Camp Reads: ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

By Heather

wild cheryl strayed book reviewFrom my office, I can see the San Gabriel mountains. They feel like old friends. I want to visit them again. I miss being in there, covered by trees, hiding from the world.

It’s going to be a while before I can go back.

I’m in bed right now, recuperating from surgery. It will be a month before I can really exercise again. Next week, I’ll be able to do some light exercising – walking, elliptical sans arms, cycling.

No hiking. *sob*

I miss my mountain friends. I miss those early-morning hikes, the solitude, the element of danger, the being-in-the-moment that comes easily when hiking. Life and its pressures melt away and on the trail, everything is distilled down to what you need, to the very essentials.  Everything about what you thought you could do is blown to pieces. You’d be surprised at what you can do.

I can’t get lost in thought. I need to watch my steps. I need to look around and appreciate the beauty. I need to be alert and present in case of dangerous wildlife. There’s not much room for thoughts that take you elsewhere, away from these mountains.

Wild isthe story of a woman who hiked about 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail after her mom died and her marriage fell apart.

From the start, her journey is distilled into two simple objectives: to survive and to heal her shattered heart. She hikes through desert climates, high Sierra snowpacks, takes a few detours to avoid the snow, meets mostly kind strangers, some unsettling ones, and a few dickheads.

She comes to places expecting water where there is none. At one point, one of the packages she sent for herself at a stopping point was missing the $20 she thought she had put in there. Cheryl needed the money, too – she had sixty cents to her name by that point.

When you’re forced to be resourceful, to find ways to survive and get by, how can you simultaneously be lost in thought about the past and your future? There’s something so primal about that, getting in touch with the instinct to survive. Worldly problems don’t matter or exist. There is nothing else on the trail but to enjoy the beauty and survive the journey. Walking meditation.

By her own admission, Cheryl makes a lot of mistakes leading up to and during the hike. She didn’t watch the weight of her backpack. By the time she attempted to put it on, its 70lbs wouldn’t even budge. She didn’t know how to use a compass when she started the hike, but learned along the way. She bought brand-new hiking boots and didn’t break them in.

But despite the pain her mistakes cause her, she never gives up. She wants to sometimes, but doesn’t, no matter how bleak it seems. She gets resourceful.

If you’re new to hiking, I really highly recommend Wild because it’s a great example of what not to do. Experienced long-distance hikers should enjoy this book, if only for the stellar writing, but especially if they’re considering making this trek themselves. Apparently, you’re in for a lot should you attempt it.

The movie is getting great reviews, too, so I plan to check that out ASAP!

Icehouse Canyon to Cucamonga Peak II

By Heather

Darren and I had Veterans Day off and no plans to do anything, so I decided to head for the hills once more to Cucamonga Peak. Given how busy the trail can be and the timing of the holiday this year and the decent weather, it seemed like a good time go again.

icehouse canyon cucamonga peak

The icehouses blend in so well with the scenery that I noticed a few more this time that I had missed the first. This one is fairly early on.

ducks cucamonga peak

There’s a brief stretch where you lose the trail, and these ducks will save you. I had a hard time spotting them the first time doing this hike, but this time I noticed them all over. They were SO helpful.

Apparently, they’re also controversial. Some people think they violate the “leave no trace” ethos, which…okay? I guess. But it’s rocks stacked up. It’s not vandalism, isn’t not human waste or garbage, and it isn’t taking anything. These people also seem to think that they should be knocked over at any opportunity. No one seems to be bothered by the signage throughout the trail, though…

Anyway. As someone who gets lost really easily, you’d be sending me to a certain death if you knocked them over. Hope you can live with blood on your hands!

cucamonga peak trail

Follow this trail from Icehouse Saddle. The best part about the saddle is that you’re well past halfway there – you just hiked 3.7 miles, only another 2.4 to go!

view cucamonga peak trail

About 20 minutes after leaving the saddle, I noticed the clouds. Holy crap!

cucamonga peak sign

If you read the last post about Cucamonga Peak, you might recall the handmade sign that gave me pause. Now I have proof of how sketchy it looked. Would you trust this thing? It looks like instead of the peak, there’s a guy with a chainsaw waiting for you at the end.

This is the last .2 miles, and then you’re there.

cucamonga peak clouds

Would you look at that? Incredible. The only other time I’ve seen a view like that is from an airplane.

There were a few patches of ice around close to the summit. By the next time I’ll be free to go, it’ll be too cold and icy. It was already chilly at the very top – in the high 40s and windy.

At the summit, I attempted a few unimpressive selfies with a small tripod, had a snack, then went home to another planet.

cucamonga peak

A Change of Plans

mount whitney


By Heather

“So, when are we doing Whitney?”

“I was thinking 2016.”

“Twenty sixteen? Why not twenty fifteen?”

I couldn’t think of a good reason. It just seemed logical…Half Dome in 2015. Whitney in 2016. I don’t know, Kilimanjaro in 2017?

I’m spacing out big adventures…why, exactly? Someday isn’t a guarantee, you know. Someday is just a wish. Some will be granted the wish, others won’t. If you want it, do it now.

Fuck someday. I’m ready now.

So, Steve and I are going to climb Mt. Whitney as a day hike in 2015! (Darren hates hiking and wants no part of this business, so he’ll be waiting for us down at the bottom in Lone Pine.)

The hike is also dependent on whether we can nab a permit, which is a highly competitive process. Flexibility is on our side, though; we’ll climb any day of the week during the season!

Review: Costco Yoga Jacket

By Heather

costco kirkland yoga jacketA few weeks ago, I snagged one of these yoga jackets (in black) from a pile on a table in the middle of our local Costco, and I’m soooo glad I did.

Most of the time, I wear it in the morning when I’m waiting for the gym to open and it’s still cool out.

But on hikes, this thing has been indispensable!

The fabric dries quickly, stretches comfortably and is nice and thick, but not bulky. I can put my iPod or iPhone into the arm sleeve and listen through a little headphone loop in the arm.

The interior has a mesh lining for breathability and the pockets are deep and roomy. It has reflective piping so you won’t get run over if you’re exercising at night.

Darren thinks this is ridiculous, but my favorite part is the thumb holes. You can cover your hands and keep them warm without having to constantly yank the sleeves back down! Maybe this is not a thing men care about.

Lastly, that amazing price…only $20?! I haven’t fact-checked this, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say you won’t find a jacket this nice at this price at Lululemon or Athletica.

The ONLY thing I’m not wild about is how damn hard it is to get the jacket back on when I’m finished with my workout and still a little damp. The sleeves kind of stick to my arms and I have to really yank on the ends to get them over my hands and it probably looks pretty ridiculous to anyone who might be spectating.

No Costco membership? If you don’t have one, I’m almost positive you know someone who does. Ask them if you can tag along on their next trip. No, you will not be an imposition. Costco cult members love new recruits! Join ussssssssssssssssss.

Project Half Dome: Sleeping Arrangements

By Heather

hammocks table mountain angeles national forest

Since we’re doing Half Dome as an overnight backpacking hike, the subject of sleeping arrangements has frequently come up.

In short, I’m going to be sleeping in a hammock. Our Hammock Bliss hammocks pack down to the size of cantaloupes and weigh about a pound, if that. It’s very comfortable. They are also roomy – while you’re in one, you can cocoon yourself to protect against breezes and some less determined bugs.

This has been a controversial choice, for some reason. But if John Muir didn’t need an ultralight tent and sleeping bag, then I certainly don’t…for now. There are plenty of trees in Little Yosemite Valley, the backpacking camp most stay at before heading up to Half Dome the following morning.

Perhaps it’s the bears that concern people, but since I’m not going to dip myself in honey before climbing into the hammock for the evening, I’m not terribly worried about it.

Aside from the hammock, I’ll also pack a light blanket, mosquito net and some tree straps. For a pillow, I’ll just use some clothes.

Darren’s plans are still in flux, but he’s leaning toward braving the ground. Steve, being super human, will most definitely sleep on the ground and have the best night of sleep of his life, because he’s just like that.