Trekking Poles…Everything You Need to Know (Including Why You Need Them in the First Place)

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. 

Me trail running with the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles.

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. 

Heading down Mt Sanitas in Boulder. It was so windy that day, even with my son on my back, I thought I was going to blow off the mountain.

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.

Heading out to a snowy trail in Breckenridge – using my MSR Deploy TR-2 winter poles

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.

Poles can even be used to set up shelters. Some tents use trekking poles instead of coming with pole and any tarp or canvas can be made into a tent with the help of a pole or two. And yes – I slept there completely dry through a rain storm that night.

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.

Lions and Tigers and Moose…OH MY! (repost from old site)

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.

Even in the winter this guy loves hiking!

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.

Momma moose

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.

Baby moose

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.

What We Did Instead Part 2 of 3 (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

After 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 planned.

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.

I 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 extra water!

We 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.

While 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).

He loves water.

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).

Then 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.

We 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.

Ultimately 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.

Bailing on Plans A-Z Part 1 of 3 (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

90 miles. 5-6 nights/6-7 days. Just me, my wee man, and the dog.

78lb pack: 15-20lbs heavier than goal weight. 22 lb child. Me: 136lbs.

Ambitious. Badass. I was ready – more than ready – mentally.

Playing at a water crossing.

Leading up to the trip I had pneumonia. While I recovered fully and was cleared for the trip it stalled training a good few weeks.

Needless 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.

Exploring at a “camp” while waiting for help to pack out.

By 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.

The gear …. lots of it.

But 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.

Riley pup with his gear.

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.

Colorado love.

The 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 fall safely!).

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.

My leg after the fall (and post ‘shower’).

The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

I’m 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/)

This 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….

Needless 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.

The man’s silver buckle for finishing in under 24 hours.

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!!

In 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 Makey!

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.

Clare 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 frosting.

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

Layouts and More Layouts (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

Leaving for CA and then turning around 5 days after we get back to CO we leave for the backpacking trip. 

Yikes.

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:

The start of gear layouts. The guest bedroom is currently my hidden layout area safe from dogs and kid.
Prepping first aid kits including for the pup.
Packing meds. All prescriptions will be carried in their labeled prescription bottles. This helps prevent incidents if there’s an emergency with wrong dosing and makes sure that if you have a controlled substance of any sort prescribed that you won’t get in trouble for carrying them unlabeled or with intent to distribute. That would end the trip horribly.
Little man’s clothes. Everything for sun to snow.
SO MUCH FOOD! When packing for yourself plus a toddler there is so much food to pack. More food than gear! Seven days of 2 very hungry people’s food. This isn’t even all of it. Oh and don’t forget I still have to pack dog food.
My son MUST have Goldfish. I was trying to figure out how to pack enough and not squish them, so in a giant blender bottle whose lid has a loop I can use to clip on, I piled up the Goldfish. Might do this for one of his other favorites too.
My clothing layout – with a wee bit too much Salomon running clothes to get me through!!
Lost Creek engulfed in clouds.

Oh 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.

Packing for a Toddler With Special Needs (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

The packing has begun!

Normally I wouldn’t even start until a week or two out but with a toddler that’s different. With a toddler with special needs it’s extra different. Then there’s that vacation before the vacation (HEY look! I’ll get a vacation from my vacation haha).

The guest room is currently acting as a staging area for gear layouts.

Clothing layouts are being done, taking a picture to remember, and put away. After all I still need those clothes between now and then. 

Working on first aid kit (don’t forget the pup)

Food..well that’s complicated. I have an idea of what I’m bringing, most of which is set aside I packed in a grocery bag. But toddlers are picky eaters. I have a feeling some of his food needs will change between now and then, therefore requiring a last minute grocery trip to get more goldfish (because #dontforgetthegoldfish ) and some other new snack he’s become fascinated with. I also have to consider his drink needs and that he doesn’t do well on just water or electrolyte drinks. He needs milk of some sort. This part I’ve decided to just deal with. They make his favorite almond milk in single serve boxes – so even though it will suck to carry I will bring 1 per day. He also LOVES chocolate milk and requires probiotics and digestive enzymes daily. Bonus my favorite “recovery” drink is essentially all this in powdered form just add water. Even tastes like chocolate milk and his pediatrician and dietician have both said it’s completely fine for him to have (Thank you Skratch Labs !)

Wee man’s clothing layout.

So the other part… the hard part… what do I bring for him? I’m not talking about clothes or food or basic gear, I mean to help with his special needs. My son is autistic. He has a history of self harm – should I bring his helmet which will be awkward to carry, hot to wear, and he’s never worn on the trail before- eh probably not but I’ve thought about it, especially when there’s a meltdown mid hike. Or the weighted blanket he loves – helps him sleep, relatively small, but weighs five pounds all by itself – again maybe not, that’s the weight of my pack and sleeping set combined. What about a chewy, a special ‘toy’ specifically designed for chewing on – DEFINITELY – we have carried one on every hike and he uses it almost every time and it weighs basically nothing. A blanket to cuddle – of course I mean a small blanket isn’t much, he’s only 23 months when we go, plus there will definitely be chilly nights- why did I even query this one?

tart of gear layouts day 1….lots more sitting there now.

The list goes on. And I haven’t even touched on sorting out diapers. We cloth diaper. Which has actually made so many things including hiking better, but I still haven’t quite nailed down how many to bring (I’ll wash daily).

Definitely coming together but time to step it up and sort out the rest of the kinks.

Last major hike before leaving on our pre backpacking vacation.

Facing Fears… Again (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

Anyone who knows anything about fires, especially in the Rocky Mountains, has heard of the Hayman Fire. 

June 8, 2002 the fire was started due to negligence by none other than a ranger. It burned 138,114 acres and there were 6 fatalities, making it the largest fire in Colorado’s history still to this day. I was 8 years old and remember it vividly. Many of my friends were evacuated. My family built houses extremely near the fire. Even “in town” the smoke dropped ashes.

Burn severity map of the Hayman Fire of 2002.

I’ve visited the area several times of the course of the last 17 years since the fire blazed. The last time I multi-day tripped through Lost Creek Wilderness I was in part of the burn area. It’s the driest area of an entire wilderness that is mostly full of water. Last time I was there was 14 years after the fire and the new trees were only 3-4 feet tall. 

Take that in for a minute. At elevation, AFTER FOURTEEN YEARS, trees are only a few feet tall!

The looming storm. This photo was taken around 9:30 am which is extremely early in the day for storms to roll in in Colorado.

The burn area is still full of many of the trees that burned. Many have fallen in storms, many remain standing dead as lighting rods. The only other thing in the area is large granite formations. They are gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but also spooky.

You see big cats live there. One of two mountain creatures I’m truly afraid of. The last time I was in the area there was cat scat on the trail, fresh, and a looming storm. It was dead silent. No birds chirping, no squirrels bickering, no hawks screeching…NOTHING…not even a breeze. I found myself in the midst of what became a massive thunderstorm and the only place for shelter is where the cats live…and I knew for sure one was in the area- probably watching me.

The burn area after 14 years (2016)

Thinking about it gives me the creeps. This year I will be spending a lot more time in the burn area. At lower elevations you almost can’t see the remnants of the fire and it’s not really that big a deal. At higher elevation it’s definitely still noticeable and I’ll have my precious wee man with me.

So as creepy as it was, I keep hoping those days will be sunny and full chirping birds and bickering squirrels and go on knowing I will just have to face that fear…again.

The storm rolled in within 20 minutes, bringing lightning, thunder, and over 5 hours of torrential downpour.

Planning Through Set-Backs (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

This trip is HUGE. 90 miles with a kid and a dog. 6-7 days carrying 60% of my body weight. You don’t just go do this without some prep. 

Your body needs some training. You need to plan food. And make sure you have all the gear you need. 

Hospital with pneumonia sucks.

So what happens when you hit a major set back?  Out of the blue I got pneumonia and became septic less than 2 months out from this trip. Was in step down ICU and told to expect 3 WEEKS of recovery. I am missing my race that would’ve been epic and fun. I’m on oxygen support and needing extra physical and occupational therapy. That’s a lot. I need a walker to walk. I have 1 month before we leave for CA. 

I have 1 month to bounce back so to speak. In the next month I need to get back to where I was a week ago before this stupid illness left me in bed hacking up a lung. 

So I how do I keep planning?

I work with my therapists diligently and do ALL my homework. I force myself to eat so my body can find strength. And I work on the rest of the planning that isn’t really physical. 

At least I’m home but still need O2 and a walker.

That is, finalize:

-packing lists

-food plans

-routes

-emergency prep

-pack fitting 

And making sure my son still stays active and gets in his work.

Set backs happen. You have to try to stay positive. It’s hard but you have to or you won’t get there. 

A glimpse into food prep from my last trip.

Miles and Miles of Trails (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

I’ve had my route planned out for some time now. I’ve requestioned it about a thousand times and I still like it!

I’ll be hiking approximately 90 miles in the course of 6-7 days with my then 23 month old autistic son! That means carrying all the gear. It’s officially been decided my four legged, Riley, will be joining us too. He will love this adventure and knows these trails just as well as I do. Our last trip was just us two, now I get to share it with my son. 

The idea of taking a small, young, autistic child with me is daunting. But it’s also so exciting. The outdoors are his favorite and we’ll be getting away from the city and a lot of the things that set him off. More to come on planning with a special needs kid later.

For now the route. 

This is how I have it typed up…which looks kind of silly when you take it out of context.

Route

Payne Creek/Brookside 607
8 miles To Craig Creek 608
#1 camp 4 miles down Craig Creek day total 12

2 miles To Ben Tyler 606
5.5 miles To CO trail set 5
#2 camp 7 miles down CO Trail Seg 4/5 meet day total 15

8 miles Brookside McCurdy 2 miles to lost park
#3 camp 3 miles down Brookside day total 13

Take 607 3 miles to Bison
4 miles To Lake Park 639
7 miles To Hankins Pass 630
#4 camp near Hankins Pass day total 14 miles

4 miles To Goose Creek 612
9.5 miles to Wigwam trail 609
#5 camp near Wigwam merge day total 13.5

1 mile To rolling creek 663
6 miles To CO Trail
3 miles To Payne Creek 637
#6 camp or push to home day total 10

9 miles To 607 then 3 miles to home

Total approx 90 miles

This will to some extent be an outer loop of the wilderness area. I’m getting super excited as the day draws nearer.

Map needed for this trip. This time I’ll actually need both sides!