Life out of order: an update

A bit of time has past since my last, somewhat dramatic blog post, so I thought it was time to share an update. First and foremost, Adam and I are doing just fine, which is by far the most important thing to know. But underneath that blanket of “fine,” we are busy working our way through life, just like everybody has to do. It’s just that some moments are way easier than others. 

So I really did start driving solo. Adam came with me on my first run, which we both quickly realized was probably a mistake. I think we were both a little afraid to be away from each other after literally being a few feet away from each other for nearly three years in this truck. Being apart would feel like some sort of life line had been severed. Right? Well, we had to cut that line. That first week was hard. Adam was triggered into rage by the slightest issue, and eventually resorted to crawling into the bunk and sleeping to distance himself as much as he could – – for most of the week. It was even a consideration at one point that he take a bus home! It was a wee bit stressful for the both of us. But as always, we just trudged through and made it out okay. 

It wasn’t a super-easy week as far as trucking goes, either. I had a rough start, hooking up to a trailer that was actually backed into a shop to have the back doors fixed on it, making me a little late for my first pick-up. Then I had some tricky deliveries that I would normally wake Adam up for so I had someone to spot me in – blindside angle backs and super-tight docks in the back of malls with tons of parked cars and pedestrians wandering about. But as he slept, I backed in all on my own and didn’t hit anything. I may have had to get out and look about 15 times on two of those deliveries, but I don’t care about that – I didn’t hit anything, and that means I was safe and successful. So I really did end up getting some good experience that first week, and it was, honestly, a little comforting to know that he was back there JUST in case I really got myself into a pickle. But I didn’t, and I felt way better about really, truly being out there on my own – it really boosted my confidence, which I needed. 

A little more on my solo driving in a bit, because after that first trip, on my home time, something crazy happened. We signed a lease to an apartment. We haven’t lived in a “place” for five years. Five!  Here’s how that went down: 

I took one extra day off to breathe after we got home from that first run, and Adam and I holed up in a hotel room. We needed to just take some time for ourselves and get some things organized before I truly hit the road alone. On my last day off, on a total whim, we drove out to a farmhouse in the middle of the country to look at a furnished apartment for rent. This farmhouse is converted into two rental units, side-by-side, and basically shares the yard with the landlord’s brother’s house. And a barn. And a dog. And 12 cats. And cows, tractors, fields. And a place we can plant a garden, make a compost pile and build a fire pit. Fire pit? Where do we sign? Oh, and there’s a washer and dryer in our unit! 

An apartment after five years! So many adjustments needed…

So we did sign – an actual, real lease. The only con to this situation is that, well, besides the fact that we’re now paying rent, is a 45-minute drive from where I’ll be parking the truck. But otherwise, the pros are all the things listed above, and it’s furnished. So we don’t have to go out and buy all the furniture (it’s been five years!). Also, it’s imperfect – which makes it perfect for us. It’s old, it’s got character, it’s got crooked porches, the dryer door is on backwards (but works just fine) and the heater is weird (but keeps the place warm). It’s also super-dark at night, and super-quiet. It’s just right. For us. For now. 

After that exciting day, we split ways for a while. Adam stayed back to sign the lease and move all of our belongings in that we had in a corner of a friend’s storage unit, the basement of another friend’s house, our car, and some from the truck. And then he locked it up and head to Phillips to spend about a week with family. He played with nieces and nephews, visited his parents, his sisters, my parents… And each time I talked to him, he sounded relaxed. I tried not to talk too much about work with him, but had a little trouble with that since that’s all I’m immersed in right now.  

My second run was a fun one, because I got to drive to California! I knew how to drive to California! I took all kinds of time to trip plan, check weather, figure about where I wanted to stop each night and about when – basically I way over-planned it. And then the obvious happened. Everything changed. I got to the place where I was going to pick up my loaded trailer, and it wasn’t ready – and ended not being ready for 12 hours after it was due to be ready. So I took an impromptu 10-hour break there and started fresh at about 10:00 at night. I was going to be driving all the way out to Cali on a 3rd shift schedule. I ended up kind of digging it. Traffic was low and it was easy to find parking in the mornings when I was done driving. 

On this run I got to take my first 34-hour reset on the road (I really should do a blog about trucker’s hours). This basically means I needed to stop for 34 hours so I can reset my 70-hours I’m allowed to work in an 8-day period, which I was very low on after driving out to Cali. It’s seriously so complicated. But anyway, I was able to make it to Sparks, NV where I went for a run, had dinner at Black Bear Diner, found a little coffee shop for a delicious decaf cortado, and even watched a movie in the theater! It was actually pretty cool. I did the same run to California the next week (which I’m in the middle of as I write this), except that I had to stop in Denver for two deliveries, and then to Cali. And my reset was during Thanksgiving day, so my holiday consisted of a 5-mile hike through the desert (I was in Barstow, California), a salmon dinner next to another trucker named Larry who started our conversation by telling me he bought his girlfriend a real zebra for Christmas, a delicious dessert at Starbucks – my fave – a quad-shot decaf cappuccino made with heavy cream, and then a nap. That’s where I am now – post-nap, feeling great. (Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!). 

One of my favorite running paths on the road – in Sparks, NV

Adam is back at home with family, and I even got a chance to do a short video call with him while he was at my parent’s house for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I guess he was playing bartender and barista getting everyone tipsy and caffeinated. It sounded like he was having a really good time. It gives me so much comfort out here when he’s with family and so relaxed. 

So, we’re still working through some rough patches (not relationship stuff – mostly just life stuff), obviously… I mean this isn’t a super-easy fix, and patience isn’t either of our strong suits, but we’re trying. Having the apartment to “go home” to is actually pretty comforting right now, but also, feeling “settled” is a little unsettling for me. But I think I’ll get used to it a little more each time I go “home.” As far as Adam’s plans? We don’t know yet. We kind of promised ourselves we wouldn’t have him start anything until at least the new year so he’d be forced by time into trying to unwind his tangled head a little bit. He’s leaning towards a few things, but we’ll make a move on that later. 

So in the end, I really do feel like we’re on the upswing here. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that we still need to work through on the regular, but that’s all we really can do right now – deal with one thing at a time. 

Thank you again, to all of our family and friends that have really stepped up and showed your support through all of this. I can’t tell you how much it means to us! Whether it was leaving a small message or clearing out a spot in your basement for us to stay or offering a private sanctuary if needed – you all have been amazing people and I feel so lucky to have all of you in my life. You make rough roads like this just a little smoother. So thanks. 

Next on my bloggin’ agenda, I’d like to give you all a tour of our new digs! Once we’re fully settled in and used to the place, I’ll get some photos and tell you all more about it!  

***A quick update to this update. This seems outdated because it is. After I wrote this, our beloved Subaru was hit in a parking lot by some jackass that took off, no note, nothing except a dented bumper and broken reflector. This spiraled into a per-itty rough few days. Adam sort of melted down, as some of you already know, and that was not an easy thing to navigate. Like I mentioned earlier, life. And right now? Well, it feels like I’m on a rollercoaster that just might come off the tracks… 

To the person that hit our car and took off? F*@& you. You’re a douchecanoe.

As for the car? It was totally drivable, but it was something that needed fixing. It happened in the Festival Foods parking lot, right in front of a surveillance camera, which Festival would not access for us without a police investigation. The police considered it a “no fault” accident since it was a parking lot, so there was nothing they could do, either. Soooo… Apparently hit and runs are “okay” in parking lots. No one’s at fault. Soooo… Next time you hit a car in a parking lot? Look around, shrug, and drive off. I guess? That’s what people do. So our car is currently in the shop after an insurance appraisal of $900 damage and a $500 deductible paid by us through collision insurance. But no fault. Hmm. Life. Sometimes it’s… Well… A challenge. 

And now, I’m sitting in the truck at a truck stop in Indiana after some planning and  realizing JUST how tight my hours are going to be this week (will I have enough to get me home for my vacation, or will I end up stuck somewhere en route?). I mean, I knew it was gonna be tight… But it’s gonna be pretty close. Gotta do this perfect, that’s all. No big thing. 

*sigh*

Life. 

Onward. 

It’s what I do. 

Update over. Until next time.***

Tonight I love being in warm weather in late November. It’s kind of glorious.

Currently: “The scream becomes a yawn. I’ll shut up and carry on.”

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Life out of order: becoming a solo trucker. 

Broken, but on the mend… an explanation.

What the hell is happening? How can life turn upside down and twist around so easily and why does it all have to happen so fast? Why is this so hard? Why does my head hurt, and why am I so tired from all of it? Why do I have to feel all of the things all at once? Frustration. Sadness. Excitement! Fear! Anxiety. Anger. Helplessness. Nervousness. Worry. Can I pause this show? Or, wait. Fast-forward? Where the hell is my backpack because I’m getting the hell out of here. No, I’m actually not getting the hell out of here, but damn, I sure wish I was. Fight the flight, Robin. Fight it. Fight. Fight. Fight. I always fight the flight. One of these days, though, I swear.

So really. What the hell IS going on? Three things broke in this order: Adam. Our GPS. Our windshield. None of them on purpose. But then, very intentionally, Adam grabbed on to the one piece of control he had left and made the decision right there to quit his job. As it turns out, trucking is full of depression and anxiety triggers for him (he’s had some pretty awful past experiences in the industry, unfortunately). So once the honeymoon phase of our new team driving adventure faded a little bit, an uphill battle ensued. He soldiered through as long as he could with persistence and courage, but inevitably reached a limit and it was over. Just like that. It had to be. It was the one, final thing he could do that was solely his decision and felt final. Forward movement. Quitting would hopefully force enough of a change to encourage the healing of a pretty unbalanced mind… So this really has been a long time coming. We’ve known it, and we’ve been hiding behind it for too long. The volcano’s been a’stewin’ for a while and it’s finally erupted.

We’ve had a few blue days out there on the [still beautiful] lonely road…

So what next? First and foremost, Adam takes a pause to rest an exhausted mind, soul, and self. Mental illness is a tricky beast – if you break an arm everybody understands. “Ouch, that probably really hurt! Brace it, rest it, don’t use it for a while.” But break your mind and everybody’s all like, “suck it up, buttercup!” But a broken mind needs rest and time, too. He is going to need to take care of himself here, so that is our #1 focus. He needs to take the time he needs – however long that is – to regain his strength and begin on that path toward healing – this has to happen at his own pace. He’s feeling drastically unbalanced at the moment – and I would add a bit fragile, too. So this is just going to take time.

In the meantime, I drive solo. This is something I wanted to eventually try – but Adam’s decision to quit just catapulted us into this change sooner than we’d planned. Life just happens out of order sometimes, I guess. Thankfully I’ve found myself really enjoying this crazy job, so I’m going to stick with it for a while on my own and see how it goes. But going solo? It’s a little scary. I’m going to find out really quick all the little things I’ve been leaning on Adam for as team drivers. But to my advantage, the big things should be covered. We’ve always run our team in such a way that I could do the job on my own if needed, which is just how I like to roll. It’s an independence thing. And, well? Good thing, because here we go…  

I’m actually writing this in the middle of my first solo run, so all of this stuff is happening – these changes are already in motion. These past few weeks haven’t been easy, stress levels have been high and I’m mentally exhausted – and fighting my own little burnout. Taking a break from social media during all of this was a result of that. It was a way for me conserve a little energy by withdrawing from the world – and frankly I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared. I didn’t have the time or energy to explain everything so I chose to shut down. I lowered my head and pushed on as best I could in a pretty lonely state. But I’m finally feeling ready to join the world again – and I’m doing that with this very blog post. It’s a start for me to feel like I’m sort of getting back to normal. It’s also a way to avoid vague-booking (which is a huge pet peeve of mine). I didn’t want to be all like “OMG, people! Big changes!” on Facebook and leave it there for everyone to wonder and jump to conclusions. I thought I’d just spill it all at once and get it over with.

So I guess the thing to take away is this: Change is happening, like it always does. We’re scared, but determined. We may no longer be team truck drivers, but we’re still a team in life and love, and we’ve been together for-frickin-ever – that gives us a pretty solid foundation to work off of, and we’re going to stand on that. We’re hoping we’re through the worst of it and on our way back up. 

So, well, thanks for listening. If we seem disconnected or withdrawn, just know that we still love all of you – our friends, family, followers. We just need some time. 

Tonight I love… a quiet mind.

Rufus vacation, Part 4. Bozeman. 

After Glacier National Park we head to Bozeman, MT. One our favorite places to be together. 

Day 1. Thursday, August 10, 2017 

We hit the road with a rough start. We planned to stop at a state park in Great Falls to cook up some meat that we didn’t get the chance to cook while camping in Glacier. It was super hot, and Adam wasn’t really feeling like doing it, and I was going to selfishly leave him to it and go for a run around the park. We arrived at the park and paid a fee to use it. Then we had trouble finding a picnic table that wasn’t in the sun, and cooking in the heat with no shade would suck. We finally found one, but when Adam walked up to it there was a sign indicating that it was some sort of group-use site only – and included a $100 reservation fee! Seriously!? WTH? We both angrily jumped in the car and quietly drove on towards Bozeman. 

But then we found cappuccinos in Helena and all was right with the world. Oh, coffee. Onward. 

We ended up on I-15 and quickly felt bored, so Adam started reading descriptions of all of the National Parks. That was fun, and we mentally added them all to our list of places to go on our someday “super-fun-tour,” as we call it. We’re totally gonna do it. Just don’t know when. 

Anyway, we arrived in Bozeman and checked into the C’mon Inn, which we have some special memories from during “Gus,” our 2010 Montana vacation. We showered a few days’ gunk off of us and head downtown. Google maps said Main street was closed, but we didn’t believe it. We were just going to eat at The Garage (a restaurant we like) and probably head back to the hotel for some cribbage. But when we got there, Main Street was closed. For Music on Main! There was a band playing on a small flatbed truck, there were food trucks lining the street and people mingling everywhere! What a really great surprise! Bozeman loves us. So we had our dinner, then head into the crowd to check it out. 

Music on Main in downtown Bozeman, MT.

This is where we started making the slow decision to jump off the keto wagon and onto the fun, fast-moving sugar train. Put a little “life into living” as they say in the NSNG world. (NSNG stands for No Sugar No Grains – it’s a thing if you wanna Google it. It’s similar to keto, but not quite as strict.) We started by taking it easy. Well, I lie. We got wrapped up in the moment and tried ice cream from two different ice cream truck vendors – they were locally-made! How could we not!? It was glorious, too. Being in ketosis, I no longer crave ice cream and easily pass it up, but that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t still love it! I would live on the stuff if it wasn’t so bad for me (in large quantities, anyway). 

Happy Grapas.

We also got a coffee at the Zocalo coffee house. It was delicious and was an early start to our Bozeman coffee tour that Adam planned for the next day. 

Then we stopped at Sweet Peaks. Yup, you guessed it. More ice cream! I tried a lavender flavor at the counter and it was amazing, but I ended up with a scoop of honey cinnamon and Adam got a sundae. We devoured our delicious ice cream while playing cribbage. Because, you know, we had to get that in! 

Ohmygosh. Sugaaaaaaaaar.

It was late, so we head back to the hotel and crashed out, excited for our next full day in Bozeman. 

Day 2. Friday, August 11, 2017 

We got up and hit the town. Adam made a list of four coffee shops he wanted to try. With trying Zocalo the night before, these would be stops 2-5. 

Treeline coffee had some pretty nice foam designs.

Stop one was called Ghost Town. Right off the bat, as we pulled up to a cool building with open garage doors, the guy roasting the coffee stepped out and greeted us. He was from Plymouth, WI! We chatted for quite a while, and then we tried the coffee. It was amazing! Next up was the Bumble Bean, a drive-thru hut-style coffee shop. We grabbed some decaf Americanos and wound our way around town to our 4th stop at Cold Smoke. We sat at Cold Smoke for a while and played some cribbage. Afterward we head out for our 5th stop which was Treeline. They had the prettiest foam designs, and we tried an affogato – which was espresso poured over ice cream – and they used the locally-made stuff that we loved! So good. That was the end of the tour… Until later that evening. And so far? Ghost Town had us won over. 

All the pretty coffees! Ghost Town was the winner!

We went back to the hotel and washed up and head back towards downtown to enjoy some wine tasting at Corx, a small wine bar. Now, I have to say that we hadn’t had anything to drink since the beginning of April (well, Adam had a couple shots of Crown Royal in there somewhere, but that’s been all). We never planned on quitting drinking or anything – not even cutting back. It happened kind of naturally once we got into ketosis. We just didn’t find ourselves in a situation that felt worth it. We didn’t want to kick ourselves out of ketosis and feel like crap because of it, and then feel like crap from the alcohol on top of that. So we just weren’t wanting to drink. So you can probably guess what happened next. We got drunk way too easily. 

At the wine bar, we ordered flights so we could try all the reds. Two flights totalled two 8-oz. glasses, so we figured that wasn’t bad. One 8-oz. glass each. We also ordered a meat and cheese plate to go with it. I think we were feeling a good buzz half-way through. We then ordered a dessert plate with goat cheese-stuffed strawberries that came with a balsamic chocolate dip. It was so delicious! We tried a sweet white wine with that. And then, what the heck! Let me try that sangria, too!

Sniffing. And buzzing.

So good! 

After wine tasting, toting two unopened bottles of wine for later, we buzzily stepped out of the dimly-lit wine bar into the glaring-sunlight on Main Street. Guess what? There was an art walk going on! 

We stopped at a clothing shop where I drunkedly decided it was a great time to shop for clothes I didn’t need. So while Adam sat on a bench in this fun little women’s-specific outdoor clothing store, I picked things off racks and head into a changing room. Turns out there was a local artist there selling jewelry and was part of the art walk. I heard them offer Adam a glass of wine, and soon after a girl knocked on my changing room door offering me one. “Sure, why not,” I responded cheerfully. 

Before I knew it she was handing me a plastic cup of wine through the cracked door as I stood there in my underwear. Nice! And then she was flinging clothes over the door in different sizes and colors… It was fun, but I ended up buying an expensive, short pair of coral-colored corduroy shorts. I found it kind of funny. Not sure I’d have made that purchase sober. But I do love those shorts. I also got a super-comfy skirt – at least that one came from the sale rack. 

We left and hit up our 6th coffee shop. Rockford coffee. We walked up and down Main Street towards the taco/ice cream bus that we remembered from our last Montana vacation. Then we found another coffee shop – our 7th, and finally last stop of the Bozeman coffee shop tour. It was Wild Joe’s. I sat on a couch while Adam got our coffees and I quickly started feeling really horrible. Adam wasn’t feeling great, either. We needed… or wanted food in a bad way. 

We finally made our way to the taco truck but it was so busy that we gave up waiting and called for Uber to bring us back to the hotel. I’m sure my body was freaking the hell out after the overabundance of sugar it wasn’t used to, and starting to come down off the wine just a little. 

But then we made it worse because, well, we were drunk. Little did we know, this was turning out to be quite the learning experience! Back at the hotel we *cringe* ordered pizza – like drunk people do when they’re hungry – and ate it – even though we really didn’t like it. We also tried to drink more wine, but Adam ended up dumping most of it down the drain. And the second bottle ended up left behind the next morning as a tip for housekeeping. 

Day 3. Saturday, August 12, 2017 

We slept in later than we’d planned (for obvious reasons), but once we were up we got going. First stop? Coffee. 

We talked about the wine and decided both of us really didn’t like it as much as we remembered. I honestly felt the same about beer. And I’ve never really liked booze unless you dump sugar in it and turn it into a margarita or chocolatey martini or something. So… Why even drink alcohol if I don’t really like it? And why overeat pizza if I’m not really enjoying it? Why feel like crud when we can feel so great!? Well, the answer is because it’s fun to try stuff. So… we didn’t have a single regret. We might’ve done things a little differently had we known just how bad we were going to feel, but still – it was worth the fun and we learned a few things, so bonus. Onward once again. For more sugar. Sugar train. Fast sugar train. Once you get on, you don’t want to get off. 

We drove an hour and a half to Twin Bridges for a county fair that we were really excited about. We were hoping for rides, a midway, farm animals, a corn dog, maybe a funnel cake… And it was basically just farm animals, a pig auction, judged plants, garden veggies, crafts, and a rodeo. A rodeo! Oh, and corn dogs. Foot-long corn dogs! So… Okay. Here’s what we did. 

Twin Bridges, Montana, was hazy from wildfire smoke.

While waiting for the rodeo to start, we drank frrsh-squeezed lemonade and walked around to the different buildings looking at all the ribbon-winning items you’d see at any fair. Flowers, giant zucchinis, quilts, rabbits, cows, adorable baby piggies – all pretty regular stuff. Then we tried the “petting zoo” because they had kitties! But we arrived just after a bunch of rowdy kids, so those cats were so worn out they barely acknowledged my existence and the pats I tried to lovingly give them. Then we stumbled into the pig auction and watched that for a while. 

Such a fuzzy ear!

In between all of this, we hit up the food trucks and basically just got all the things. A giant corn dog, some noodles, a polish dog, a funnel cake, more lemonade… And then we sat at a picnic table and played cribbage while sipping on hot (real) coffees and eating some sugar-coated mini donuts. And then we got a giant bag of kettle corn for the rodeo. We were feeling so full, but powered through that fresh kettle corn like a couple of champs!  

No bad place for cribbage.

The rodeo was great fun. And it was my first rodeo! There was a clown and cowboys and cowgirls and horses and bulls and barrel-racing and bucking and calves and lassos and steers and music… It was great! I got to see people get thrown from crazy bucking horses and bulls, and one guy even got kicked pretty hard. Scary stuff. And the rodeo clown made bad jokes in between everything. He strangely made a few digs on the Green Bay Packers, which we kind of just fake-giggled along with… He obviously was not a fan. 

Rodeo clown.

Really cool choreographed opening ceremony.

Bull riding!

But then? Wild cow milking. Yeah, I didn’t know what the heck that was, either. Well, I had an idea, but… what? How does this work? Seeing the actual thing was so funny. These teams of two ride out after a group of crazy, excited, running cows and try to lasso one. Once they get one, one of the teammates holds it while the other milks it, then they run the milk to a judge or something. It’s complete, hilariously entertaining chaos. 

Actually, here’s a video of some of it! 

After the rodeo we head back to Bozeman with full bellies. On the way we came up with a name for our little vacation mascot, which was a small bear hanging off of our rear-view mirror. We called him “Wrong-way Beary McBearBottom Longfellow III.” We were feeling silly. What a fun day! 

Wrong-way Beary McBearBottom Longfellow III

Day 4 & 5. Sunday & Monday, August 13 & 14, 2017 

Homebound. We slept in again and got going around noon, headed towards Wisconsin. We drove all day, and then just kept going. We drove all night, switching off whenever, stopping for coffees and pee breaks, we played trivia, and stopped for 45 minutes to sleep. More coffee (the real stuff), more trivia, and more driving. We started getting close to home and the only thing that was keeping us going was really bad internet jokes. But we were so tired at this point, we were borderline delirious and sooo losing it. We were laughing until our guts hurt and tears ran down our cheeks. At the worst jokes. But we didn’t care. It was a great way to wrap up the driving part of our trip. 

Adam’s laugh! ❤️

We got home at about 1pm and felt pretty rough. We crashed out hard, sleeping for about four hours. After our glorious nap, we got up, had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings and watched a movie in our hotel room while binging on pints of ice cream. At this point, why not? We didn’t feel great afterwards, but we were smiling. 

What a vacation. I mean… Yeah. It was really, really great. We were completely worn out, we felt like garbage from all the crap we ate the last week, and we were ready to get back on the smooth-riding keto wagon and get back in the truck. Success. 

Time to start brainstorming and planning the next one! It’s good to be alive! 

Happy, relaxed vacationers. 😊

Tonight I love cappuccino foam. It puts me in a short but intense state of relaxation. 

Mmmmm. Foam.

Rufus vacation, Part 3. Glacier National Park.

I might’ve been done hiking the Wonderland Trail, but vacation certainly wasn’t over! Adam and I had a loose plan for our last few days. Part 3? Glacier National Park. We visited here seven years ago and loved it, but it was in June, and the Going-To-The-Sun Road was closed in the middle because there was still a lot of snow and the road wasn’t cleared yet. So we ended up getting a site at a campground just outside the Park and tent-camping the first night, then driving as far as we could on the Going-To-The-Sun Road (for those that aren’t aware, this is the main road that runs through Glacier National Park and is pretty famous for it’s incredible scenery – definitely something you need to experience if you’re there!). We went as far as we could, and then turned around. The second night at our campground we decided to grab one of their tiny cabins. It consisted of a bed, a nightstand and a lamp. Super-cool little cabin. Then we drove around to the other side of the park and drove as far as we could up the Going-To-The-Sun Road on that side. We always said we’d come back and drive the whole thing. Well, that was a long story to get to now.

Road-trippin’ to back in time. We stopped at a tiny, little gas station right out of the 80’s – right down to the dusty items on the shelves.

Part 3. Day 1. Monday, August 7, 2017

We left our hotel room in Yakima and hit the road toward Glacier NP. We played trivia, tried white coffee (it was okay), swung in at the Spokane Co-op for some camping goodies (we were planning on camping while in the park), and got back on the road. It was a whirlwind, and it looked as though we were going to arrive pretty late, so we decided last minute to find a room along the way and start fresh in the morning. We landed in Thompson Falls, Montana around 7pm. Our room was a small, super-cute cabin-y style room – very cozy. We were thrilled to be back in Montana – it’s our favorite state!

In front of our cute little room in Thompson Falls, MT.

We head to Minnie’s Diner in town, which came highly recommended by… well, pretty much everyone we talked to. Thompson Falls is a pretty small town, and this local diner was just a perfect small-town-Montana experience. We arrived to find no clean tables, which Adam said was a good sign. We waited quite a long time for our food, too, but it was all part of the experience. Good food, too, of course! 

Part 3. Day 2. Tuesday, August 8, 2017

We really enjoyed our short visit to Thompson Falls. In the morning we slept in – but not too late – because we wanted to hit up a little coffee shop (Beagle’s Bakery & Espresso) right across the street from our hotel. I’m pretty sure I had what I think might’ve been my favorite coffee on the whole vacation (that’s saying a lot, as you’ll see in my next entry!). With coffees in hand, off we went! Finally! Glacier!

Beagle’s Bakery & Espresso. Such a cute little spot! 

On the way Adam spotted a hand-painted sign that read in ginormous red letters, “CHERRIES,” and I spotted a giant, bronze-colored bull statue. So of course, we pulled in. We were at M&S Meats in Rollins, Montana, which is apparently famous for their buffalo jerky. We bought some cherries at the little roadside stand, and also some cheese curds from in the store. In hindsight, I wish we would’ve bought some buffalo jerky! Whoops, next time! I learned a lesson about cheese curds. We’re from Wisconsin, and we have damn good cheese curds. Adam asked at the counter when they were made (when you buy them in Wisconsin this answer usually comes in the frame of hours if you’re getting the good, squeaky fresh ones). The lady cheerily responded, “Oh, they just delivered them two weeks ago!” Adam said he literally almost laughed as a knee-jerk reaction, but held it back and just bought them. We are so spoiled and maybe a little bit cheese-curd-snooty. And they weren’t great. Next time? We’ll get the jerky – what they’re known for! We got some photos in front of the giant, anatomically correct bull with his tail raised (why are these things always so funny to me!?), and got back on the road.

At M&S Meats in Rollins, MT. In front of the anatomically-correct bull. Okay… Should I show the childish, obnoxious photo of me?

Butt first (cringe), here’s one that tempted us to buy a chocolate ice cream cone just for the photo op. Poor bull. We’re giving him so much trouble. :)

Just lookit!

We arrived at Glacier National Park, and learned that there was only like two tiny little campgrounds that had a site or two available, but they were really close to a couple of active wildfires that weren’t yet contained, and the ranger told us that they were pretty smokey and might actually get closed down soon. We wanted to stay two nights, so we decided to look elsewhere, just outside the park. Guess where we ended up? That same campground we were in seven years ago! They’re sign just off the road said that they had no sites available, but we called before we got there and I was told they had something for our one small tent. And they did! I think it might’ve been the last site, but we didn’t care! The only bummer about camping was campfires were prohibited due to a fire ban (for obvious reasons with all the wildfires in the area! Smoking wasn’t even allowed outside a vehicle! It was pretty serious.) We were really hoping to have a campfire, but as it turns out, we didn’t spend much time at our campsite anyway.

Finally seeing the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road!

We set up our tent and then started on the Going-To-The-Sun Road. It was open all the way through, so our plan was to drive the whole thing, and along the way I could scope out a few spots for a potential trail run the next day, and we would enjoy the scenery and the drive. It was beautiful! The road was really fun with sharp, winding switchbacks that dropped off a really long ways down on one side and a rock wall on the other. The sweeping valleys below were thick and green with pine forest and the mountains on the other side were full of color and pretty darn majestic, shooting up into the sky with giant stone spires. We had some firesmoke haze here, too, so the mountains further off blended into the sky all dreamy and pretty-like.

PJ2 is so happy!

Once we arrived on the east side of the park, we decided to take the road around the south side of the park back to our campsite. It was getting late, and we were going to be driving some of it in the dark – the road around the park wouldn’t be as curvy and crazy as the Going-to-the-Sun Road was. We had to deal with a few free-ranging cows in the road once outside of the park, but other than that, the ride back to our tent went smoothly – we were in our tents to sleep at 11:20pm. Talk about another full, great day!

Moo.

Part 3. Day 3. Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ooh, I loved this day! It certainly had its challenges, though!

Our plan was to get up early and try to get a campsite inside the park. I guess if you arrive early enough, you can usually find someone else packing up and tag the little pole with a self-registration slip. It’s crazy in these popular National Parks! We did get up at 5:30am, which came pretty quick. Especially since we were kept up really late listening to a couple a few sites down from us having a midnight drunken sprawl. It got pretty intense a couple of times with a lot of yelling, swearing, “get off of me!’s” and loud banging on a car door or something. Finally I think they both passed out, and so did we.

We left the campground at 6:15am and got to the Two Medicine Campground a little over an hour later at 7:30am – and found an open site with nobody in it! We didn’t even have to squat on some poor family trying to pack up! (A ranger actually told us that’s what you have to do sometimes – just wait for someone to pack up and tag their site. Crazy.) We set up the tent to be certain our site would still be ours when we got back and once again hit the road.

We stopped for breakfast (or tried for breakfast) at a restaurant called Johnson’s in St. Mary. When we arrived, they had just switched over to lunch. At this point in our vacation, we decided we were going to have a few “non-keto” things if it seemed right. We were on vacation and didn’t want to miss out on something fun just because of our way of eating. And besides, that’s not how keto works. It’s not a diet, and shouldn’t really be treated that way (although it’s hard to get out of that mindset at times, because that’s pretty much how I’ve always been!). I think this was the first meal on the trip that I didn’t ask for anything special. No “hold the bread,” or “can I substitute this for that.” Adam and I both ordered the lunch special – homemade beef-vegetable soup and sloppy joe’s on homemade bread with huckleberry coleslaw. They had me at huckleberry coleslaw! It was all amazing, but Adam and I both got stuffed super-fast and ended up leaving behind most of the bread, anyway. It was good, but too filling! We wanted the meat and that awesome coleslaw! Afterward, with a full belly? Totally worth it.

So much food!

I made what turned out to be kind of crazy decision to trail run on the Highline Trail way up high at Logan Pass, which is on the Continental Divide (6,646 ft.). It was crazy for two reasons. First, it’s called the Highline Trail – it runs along a cliff edge with a pretty steep drop-off (crazy but freakin’ awesome!). Second, it was INSANELY busy up there! It was a random August Wednesday, for God’s sake. You’d have thought it was a frickin’ holiday! There was nowhere to park at pull-offs, and there were cars and people EVERYWHERE! It was overwhelming. I mean, I’m thrilled to see so many people using our national parks – just like we are – but it felt way too congested and got really stressful. We couldn’t even get into the parking lot at Logan Pass. They actually had people turning cars away from even trying, and this was where I needed to get dropped off for my run.

We drove to a not-so-scenic pull-off because it had room for our car and hatched a plan. Adam would drive up to the pass and stop with just enough time for me to jump out near the trailhead. He would find a place to park (hopefully one in that full parking lot) and wait two hours. I mean, we both set our watches when I jumped out in case he would have to do a drive-by pick-up. Then we’d know we could meet up for sure. I’d run for an hour, turn around and then run back. So that’s what we did. He pulled up to the trailhead, stopped the car, we started our watches, I got out and he took off. He battled all that chaos while I went for a fantastic run. This guy is the best. I can’t wait until I have a chance to run some ultra races. He is going to be the best crew guy!! (He always has been!)

Anyway, I head out right away, passing by people since most were out hiking, and everyone was in such a good mood and so friendly! I came up to the cliff edge and felt really good on my feet, so I just jogged along. There was a cable that you could hold on to, even. It was a very steep drop-off right on the edge of the trail. I’m not exaggerating when I say that a trip and fall here could likely be fatal. If I’d have felt at all unstable or nervous, I’d have hiked it, but I felt great. It was kind of funny because at one point there was a lady that I apparently made really nervous because she turned toward the rock wall and covered her eyes as I passed by, then a young girl said, “she’s passed, mom! You can look now!” She must have been a little afraid of heights or something. Sorry, random lady! I didn’t mean to scare you!

Pretty steep up in here!

If you can handle my annoying huffing and puffing, here’s a little video of me running part of the Highline Trail:

I ended up running a total of a 7.3-miles as an out-and-back, and it was amazing. I felt so great. It seemed like my hiking legs were still ready to go, and I just ran and ran and ran. The scenery was amazing – I still stopped to take a lot of photos and try to absorb as much of it as I could. Hiking can be so much nicer because you are going slower and it feels like you can take more in, but I also like trail running sometimes because you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time and see more that way, too. This situation seemed perfect for a trail run since I was going to be short on time.

Views during my run!

It was a beautiful, sunny day. My feet got totally filthy and I sweat my butt off. It was perfect. At my turn-around point, which happened to be at a saddle with a view of valleys on both sides after a series of uphill switchbacks, I asked a guy to grab a photo of me. I sat on a rock for a few minutes, taking in my surroundings, then head back. I showed up at the trailhead where I started a little before our two-hour meet-up time. I found Adam parked in the parking lot! He got a spot, but he said it wasn’t exactly relaxing and he wanted to get the heck out of there. He said there was really nowhere outside to sit in shade (it was really hot) because there were so many people milling around, and sitting in the car was awkward because other cars would drive past and wait for you to pull out, thinking you’re about to leave… but he was waiting for me. So it ended up being kind of an awkward situation. I took a quick pee in the bathroom and we got back on the road.

A sign of good times!

Next up on my Glacier Adventure was my random obsession to try stand-up-padding on Lake McDonald. I had no idea if this was something that existed, but I just figured, “How could they NOT rent stand-up-paddle boards on Lake Frickin’ McDonald in Glacier National Park!?” Well, I was right! We found a place that had some rentals and about two hours left before closing. I got a quick lesson and head out. It felt so wobbly! I was afraid to move my feet once I stood up on it! I started paddling out toward the middle of the lake and it got a little choppy. I strained to feel sturdy, but I got the hang of it and was able to get going at a pretty good clip. I was still kind of afraid to move my feet, though! I could tell this was something that would get so much better and so much more fun with more practice.

SUP on Lake McDonald!

It was a really peaceful experience, just paddling out away from the shore and toward the hazy mountain in the distance. I went out in a somewhat straight line, stopping every once in a while to gaze down into the crystal-clear water and breathe in the air with it’s slightly smokey flavor. What an experience. Life is amazing.

After about an hour I paddled back into shore, satisfied, but hungry! I hadn’t eaten since breakfast… or lunch… (since the sloppy joe’s), so Adam and I swung in at a restaurant and had some bunless burgers for dinner and then found a little ice cream shop that had huckleberry ice cream, so we got cones. I was definitely planning on indulging in some ice cream on this vacation! I had the strawberry malt in Yakima, and now an ice cream cone. It was so good, and again, worth every damn lick. I still felt like it wasn’t something I’d want to do as regularly as I had been a few months back (I would eat a LOT of ice cream), but what a treat.

Huckleberry!

After our ice creams were gone, we head back to our campsite at Two Medicine. It was dark before we knew it, and we were playing cribbage at our picnic table by headlamp light. We munched on cherries, pork cracklins, pistachios, and some kind-of-gross huckleberry cordials, and shared a lot of laughs, somehow getting on a roll of turning everything we said into some sort of innuendo. No better way to end an epic couple of whirlwind days in Glacier National Park than to play a few games of cribbage outside in the dark, under the stars. Together.


Tonight I love ice cream. I may be keto, but I’ll forever have a special place in my belly for ice cream.

A few more from my trail run:

The Wonderland Trail. Some final thoughts. 

Now that the Wonderland Trail is behind me, and I’ve recorded my daily notes in blog-form here, I thought I’d share a few things that didn’t make it into the entries. It might get a little long, but I’ll talk about gear, food, highs and lows. And shoes. For just a little bit, though. Promise.

Blogging

First of all, the way I managed the blog for this trip was to first take notes each day on a tiny Moleskine notebook with a super-fine Sharpie marker. This notebook might be the smallest one you can buy. It’s 4″ x 2-1/2″, but it’s nice for backpacking because it’s so small. It easily fit into one of my backpack’s hipbelt pockets or my skirt pocket where I was able to access it without much effort. I oftentimes stopped on the trail, pulled it out, jotted a note down and kept walking. Once the trip was over and I no longer had to conserve battery power on my phone, I turned my notes into blog form while it was still fresh in my mind, typed out on that tiny phone keyboard (yup, every word) – and that’s how you see it in my posted entries. I save those as drafts until I have a strong internet connection, because adding the photos takes some effort on WordPress, and a strong internet connection seems to make it a whole lot easier. As for photos, picking the ones I want to show is the toughest, because I have LOTS. I place my chosen photos in a separate folder on my phone, then add them in through the app, and then publish it. I don’t hardly ever have access to a laptop or desktop computer anymore, so I always just hope everything turns out okay in that format. I try to review it on my phone, but that’s the best I can do. And I’m sure I still miss things.

My tiny little Moleskine journal.

Gear

I don’t want to get into every single piece of gear I brought along, because honestly, I know I could go on about gear forever. I don’t even think I’m that much of a gear junkie! I just don’t know how to keep it short! Anyway, before I left I weighed my backpack and it came out to 25 pounds – that included 40 oz. of water and 3-1/2 days’ worth of food (I learned later that I could’ve cut down my food by almost half). I was pretty happy with that weight. Below I’ll make a quick list of what I had along, and then I’ll pull out just a few things that I want to expand on. Footwear was the biggest one!!

A quick rundown of what I brought along:
Backpack – Gossamer Gear Gorilla
Sleeping Bag – Adam’s 20-degree quilt
Tent – MSR Hubba
Sleeping Pad – Thermarest Neoair
Pillow – SeaToSummit Aeros LW inflatable pillow
Stove – Jetboil & small fuel canister
Other “kitchen” items – Ziploc 2-cup container with screw-top, Long titanium spoon, two 4-oz. Nalgene bottles (for olive oil and MCT oil), one 2-oz. Nalgene bottle (for balsamic vinegar)
Clothing (worn) – Long sleeve hiking shirt from Duluth Trading Company, Purple Rain skirt, cheap Target sport bra
Extra clothing – short spandex shorts, extra sport bra, 2 pairs Injinji socks, Brooks running hat, Patagonia Nanopuff jacket
For sleeping/extra warmth if needed – Smartwool beanie, silkweight gloves, Buff, Patagonia lightweight leggings and long-sleeve top, knee-high Injinji socks
Footwear – Bedrock sandals, Topo Terraventure trail shoes (worn with Dirty Girl Gaiters and Injinji socks)
Other stuff -Black Diamond Spot headlamp, tiny 1″ swiss army knife, toiletries, first aid, toilet kit (trowel, tp and sanitizer), Aquamira water treatment, paracord bear rope, lightweight chrome hiking umbrella, Black Diamond trekking poles, two 20-oz Vitamin Water bottles, Trails Illustrated waterproof map, bandana,  super-cheap but totally fun heart-shaped sunglasses, headnet, DEET, sunscreen
Raingear – Arc’teryx rain jacket, ULA rain kilt, REI pack cover
Camera – My phone (Samsung Galaxy S6) with Otterbox water resistant cover

Typical gear “splosion” at camp.

Gear thoughts! I really love all my gear… but I’ll just pull out a few things that stand out for me. First of all, if I had known the weather was going to be insanely hot and dry and amazing, I wouldn’t have had to bring my tent rain fly, rain jacket, rain kilt, or pack cover – but of course, I will always carry these things, because obviously I can’t tell the future, and I always find it to be better safe than sorry when it comes to rain stuff! But I never once used any of these things – I never even put the Otterbox cover on my phone! It all stayed packed in the bottom of my pack all nine days. My warm sleeping stuff was also overkill. Never used the gloves or Buff and I could’ve used my hiking socks instead of the extra sleeping pair. I also barely used my Jetboil (I’ll talk more about that in the food bit).

Clothing – I really liked my clothing setup. First of all, the Purple Rain Skirt is THE BOMB. I love this thing so much! 

It’s a great length (meaning not too short and doesn’t have one of those annoying liners underneath so you can choose if you want to wear underwear or not), and it’s got a nice big pocket on each side that I don’t even notice when I have my heavy phone in one and my notebook and pen in the other. Also, apologies for the TMI, but as a girl, it’s totally freeing to hike commando and so much easier to pee discreetly this way. And my new, latest awesome thing I taught myself during a training hike for the Wonderland Trail is that I can pee standing up if I need to. It really comes in handy on a busy trail (which the WT can be in some places). My shirt was a last-minute purchase at Duluth Trading Company because I loved the color so much. I know, vain, but it was great! It was super moisture-wicking and quick-drying, the sleeves rolled up really easy and weren’t too tight around my arms, and it was really easy to button them one-handed. And it was the best thing I could’ve had when I was up high and hiking through hot, sun-exposed areas. Besides a cheapo sport bra from Target, that’s pretty much all I wear. I love the simplicity of it.

Sleeping bag – this was the first time I used a quilt, and I loved it. I sleep with a 1/4-length inflatable sleeping pad, and then I put my backpack under my knees and feet (keeps them off the ground and my feet elevated, which is a nice bonus). I decided to try Adam’s quilt because it’s quite a bit lighter and packs down smaller than my mummy bag. I stayed plenty warm, and actually kind of liked the way I could wrap it around me in different ways – and I could kind of grab onto the edges and almost cuddle with it (I’m such a pillow/blanket/Adam cuddler when I sleep!). I might be a convert!

Umbrella! One of my newest pieces of gear that I really wasn’t too sure about. I didn’t really get too much of a chance to train with it, and when I tried to rig a DIY hands-free setup, it just didn’t work. But on day 2 of my hike, I was getting so hot, and heading into exposed snowfields. On one of my breaks I messed around with it a little bit and got it to hold pretty still – the trick was to put the handle under my sternum strap – then there’s two shock cords with cord locks that I could tighten – one up by my shoulder, and the other down by the handle. It was so slick and seriously saved me a few times on this trip when it got really, really hot.  I still got a little too much sun on day 2, so I can’t imagine what I would’ve felt like if I didn’t have it! I love this thing! I also figured if it rained, I could use it then… but it never did rain.

SHOES! Oh my gosh! So, if you read my past blog about looking for the perfect pair of shoes after my trusty Altras changed their style and became too narrow for me, you know that I went through hell and back to find something that I liked. I settled on the Topo Terraventure. It’s a great shoe, lightweight, very comfy, pretty wide in the toebox, and only a 3mm drop (I prefer zero, though). Then later I picked up a pair of Bedrock Cairn sandals – mostly for a summer casual shoe that I can wear on a short hike if I wanted. Well, I wore them on an 11-mile training hike with plans to switch out to my Topos a little ways in, but I never took them off. I had a little foot fatigue on that first hike at about mile 8, and started feeling a little hotspot on my heels shortly after that. The most surprising thing was that the toe thong didn’t bother me at all! I barely felt it. I wore them for a few more miles after that on a couple of training hikes, and packed them for the Wonderland Trail with the thought that they would be mostly used for camp shoes, and maybe I’d wear them for a few miles of hiking. Well… I wore them for almost the entire trail – all except for maybe 7 miles. They didn’t perform well in the snowfields – I was sliding all over the place, so on day 2 when I got up high into the long stretches of snow, I wore my Topos. But know what? They’re sandals. So I don’t think less of them for not getting me through those long stretches of snow. But I did NOT want to take them off! Letting my toes out to splay and breathe how they naturally wanted to felt amazing. 

I was so happy about hiking in my Bedrocks that I had to take a lot of photos, I guess!

They are very much zero drop – the soles are very thin, but very tough (Vibram soles), and I love feeling the ground’s surface under me as I walk. Small streams (or big ones, for that matter) were easy – just walk right through. In fact, it was nice to just stand in the streams once in a while to cool off or wash off a little bit. For some reason, the day before I finished, I got a couple of sore spots, but I theorize that I had them too loose for a couple of long descents, so they were putting extra pressure on certain points of my feet. I’m not sure. Also, I learned that hiking for a long time in sandals dries your feet out pretty quick, so I ended up with a small heel crack that was pretty painful. Next time I’ll apply some Aquafor overnight or something. Oh, and the bottoms of my feet were permanently dirty afterwards, but that was kind of a badge of honor. It just took a pumice stone and some time to clean them up.

So that’s all I’ll go into about gear for now. As I mentioned, I really like all my gear, but if I went into all of it… just imagine!

Weather

I already mentioned in my gear section that I could’ve left all my rain gear home. And I didn’t use the rainfly for my tent even one time. It was great. I expected to have some foul weather on this trip. It is Washington, after all! I’ve heard stories of it snowing in July on this trail… so I wanted to be prepared for anything. And I was. But as it turns out, all my rain gear ended up being extra weight packed way down in the bottom of my backpack and never taken out. I’m not complaining, that’s for sure! I love the sunshine and I love summer hot weather, and I got tons of both. In fact, while I was out there, there were heat warnings in cities outside of the park, and even a rumor that traveled along the trail that it was going to reach 100 degrees in the park! I kind of wouldn’t be too surprised. It did get insanely hot for a couple of days. (Thank you, umbrella!) The last few days of the hike started to get hazy from nearby wildfires in British Columbia, so my views got a little compromised from that, but I was very thankful for the crisp, clear views I got for the first part of my trip, and the unique beauty that the smoke brought with it for the last part – spectacular sunsets and a really soft, pastel touch to all the color in the landscape. It wasn’t bad enough to affect my breathing, so I was able to enjoy it for what it was.

Food

This is another topic I could talk about way too much, so I’m going to try not to get into too much detail. You’ve probably read already that I was in a state of ketosis before starting this hike, meaning I eat a low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet. My body has been trained to use ketones and fat for energy instead of sugar (carbs). It’s super-efficient and long-lasting – great for endurance sports – like hiking! In the past, when I hiked on a normal “hiker’s diet” of oatmeal, noodley dinners, Snickers, jelly beans, energy bars, cookies, sugary drink mixes, tortillas, etc, I would have to eat often as my body burned off the sugar quickly (like it’s supposed to do) then asked for more as soon as it was gone. With ketosis, your body uses ketones made by the liver and the ample supply of body fat that most of us already have, so it’s a steady, slow burn, and hunger is lessened, even when doing something active like running or hiking. But beware, cutting carbs on a hike would be a bad idea if you haven’t trained your body to be a fat-burner yet. There is definitely a transition period, and that wouldn’t be fun to do on something like a long hike when you don’t have access to food options in case you were to bonk. But I definitely encourage you to look into it and give keto a shot!

Food “splosion.”

Anyway, some of the things I ate on the hike, with a few shout-outs to some products that I’m in love with:
-Raw, unsalted nuts (brazil, macadamia, cashew, pistachio) – this was one of my favorites. Ate them every day.
-Grass-fed beef sticks
-Cheese (individually wrapped – so easy) Fontina, mozzarella, and pepperjack

Epic bites – they have a few different flavors. The bites are my favorite. And it’s an awesome company!

Phat Fudge – check it out! This stuff is awesome. It even has caffeine in it, so it gave me a little extra boost when I had one (I am a decaf drinker, normally)

FBomb nut butters – check this out, too! This ended up being one of my favorite things. There are three flavors of nut butters, they are made with totally clean ingredients, and no added sugars or flavors, so as low in carbs as a nut butter can get (nuts do have some carbs in them). They also sell packets of oil, which I might use in the future.

-MCT oil and chia seeds mixed in water – I made this up every morning and sipped away at it all day long. MCT oil is the same super-good-for-you-fat you find in coconut oil, but it doesn’t harden and has barely any taste so works great for mixing in cold drinks (also works great in hot drinks, actually).

MCT oil and Chia seeds. Looks nasty, but I don’t care. It’s powerful.

-Artisana brand nut butters – I brought a few of these to supplement my FBombs. The FBombs have a plain macadamia nut butter (which is to die for), but Artisana has an almond, cashew and pecan butter that are very clean with no added ingredients. It just provided more variety.
-Pork Cracklins and Pork rinds – I had one bag for each leg of the trip. I used to carry potato chips on every backpacking trip, crush them up and eat them with a spoon. I’d also add them to a lot of my meals. The pork rinds ended up being the perfect replacement for the crushed potato chips. In fact, I liked them better.
-Baker’s chocolate – since going keto, things that used to be appalling to my taste buds because they were bitter or not sweet enough are now tasty to me – this is the best example. I used to spit baker’s chocolate out – now I love it. I would add a little nut butter to it and some crushed pork rind – YUM!

-My favorite “meal” – Avocado (I packed six total on the trip, two for each leg), tuna, olive oil (I use Villa Cappelli because I know it’s a good-quality oil and not cut with other oils – it’s a big thing, Google it if you get into food geekery), balsamic vinegar, pink Himalayan sea salt, and everything bagel seasoning (white and black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic and onion)

Pink Himalayan sea salt – I considered this one of my luxury items because I brought a small grinder of the stuff in rock form. This was important to my keto diet, because when in ketosis, your insulin levels ride pretty low, and insulin is a storage hormone. It stores fat, but also elecrolytes, so if it’s on the low side, you have to supplement with extra electrolytes, and the Himalayan sea salt is great for that because it’s not stripped of all the natural nutrients that normal table salts are – and I don’t do the sports drink mixes any more because of all the added sugar and nasty artificial colors and crappy ingredients. I would even sometimes just grind some into my hand and lick it (although I really don’t enjoy doing that – but I can tell it helps with my energy, so it’s worth the few seconds of displeasure). I do love it on my food, though.
-Decaf coffee (and a few Starbucks VIA packets) – I enjoyed a hot decaf coffee one morning, and a couple of evenings with my chocolate. I used a Starbucks VIA twice in cold water to give me a little boost midday – and it was a tasty addition to whatever lunch I was eating.

Natural Choice pre-cooked bacon – DUDE. Must-have. I would hike, feeling frickin’ amazing, for a few hours in the morning before eating (totally a bonus from keto), and when I finally stopped, I would happily devour a package of pre-cooked bacon and love every bite of it. It’s the stuff you get in the grocery store that doesn’t need refrigeration until it’s opened. Perfect for the backcountry!

 – Powdered bone broth – I wanted to take the benefits of bone broth with me on the hike, but the liquid form would’ve just been too heavy. So I found a powdered version on Amazon that wasn’t too bad as far as additives. It was actually super-filling, and I only ended up having two or three times, just because I wasn’t hungry enough for it. I would add dried garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and dehydrated red and green bell pepper to it. It’s good by itself, too, but the extra seasonings made it feel like I was eating a soup. I could easily have gone without this and the decaf coffee in hot form — and I would’ve been totally food-cold and wouldn’t have had to even bring my Jetboil and fuel, saving myself a pound or two. Next time!

Lastly, a few of my favorite things from the trip, my lowest point, and what will be different next time!

My favorites from the trip? All of it, duh! If I had to pick a few things, the first one that really stands out is the wildflowers. 

More. 

They were seriously insane out there. I felt like I was walking through a rainbow, and I’m not even kidding you – it smelled like cotton candy in some places! Another favorite would be the views of Mt. Rainier every day, from a different angle each time. That’s a gimme. 

My grid app only let me use 15 photos. Good thing I had a limit.

Another? The glaciers. Carbon Glacier was my favorite, as I got to see it in action when some rocks came loose and went tumbling down along an ice wall that was melting in the summer’s sun – and the sound that came with it was just incredible. It’s a tough one to describe. But it was super-cool. The swims! I swam three times and could’ve swam a bunch more. I love swimming in those clear, crisp mountain lakes, especially after a long day of hiking and sweating! Another one was the solo aspect of it, being on my own schedule, and just being able to go and stop as I pleased. And lastly, the way it can be so hard (the first two days were intense with big miles), or pretty chill (I had a couple of low-mileage days that were pretty easy walking). The climbs are usually long uphills or long downhills, and that challenge was fun.

A few downsides? Well, not really a downside, but I did post-hole up in the snow on day 2 and ended up scraping my shin and knee pretty good. I hiked the rest of the day with a dried blood trail down both shins (I’m sure it looked totally badass, though!). It didn’t really hurt, as it happened really fast, so it wasn’t a big deal. I felt kind of proud. Like it was a souvenir for my hard hike that day. So, yeah. I guess not much of a downside. I loved hiking in the snowfields, but there are certainly some precautions you need to take to be safe.

One definite downside was the black flies on day 8. They just got to me. The bugs, overall, really weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were going to be, considering the time I was going to be out there. I never even used my headnet! Well, if I had some sort of netted contraption for my ankles, though, I would’ve used it on day 8. I also found out later that my super-short fuse was also linked to a certain hormonal cycle that I deal with every month, and this one unexpectedly shortened on me by 6 days, so I was thrown off-guard. But a few bazillion flowers, sweat, caffeine and trail love helped me through it.

Last – the biggest downside? That it had to end. Awww…. So cheesy, I know. But it’s true. I did not want to stop hiking. It doesn’t matter if my hike is 2 days or 165 days. They’re never long enough.

For anyone that wants to go on a solo backpacking trip, but has been a little nervous about taking the plunge and doing it?
Do it here.
And don’t be at all afraid. There’s quite a few people on the trails, but not so many that you’re running into someone every few minutes. Camping at night is a piece of cake. There’s bear poles or boxes at every camp, so it’s super-easy to manage food safety out there, and the way the camps are set up, you’ll have neighboring campers that are at least a shout away if something were to go wrong. But I doubt animals would even be a bother. The few bears I saw were super nonthreatening. I mean, you don’t want to entice them or rub yourself in coconut oil (which I almost did before going to bed one night to help with dry skin, but quickly rethought the plan – saved it for morning), but it’s not really something to worry about if you take even the simplest of backcountry bear precautions.

So ohmygosh, I think I’m finally done blabbing! There is still probably so much more I could add, but I’ll just wrap it up here. The last thing I want to say, is this:

Mom and Dad – next time I hike this trail, you are both going with me, and I will not take “no” for an answer. I thought of you both every single day out there. The flowers, the waterfalls, the wildlife, the scenery – I know you would’ve loved it. So I’m dragging you along next time! (They won’t argue, my friends. Trust me.)


Tonight I love those of you that stuck it out and read this whole thing. You are my hard-core readers and followers! Thank you! I wish I could give you some sort of prize. You’ve got my love, that’s for sure. :)

Love my Gossamer Gear Gorilla

The Wonderland Trail. Day 9.

Sunday, August 6, 2017 

“I WANNA YO-YO!”
(Yo-yoing in thru-hiking terms means you get to the end of a long trail, then turn around and hike back to where you started. Imagine thru-hiking the 2,660 miles of the PCT from Mexico to Canada, then turning around and hiking back to Mexico. Cool, right!? It’s been done. No kidding! 

Let’s go back to the start… And do it again. Pretty please!? (Photo is from Day 3)

I was so sad it was my last day on the trail. We only had three miles to go to exit at Longmire where I’d be reunited with our PJ2 Subaru and civilization. 

The hike out was mostly downhill, and I got to experience the Kautz Creek River crossing that Adam got do once already on his way out to meet me. It was pretty swift – enough to warrant unbuckling my pack straps for the crossing. We both made it across on a few skinny, bouncy logs that a kind hiker before us laid down as a makeshift, temporary bridge. Adam said someone added a couple more since yesterday. Thanks, other hikers! 

Adam crossing Kautz Creek on some pretty flimsy little logs. He did just fine.

We hiked down, down and down some more, then I started to hear vehicle traffic, then we crossed a road, and then we popped out of the woods into the Longmire parking lot. I head right to our car where Adam took a photo of me just like he did at the beginning. It was amazing how relaxed I looked compared to when I started. The wilderness does great things for me. 

A side-by-side of me at the start and finish. I really love this photo comparison. It actually makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside with happiness to see how chill I look after the hike. It was so amazing.

And so I ended with no post-hike cravings because I eat damn keto (which I love anyway), but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the restaurant at Longmire was frickin’ CLOSED when I got there (at 10:45am) because apparently they shut down between meal hours. I was going to go in and just get a celebratory burger or something for tradition’s sake, but that was a no-go. 

Oh, well. I decided I’d just hit up the bathroom for its flushy toilets and running water. I’d wash up a little bit and change so we could hit the road and find a good coffee somewhere. (I guess I was sort of craving a good cappuccino. So, there’s that!) 

I grabbed a tote bag with a change of clothes, a bandana to wash up with, and my tooth brush. I approached the one public bathroom to see a line. *sigh* Can’t I just please go back into the woods!? 

I waited in that line for about eight other ladies to cycle through, but once I got inside I was shouldered-bumped by another lady who apparently thought her hand-washing needs were way more important that mine or anyone else’s. Then after I finally got to the sink to wet my bandana I got repeatedly skipped for a stall. I wanted to punch someone! I said out loud out of frustration, “Oh, forget it!” and walked back outside in a huff and back to the car – dirt-covered and still having to pee. Civilization is really hard. 

Adam got out of the bathroom (big surprise, no line. I should’ve just use the men’s) and we walked over to the restaurant to see how much longer it would be until they opened, and it was another hour – but they had their own bathroom! So I took the big stall and was able to wash up and change in peace. Thank goodness. Then we left. I needed to get the hell out of there. I was over-peopled – way too much exposure at once first thing out of the mountains. 

We drove on, stopping at the first Starbucks we came across so I could get my cappuccino. We drank our coffees out of ceramic mugs in the store, played a couple games of cribbage and then drove on. We got as far as Yakima, WA, and stopped at the Oxford Inn for the night. We had a first floor patio so I was able to drape my tent outside to air it out, and that was nice. 

Starbucks and cribbage.

And then I took the world’s longest Epsom-salt bath. I was filthy – I hadn’t showered/bathed (other than a few mountain lakes, streams and wet-ones) for what I think is a new record for me – 10 days! I love it! It took some serious scrubbing, too. My feet were the toughest. I hiked almost the entire Wonderland Trail in my Bedrock sandals, and it showed – in a pretty awesomely hardcore-dirty kind of way. I had dirt permanently tattooed into every crease on the bottoms of my feet, and I gave a new pumice stone a pretty good workout! (I’ll probably talk a little more about backpacking in my sandals in another blog entry where I’ll go over some of my specific food and gear choices for this trip.) 

It probably took 30 minutes of pumice scrubbing to get that one foot as clean as it is in the photo.

After scrubbing a few layers of skin off and dousing myself in lotion, Adam and I head out to a local, popular burger joint called Miner’s. It was amazing! For not having any specific cravings, this place couldn’t have been more perfect. I got a double cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap (that was as big as my head – literally), I ate some of Adam’s fries and got a fresh strawberry malt afterwards. It was fun, and so dang delicious. I didn’t feel too awesome afterwards – I ate a little too much and it was pretty much the most sugar I’d eaten in four months – but it was oh, so worth it! 

Fun neon sign at Miner’s in Yakima, WA

Yup. As big as my head! And so good!

Then back at the hotel it was late and we pretty much passed right out. We had a lot more fun vacation to do yet! Next up was Glacier National Park for some camping, driving and sight-seeing, trails, and on a weird whim I wanted to try stand-up paddling on Lake McDonald. I did zero research for this – I just assumed it existed. And I hoped it did! But first? A good night’s sleep. In a cushy bed with crisp, cool, clean sheets. 

Aaah. The simple things. 

Tonight I love pumice stones. 

This was actually my first off-trail meal – summer sausage and cheese – with a cold, lime-flavored La Croix seltzer water. It was perfect. Because I could eat it in the car as we drove away from all the people. 

Adam’s compass fell apart, but I said, “good.” I don’t like these compasses – can you see why? There’s two Norths on it. It’s so dumb!

Still stopping for the little things – even with only 3 miles left.

A great morning view looking up Kautz Creek.

LOVE.

Also LOVE.

And… One last on-trail view of my latest favorite beauty. I love you, Mt. Rainier. I’ll see you again. That’s a promise.

The Wonderland Trail. Day 8.

Saturday, August 5, 2017 

Chewed-up feet, a case of the grumpies, mean flies and so much beauty that I didn’t even care. Well, eventually. 

Yeah, it’s seriously like this every day on the Wonderland Trail.

I woke up a little tired-feeling at 5:25am and was packed up and hiking out of camp by 6:10am – before any of my neighbor campers at Klapatche were even awake. Okay by me! I love these quiet mornings on the trail all by myself! It’s really become my favorite part of each day on this trip! 

I hiked up toward St. Andrew Lake where I swam yesterday and stopped there to rearrange my pack, as it acquired a really aggravating squeak that I assumed was because of how I packed it. The rearranging helped, but the squeak didn’t totally go away. It didn’t take long for me to shut it out, though. There’s this scenery thing that was happening around me that is a really great distraction from these sorts of things. 

Firesmoke haze really adds a unique beauty to everything.

I then started downhill and cruised along pretty good, but then I got a little grumpy. The only thing I could figure was that it was my last full day on the trail, and I think I was deeply saddened that it had to end. I wasn’t really sure, though. I kept getting distracted by my surroundings, then a fly would bite me and I’d cuss at it and feel so frustrated for a minute. Then I’d hike on, look around, and do it all over again. It was extra hazy from smoke in the air that morning, and then I slipped on a mossy rock while getting water in a small stream and muddied my foot and one of my legs. It just felt like I was having an “off” day. (Edit: I later realized that this moody day fit right into my monthly schedule – sorta – it wasn’t on my radar because it came a week early. But at least it makes sense now!) 

Then I started to climb and I felt better. Strangely. I felt so good. Like I had my hiker legs and could go forever. And then the forest opened up to another glacial view as I ascended toward what was called emerald ridge. The name itself sounded pretty, so I thought I’d wait until I got up there to eat my bacon and snacks – with the marmots, I hoped. I was getting cheery again! 

Emerald ridge was really nice. It was kind of a knife’s-edge hike for a little while along a ridgeline that dropped down pretty steeply on both sides of the trail (hence the name “emerald ridge!”) and the colors surrounding the view of the Tahoma glaciers was really colorful – lots of grays, reds and browns from the rock and green from the trees and blue of the sky – and the haze was giving it all a sort of peaceful pastel glow. It was so pretty. 

Emerald Ridge.

At the top, I found a great rock that I could lean up against for my break, and ate my first food of the day – at 9:30am! I wanted to hike this trail in ketosis, and it’s been a crazy-weird experience – not feeling the need to eat for the first few hours of hiking, and get this – I’ve really had no off-trail cravings. I mean I guess I thought a little about crunchy lettuce and a cold drink a couple of times, but maybe that was more because of thirst? I dunno. I even tried to think about pizza. Nah… Burger? Nah… Beer? Nah… An apple? Nah… I mean, come on! I’m backpacking! I’ve gotta really want something! I was starting to feel envious of that young guy I met that couldn’t wait to get his bonzai burger from Red Robin. I later met another guy that said he was going to eat fries until he puked. So I felt sad that I wasn’t craving anything… I guess. But I sure was still enjoying my trail food – especially the mixed raw nuts, coconut butter, and cheese! So, I can’t really complain. That’s pretty yummy stuff! 

On my break some mosquitoes decided to join me. I slathered on some deet, leaned back and watched as the buggers buzzed around my face, hovered by my ears and landed on the rim of my hat, but the deet kept them from wanting to land on my skin. Perfect. I ate in peace. Well, besides the annoying buzzing. And a couple of marmots did run across the meadow as I munched on some bacon! But they were just as shy as all the others I’ve seen this far, and I wasn’t quick enough to grab a good photo. Too bad, because they’re so dang cute – especially when they run!  

Western pasqueflower, or… more like Truffula trees from The Lorax.

The day was turning out to be a yo-yo kind of day. Up to St. Andrews Lake, then down to the South Puyallup River, then up to Emerald Ridge, and now back down towards Tahoma Creek. That hike downhill, at first got me excited because I started to see a bunch of salmon berries and a few huckleberries. I started to pick some, collecting them in a baggie, with the thought that I’d give them to Adam that night if he shows up at my campsite. But the black flies took over and killed my mood. I was able to gather a few handfuls, but then gave up (these flies do NOT care about deet! They bite right through the stuff!). They weren’t horribly swarmy or anything, but just annoying enough to make me want to keep moving to they to get away. I was making good time because of them, though! I eventually got so frustrated (because of my grumpy state, I think) that I practically ran up the next hill! 

I know! Another picture of berries in a bag! But look at those suckers! Huge!

When I arrived at Tahoma Creek I was surprised with another suspension bridge! I totally forgot in my early reading and research of the trail that there were two suspension bridges! I took my time crossing it, enjoying the slow bouncing feeling as I stepped my way across, really appreciating the engineering of the thing, and especially appreciating that I again didn’t have to rely crossing such an angry river without a bridge! I stopped for a quick break once I got across and ate some more food. I was feeling a little more hungry than previous days. Maybe a craving would hit soon! 

Tahoma Creek suspension bridge!

Another view – with Tahoma Creek winding down the valley.

I started to feel tired when I came across a huge, smooth rock that was just soaking in sunshine with a great view of a valley below. I decided on a whim to drop my pack and try for a short nap. I was making really good time. Might as well! Well… About five minutes into my attempt at a nap and I was sitting up and cursing at the flies that were biting at my ankles. I got up in a huff, threw on my pack and angrily, practically ran up another hill I was climbing. 

Wanna know how to tell when the flies are really getting to you? When you’re trying to take a drink of water and one flies into your mouth, and you quickly take swig, swallow and say out loud, “There! I hope you struggle all the way down and survive until you hit my stomach acid, you asshole!” It made me laugh a little at the thought. Okay, maybe I was losing it. I decided I was done letting the little bastards try to ruin the last half of my last full day in one of the greatest places I’d ever hiked before. 

“Go ahead, flies, bite away. I don’t even care any more.” All I had to do was say it and I began to tolerate them much better. My climb was bringing me up towards Indian Henry’s old hunting grounds, and I was starting to see wildflowers and meadows with pretty little trickling streams. There’s no way the flies were going to ruin this for me! So I turned it into a mental game. And won. 

See? How can a few stupid flies ruin my day when I’m surrounded by this! Bite away, little jerks!

It’s crazy to think that this pretty little stream made a delicious cold coffee.

It also helped that I stopped to treat some water, then make up a cold, caffienated coffee. That put a bounce in my step, and before I knew it I was playfully stepping up the trail, happy as can be. I remembered I still love hiking! Flies and all. I even took a side trail (which ended up being about a 2-mile round trip) to Mirror Lakes. Because why not? It was a worthwhile excursion, too. The flowers got insane, completely exploding over rolling meadow hills, and then I got a great view of Mt. Rainier reflecting in a small lake surrounded by it all. Mirror lakes – appropriately named! 

A half-sunken bridge on the trail to Mirror Lakes. It was a little more rugged, as it’s unmaintained, but I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

Mirror Lake and a hazy Mt. Rainier reflection.

After I got back onto the Wonderland Trail, I soon found myself approaching the historic (but still used) Indian Henry patrol cabin. Seriously? This place. If I could just live anywhere… It might be in that very cabin. I can’t even… Here. Here’s a photo or two below. Am I right? I took a few minutes there, mostly to pretend it was my front yard, then continued on down the trail. I didn’t want to leave that place! 

Indian Henry’s hunting grounds – everything about this little place seemed like perfection.

I could live here so easy. There’s even a little lake in back!

I stopped at the Devil’s Dream camp area to make use of the pit toilet there. I felt satisfied that I’d used the very last of my toilet paper, knowing I’d probably be just fine making it out tomorrow without any. It’s strangely satisfying when these things turn out to be perfectly portioned. It means you didn’t carry extra – even if it weighs as little as some TP – it’s a good feeling. Also, stopping at Devil’s Dream reminded me of how glad I was that the ranger booked Pyramid Creek for my last night’s camp instead of here. The bugs were a little crazy. I didn’t stick around. 

Just a couple of miles later and I was approaching camp. Would Adam be there? Did he make it across Kautz Creek okay? As I walked in, it looked like someone had already taken site #1, but I didn’t see our Hubba Hubba set up, so I proceeded towards site #2. A quick glance back at site #1, though, and hey! I recognized that head through the trees! 

“Adam!?” 

He stood up, said hello, and I joined him in our site. He said he got across the river okay. There was someone else there to help him find the good spot to cross at, and over an old part of the bridge that had washed out and a few skinny, bouncy logs, he made it with no problem. Whew! I was so nervous for him, but of course he did just fine. I was so happy to see him! He hiked three miles, a lot uphill, and across an angry glacial river to spend the night with me in the woods! He’s the best. 

Yaaaay! It’s Adam!

We set up camp, hung our smellies and walked back where I’d come from about a half mile to where I crossed a nice, clear stream. We gathered some water to drink, I waded in to pick a few plump salmon berries (that water was bitter-stinging cold!), and then I rinsed the day’s dirt off of my feet and legs. 

I don’t know if it’s because of how far I hiked (I think with my side trip it was around 14 miles), how fast I hiked (I blame the flies), the terrain, the heat, the fact that I didn’t wash my feet throughout the day, or just that my feet had had enough for a while, but they got a little tore up. They were great yesterday… But just after today, for some reason, I had a couple of raw rub spots that I actually had to stop for a few hours earlier to cover up – one with a blister pad (I only had one in my first aid kit) and the other with some duct tape. My poor feet were looking rough. Guess it was time to give them a little break. “Just a few more miles,” I told them. “Just a few more miles.” 

Youch! Hang in there, tootsies! I love you!

Back at camp Adam and I took our food back down off of the bear pole, scarfed down some trail food, brushed our teeth, rehung our smellies and crashed. Another great night with no rain fly. And three or so miles back to civilization in the morning. 

Yay? 

*sigh* 

zzzzzzzz 

Tonight I love trail coffee.

I put these suckers through so much and they just keep on going. I love my tough feet!

Flowers. Trail. Trees.

Another colorful glacier view, including a small melt-off pond, from Emerald Ridge.

Tree skeletons and flowers.

Trail friend. Cutie!

High alpine foliage is so cool. And vibrant!

Seriously, flowers! These have really been a highlight of this trip for sure!

The incredible colors of this glacial landscape! Crazy-pretty!

No more words…