water resistant as well.
If you’re thing is video check out Go Pros. They can be worn, so you don’t have to carry them. I don’t currently use them, but I think it could be cool.
If you really want a separate camera but to keep it small, little digital pocket cameras are great. My little Sony was $75 at a Black Friday sale when I was in middle school and I’m still using it. Downside is I must really watch it in the rain, and I have to pre-charge and carry and extra battery. My iPhone takes better video, but my Sony has better zoom.
And if you’re going to go big, talk to a professional who does photography in the middle of nowhere. Check over reviews on weight, special considerations, gear required, ability to hold up to weather, cost, and how much you’re willing to carry with a baby.
You’re hiking to get away from technology, to unplug, and be in nature. The idea of carrying a cell phone may seem kind of silly when hiking. There are lots of reasons to carry your cell, and plenty not to. There are also a few alternative options. Personally, especially when hiking with a baby, I highly recommend you carry your cell phone.
Reasons not to carry your phone:
You want to unplug and disconnect
You don’t want to break it or lose it
You’ve never carried it before
Reasons to carry your cell phone:
Most smart phones have pretty good cameras these days. A cell phone with a good camera is smaller and lighter than even small travel cameras.
You may get spotty service in areas which can be lifesaving in an emergency
In the US, ALL smartphones with GPS are required to have a feature where if you call 911 and do not have service it will ping your approximate coordinates to emergency services. This can drastically reduce the time it takes for rescuers to find you. (see emergencies)
You are hiking with a baby, having the possibility of calling for help is important
In the worst of situations, a cell phone’s parts can be used for a variety of survival tools
If you are found, your info and ability to contact family is in your phone
Maybe you want some music
There are emergency only phones that are light weight and can ONLY call 911. Overall many do not have good record of working well
Satellite phones. These things are heavy, extremely expensive, and require extra knowledge, but they exist.
Live GPS tracking. There are many GPS devices these days that live track your location back to either a designated person or a ‘home’ device that others can watch you on. That being said, GPS doesn’t work everywhere either, and your phone is one of these devices in the first place.
Ok so I’ll carry my phone, but how do I stay “unplugged”?
Simple: put it in airplane mode! And if you plane to take lots of pictures or be out for a while, low battery mode is helpful in prolonging battery life. Going for more than a day? Bring a portable charger. These range from the size of a USB flash drive to a small book and hold 2-8 charges. There are also solar powered options.
Add On since original posting:
Thanks to companies like Garmin and Spot you can now also have GPS trackers that link with your phone. I carry an InReach Mini by Garmin. While I can use the device alone, I can also use my phone to send messages and see maps and save waypoints – ALL WITHOUT CELL SERVICE! Just one more reason to carry the phone.
Everyone takes time to adjust to altitude. Babies are no exception. In fact babies actually take long to adjust to altitude as a general rule. There are a lot of factors that play into a baby’s ability to adjust to altitude.
Before your baby was even born some of these factors were already at play. Mom’s activity while pregnant will affect the baby a lot. As well as where mom lives while pregnant. This is due to the oxygen levels shared while in utero. A mom who is active at high altitudes will have a baby more likely to adjust easily to altitude. A mom who is less active or lives a lower altitude is more likely to have a baby that requires extra time to adjust. Don’t worry it’s not anything you did wrong. It has to do with the way the body produces hemoglobin, which is the part of the blood that helps carry oxygen around the body. It’s been shown many times that those who live and are active at higher altitudes naturally have higher hemoglobin levels, which means when there is less oxygen in the air, it is easier for them to move oxygen around their bodies than someone who has lower levels. Hemoglobin levels can change rapidly though, which is why acclimation periods and sleeping at altitude can “fix” this very easily. Generally, the more time spent at altitude in low oxygen conditions, the better your body adapts. Just like anything else. This is no different for babies, and generally speaking babies are born with similar levels as their mom’s.
It’s important to understand signs of altitude sickness, for both mom and baby. Adults are more likely to notice symptoms sooner than babies. Altitude sickness in babies can be very dangerous and it’s extremely important to monitor. Sometimes, you won’t show any signs for up to 36 hours after it starts.
In adults symptoms include:
Short of breath
Nausea and vomiting
Hang over like Headache
These symptoms are common and should easily go away with hydration, food, and lowering in altitude
More serious signs in adults that REQUIRE medical attention:
Fluid in the lungs (think pneumonia), fluid in the brain- (symptoms listed above that won’t go away, loss of appetite, sleep issues, loss of energy)
It’s important to remember that it doesn’t take being at high altitude to get altitude sickness. High altitude is relative to what a person is used to. Sometimes symptoms happen from going up or down TOO quickly.
In babies symptoms are a lot more subtle and can be difficult to recognize. It’s very important to pa close attention to your baby while going up or down in altitude. Remember that speed in which you change can have a significant impact, for example my little man does great going up hiking but struggles in the car if driving above a certain speed. He also has a harder time going down than up.
In babies watch for:
Extra sleepiness (we still expect your little ones to nap approximately as much as they normally do or a little less)
Spitting up/vomiting – if you have a typically refluxy baby this can be hard to differentiate, you know your baby better than anyone so use your best judgement
Screaming for no apparent reason – hunger, bug bites, too hot/cold, positional comfort have been ruled out
Refusal to eat- again this can be tricky, sometimes your baby is simply overly distracted-MAKE SURE THEY ARE HYDRATED
Again, many of these symptoms can be solved with hydration, food, and lower altitude. Take it slow, especially at first. Babies symptoms tend to linger more than adults and sometimes won’t appear until a day or two later.
Ok, you know what to watch for, so how do you actually help a baby adjust to altitude?
The same you would an adult – slowly and over time.
It’s best to start hiking about the altitude you are used to before you ever attempt any altitude with a baby. Before heading up to altitude make sure your pediatrician clears them. This is especially important if your baby was premature, born with any lung problems, or ever required oxygen support. Once you have the clear start slow.
Since going up fast is the hardest, you’re best off starting by parking lower and walking higher. As you and your baby do well, try parking a little higher every few weeks (if hiking regularly, if not this will take much longer). Pay attention to how they handle the car and remember they cannot pop their ears like an adult can. It’s OK and highly recommended that you make stops on your drives up and down until you are certain your baby can handle it. Start with slower roads, under 60 mph overall speed. If you go up any passes go extra slow, the people behind you will get over it.
Once hiking, an altimeter can be helpful if you aren’t sure how the elevation climbs. Take extra breaks and offer your baby your breast or bottle regularly. Remember it’s not recommended to give them water before 6 months of age. (see feeding your baby). When hiking your baby’s hydration level matters much more than calories. Make sure they are still peeing regularly or even a little extra. Just like with driving, if you both do well, you can push a little higher every few weeks.
Other factors to consider:
What altitude you live at versus where you plan to hike.
How often you go up.
Are you going alone or with people?
Are you experienced or is this new for you too?
Be smart. Pay attention. Take it slow. And it’s ok to not make it to your goal destination.
For those of you who breastfeed, know that it can be super easy and convenient to breastfeed while hiking because you don’t have to prep bottles. You don’t have to carry extra things. It makes hiking a lot easier. You can just whip your boob out when you’re ready, feed baby, and be on the go. That being said, it can be a little tricky in the winter.
My very first time breastfeeding my son on a hike was actually in the winter. It was December 13, last year. So just over a year ago, and it was like 40 degrees out at the highest, If you were in the sun and there was no breeze. There was snow on the ground. So it wasn’t freezing cold, but it was pretty darn chilly. I made a very big mistake that time and I wore what I would normally wear to hike for that temperature. But I didn’t consider the fact that I would be freezing to death when I needed to feed my son.
Since then I’ve learned a lot, and my favorite thing that I’ve learned is a different way of layering. I found sports bras that are easy to nurse in. I don’t have very big chest. I like one that I can just pull aside versus a snap-on-snap-off one, but there’s tons out there that are super great that snap on and snap off, if that’s what you prefer. I just like to wear a regular sports bra and pull it up. It’s more comfortable that way, and for me that’s more important long term. I also have one that’s more like a deep V-neck sports bra, by Ice Breaker, and that one pulls off to the side very easily. I love it.
To keep my body warm, I found Merino Wool, which is known for keeping you warm or cool without getting you too hot and sweaty. It’s great stuff. Definitely look into it if you have never heard of it. I like to wear a cami, which is just a really lightweight tank top. Camis don’t really provide a whole bunch of warmth by themselves, but they’re a great base layer. I like them because they’re easy to pull out of the way to nurse, but they don’t get overly hot or sweaty when you’re hiking and have all your stuff on. And then when you pull your shirt aside to nurse, you’re not freezing to death because there’s still a layer of clothing on your skin. The Siren Tank and the Siren Cami by Icebreaker are great merino wool base layer options.
So, what I’ve found is that if I wear something with a deep zipper, like a half zip sweater or athletic wear top that’s long sleeve, it works perfectly over top of a cami and sports bra. I just pull everything over to the side to nurse and pull it back on when I’m done. This way, pretty much all my clothes get to stay on, which is so much warmer than just pulling your shirt up the way I did the very first time, wherein I literally sat there shivering while feeding my son.
So, don’t be afraid of winter if you’re nursing. Yes, it can be a little tricky. And, yes, cold nipples suck. But it’s totally worth it. You just have to figure out what kind of clothing works best for you to layer properly.
My favorite way to go is a merino wool cami tank top, over a comfortable sports bra that’s easy to pull to the side or pull up, underneath a long sleeve half zip, then topped with a full zip coat or jacket. I prefer a full zip coat or jacket because it makes it easy to keep my arms warm, but if I really have to I can take it all the way off, and I’ll still be warm because of all the layers I have on. Obviously, the colder it is the more you’re going to need to layer. Layers are always your best friend.
All right let’s talk about trekking poles. If you’re like most people I know you don’t use trekking poles because you don’t need them. But trekking poles are one of those things that once you learn how to use them, and start using them, you never go back.
They have so many benefits and there’s so many different styles out there. It’s almost a little overwhelming. So let’s pause, take a step back, and talk about why trekking poles are so fantastic.
First, they help relieve some of the weight and pressure you have on your knees and your back, especially when you’re carrying a baby. Let’s get some of that weight off your back by putting it into your arms.
Second, they help with balance, another super important thing when you’re hiking with your child. It’s a lot easier to lose your balance when hiking with your baby, and trekking poles can help you maintain your balance. I cannot count the number of times that poles have saved me from falling on my ass or dropping my baby face first down a mountain. Kind of scary to think about, but in reality, it happens. People trip. People fall. Trekking poles can help you to not face plant your baby down the mountain. That, in and of itself, is enough of a reason to use trekking poles when hiking with a child.
Poles also help give you more of an upper body workout. With trekking poles, you can take a little bit of the workout out of your legs and get more of a whole body workout. The very first time you use poles, do not be surprised if your arms and shoulders are crazy sore and you can’t figure out why. Probably your poles.
Trekking poles help you to find soft spots in the ground, especially in the winter or after a fresh rain or snow fall. They can keep you from post-holing, whether it’s post-holing into mud or snow. Post-holing, for those of you who don’t know, is when you basically you take a step and your leg goes down and makes a big hole, like you would make if you were digging a big hole for a fence post. Hence, this is why it’s called post-holing. Post-holing is extremely common in the winter. Poles can help you avoid post-holing. Yes, it’s still going to happen in the winter. It’s guaranteed to happen if there’s snow on the ground. But if you live in an area with quicksand, you can avoid post-holing into quicksand. You can also avoid post-holing in soft ground, muddy areas, because nobody wants to post-hole into a pile of mud. So by having poles or you can kind of poke and prod what’s ahead of you.
Those are the major benefits of poles. There are a few other benefits, but being able to take pressure off your back, maintaining your balance, increasing your upper body strength, and avoiding post-holing are the major benefits.
All right. Let’s talk about the different types of poles, because choosing which poles to buy can be overwhelming.
There are summer poles. There are walking poles. There are hiking poles. There are ski poles, snowshoeing poles, winter poles, et cetera.
There are poles that fold down into a three. Those are called Z poles. Those are my all time favorite. We’ll get back to those. There are telescoping poles, which are the most common and least expensive kind that you are going to find out there. For winter poles you’re going to want telescoping. We’ll come back to that one as well.
Poles are made out of different materials. You have poles made out of cork. (Yup, just like your wine corks). You have poles made out of aluminum. You have poles made out of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber poles are my all time favorite, except for in the winter when you’ll want aluminum.
Poles also have different types of baskets. There are summer and winter baskets, and even different types of winter baskets, depending on snowfall.
So how do you choose a pair of poles?
Start by putting yourself on a budget. Poles range anywhere from about $40 to a $200, depending on what you are looking for.
So, what kind of pole do you need, and what budget do you have?
Do you want a single pole or a pair? I highly recommend a pair. You can always just use one of the pair.
And then you want to talk about materials. Aluminum is going to generally be your least expensive. Cork and carbon fiber are going to get more expensive, with cork being the less expensive of the two. Why?
Carbon fiber is super duper light. Carbon fiber Z-folding poles are what I use for ultra running, for when my poles need to fit in my pocket basically. If you’re a super lightweight hiker, where you only like the lightest weight gear, you want carbon fiber. Expect to pay more for carbon fiber. Also consider whether you need a fixed height or if you’ll want an adjustable height. If you’ve never used poles before, I highly recommend you start with an adjustable height. Technically speaking, the handles of your poles should leave your arms at a perfect 90 degree angle, while standing on flat ground in whatever shoes you’ll be wearing when hiking. That being said, you may want your pole height to adjust for different terrains or different shoes. Sometimes you want longer poles going downhill. You may want shorter poles going uphill, especially if it’s super steep. It kind of just varies. I like fixed height because I’ve been using poles for a long time. I know exactly which height works ideally for me, in general, on all terrain, and I know how to adjust my grip if I need to. But this is something that you can only get with practice.
So those are your starting points as you consider which poles are right for you.
Summer baskets versus winter baskets are pretty self explanatory. Summer baskets are going to be these small little itty bitty things, basically just to prevent you from dropping your pole down into a rock and breaking it. They don’t really do much as far as debris or anything. Snow poles, or winter poles, usually have what we call snow baskets. They’re usually a couple inches around and have little holes in them. They basically help keep that pole from sinking down into the snow, which is super helpful when you’re snowshoeing or hiking in snow. Even though a lot of times if you’re hiking in the winter your actual trail is gonna be packed, the sides of the trail probably won’t be, so having those snow baskets can help you.
If you’ve never had poles before I highly recommend you go with something that has an adjustable height.
Most of those are going to be telescoping, at least partially. You can get an adjustable height aluminum and then get something with interchangeable baskets.
They cost a little bit more but then you don’t have to buy a second pole for winter.
The handles come in different grips. Some of them are what we call a foam. Some of them are cork. Some of them are hard plastic. Winter poles especially are often a hard plastic or even a foam because they stand up longer to cold temperatures and are easier to hold with gloves.
Winter poles are going to be a bit thicker, whereas summer poles can be small and thin.
Basically there’s a whole bunch of variety. So, go to a sporting goods store, such as REI. Ask for some help finding some poles. I guarantee you they will have lots of options and be able to help you find something that you feel comfortable to start with. Also Montem Gear has some decent lighter weight poles for beginners.
So, you found yourself some poles. How do you use them? Find your height, where your arms are at a 90 degree angle standing flat on ground, and then you’re going to stick your hand up into the loop and then bring your hand down to the grip. This is so that if you lose your grip while hiking, you don’t lose your pole. You might drop it out of your hands, but that strap is going to keep it attached to your wrist, which means that even though you’ve dropped your pole, you have not lost it. You do not have to bend down to go get it. You don’t have to take five steps backwards to find what your pole just got stuck in. It still attached to you. This is super helpful when you have a kid on your back and you don’t want to bend over.
There are a couple different styles of use. Your ski style usage is where you take both poles forward and then you walk into them. That’s one way to use them. Another way is to use them alternating legs. So your pole hand will go forward with the opposite leg. So if you’re going to go forward with your left arm your right leg is going forward at the same time and you alternate just like you’re walking. For going fast, which is actually what I use the most, you’re going to find what’s comfortable for you. It’s gonna take a couple tries. Both techniques are valid. It just comes down to which way feels most comfortable to you.
I want to talk about what happens when you see a moose. Now everybody knows I’ve spent a shit ton of time in the mountains. I’ve lived in the mountains basically my whole life. I grew up in Colorado Rocky Mountains. We’ve got lions and tigers and bears oh my. But really what happens when you get close to a moose moose is scary. There’s only two things I’m afraid of. And that would be mountain lions/bobcats/big cats and moose. I don’t care about Bear. I don’t care about wolves. I don’t care about coyotes but moose and cats scare the crap out of me.
So yesterday up here in Breckenridge, I was going for a snow hike (was intended to be a snow shoeing but that didn’t happen). Anyway, I digress. Hiking in the snow with my son, I am a quarter of a mile away from getting back to the trailhead and come around the corner and there are two moose. At this point I can’t quite tell. Do we have two cows? Do you have a cow and a baby? Do you have a cow and a bull? What do we have? I couldn’t quite see it, but luckily at this point my son and I had already been babbling and yelling and making all sorts of noise for miles and we did not startle them at all, which is a good thing. You don’t want to startle a moose. That’s even worse.
It turns out that I had come across a cow, which is a female, and her baby. Baby is clearly less than a year old and was probably born this spring. Mom was off in the willows, a good good distance off the trail, so closer than I’d like to be but good distance from the trail, munching down on some willow bark. But baby was like two steps off the trail. Mind you, I’ve got my son on my back. We’re hiking almost back to the trailhead. I’m tired I’m exhausted. I’m sore. There’s snow. The trail itself is packed. But if you step off the trail it’s knee deep. And then the moose are standing in a little creek. I kept talking.
I decide to tell these moose, “Hey I’m here. We’re just passing by. I’m not going to hurt you.” I just keep talking to the Moose. I Show them my hands. You know a lot of people think I’m crazy for talking to animals, but I really think they can understand us. Body language means a lot to me. And so I talk to animals when I come across them because it helps keep yourself calm. It helps to make sure you’re not startling them, and I’m pretty sure it helps them know that you’re not there to hurt them. So I keep talking to these moose. I tell them how beautiful they are. I tell them we’re not going to hurt them, we’re just passing by.
We get past Mom no problem. But baby is really close to the trail. And when we get a little bit closer to baby he decides to take a couple steps towards us. Now even a baby moose, less than a year old, weighs more than I do. If he wanted to he could easily have charged me and hurt me very badly, and mom would have come to his rescue, and mom would have probably trampled me to death. That is usually what happens when there’s a moose incident. Somebody gets trampled because they get in between a mom and baby or a dog goes after the moose. That is how most accidents happen. They’re very rare, but that’s what happens. So baby Moose takes a couple steps forward. I take two steps backwards. And then I just stand still for a minute. I show the baby moves my hands. I tell them again, “I’m not here to hurt you. I’m just passing by. We’ll take our time.” He stops, stares at me for a couple of minutes and then takes a couple steps backwards and turns around. He doesn’t totally walk off, but he at least walks farther away from the trail. While he has his back to us we manage to pass him, always keeping my eyes on him. It’s kind of hard when you’re trying to watch your step in the snow but always make sure you know where you are relative to the moose. Get around him and then keep talking to him. Don’t just stop talking because you manage to pass them. They can move a lot faster than you can.
All in all, it was scary but it was also a really wonderful experience. I’ve actually never been that close to moose. I’ve had lots of close calls with a dog and moose before.
Like I said the number one incident with moose out here in Colorado is that a dog off leash goes after a moose and the moose charges. Most don’t typically run away. Most moose will turn around and charge. They know they are a big huge contraption. So what do you do when you come across the moose? You talk to them. You should never startle an animal. You should always be making sound on the trail. You talk, you sing, you babble with your baby. Always be making some sort of noise. Yeah it’s nice to listen to the birds and stuff, but especially if you’re alone in an area with animals, make some noise. If you do come across some, gauge the distance. The farther away you are, the safer you are. Do you have a dog? Get a hold of that dog immediately. It needs to be on a leash or very well held in your hand. And I really hope that dog is well trained to not chase animals. It’s really hard to do. It’s something you need to train from puppy hood. But get a hold of that dog before it goes after them as you could be in very very big trouble if that moose does decide to come at you. Don’t try to outrun it. You will not win. It will outrun you. It will trample you. That’s just the way it happens. That being said, there are a couple things you can do. You want to protect your vital organs. So if you can get behind a big tree, get behind a big tree, because Moose can run fast. They cannot slow down fast. They very well might run themselves into that tree trying to get to you.
The other thing is kind of curl up in a ball to protect your vital organs. Put your hands behind your neck, tuck your head down, curl up in a ball. You’re still going to get injured if you get trampled, but you’re less likely to die. And yeah that’s kind of scary to think about. But it’s something you really have to know, especially if you’re out there by yourself, and especially if you’re out there with a dog.
But the biggest thing is, again, moose incidents are rare. Being well informed, making sound, talking to them, telling them, “hey we’re not here to hurt you,” it makes a huge difference. So yeah, while it was kind of a little scary to be that close to some big moose mom and baby, it was a beautiful experience. I actually got pictures of the moose. I got to see them. My son got to see moose, so that was really awesome. Hey don’t be afraid of animals. Again, just be smart.
bailing on the original plan we all drove to the closest gas station.
Chocolate milk was called for – lots of it. And food. And a plan – the
house was under major construction and no place for a 23 month old – so
we still needed to stay out of the house for as close to the 5-6 nights
We decided to head south to Salida with the
intent of finding dispersed camping. By the time we made it around
construction detours and down to town it was nearly 6pm. We had no idea
where we were camping and still at the minimum would have to stock up on
water. My son was also getting super cranky and we were both starving.
ended up super lucky. Our good friends have this amazing condo just off
downtown Salida. It’s typically booked out months in advanced on AirBnB
but that one night it was free! We slept in a bed, took a half ass
shower, and watched a sleepy mountain town wake up. We went and spent
some time at the local gear shop. The people there were awesome giving
recommendations on spots to camp and helping me find a reasonably priced
day pack (because of course I already have one that I left at home as I
was supposed to be backpacking). We also made sure to grab a big jug of
cleaned up our friend’s condo and spent the rest of the morning
checking out the river and a little lake. The water was still crazy high
– sidewalk was literally under water. Coming up on nap time we started
heading out to a place to camp – out in the middle of nowhere land.
Little man fell asleep! YAY! I ran into a forest ranger on our way out.
She herself has kids and gave us an awesome tip where to find a campsite
safe for the wee man.
he slept I set up camp. Once he woke we explored around, climbed some
random hills to get some views, and lots of playing in the car like a
playground. We made dinner in a camp stove which he thought was so much
fun and then took a late night walk back up one of the hills to watch
the sun set over the mountains before heading to bed. Bedtime was well –
hell. He had been bored. Exploring around camp wasn’t enough fun for
him and it all backfired at bedtime. We eventually got to sleep sometime
after 10 pm (his normal bedtime is closer to 8 pm).
The next day I had planned to hike what I thought was a trail we were camped right by. Turned out to actually just be a section forest service had blocked off to motor vehicles as people had been illegally shooting targets in the ravine. We decided to follow the ravine up and see what we could find, maybe summit another random hill. Truth was mentally I just wasn’t there. Little man wasn’t happy. I was hating every minute. I found the summit of the saddle between two hills. I had phone service so I called my man. I mentally was just in a horrible place- feeling like a failure, wanting to be backpacking, not knowing how to deal with my son. He encouraged me to try just one more night in another spot. We hiked around for a little while longer- more or less just sauntering for the views (the Collegiate Peaks are just stunning).
we packed up and went back into town. We went back to the gear shop
asked more about camping places, got a map because silly me forgot to
the day before, found lunch, and went to the park at the river. Then we
found a grocery store and stocked up. Fresh breakfast options as my
packed oatmeal was accidentally my three year old bags I thought I had
long tossed, trash bags because my car was a mess, chocolate milk for
immediate consumption, chocolate pudding, tons of water, a cooler full
of ice just for cooling off, and a couple random things to be camp toys
for the wee man.
headed up towards Buena Vista with plans to stay near Ruby Mountain.
The official campsite was full but I had always wanted to hike its
neighbor Bald Mountain so we headed up the road that heads to the
trailhead. That was not the greatest idea. That road sucks, just barely
up it I realize it’s only the width of one car with drop offs on both
sides for at least a good while and it was starting to get sketchy. I
was in a place I could safely turn around, so I parked and walked up a
bit to see how the road really looked. Honestly I probably could have
made it but I didn’t want to risk it with baby and dog in tow.
we ended up packing up the car in a manner we could sleep in it and
driving towards home. We parked at one of my favorite trail heads and
slept what little we could manage. Next day we managed a 7 mile hike but
everyone was just too exhausted and ready to go home. Ultimately I
still didn’t manage to stay out of the house as long as we needed to,
but it was ok.
Ambitious. Badass. I was ready – more than ready – mentally.
up to the trip I had pneumonia. While I recovered fully and was cleared
for the trip it stalled training a good few weeks.
to say things did not go to plan. By 1.5 miles I was needing to stop,
drop water weight, shift some things around, and change how I was
carrying my son.
mile 2.something I was replanting in my head my whole trip. I knew for
day one I had to get to the river so I had a water source. But from
there I could make base camp, hang out a day or two then continue with a
shorter route, or even head back home – I just had to have water to
make it the night.
Somewhere in there my son wanted to walk so I ditched my poles
and his carrier and packed them up. It was actually easier for me to go
slower and give him my hands to hold. He walked a good 2 miles of
technical terrain with my help. I was so proud.
that’s his max. He can’t do more than that. He started walking like he
was drunk. He was so tired. I tried to carry him some more but realized I
really couldn’t do that anymore. I was somewhere between 3.5 and 4
miles in. Still 4-5 miles from camp by the river. There was NO WAY. I
made the hardest call I’ve ever made – for someone to come help me pack
back out because I couldn’t make it back to the car and I didn’t have
enough water to stay put.
I cried. I’ve never made that call.
I failed, was all I could think. Not the weather turned. Not my son wasn’t handling it. Me, I, I failed. Or so I thought.
It was the right decision. My man ran in and helped me pack
out. Believe it or not this was our first real hike as a family! My man
and I haven’t hiked together since one of our first dates! And you know
what – it was awesome.
ground fell out from underneath me at one point and I landed hard on
one leg. I remember ahead of the trip people kept asking, well, what if
she falls with her kid – well what if? Quite simply I land in whatever
way necessary to protect my son. I’ve fallen 4 times with him at this
point and he’s never touched the ground. Some call it Mother’s instinct
but I call it practice (martial arts is the best way to learn how to
Anyways, I had literally spent all morning concocting
alternative plans. Options that would be more doable, but in the end I
just couldn’t. That just sucked.
going to preface this with the fact that I am going to talk a LOT about
different runners- especially one man very dear to my heart- but I
promise you that this involves women (freaking scary amazing ones I
might add) too!
Just WOW. This was epic to be a part of. The Western States 100
Mile Endurance Run (aka – WSER) is an epic ultra distance trail run
from Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA that was started officially as a
running race in 1977 following the horse race of the Trevis Cup Ride
that began in 1955 – 100 Miles in 1 Day. The first woman, Pat Smythe ran
in 1978 and finished in 29:34!! (more on history can be found at https://www.wser.org/how-it-all-began/)
trail race is mostly single track with 18,000 feet of vertical gain and
23,000 feet of vertical decent. The weather varies year to year but
often includes lows in the 30 (F) and highs in the 100 (F) with the
lovely California humidity to add. Not to mention the forests are home
to lovely plants like poison oak, muddy cold creeks, and often large
patches of snow (this year included so much snow there were slight
reroutes around it!). Oh and poles are NOT ALLOWED and the cut off for
finishing is 30 hours!
To truly run 100 Miles in 1 day means in under 24 hours. And
“No Sleep ‘till Auburn” applies to not only racers, but also to
volunteers, family, crew, pacers (second half of race, racers may have 1
person at a time run with them and trade off at different aid stations)
– and my wee man tried to apply this rule to himself too….
to say it’s a long epic day for tons of people. Top runners in the
WORLD toe the start line with everyone else. This year the Women’s Elite
lineup was bigger than the men, including ladies like Clare Gallagher,
Courtney Dauwalter, Camille Harron, Francesca Canepa, Kim Magnus,
Camelia Mayfield, and many more. The race had 24% female starters making
it the largest female ratio to date! (They have a goal of 50/50 ratio).
So YAY ladies for getting out there.
369 racers are allowed to start. 319 finished in the 30 hour cutoff this year.
I got to be a part of this! It was amazing. If you’re a road runner think Boston Marathon but on trails and multiplied by 4. Everyone is out there! This year my man ran. I got to be a part of what we call crew or the people who meet the racers at different aid stations to help refill water, change so many and shoes, get food, give pep talks, deal with blisters and puke, etc. I also got to pace my man to the finish! This was amazing.
He left it all out there on the trails, finding many breaking points towards the end. He was in epic amazingly high spirits while the sun was up, even being a goof running like an airplane trying to cheer up our wee man at one aid station. Goal: just to finish. Estimated reality time: 27ish hours. Actual finish time: 23:24:09!!!!!!! He finished in 102nd place for 100.2 miles, earning some epic bling of a silver (yes real silver) handcrafted belt buckle and I got the privilege of taking him to the finish line!!
the process I also got the opportunity to watch the winner run through
(Jim Walmsley finishing in 14:08:29 breaking his OWN course record by
over 21 min!), I also saw Camille (pulled out just after the halfway
point due to injuries acting up), Clare (1st female – will share more),
Courtney (was epic to watch her run and was in first until something
happened with her hip and had to pull out), and (for my CO folks) Dave
Dave has been an ultra runner for years. A few years back he
was in an incident on the trails that left him trapped under a boulder
for several hours, eventually leading to the amputation of 1 leg. While
he didn’t make it to the finish line this year, he continues to be an
inspiration to keep preserving for many of us out their on the trails.
Now let’s talk about Clare Gallagher AND Heather McGrath; the first and last female finishers.
is another CO gal. She caught the ultra running world by surprise a few
years back winning the Leadville 100 Mile Race Across the Sky (with
frosting in hand lol). This year she finished WSER in 17:23:25 as 1st
female and 17th overall. She used her winning speech as a time to bring
awareness to many things including climate changes and how it affects
both the local area, our trails across the country, and places she
recently endeavored like the Arctic. I’m still waiting to see the full
interview from her win and I haven’t heard back yet if she brought any
Heather McGrath – a name I’d never heard before. The last
official female finisher with a time of 29:59:01. While I don’t know
much about her I do know this: she is a badass. She finished WSER! 100
miles on foot. She advocates for our land and trails.
If you’ve ever considered ultra racing or even trail running, I promise you ladies will find an amazing tribe of strong encouraging women who will never cease to amaze you. It also opens up many opportunities to raise awareness for causes and run land you’d otherwise be prohibited from crossing. And only in ultra and trail racing do you get to participate with the best in the world!!
PS: More on WSER can be found on my IG and Facebook as well as WSER.org
Leaving for CA and then turning around 5 days after we get back to CO we leave for the backpacking trip.
A lot of the clothes and daily items I need to take backpacking I also need to take to CA. So what do I do about being prepared?
I layout – take a picture- and put it away. LOL This seems so wrong.
But here are some of the pictures:
and also, why am I packing winter clothes?! Well you see this? This is a
photo of the wilderness area we’ll be in completely engulfed in clouds,
while my friend joked about needing to be prepared for a hurricane. Oh
yea and mid June here in CO and mountain areas got 10-20” of SNOW!!
Therefore, we shall be prepared for everything from sun to snow! This is
weather in Colorado, extraordinarily crazy and beautiful.