Tuesday, June 20, 2017

GEAR

PACK: Gossamer Gear Mariposa, trash compactor liner bag


SLEEP SYSTEM:
YAMA Mountain Gear Swiftline 1P tent,  tyvek groundcloth, Vargo titanium stakes (8)
Thermarest NeoAir xTherm
Enlightened Equipment Enigma (20deg)

 

CLOTHING WORN:
Patagonia sunshirt, Purple Rain hiking skirt/poly leggings, Icebreaker wool bra, Ex Officio underwear, Point 6 wool socks, Altra Lone Peak 3.0, Casio ProTrek watch, Zeal Cascade sunglasses, ball cap
 
CLOTHING PACKED:
Patagonia Capilene hooded long sleeve (sleep), Smartwool 250 bottoms (sleep), Darn Tough socks (1, sleep), Point 6 wool socks  (1), Injinji socks (1), Patagonia Houdini jacket, Arctery’x puffy (stuffed inside an Eagle Creek Specter Tech cube, this will also serve as my pillow), YAMA rain skirt, YAMA pogies, OR gloves, buff, bandana, Bedrock sandals, Ex Officio underwear (1), Bug net

KITCHEN:
MSR Pocket Rocket, Vargo titanium pot, Sawyer Squeeze mini, MSR Aquatabs, Snow Peak spork, Platypus 3L, Smart Water bottles (2), lighter, Loksak (2, large), empty peanut butter container


ELECTRONICS:
iPhone 6, lifeproof case (extra battery), headphones, phone charger, external phone storage, headlamp, SPOT device

FIRST AID/TOILETRIES:
Sawed off toothbrush, toothpaste dots, bite splint, floss, floss picks, sawed off comb, birth control, benadryl, ibuprofen, hairties, leukotape (wrapped around journaling pen), Vagisil, sunscreen, lip balm, fire starter, safety pins, 1/2 bandana, Deuce of Spades trowel, TP, backcountry bidet, soap leaves, nail trimmers, wallet, journal, Locksak (small), P-cord

EXTRAS:
OR Crocodile Gaiters, Kahtoola Microspikes, ice axe (borrowed), bear canister (borrowed), Leki Ladie’s MicroVario DSS trekking poles, Euroschirm umbrella, OR stamina gaiters


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Preparation


Resupply is a word I've come to despise over the last month. It conjures up imagery of my poor hiker self, alone in the woods and starving because I didn't pack enough food; of stumbling through town on a rainy day to discover the post office is closed; of certain misery because of my inability to count calories properly.

Even though I don't start my hike until July, I've been feeling extra crunched to get my resupply strategy down. Tomorrow, I'm headed back to Colorado to spend my final weeks before trail at a remote field camp for work. There won't be time or resources to continue packing, so it needs to get done now.

The plan is to send seven resupplies through Washington and Oregon, then regroup to analyze my hiking style and strategy.  


Food has been the main focus area of A Little Green Hike so far. It's been a challenge to find light, calorie dense foods with minimal packaging and a low price tag, and I'll admit I've been pretty stressed about it. After making my own (disgusting) protein bars, spending countless hours searching for recipes online, and keeping myself awake with ways I could afford this project, I decided it was time for a priority change. I had to remind myself this is about the amount of waste an average hiker does create, not about forcing myself to have a zero waste hike. Accordingly, I chose food that is convenient, tasty, and high in calories.

That being said, I have made considerations for repackaging food, repurposing items, and even preparing for bodily functions:

Repackaging: It's common to buy certain products in bulk, then repackage into smaller containers to split into resupply boxes, a strategy that saves money and weight. Although I tried not to do much of this, it was difficult to avoid. I repackaged things like cous cous, chia seeds, and powdered peanut butter. All but SIX of the plastic bags I used were fished out of the recycling. For example, that M&Ms bag in the picture above? It's filled with freeze dried fruits from Harmony House.

Repurposing:
Mostly applicable to gear and intended for weight savings, repurposing items just makes sense. My bandana will be used to wash dishes and protect my neck from the sun, my Leki trekking poles are the foundation for my tent, and my journaling pen doubles as a Leukotape spool. Another tip I picked up from triple-triple-crown hiker Lint: using an empty peanut butter jar as a cold soak container. Soaking my food through the day means less time, effort, and fuel consumption when I get to camp. I may end up ditching my stove altogether, but Mom isn't a fan of that idea, so it stays for now.

Eliminating: Human waste is a HUGE problem on long, popular trails like the PCT. Proper Leave No Trace principle dictates you should pack out your used toilet paper when you can, but I'm hoping to barely use any at all. For urinating, I'll use a 'pee rag'; half of a bandana that ensures I don't have to drip-dry or use TP every time I've gotta go. It will be designated as such and hung from my pack to dry as I walk. For poop, it has to be the backcountry bidet! I have an empty eye-wash saline bottle to keep me fresh and clean after my morning ritual. I'll use TP to polish up and pack it out with me. Since I'm not sure the US Postal Service would appreciate the smell of 5 months worth of toilet paper, it won't be going in the traveling trash box. I'll document the size of each bag and throw it away when I can.

Monthly: I just want to take a moment here to say that women hikers have it WAY harder than men. Fortunately for me, a monthly period isn't something I'll have to deal with. My birth control journey has led me to a place where as long as I'm taking my pill, I'm free from worry. That freedom comes with a price, but for a period-less thru-hike, I'm willing to endure it. I considered going sans-hormone (and may still do some thinking on that), for which I would have purchased a Diva Cup. Reusable time after time, it means virtually no waste. Compare that to carrying loads of pads or tampons that you then have to pack out? Easy answer.

General hygiene: Gotta be honest- I'm not a big fan of it.  So, I don't anticipate bathing to be an issue for me on trail, but when I do wash, I'll be using biodegradable soap and that bandana I mentioned earlier (although when I'm lucky, I'll be bathing in a hotel). Toothbrushing, on the other hand, is something I do care about. I love my teeth and don't have insurance for them right now, so it's important to me to keep up my brushing ritual while hiking. To avoid hundreds of those travel size toothpaste tubes, I've made toothpaste dots. For an estimated 5 months of hiking, I only used ~5oz of toothpaste. The dots took about 2 weeks to dry, after which I packaged them with baking soda to keep them from sticking. This method cuts down on waste and weight; all I have to do is pop one in my mouth and start brushing!

In reality, the project itself comes with very few specifics. I'll hike my own hike and consider my waste as another resupply:
  • Trash will be stored in an odor-proof LokSak while hiking
  • When the bag is full, it will be emptied into a USPS priority box and bounced to a southern location (courtesy of Michigan Recycling Coalition). I'll determine the location each time based on how fast I'm accumulating waste and how many miles I'm covering in that time
  • When the box is full, I'll ship it to Michigan and start a new one. At the end of my hike, I'll be returning home to get my bearings and take a look at the results.
  • Empty resupply boxes will hopefully be recycled at the post office they are shipped to. It's unrealistic for me to carry these until I reach a recycling center myself, so I'm hoping for the best here. I'll keep track of any boxes that have to be thrown away.
Remember to follow me on Instagram, and leave any suggestions you have for A Little Green Hike in the comments! With that, I'm happily off to the mountains again.


"Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance"
Epicurus


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Inspiration

OK, YOU GOT ME...I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed (and if you haven't, I strongly recommend that you do). A powerful story that planted the first PCT seed in my brain, I'll admit it was part of what led me to decide on a thru-hike. I often choose books based on their cover, and picked up Wild because of it's simplicity; the single Danner boot was remarkably similar to the work boots I had just purchased in preparation for a month long term with WisCorps. I was embarking on my first real solo adventure, where the book kept me in good company. Still, reading Cheryl's story was the least of the insights I was about to unearth. I was finding myself- something I didn't think was possible at the hearty age of 23- but I was fresh out of a break up, and the world was new. I discovered a raw passion for hard work, the outdoors, and a certain male co-worker. I felt brave, inspired, and loved. I was unstoppable.


That was 2014. When the idea of a PCT thru-hike entered my head that summer, I couldn't get rid of it. I spent the next years silently planning, but it wasn't until moving to California in 2016 that I really started to understand what I had committed to. The trail was no longer a vision, but a real place that my feet had already touched. Over the last few months the pressure has been building, especially with several other commitments and my sudden decision to hike SOBO. But still now, I am unstoppable.

IF YOU KNOW ME
, you know the way I can get about waste. Last summer while living near the PCT, the hiker herd came and went in the span of about 10 days. They left town to be on their way, but also left behind trash- lots of it. Don't get me wrong, they took pretty good care of the place, but my eyes picked out the overflowing cans in a rush of irritation. I was shocked that people I likened to myself could create such a massive amount of waste. I told myself I would do it differently.

So, you can probably guess what's coming next- another waste oriented challenge I've dubbed 'A Little Green Hike'. This time, as opposed to the 2014 in-home project, I won't be setting a maximum waste goal. Instead, my aim is to measure just the amount of waste I DO create on trail. The general idea is to box my trash and send it ahead of me as I walk, but details on that will come in a later post. My planning and resupply will involve as many low-waste options as possible, and at the end of my hike I'll have a visual representation of the impact that even a conscious thru-hiker can make.



BECAUSE OF THIS PROJECT and my enthusiasm for sustainability, I've garnered quite a bit of sponsorship and support from several companies, who deserve some serious love. Let me shamelessly introduce you to the following...

I'm participating in mYAMAdventure, an annual sponsorship/mentorship program organized by YAMA and partnering with several other companies: Gossamer Gear, Purple Rain Skirts, Bedrock Sandals, Vargo, Point6, Euroschirm and Harmony House. The sponsors provide us with some free or discounted gear, and YAMA has gathered mentors in the form of previous PCT thru-hikers to offer advice. My part of the program involves awareness for the above companies and fundraising for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. If you've already donated to my campaign- thank you!! If you're interested in supporting the mission of the PCTA, click here to make a donation.

In addition to the fundraising campaign for PCTA through mYAMAdventure, I have been selected to work directly with the association as part of their P3 program. In it's first year, myself and 9 others will be advocating best-care practices and encouraging hikers to preserve, protect, and promote a healthy trail experience for everyone. PCTA has generously partnered with Leki, Osprey, and Eagle Creek to provide P3 hikers with some additional gear. 

An incredible outdoor outfitter in my hometown, owned by two of my classmates. RFO has been kind enough to provide me with discounted gear, and although I don't think they are expecting anything in return, I'd like to encourage everyone to check out their super-hip Fenton, MI store (and bring your dog!). 

I was working for MRC in 2014 when I started to wander away from my conventional lifestyle to find new passions. Not only was it a fantastic place to work, but Kerrin and the board of directors were fully supportive of me moving on in search of my dreams. After reaching out with the A Little Green Hike project in mind, MRC has kindly agreed to sponsor the postage cost of my trail-traveling-trash-box.


ALL OF THIS BEING SAID, I hope it is clear how touched and grateful I am for the support of my sponsors, family, and friends. However, I have a reciprocal part to play, and it is a bit of a sacrifice. I am now committed to maintaining social media and blog posts during my hike, something I had not anticipated previously. As my NOBO counterparts are beginning their hikes and posting beautiful pictures daily, I find myself resisting the urge to pull away from the community. I need to maintain some of the mystery of the trail, both before and during my hike. Still, I'll do my best to keep regular and reasonable updates, which you can look for by following me on Instagram, Facebook, and here on my blog.



“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets."
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail


Friday, March 31, 2017

Sincerity; to be or not to be?

About this time last year, my grandmother had a stroke. It was the first of what would be many trips to the hospital over the coming year, and happened around the same time I flew home for shoulder surgery. We were both down in the dumps, my mother running back and forth between the two of us for weeks, caring for and loving us as much as she possibly could.
After my surgery, I'd visit with Grandma where ever she was- this hospital, that hospital, dark rooms filled with the smell of medicine. On a particularly upsetting day, I decided to read to her as a distraction. We chose Three Short Moments in a Long Life, a small series by John L'Heureux, out of The New Yorker magazine. She was captivated; soaking in every word. At one point, she interrupted me to tell me how proud she was that I had written these stories. I reminded her that someone else had written them, I was only reading. It was then I knew I would lose her. 

We only read 2/3 of those short stories. I promised her I would call from California and read to her over the phone, but I never did. I saw her once more before she died. Today, without her, I decided to read the third story. My tears overflow as the author fittingly describes his own year of suffering, his own death.

On that same day in the hospital, Grandma talked and talked, more than I had ever heard. She told me her life story, her fears, and how confused she was. She wished she could write down all her thoughts; to gather them, analyze them. I said I would write for her, if she just told me what she wanted to remember. We started planning a book, and though she entitled it "Sincerity; to be or not to be?", I'm not sure my grandmother ever struggled with this question. Her life, love, faith and devotion were always undoubtedly sincere. 

I remember all this today because it is time for another transition in my life; my winter job is over, my belongings are packed in the car again and the future is uncertain. I'm finding the time to reflect on the last year of both our lives- how, coincidentally or through resolution, I have been my sincerest self to date. I'll credit a little of that to California sunshine, the mountains of Colorado, and the wisdom that comes with age; but Grandma gets most of the acclaim. 

Here's to you Grandma; and to sincerity, in all it's forms.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Functional Movements


Sitting still is not my forte. I’m not sure if I run away from my fears or just can’t get to the next adventure fast enough…either way, I should've figured it out a long time ago. I’m a mover.
Coast to Coast
I write this from a rainy beach campground near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A month ago, I was in Arizona. Before that, I lived in the California Cascades. My car is my home and my vessel- I pay rent in gas and oil changes, I sleep uncomfortably close to my few belongings, I wake up to a new view almost every day, and I love my life on the road.
This is quite the change from where I was a year ago, at the beginning of a financial and emotional tailspin. I’m happy to say it didn’t last long. The day after my last post in January, I packed my shit and moved back to my parent’s. My heart was breaking in Minneapolis, and I just needed somewhere safe to take a breath. In February, I packed up yet again and hit the road for Colorado, Nevada, Oregon. 
The reason I left this time was for my dream job, which quickly became my worst nightmare. Working with Find It Detection Dogs involved a lot of hiking, a bit of running, and some occasional tripping. It was not supposed to involve a shoulder dislocation, but it did- my third one. Horrendous, excruciating, crippling pain I wouldn’t even wish upon Donald Trump himself. The news that followed was almost as painful: my right shoulder was toast. Burnt toast. Surgery was the only option my lifestyle allowed for, so I flew back to Michigan and straight into my mother’s open arms. It was a new low I had never experienced before. 
Adaptation
I managed to keep my head up through the pain and the prognosis, and somehow I landed another job (what?!). The vibes were on my side and, to be honest, it was terrifying. I ended up in beautiful northern California, working with Spotted Owls and recovering from the blows of the previous months.
Recover I did! Holy hell. What an amazing summer. Roo and I lived in our tent by the river, hanging out in the sun all day and chasing owls at night. I made ridiculously cool friends, road tripped to places I never thought I’d see, and even met a handsome man to share my adventures with. 
I adapted. What choice did I have? I couldn’t just sit around and wait for my life to heal itself. I learned to keep my backpack straps tight, take strategic steps through the woods, and ask for help when I needed it. I taught myself to be vulnerable, logical, and selfish. I loved myself.
Preparation
Being actively on the move means each day is spent preparing for the next one to arrive. It’s a fast paced way of living, but keeps you in check so you never miss a moment. These days, my focus is shifting to prepare for the most solid goal I have ever set for myself: in 2017, I will thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
I made my decision to hike the trail in 2014, but had never been to the west coast. Until this year, it seemed unrealistically far away. As luck (or fate, or odds) would have it, Chester CA is the first town after the midway point on the PCT.  I was able to work, play, and become immersed in hiker culture. I met my boyfriend and on weekends, I followed him up the trail as he walked what felt like my future. I was, and am, beyond inspired. I am affirmed. 

Schedule, timeline, gear, food, money, patience, and persistence. They are all things I will need for this hike, and the next 5 months will be spent largely in preparation for it. I will not be held back by heartbreak or hardship anymore. I will move my feet, one after the other, on every inch of that trail and through every moment of this life. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Deep, dark and dirty

A 2005 Subaru Legacy Wagon isn't cheap. I know this because in July of 2015, I bought one.
A few days after an incredible vacation exploring several National Parks in the west with my friends, my Toyota Camry decided to take it's final breath. Horror. Suddenly Minnesota felt an unattainable world away from what I needed most- my dad. I had never purchased my own car before, which was the only solution I could see to the problem I now faced. Alone. I called my dad repeatedly, sent him links to every vehicle I looked at, even had him on the phone with the salesman at the dealership. Leave it to the real world to make a full grown adult feel like a child.

                                         New car dance with my saleswoman, Emma

After taking out a loan and bringing home the Subaru of my dreams, it hit me. Oh, shit. I owe my credit union eight thousand dollars. In reality, not that much money. On the corps stipend of just over $6.00/hr, double or triple the impact of that debt. "Ok, Anna, pull it together, get yourself a second job".

So, I did. And a third job. I worked 10, 12, 14 hour days, 7 days a week. I stopped going to crossfit, stopped going out with my friends. I thought I had it all under control, until one afternoon I decided to take Roo to the park with a friend and his dog. We walked until well after dark, exploring rocks and inlets along the Mississippi river. Bored with our shenanigans, the dogs ran off into the woods. When we called for them, only one came back- and it wasn't Roo. Horror. Again. Blue heelers are endearingly referred to as "velcro dogs", known for never leaving their owner's side, and Roo is the embodiment of this expression. Where was my dog? My search  finally ended in her painful emergence from the woods, holding up an all-too-obviously broken leg.

Before

                                                                          After


I wasn't prepared for what the Vet at the emergency hospital was about to say. With both bones in her front leg completely broken and displaced, surgery would be the best option. Surgery. Best case scenario: $3,000 and eight weeks of bed rest. So, that's what we did. We had no choice.

Meanwhile, work with the Conservation Corps was defeating me. Intense physical labor and nominal pay, lacking the satisfaction it brought earlier in the year. Each day it was a struggle to care. Finally, after months of anticipation to join the "real world" again, the end came. A retreat, a party, a hangover, and.....now what? Here I am, world! I have amazing new skills and knowledge! You know you want to hire me!
Not. 
Winter isn't hiring season in the field of natural resources. I left the corps feeling disappointed, useless, bored and broke.

I am not telling you this for your money, your advice or your pity; save it. I am telling you this as it speaks to my state of mind, which I can only describe as apathetic. A difficult feeling to understand, especially while experiencing it, as it is the lack of feeling at all. My bank account has suffered, friendships and romantic relationships have failed. I only emerge from the shell my mind has created to do the minimum necessary- go to work, eat food, walk dog, smile halfheartedly. Then, I go back inside to contemplate the proverbial questions 'who am I', 'what is life', and 'who cares'. 

It is not sadness, despair, or depression. I envision a bright, successful future for myself and plan on attaining it. The only problem is, that future is being made by an Anna who is outgoing, constructive, positive, and comfortable (she also has great hair and a nice ass). Getting from now-Anna to future-Anna is the challenging part, when everything in between feels like filler. Now is boring, now is unproductive, now is not what I want.

During the car fiasco, my dad said something to me that stuck. Everything that has happened to me is a consequence of my choices. I couldn't believe he was being so mean- how could it be my fault that my car broke down and I had no money for a new one! How could that be?!?! But- he was right. I chose to take a job that paid next to nothing, and I chose to buy a new car instead of coming up with a different solution. My choices don't determine what happens to me, but they do determine how well I am equipped to handle it. I don't always make the 'right' choice. In fact, I often knowingly make the 'wrong' choice (because, tbh, life is more fun that way).
Until the majority of my choices are 'right', I feel I may be stuck here in neutral. Feeling, not feeling, or not feeling any feelings, whatever.

This obligatory attempt at expression is to help myself, my friends, my family, and my followers understand what has kept me away from blogging for so long.

This is where I am.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NBD


I've spent many of the recent gorgeous spring evenings laying in my yard, watching the clouds roll by. On one such occasion, this word invaded my head: Insignificant. Before I could stop them, my thoughts were spiraling out of control and into anxiety as I realized the magnitude of the world around me; that I am one small life out of billions. What can any of us possibly have to offer?

My roommate working from his home office, my ex boyfriend salmon fishing in Alaska, my best friend caring for wolves at the Detroit Zoo, my brother fighting wildfire in Nevada. These four as examples are all aware of each other, and would probably tell you they don't have much in common; would never choose to do what the others are doing. Yet, their significance is so intense, it is almost easier to ignore than to acknowledge. As a few of the most important people in my life, this is simple for me to say about them, but it is true for every single life on the planet.

When my parents tell me they love me, when my coach says he's proud of me, when my dog (literally) jumps for joy at the sight of me- these are all times I feel significant. So, what am I getting at here? We all want to live in a world full of things that make us happy. Consumerism, conservation, crossfit...whatever it is, we all make conscious decisions to keep these things in our lives. It is not the government, or big business, or terrorism that changes the world. It is every single choice made by every single person to keep themselves feeling significant. This is what we each have to offer.

My goal, to keep my little green life growing, is to make choices that are not only right for me, but make sense. A global, social and environmental responsibility to do "the right thing". I stress this because I know, even as just one life out of billions, everything I do is important. I'd like to live in a world where everyone feels this way.

"The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave"
-Tavis Smiley


P.S.
'Project' update:

Two days ago, I planted a vegetable garden! Whoa, impressive, right? Good thing we've planted more trees and plants than I can even begin to count over the last 4 months at work- at least I had a slight idea of what I was doing. Broccoli, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, etc...can't wait!
Both composts are doing better than expected, although we add to the food bin so often that it isn't ready for the garden...I have a second bin laying around and may stagger them so the first has time to cook. My trash can is nowhere near full, consisting of mostly protein bar wrappers, bandaids and pet hair.

Exciting things lay ahead of me in the near future...I don't want to give anything away, but I'll be posting as they happen. Don't forget to follow @alittlegreenlife on Instagram, and keep up with my monthly Conservation Corps blog! Happy trails!

GEAR

PACK: Gossamer Gear Mariposa, trash compactor liner bag SLEEP SYSTEM: YAMA Mountain Gear Swiftline 1P tent,   tyvek groundclo...