Saturday, July 19, 2014


With the impending release of the movie Wild, based on the Oprah endorsed best-selling book of the same name, I have been reading lots of opinions on the story.  Not to be out done, I offer my own with a sprinkling of lessons learned.  

Before I tell you what I think of the book itself, I would like to address one thing. Let's not get too carried away about Cheryl Strayed not being a true thru-hiker.  She hiked over 1,000 miles!  Dang!  That ain't easy and I give her props for that alone.  I haven't done it.  So for all those who gripe about Cheryl not completing the entire PCT, get off it.  And for the love of all that is good in this world, STOP complaining about Bill Bryson's AT attempt.  It is really getting old.

So here we go.  I didn't like the book.  The writing was fine.  There were parts that I would say were good.  But.  I could not relate to her.  I can share her appreciation of nature and its restorative value, but not much else. Telling us about her past drug use and infidelities was informative and let us know what she wanted to move away from, but she continued to engage in self-destructive behaviors on her hike.  In fact, I didn't find that she made any changes to her behavior over the course of the book.  I kept thinking that she would be different in the next chapter, but it never happened.  I feel that marketing the book as an account of redemption on the PCT is a misrepresentation. I am sure the hike made a big difference in her life and the way she sees the world, but it wasn't apparent to me from her retelling of the experience.  

For everyone holding Wild up as a feminist triumph: when a woman spends all of her time thinking about men, ignores the value found in experiences with other women, and the only thing she can think about when she meets a man is whether they want to have sex with her, I can't believe she is a feminist.  In the book, Cheryl spends almost no time recounting the experience of hiking with the women she met.  She only details her encounters with men.  Every time she meets a man in the book, she wonders whether they want to have sex with her.  She doesn't say whether SHE wants to have sex with THEM.  Only whether they want her.  In all honesty, It got tedious. I was just sick of hearing about it by the end. She was a profoundly broken person. Don't misunderstand, I've been broken, you've been broken, we've all been broken at one time or another. But we weren't being held up by the Oprah book club crowd as a strong example of a confident woman.  

She does tell us that she eventually changed her life and became a productive member of society.  I have no reason to doubt that, just no evidence that it happened on the PCT. I have read that she is a feminist activist now and that's great, but, again, no evidence in the book.

Some things I've read online are geared toward concern or even hysteria over the droves of inexperience hikers flocking to trails.  My response to that requires an explanation of where I believe that comes from.  There is a troubling sub-set in the hiking community.  These people are the ones who cry fowl when anyone gets into trouble in the backcountry and requires SAR.  The cries are all the same.  "They can't have been experienced if they got into trouble."  "That would never happen to me." "What and idiot." "They should be required to pay for the SAR." So on and so forth.  Here's the truth:  Anything can happen to anyone at anytime.  Tragedy and injury can happen to the experienced and the inexperienced alike, to the prepared and the unprepared, and yes, even to the arrogant jerk who thinks he has the most experience and is the most prepared. Now back to all the newbies on the trail: we were all new once and we learned from the people we met and the experiences we had.   

All this being said, I'll probably see the movie.  

Bonus: Bored PS

Saturday, June 14, 2014

AZT Marshall Lake to Schultz Pass Road

Greetings, humans.  

It has been pretty crazy since I started my new job and I completely forgot that I needed to blog about my AZT section hike.  You can't count on me. :(

After moving to NM in a veritable tornado of responsibility and just stuff, I took off for AZ with only half the house unpacked.  I have to confess that it is pretty much still in that exact state now, weeks later.  

PS and I met up with my trusty hiker buds Mrs Smith, Sarge, C-Bear, and E-Bear at Marshall Lake on Friday afternoon.  E & C had cached water a few weeks before at stops along the way, but we went ahead and added some to a few stops just to make sure we had enough and dropped a vehicle off at the end.  

Day One: After a mostly restful night at Marshall Lake, we set off through the forest.  The first day was a tad brutal.  And by that I mean, it was an unexpected 15 miles with the sun beating down on us.  A few of us were running low on water and we still had a few miles to go.  I knew there were a few wildlife tanks along this route, but when Mrs S and I saw one, we weren't sure that it was the tank.  We should have gone over to investigate, but we didn't.  You live, you learn. By the time we reached the second tank, I was so thirsty! I hopped the fence with my Sawyer Mini in hand.  I drank my fill at that slimy tank!  PS was in distress and totally pooped out when we reached Old Walnut Canyon Rd.  We refueled with dinner and water.  Hiker midnight was before dark this day. We were all just completely spent.  

Day Two:  I felt better in the morning and PS seemed better too.  Some of the others were suffering, but thankfully, it would be a shorter day.  It was a pretty exposed route and it was hot again.  We took a long snack break under the I-40 frontage road.  It was actually really pleasant under there.  The underpass was acting as a wind tunnel and it kept us cool in the shade.  After cooling off, we headed for the next stopping point and water cache.  PS was in pretty dire straights after a few miles and I spent most of the time dragging her from shade to shade.  I was scared I had finally pushed her too far.  It was just way too hot for a furry baby out there.  When PS and I finally dragged up to FS791, we were done.  I felt fit for more, but I knew it was dangerous for her to continue.  I had a little breakdown at that point.  Sarge and Mrs S decided that they would get off the trail at that point due to injury and offered to take PS back to Marshall Lake to wait for the rest of us. In the meantime, I am sitting in the shade with PS while we discuss all this. Then Mrs S alerts us to a huge dog that is just plodding down the road.  It was a huge husky!  He lumbered over to us.  He and PS sniffed and then she just laid back down while I offered our guest some water.  He drank up two bowls full and just checked out the area.  His name is Texas and he was so sweet. Sarge and Mrs S hitched a ride to the bus stop in Flag and took the bus to Buffalo Park, where the other vehicle was.  C & E wanted to continue that afternoon to Sandy Seep where they had cached more water and it was agreed that I would wait with PS for Sarge and Mrs S to return and then they would drop me off at Sandy Seep to start again the next morning.  i just lounged in the shade with PS and Texas.  The guy the others rode into town with came back and checked on me before heading home down the forest road.  A little while later,  a yellow jeep went by.  It drove right past the three of us under our pine tree and pulled into a parking area by the main road.  A guy got out and Texas stood up and trotted over to him.  The guy was yelling and waving his arms at Texas.  He grabbed Texas by the collar and guided him into the jeep.  I was sad to see my new friend go and I wish I could have talked to the guy, but he was pretty far from me and drove away immediately.  So, thanks for keeping us company in our shady spot, Texas.  I hope your dad wasn't too mad at you for wandering off.  A little while later PS and I were picked up with bonus french fries!  We all went and waited at Sandy Seep for C & E to arrive.  

When C & E arrived, they were tired and hot.  We drove into town to grab them some food at McDonalds.  I snagged an iced tea.  It was awesome. Then it was back to the trail.  C, E, and I went to retrieve our water from the cache location.  It was hidden with some big branches under a fallen tree truck. That was apparently a popular pee spot.  There were three or four separate little wads of toilet paper right near our water.  Thankfully, it appeared to have been only a pee spot.  No evidence of anything else. That being said.  I hate finding toilet paper just laying on the ground.  At least bury it, you should really pack it out, but for the love of nature, at least bury it. We refilled our water and carried a little extra in a jug to where we camped.  It was really lumpy and sloping but it turned out to be the best camp spot of the trip.  We saw deer feeding that night.  I took an Advil PM just to make sure I could get to sleep.  I was just drifting off, when E's headlamp shines into my tent (not on purpose) and then I hear him say, "You can see the eyes".  In my half sleep, pharmaceutically enhanced delirium, I sat straight up and started looking for mystery eyes in the darkness!  It was an elk.  He was making a barking sound and circling our camp.   

Day Three:  The elk was still around in the morning and started to bark again.  He circled us all morning as we got ready to go.  We must have been in his spot!  E went ahead after he got packed up.  C and I had a nice chat as we hiked along.  I kept track of E-Bear's boot tread along the way.  We got to a traffic sign that said the trail was closed due to flood damage.  Not paying any attention, we pressed on.  We finally caught up to E and took a rest under some trees.  After our rest, It became really exposed again in places because the trail went through a burn area. There were places the trail had been washed out in big gullies, but they were navigable. I sniffed the ponderosa pines and enjoyed the butterscotch perfume (one of my favorite things on earth). We passed a few spring/tank locations but all were dry. We could hear the water running in the City of Flagstaff pipeline outlets, but no water for hikers is available on this stretch of trail.  We finally made it to Schultz Tank at Schultz Pass Rd.  We used the pit toilet and laid out in the shade to wait for our ride.  

We decided not to do the original plan that would have been four days. Everyone seemed to be satisfied with what we did and I needed to get back to NM to start working.  We went to Sizzler for lunch where i syuffed myself with veggies.  It was perfect after 3 days if packaged backpacking food. I was so dirty and looked like a homeless person. We spent another night at Marshall Lake. We took showers at another campground and used their flush toilets. Ahhh.  

Gear report:

Alcohol stove: I didn't get to use my new, homemade alcohol stove. The day before the hike, Level 1 Billion fire restrictions went into place.  I had thrown the Jet Boil into my gear at the last minute just in case and it was a good thing.  No biggie, it is just heavier and I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to use the one I made.  

Thermarest Z-Lite:  I loved this item.  It isn't the cushiest thing to sleep on, but it didn't really cause me any problems.  I actually slept great on this trip compared to most camping I have done.  You can just strap this mat onto the outside of your pack and then put it down to sit or lay on every time you stop.  No airing up, no worrying about popping it. This is definitely a keeper.  Plus it only cost $40.  That is a super bargain compared to air mats.

Food: I took bought dehydrated food on this one.  Those meals are pretty heavy and contain more food than i could eat.  I ended up packing out leftovers from almost every meal. I definitely prefer to dehydrate and package my own food.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fire, water, and government know nothing of mercy. ~Proverb


I have spent the better part of a week watching DIY videos on making coke can alcohol stoves.  There are so many variations out there.  I decided to go with the one that requires the fewest steps.  

You can find instructions here, here, and here or just do a search.  You will find so many.

I managed to drink one Dr. Pepper, but I just poured out a Mt. Dew for a second can.  I also rummaged through the recycle at work, turning up one Pepsi can and then found a 7up can on the ground outside my apartment building.  It only takes two cans to make a stove, but I knew I would mess up so I needed extras.  

I also "borrowed" a box cutter from work.

Here we go:

Cut the bottom off two cans

In the top piece, punch holes with a tack.  16 around the side, 3 in the middle.

Wrestle the top piece into the bottom piece.

Here are the two I ended up with.

Finished product in my Trangia pot stand.
 And now for the fire:

Add a little of this to the stove through the 3 middle holes and a little in the bottom of the pots stand as primer.  Light the fuel in the pot stand and...

The green stove had a blow out on one side. I over worked the aluminum trying to fit the two pieces together and it didn't form a seal.

The stoves weight in at 9 grams (just over 0.3 oz).

Overall this was a success.  I will have to test how much fuel it takes to boil water, but for now I'm just excited that it worked and I didn't burn down my building.


No PS's were harmed in the making of this stove, but I may have made her wear my headlamp a little. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

"In the American Southwest, I began a lifelong love affair with a pile of rock." -- Edward Abbey

If you don't care about my personal issues, skip ahead to the portion of this post that is not red, italic, and bolded.  

I internet stalked someone today, and by that I mean that I read their completely public blog.  It was really eye-opening.  It confirmed something that I have suspected for a while.  This person stated that they were going to be "shedding relationships that no longer serve" them.  And so I was shed.  FYI:  If you are only in a relationship because it serves YOU, you're doing it wrong.  

Okay, that is over.

In other news...I have received my Arizona National Scenic Trail guidebook.  Let the planning begin!  I also went to the gym, and I am soooooo out of shape.  Not cool.  So, let the working out begin...again.

I have begun saving money specifically for the AZT.  Some of that money will go to some lighter gear to replace some of the heavier items that I currently use and some to logistics (ie. resupply, hotel stays, permits, etc.)

I'm going to have to make some decisions about gear that aren't that easy.  I have a really old down sleeping bag that is not as warm as it used to be.  My choices are keep the down bag because it is lighter than anything I would replace it with or get a new, heavier, synthetic bag that is warmer.  Hmmmm.

Here are some of the other gear items on my wish list:

My research has led me to this pack.  It appears to be one of the best lightweight packs that still has some structure for carrying a load of 25 to 30 lbs.  Find it HERE.  Plus, GoLite has really great prices and there is a store near me.
These trekking poles from Black Diamond are super lightweight.  Drawback, they aren't adjustable.  Just like the Holy Grail, you need to choose wisely. Find them HERE.  These can be found for a lower price by shopping around on the interwebs, but I think I will try to find them in a store the test out the length. 
I have already been asked this question a few times, so I will answer it here for everyone.  Is PS going with me on the AZT?  No. At least not for most of it.  First, she isn't allowed in the portions that pass through national parks.  Second, while PS is a lover of the outdoors and hiking, she doesn't care for sleeping on the ground. I worry about her being out there for a prolonged time with various forms of dog injuring plants and animals.  There is also the added weight of her food, water, and other paraphernalia. She does have her own backpack, but let's get real, I would end up carrying the lion's share of her stuff.  I will feel much more comfortable with her safe and sleeping on a soft bed despite my almost crippling separation anxiety.

That being said, I know you are all waiting for...

Bonus: Icy PS

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PS Hates Squirrels...

And I've decided to become one...ish.

I'm home sick from work today.  Poor PS didn't get her walk.  Last night I had a sore throat. This morning I had a raging head cold. Because my mom isn't here to do it for me, I went to the store and got some supplies.  Cold meds, tissues (both plain and lotion), cough drops, and the crucial Sprite-like beverage.  I chose an organic look-alike but it is serving its purpose quite well.  For those of you who don't know, Sprite is the sick drink.  I can only drink it when I am sick.  I will pause to blame my Mom for this (always blame the mother).  She only gave us Sprite when we were sick and now if I try to drink it when I am well, it makes me feel sick.  

Whenever I stay home, I get these little glimpses into PS's life alone in the apartment.  Mostly I picture her sleeping and occasionally getting up to inspect the recycle bin or destuff a toy.  Today, I see that there is a battle going on.  I have determined that my upstairs neighbor feeds the squirrels who have nests in the trees across from my porch.  One day I saw one with a cookie in its mouth.  Now you all know that I love animals.  I always have and now I don't even eat them or anything that they produced, so this may seem strange.  I think wild animals should not be fed, especially things like cookies.  They need to feed themselves.  The person living above me may not be there next year and now the squirrels are conditioned to gobble cookies from her balcony.  Another problem, is that they squirrels are constantly on her balcony and my porch.  This is a problem because they torment my favorite doggie, PS.  She was inconsolable when they were running around above her head, those pesky squirrels!  I brought her in from the porch because I thought she might rip down the chicken wire, which is the only thing that is stopping her from running out into the trees.  As I sit here typing this, she is just sitting, behind the window glass, willing the squirrels to drop dead.  

I'm babbling on about illness and The Great Squirrel War of 2013 because I'm a little nervous to tell you the real news.  Here goes.  I am going to thru hike the Arizona Trail.  I'm putting it out there in the hopes that someone will actually hold me to it.  I feel confident in my determination, but also scared that I will chicken out and be called flaky.  I'm thinking the earliest I would do it is spring of 2015, but most likely it will be sometime in 2016.  I fully intend to guilt all my AZ friends into supporting my effort with resupply and hiking company on some passages. :)  I'm not above begging.  I feel like my greatest difficulty in just getting started will be my total dependence on PS.  Leaving her for any amount of time is stressful for me, but I have time to figure that out.  In the meantime, I am going to detail a fitness schedule and clean up my eating.  I need to drop some serious lbs for the health of my knees and, well, just health in general before I can take on such challenge.  

So, here's to squirrels and long trails.

Bonus: PS yawns
Road trips are boring for pups.

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Traditions

So, it is not even Thanksgiving yet, but y'all know that I LOVE Christmas.  It is never too early.  There are only a few years in my adult life that I have been able to resist setting up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving.  Honestly, I would prefer to have it up at Halloween.

This year my Christmas obsession is being fed by The Pintester.  I am participating in the latest installment of The Pintester Movement.


Here's the deal.  Find an ornament on Pinterest.  Make it. Blog about it.  Follow the instructions here. Done.

Now for my ornament(s).  Back in the summer my friend told me the very exciting news that she is pregnant. I am so thrilled!  I am borderline obsessed.  I almost immediately started looking for craft ideas.  Lots of onsies, blankets, and booties.  I also ran across this:

I bought a pack of four frosted ornaments and some paint pens and shamelessly copied this pic.  The Pinterest Pin didn't link to anything but a google image (super annoying btw).  My friend isn't really a dress wearing kinda gal so I modified the design a bit.  I think it worked.

Here is my finished product:

I'm at the airport right now, on my way to the baby shower so I hope she likes it.

Now, because I was then stuck with 3 other plain frosted ornaments and a challenge from The Pintester, I returned to Pinterest to get some new inspiration (and to use the expensive paint pens I invested in).  I found several pins for inspiration.  There are some really cute ones on frosting & glitter. Now I didn't buy the cute pastel colors, nor did I buy a very big variety of colors.  Paint pens are really expensive.  I'm going to be using paint pens on everything from now on.  I may carry one in my pocket so i can graffiti, 'cause dang.

I gave cute a try:
Frosty doesn't have a nose.  I didn't have an orange paint pen :(  ...Or, now that I am looking at it, a mouth.  Crap.

I guess the blue heart needed to take a pee.

Then funny:
I didn't plan out the words very well.  "Snow" is a little wonky.

The snow flakes are ok though.

And then it hit me. A new tradition was born.  My family is kinda funny.  I will be making "This Barlow Life" ornaments for my fabulous Christmas tree for as many years as the fam will provide material.  I have quite a backlog, so I ain't runnin' out of ideas any time soon.  

First installment: This is a family joke which has endured for decades.

When I was a child, my parents, two older sisters, and I were camping in the mountains of New Mexico. My oldest sister was a teenager and not thrilled by hanging with her parents and two little sisters.  One night, we were all getting settled in our sleeping bags and she announced, "I'm going outside to read."  Dad replied, "If you see a bear, run the other way."  And then he commenced laughing at his own joke.  He laughed so hard , I thought he was going to die. She did NOT think it was that funny and the rest of us were laughing at Dad as he giggled and wheezed. You had to be there. :)

I hope my sister isn't insulted by my lack of artistic ability.  It isn't a very good likeness. 

OMG a bear with no mouth or nose!

Bonus:  Sleeping PS

Extra Bonus: Traveling PS

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

To Poo or Not To Poo

I gave up Shampoo!

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I really wanted to get a little more experience under my belt before I did.  A few people have asked me about this and here is my answer to all of those questions.

First of all, I need to confess something.  Long before I went No Poo, I was only washing my hair once or twice a week.  Yes, there were times that things got pretty (or not) oily and gross, but I was in a bit of a depression and I just didn't care.

Anyway, I decided to give up shampoo ages before I actually did it.  I bought a brand new bottle of shampoo and I said, "this is the last one."  I promised that I wouldn't buy another bottle of shampoo after that.  It took foreeeeever to finish that one bottle due to the once a week washing thing I was already doing. I actually still have a little of that bottle left, but I jumped into No Poo anyway.

I used the instructions found here to get started with the No Poo Method.  She gives great detail and answers tons of questions about No Poo.

The transition period for me was virtually non-existent.  I didn't experience overly oily hair...I had already gone through that due to the infrequent washing in the preceding months.  The only negative experience I had was a little dry scalp on the first day after using baking soda to clean my roots.  My scalp was itchy and flaky but only for one day.  After that, smooth sailing!

I have mainly used the method of mixing a little baking soda with water in a squirt bottle.  I have only once used the paste method.  (Before you ask, all of this is described in detail in the link above, no I will not repeat it here.)  I used the paste because I noticed that my hair was feeling a little greasy, even after using the baking soda/water solution.  The paste cleared it right up, so I will probably use the solution regularly and the paste for when I need that extra cleansing.

The apple cider vinegar as conditioner is good too.  It won't give you that slippery feeling of commercial conditioners, but it definitely works.  The smell goes away when your hair dries, so don't worry about smelling of vinegar all day.  On a related note, coffee grounds will work as conditioner too, but it can be a pain to get the grounds out of your hair.

Now for the question of hair falling out.  Honestly, there isn't anything about putting baking soda and vinegar on your hair that would make more hair fall out than normal.  We lose tons of hair every day.  It doesn't necessarily mean that baldness is nigh.  I lose a huge amount of hair!  I mean it.  Tons!  Every time I take a shower I could clog up the drain.  Now, that is a normal thing for me.  It is amplified by not washing my hair everyday.  I also keep my hair pulled up most of the time.  That means all that hair that is continuously falling out is stuck in my ponytail and can't fall out throughout the day.  So, have I noticed a difference?  Yes.  Do I think it is a problem? No.  If you brush your hair more often than me, you won't notice as much of a difference.  If you rinse your hair in the shower between washings more often than me, you won't notice as much of a difference.

I am loving this.  It is cheap.  It is responsible stewardship of our planet.  We really need to consider the consequences of what we put in and on our bodies, as well as what we put into our water system.

Go forth and be free of nasty chemicals!

Bonus: PS sleeping in the car.  She was tired and had to share the backseat with another doggie.  There were limited headrest choices.  :)