11 Dec

I have started this post 16 different times. I have quoted Tolkien, waxed poetic about the impact hiking the AT had on my life, and began to tell the story of my friendship with Carrot. None of it worked. No intro led perfectly into what I want to write, and I can think of nothing to set this post up as poetically as I had hoped. So, I will just write.

Our lives are demanding, by choice. Carrot and both aspire for some pretty lofty physical goals while working long night and swing shift hours. Carrot has completed many triathlons over the past two years. She recently accomplished her first Ironman and CRUSHED it! Sick and wounded she started the race in good spirits and ended it strong. Completing an Ironman was a bucket list item for Jen and I was lucky enough to have been there to cheer her on. It was truly inspiring. This coming year she has her sights set on a few more tri’s with another Ironman distance set for next fall. I have no doubt she will accomplish any goal she sets for herself. She is one of the strongest women I know. 

This past year I finished a deep open water swim with a friend that we relayed. 6.2 miles total, both swimming 3.1 miles. I also finished a 1.4 mile ocean swim/race. In 2016 I hope to accomplish many more swims with the longest being a 5k, solo. I have registered for my first Ultra. In June I will run a 50k trail race in Bryce Canyon, UT. Jen will be there as my support. We love a physical challenge and know from past experience that we do our best when we are side by side. 

We continue to push ourselves at work getting upset when we feel we have lost knowledge or have to advocate a bit too hard for our patients and their care. I may be a type B personality and she may be type A, but together we both aspire to better at what we do and will always be growing. We both love to be challenged.

For those who do not know I am currently living in HI. I have a good job and can enjoy perfect weather for outdoor activities year round. I have met an amazing group of people and have friends here that I will keep for a lifetime. Carrot is in Atlanta. She is near her family and also has a great job. She is settling in and creating a wonderful life that is perfect for her now. We are 6,000 miles apart. We talk and text daily. We know about each others life down to the most minute detail. She can probably tell you what I had for breakfast, and I can tell from our texts what time she fell asleep. She is my person. I am hers. My mother said it best recently describing us as “sisters of the heart”. 

The past 2+ years have not been easy for either of us. My marriage ended and I faced illness and injury. I moved far away in hopes to heal my heart and was met with a few obstacles. A year and a half later I am starting to feel like myself again. I am healthy and beginning to feel “whole”. I am at last ready for some new challenges. I am reclaiming myself physically and am finding peace with love. I have my family and my friends, both new and old, to thank for this. While I am a bit of an introvert and loner, I am also aware that I would not be where I am without the love and support of these amazing people that have graced my life. Jen’s hurdles have not been that different. I am not at liberty to write so freely about her life but suffice it to say that she too has been met with a big move, heartbreak, and the love and support of her family and friends. She is squaring off with her challenges and conquering them with strength and grace. 

While hiking the AT I adopted a mantra. Strength, Endurance, Grace, Acceptance (SEGA). I would say these words as I climbed, crawled, and clawed my way towards our goal. I strongly feel that this is our mantra. I continue to use these words to get me through a workout or a challenging shift. I feel we both use this mantra to help us get through our days and our lives. 

I am very aware that we are not any different than anyone else. Everyone has hardships to overcome. We all deal with injury and illness. We all have to conquer this thing called life. Everyone just handles it differently. 

What does all of this have to do with anything? Carrot and I have simply realized that there is never a “perfect” time. You have to make a list of your priorities and goals, and you have to put a plan into motion. In 2011 Jen and I made a commitment to thru-hike the AT. I made a move from Germany to AZ to live with and train with Carrot. Carrot made the move to AZ from WA to start our training for the first of what we hoped to be a three year journey. Our goal was the Triple Crown. The AT, the PCT, the CDT. A very lofty goal. 

We accomplished the AT, not without hardship or heartache. It did not go as planned, but then we have come realize most things do not. I believe there is a saying out there about “the best laid plans”. Our lives have taken many different turns over the past two years, but about a month ago we did it again. Truly not much differently than we did the first time. Organically, 6,000 miles apart, in a conversation post shift we decided to commit. Together we agreed that there is never a perfect time and that if we want to do something we need to take action and begin to make the changes and arrangements  necessary to accomplish a second thru-hike. Yes, you guessed it, we have committed to the PCT. 

April, 2017 we will set out to hike from Mexico to Canada on the PCT. Thrutrailchicks is now up and running again as a training and gear blog as we map out our ideas and plans to conquer yet another long distance trail. This was always the goal. The AT (my dream), the PCT (Jen’s dream), and then the CDT (combined desire). We will not talk of the CDT. The AT taught us that goals of this magnitude are indeed best met one step at a time. Anything can and will happen. However, we are a bit stronger and wiser. I feel we are better prepared to accept the challenges we will face. Slightly less naive we will put into place a plan to hike. Starting now we simply place one foot in front of the other. We hope you will join and support us along the way. 

Strength, Endurance, Grace, Acceptance. Welcome back to Thrutrailchicks. Let the journey begin. 




Day Nine: Tahoe Rim Trail

5 Nov

Oct. 29, 2013
Marlette Campground to Spooner Lake TH
4.5 miles

Ugh. I tried to get Jen to write this post, but it was technically my “turn”. So before reading know that I do not wish to write this. If it seems like I am bitter, I am.
A year to freaking day we got hit by Sandy on the AT. A year to the day! 12+ inches of snow. It is pretty and quiet and peaceful and blah, blah. It makes trail finding impossible. Especially on a trail that is small, alone, and pretty much marked only at intersections! Not a big deal when you can see the path, but buried under 3,000 feet of that stupid white fluffy stuff one can’t see squat.
Now, Jen and I were in the tent this morning making our decision. After looking at the map we realized the best course of action was to take the trail 0.5 miles to the fire-road. Once there we would take the fire-road, which is also the alternate TRT, 8.5 miles to a major trail head and hitch a ride into town. After this we would get a hotel room and see what the weather was like to determine if we could finish the trail with small day hikes.
The only problem with this plan is that once we packed up everything we had to get somewhere dry. Aggie is a three season tent. She was doing her best and did quite well, but with the weight of the snow she was sagging and her zippers were separating. Nylon does well when wet, but when there is contact on both sides as well as pressure the moisture seeps through. So where the tent had collapsed a bit and made contact with our stuff and our sleeping bags and our things were wet.
Some of you may or may not know that when down gets wet it loses it’s loft. The loft, or negative space, between the feathers or fibers of anything is what traps the heat and keeps one warm. Our immediate danger was that once we packed all of wet gear, and sweated through the clothes we were wearing, we would have nothing to warm us at the end of the day. So we knew that if we stuffed wet gear, wet down, and a wet tent into our packs we had no choice to get to a hotel where we could be warm and dry our things. If we left camp, we had to make it out. No other option.
Another issue freezing weather brings is that it takes a toll on all batteries. So even though we had our phones we could only turn them on after warming them against our bodies and use them for a short time. At nine am it was decision time. Jen turned on her phone so we could take a final glimpse at weather and received a text. Scott, aka Slacker, had been paying attention from home and had checked out some local web cams. Unknown to us he had borrowed a truck and driven to Tahoe! So we quickly touched base with Slacker and packed up camp in the snow.
The 0.5 miles to the fire-road was not easy. Hell, none of the hiking was easy. But any savvy outdoorsman knows that a lot can go wrong in a half of mile. So together, using the map, we set short bearings and hiked from one to the next. We were elated that after about 45 minutes we saw a sign.
We held our breath as we neared the post knowing full well it was possible that we could have just come full circle. Looking for prints in the snow we cautiously made our way to the sign. We did it! We found the “road”. Now we just had to keep ourselves on this path and hike carefully out.
Luckily for us the road was marked better than the trail. I am assuming this is for Ranger use. It does not matter really, we just had to keep the blue diamonds as our blaze and we would be set.
Hiking was slow and hard. Making trail in over a foot of snow, at times two due to drifts, is not without considerable effort. We took turns cutting trail to save energy. We were deliberate with our steps. We did stop at times to catch our breath and take notice of the beauty. The woods, fresh snow, animal tracks, and solitude are really something I cannot explain. The awesomeness of our surroundings were not lost on us.
The road had a couple of trail heads on it as we made our way out. At each one we stopped to uncover the signs, look at the map, and track our progress. I believe it was at the third one of these when I heard Jen draw a deep breath. I could not see around her and was like “what!” She took a step and I was able to see Georgy Bear galloping through the snow to greet us. What a happy sight. Scott soon crested the same hill and with a large collective sigh we knew we were soon to be warm and dry.
We all hiked back out another half mile or so to the truck. An easy task with the weight of our well being lifted, and because Slacker had already cut the trail. We attempted to take pictures but all batteries were too cold and dead, and yours truly was too cold and wet to bother with trying to find the replacement camera battery amidst her cold, wet gear. So we piled into the truck and sailed over the last four miles to the highway.
So what did we do next…. Eat of course! We made our way to a wonderful cafe, the same we had our send off breakfast feast, and quickly devoured nachos and French fries. Health food!! Carrot and I used the bathroom to strip off some wet layers and then ravenously consumed our fat intake looking and smelling like drowned rats. All the while clean, well dressed tourists were casting sideways glances at us as we drank a beer and laughed out our good fortune.
After breakfast Scott and I got coffee to go, and Jen looking out for us made her way to the Nestle bakery so we had enough chocolate to help ease the pain of our decision. We knew that after we had been hiking through two week old snow patches on the trail that there would not be a significant amount of melt to make the trail passable for us.
Scott drove us back to our starting point and to Jens car. We all took task to digging her car out and making our way down the road. It is always crazy to drive from elevation back down to the desert. By the time we had made it back to Jen’s home town the sun was shining and the earth was dry. It felt surreal.
So, what was next? Girlie things of course! The next few days were spent shopping, going to San Francisco, and visiting Alcatraz. There was also a fair amount of wine consumption. The night before my departure my dear friend Ashby made her way to me and the four of us managed to consume 7 wonderful bottles of wine, pizza, and laughed and cried through the night.
Please note that in true “thrutrailchicks” fashion this trail is not over. In the spring I will return, and we will finish the TRT within 6 months time. If you happen to be in the Tahoe area you can look for us. I imagine we will be easy to spot. There are probably only two hikers in the world that will now carry snowshoes throughout all of the seasons. Carrot and Lucky will now be seen as those strange hikers with snowshoes strapped to their packs in July. None of them will know our story, but you all will understand why. If we hit the trail, I imagine it will snow. We will have the last laugh this time though, for we will be able to do what we do best. We will be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other and conquer what lies ahead.

*important to note that TRT was just a backpacking trip. No lifelong dream of either of us. Just an accessible footpath through this beautiful land.
** special thanks to Scott for enduring my presence in the apartment and for bringing a warm dry place to us. A simple act, but thoughtful and caring. It was not unappreciated.

Tahoe Rim Trail Picture Journal

3 Nov

Twin ULA Circuit pakcs

Twin ULA Circuit packs


View of Echo Lake on the first day.


Jen and Em full of energy on day 1.


Sunset over Lake Aloha on night 1.


Day 2 morning hiking out away from Lake Aloha.


Example of all the crystal clear water in the Desolation Wilderness lakes.


Beautiful tree shot by Em.


View from Dick’s Pass back over the southern part of the Desolation Wilderness.


Trail shot climbing through the wilderness.


PCT and TRT signs on the 55 mile section that they combine into one trail.


Trail signs looking back from Barker Pass Trailhead.


View climbing out of the Desolation Wilderness.

Jen and Aggie (our tent).

Jen and Aggie (our tent).


Beauty shot of the giant pinecones.


One of our first views of Lake Tahoe.

Emily and the lake.

Emily and the lake.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe


It is just really pretty.

Trail around one of the many Desolation Wilderness lakes.

Trail around one of the many Desolation Wilderness lakes.

Emily hiking in some snow from a previous storm.

Emily hiking in some snow from a previous storm.


Our tent during the storm.

Day Eight: Tahoe Rim Trail

2 Nov

October 28, 2013

Zero in Snowy Tent

I woke up in the dark  at 6am on day 8, disoriented because I could feel the tent leaning in on me.  I felt around to find both sides of the tent and the vestibule had caved in on us.  The forecasted “1 inch of snowy slush” had turned into 6+ inches of snow that had covered our tent during the night.  The weight of the snow had caved in both the sides along with the vestibule, leaving both of us about 2 feet of dry tent to share.  We layered up and climbed out of the tent into the storm to fortify Aggie.   We brushed off the snow, staked out the tent as tightly as we could and tried to come up with a plan for how to stay dry as we waited out the storm.   Emily had a great suggestion to put logs in between tent and the fly to build up some space prevent snow from coming underneath the fly.   After we had bomb-proofed our tent to the best of our abilities we dove back into the tent to rewarm ourselves and try to dry out our down sleeping bags a bit.

As we warmed up we had a decision to make- should we head out in the storm not knowing how much more we were supposed to get or how much visibility we would have or should we wait it out?  After some discussion we decided to wait out the storm, since it was still going strong and we had no idea how much snow to anticipate.   What does waiting a storm out mean in a tiny tent?  Nap time!  We slept through the morning and ate lunch in our sleeping bags as the snow continued to come down.   The rest of the day was then a combination of napping, trying to check the weather and making sure to keep our gear as dry as possible as the snow piled up.




Day Seven: Tahoe Rim Trail

1 Nov

October 27, 2013

Mile 31 to Marlette Peak Campground

23.6 miles

Big day for the chicks! We woke up to a cold beautiful morning. Drank our calories and headed out for an immediate climb to the highest point on the trail. We summited Relay Peak early in the morning and took some not so flattering self photos at 10,330 ft. The day’s forecast was windy, but we had underestimated the toll it would take on us as we hiked. At 10,000 feet 35 mph winds are quite uncomfortable. Plus, Jen had been suffering from some low level nausea for a few days and I had started the day with same. While the morning was beautiful with a stunning view and some bright sunshine, the wind kept us from spending time on the summit.

The hike down was uneventful and after about two hours we stopped for our first break. We did our best to stay warm in the sun, but the wind was too much. We ate quickly and headed off down the trail. The day of the week was Sunday and it was in this section that we ran into loads of day hikers and trail runners. We took a “secret” way down past the Gallena Falls due to the fact that while yours truly was taking off her gloves she lost her poles to gravity. So we took the road less traveled, also known to Jen as the gripping rock scramble back down to the safety of solid ground. (sorry Jen!) We continued our descent to the next trail head that was well populated, had bathrooms, and a trash cans for us to deposit the refuse we had been carrying. (This is not to be look lightly upon for hikers LOVE to get rid of our trash. We understand that we “pack it in, pack it out”, but getting the old tuna packets and dinner bags out of our pack feels like spring cleaning!) As we sat on a sunny spot on the concrete like the hobo’s we are we looked to the weather.

We had been keeping our eye on the forecast. We knew that there was some expected precipitation headed our way and we wanted to be super responsible and safe. The forecast was for one inch slushy accumulation. Our gear and our preparedness had been for up to a few inches of snow, so we were comfortable with moving forward. The wind continued to blow as we hiked in Nevada. The afternoon was our normal routine of hiking and breaking, except that our breaks were taken behind rocks to shelter us from the blowing sand and gusts of wind.

We hiked on picking up the pace in order to get our miles in for the day. As the afternoon progressed the wind blew at a ridiculous speeds. Jen and I were both blown around and having to lean into the movements we were making in order to make progress. We actually had magnificent views and hands down the best view of the hike, but I was unable to stop for photos due to being knocked around.

We descended yet again into camp and set up for the night. We were at an established campground with a privy and bear boxes. This was nice, for we did not have to bear bag in the dark. The campground also had a well with potable water and a pump. A nice addition to prepping for the morning. Little did we know our six am wake up was not to be as expected.




Day Six: Tahoe Rim Trail

1 Nov

October 26th, 2013

Watson Lake to Mile 31 (past Grey Lake Trail)

17.6 miles

We woke up again at 7am and went through our normal morning routine of getting the bear bag down, having our breakfast shake and packing up for the day.  We were both out of water and stopped at the first available creek to fill up.  During our AT trip we had used the MSR Hyperflow and really liked it.   This time we had decided to try the Sawyer filter, which is much lighter and simpler.   However, it was about this point at the creek on Day 5 that we realized that the Sawyer filter is not right for us.   We each carry a 2-3L bladder of water at all times and then an additional 20oz bottle for energy drinks.  With the Sawyer filter this takes about 30-45 minutes to complete for the two of us- not convenient!  If you are someone on your own you can just use it as a personal squeeze botttle, which makes it a cinch, but we are going back to the Hyperflow.

After our extended water break, we hiked through the Brockway Summit Trailhead and then started up a 2,000 foot climb up Mount Baldy, avoiding many mountain bikers on the way.   After enjoying the views on top of Mount Baldy we entered Nevada and the Mount Rose Wilderness.  This was the first part of the trail that felt like we were truly hiking a “rim”.  We had gorgeous continuous view of Lake Tahoe and stopped several times for pictures and viewing breaks.   We then passed Grey Lake Trail and continued on to a campsite at about 9,500 feet.   I was definitely feeling the effects of the altitude and got a little loopy as we settled into camp for the night.   After downing another Backpacker Pantry special we sacked out to get ready for an even longer next day.



Day Five: Tahoe Rim Trail

1 Nov

Oct. 25, 2013

Tahoe City to Watson Lake

13.4 miles

This was actually an impressive morning for the girls. We woke up at 07:00 and were off to breakfast. It is not often we open a restaurant but today we did. We had a yummy of eggs, potatoes, and pancakes before heading back to the hotel after packing. This packing proved to be quite epic. Both us were saddled with HUGE food bags, enough for 6 days, each weighing in at approximately 11lbs. Couple that with 8 pounds of water and you have quite a load. Once stuffed we shouldered our packs and headed off towards the trail. Just needed to stop by the grocery store for some extra Ibuprofen and sunscreen.

The climb out of Tahoe City was not small. 1400 ft straight up and out. It started on a road and then after about 1/2 mile took a turn into the woods. Now, if you are a mountain biker or a trail runner out for one of these specific purposes the trail would be awesome. For a backpacker it is terrible! All of those serpentine turns, small humps, log jams, and whoopdies equal great fun when running or biking. When backpacking it equals BS leg tiring obstacles that serve no purpose in the enjoyment of your hike. When biking or running you don’t mind the extra  mileage of those fun, fast switchbacks. When trying to hike from point A to B it is simply obnoxious to double back on your footsteps and head in the opposite direction of the end goal. The beauty of the trail was not lost to us, but we were aggravated that the trail we were on was not sole built for our intended purpose of the moment.

This frustration led to foul moods and the desire for the day to end. We took frequent breaks and laughed at the fact that we were upset by trail conditions for a voluntary challenge. Once we hit Watson Lake we set up quickly and ate dinner in Aggie. Our options for bear bagging were quite limited so we chuckled at the fact that we were simply making the bears work a little extra for their food if they wanted it. We were quite sure our 10 foot branch on the verge of breaking with 22 pounds of food slung over it would not prove to be much of a challenge for the bear. We were exhausted physically and emotionally and at that point in the dark simply did not care if the bears got our food. It would just mean a little extra loss and many less pounds to carry. As we were falling asleep we took pride in our 13+ miles. It was the longest mileage we have ever been to accomplish when leaving the town vortex. So despite the trail conditions and the general grumpiness we felt a sense of accomplishment while drifting off to sleep.