{out of my darkness}

The other day at the gym after a tough workout I was sitting on the floor with a couple friends, the gym owner and a friend that I workout with during my regular 9:00 class.  We were talking about the benefits of high intensity interval training and metabolic conditioning, one of the primary components of CrossFit.  I’ve heard that these types of workouts keep your skin looking younger, therefore making a person look younger than they are. One of the gals, commented that she wasn’t surprised because this style of workouts increase your metabolic rate, therefore, it seems reasonable that your body would flush toxins out of your body faster reducing the time that cells are exposed to various toxins.  I mentioned that this was one reason I continued to do CrossFit throughout chemo to hopefully flush all the toxic chemo drugs through my system faster.  One of my friends, V, said that she was so impressed that I worked out throughout chemo and I immediately followed with, “I think it was also my greatest downfall”. It was a big part of what crushed me mentally and physically. She was very surprised and the owner of the gym said, “but, would that have been different had you been in a different environment.” Without hesitation I replied, “Absolutely.”  We continued talking about my struggles throughout and after cancer 2.0 treatment and the slow and arduous process that it was.  V said that I should share my story, because it may help somebody who is or was in my same situation.  I don’t know if it will help somebody, but this is something I have thought of writing about for a long time.  I’m not sure exactly why, but I think mostly because it was such a mentally and physically hard process that I didn’t expect.

From the very beginning after the second cancer diagnosis I was pissed, I was angry. My doctors all said there was no reason I should have ever got cancer in the first place and here I was with the news of a recurrence.  I’m not even sure I can make this long story short so I will just type away and see how much I need to edit in the end.

Chemo obviously wreaks havoc on the body and by god, I refused to let treatment get the best of me, but get the best of me it did…quickly.  I was told that about day three after a treatment is when I would start to feel the crappy side effects.  I don’t know if it was because of my metabolism flushing stuff through my body faster, working out, or just dumb luck, but it hit me the next day.  Working out was awful, that is when I felt the absolute worst during treatment.  I would start to move and my body would experience immediate, horrible lactic acid burn and I had no muscle or physical endurance or stamina. Getting through a workout was incredibly challenging and soul crushing. My strong, fit body that I had worked so hard to build was crushed in a blink of an eye by poisons pumped directly into my body via my jugular vein, affecting EVERY SINGLE CELL in my body and no matter how hard I wanted to push through, I just couldn’t.  It wasn’t physically possible and that pissed me off and just crushed me.  Looking back, I know I should have taken it more easy, but that wasn’t my mentality in the gym or out of the gym. This mentality is probably part of what has gotten me to where I am today, but at the time I should have done things a bit differently. But, I continued to try to do what I had always done…I go, I do the work, I work hard, etc.

This brings me back to the question I was asked, “would that have been different had you been in a different environment?” I believe so.  My coach and supposedly somebody who cared about me and once considered me like family pretty much abandoned me, not just as a person, but as an athlete in the gym.  As a coach, the coach I want to be, it is my job to keep people in the gym safe and working out sensibly through medical or physical issues.  If you aren’t familiar with something you research and learn more to best train your members.  That is what a CrossFit member pays for, actual coaching.  Not to be ignored or rarely talked to.  I am the first to admit that I wasn’t a pleasure to be around either and I pushed myself away from people.  I was so angry, depressed, sad, tired, crushed, etc. that I couldn’t see straight.  I could have used somebody to approach me to ask what was going on and maybe help me make a plan.  A coach to say, “How are you feeling physically today? Okay, I think you should do this today instead of trying to do the workout on the board” or have a conversation with me to see how dark my world was and how it was affecting me in the gym, not be offended when I tried classes outside the gym to try to hold onto my joy of working out.  I finally asked the owner/head coach if I could speak with him and I explained the long dark journey I was on, apologized for how I pushed myself away and my unhappiness with everything and that I was trying so hard to turn myself around. I was encouraged and told that anything I needed was supported. Instead in the end I was pushed out of coaching with a text and never spoke to again regarding the gym, therefore leading to me leaving my CrossFit home of over seven years. More heartbreak and depression set in. The wind was knocked out of my sails. I would come to discover that this was a blessing in disguise and the start of a slow 18-month process of finally coming out of my dark, sad, lonely, heartbroken place. Leaving something toxic, I was welcomed into a new gym in the valley, a new healthy place.

In May of 2016 I walked into a CrossFit gym as a new member, not as a once-upon-a-time coach, not somebody who had been through cancer twice, or somebody that had once performed at a much higher level than I was physically able to now.  Nobody knew why my hair was short, why I was one of the slowest one in a workout, why I couldn’t push hard, etc. I was just a new member and that was kind of refreshing.  After my first workout I was sitting on the floor quietly recovering and writing in my journal, still feeling sad, displaced, lost and betrayed. The owner walked over, sat down beside me, and said, “Tony said you have been out of CrossFit for a little while” and we talked about where I was at and where I wanted to be. That was the most a coach had really talked to me in over a year, regarding wanting to know where I was and where I wanted to be in the gym and even outside of the gym.  “We’ll get you there” was the last thing she said to me. That day was the most I had been coached in years.  I left the gym, got into my car and cried and cried. Relief for finding what could be a new sanctuary, sadness for what I had lost, thankful for somebody that genuinely cared and wanted to help, anger for being so blind about some things for so long and for being drug into other’s negativity instead of standing my ground and being my own person, more thankfulness for the opportunity to build myself back up and to be a better person than I had been in the past.

It has now been a year and a half since I walked into my new CrossFit gym and a lot has happened for me in that time. Where I have come in the past 18 months has been a slow process.  At my new gym I was far more consistent that I had been in the 18 months prior, but I still wasn’t fully committed to the gym or to working out in general.  Since I was 19, fitness and working out has been my passion.  Anybody that really knows me will not argue with this statement.  I had lost that and it was a struggle for me and I was trying like hell to feel that passion again.  It’s very hard losing a 25 year long passion and love. I knew I wanted it back, it was important to me, probably defined me more than it should, but I didn’t know how to get there and I was doing anything I could think of to find that love and passion again, for anything physical really. So, I started doing whatever felt good for the day, be it the gym, mountain biking, trail running or my new found love hiking with my dog.  I will admit, hiking to begin with, and still some to a degree, was simply to just get lost and away from people.  On a mountain trail, deep in the mountains I felt lighter and more myself, where much of my healing started.

Around this time I also abandoned everything cancer related.  I felt I had been the poster child for breast cancer in the valley for a long time and I couldn’t be that person anymore.  I was too angry, lost and sad to be anything positive for somebody else that needed support. I didn’t want to be defined by cancer anymore, I wanted to leave that heaviness behind.  There was a lot of guilt, because I wanted to help other women if I could, but I couldn’t anymore.  I had to give myself permission to leave that chapter of my life behind and let somebody else do that kind of work.  I also took a break from the women’s cancer support group I was a part of.  I had to be selfish and take care of myself before I could be any good for anybody else.  I had to get back to a place that I could be something good for somebody that was going through their own dark place.

After six months of being in my new gym I decided to take a month off from the gym, I had a couple things that were going to limit me in the gym so I decided to just remove Crossfit for a month and take a break.  This time stretched into six weeks and by that time I had made a decision not to go back to CrossFit.  I was still mentally and physically struggling post-chemo and needed to take a break, at the time I had no plans of going back.  Physically I still wasn’t recovering well from workouts, my lungs felt so compromised, I struggled catching my breath, my body fatigued so quickly, and I just was not enjoying my gym time.  I loved the atmosphere, the people, the coaching, the remarkable programming, etc., but I struggled with going to the gym.  I called it my PTSD.  The gym is where I had felt the worst during chemo and I was still so hurt from final circumstances at our first gym.  The days that I would go to the gym I would feel anxious, stressed and many times reduced to tears as I drove to the gym, simply because I didn’t want to go and feel physically more awful than you typically would after a CrossFit workout. I couldn’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. I just had to do something new.  I joined a new “typical” gym (cardio machines, free weights, a room for fitness classes) that was three minutes from our house. I bought a book with a year’s worth of lifting programs and I set out to start lifting again after not doing so in over seven years.  Strangely enough I found that I had totally forgotten how to lift, but quickly figured it out, it isn’t rocket science.  I also quickly discovered that I loathed lifting, treadmills, and fitness classes. lol Though, all are great to get a workout in, they are all so inefficient compared to what I was used to.  I found myself easily talking myself out of going to the gym, I had gained some weight (and it was NOT muscle!)  and was lucky to make it twice a week for about five months.  By this time I had decided to go back to CrossFit in the fall, probably October.  I had joined this new gym on a 12 month commitment so I was going to get through most of that to not waste the monthly payments.

Right about the time I decided to return to CrossFit in the fall I got a message from the CrossFit gym owner asking if I would be interested in coaching.  This was the catalyst I needed to get me excited again and to get be back to CrossFit. So, in May of this year I returned to CrossFit.  Though, very thankful and blessed to be back at CrossFit, deciding to take a six-month break was definitely one of the best things I have done for myself since my second diagnosis.  During this time I worked out just enough to barely maintain my fitness level and I was pretty okay with that.  I generally didn’t care, which isn’t a good thing, it isn’t that positive, but it is also what I needed regarding where my body was physically.  I attended some fitness classes at the gym that I really believe helped with my stamina and endurance.   The low volume and lower intensity of workouts allowed my body a chance to fully recover.  This time also gave my mind an opportunity to switch gears and enjoy CrossFit for different reasons than in the past.  Prior to cancer 2.0 I had performed in the gym at a much higher level than I have been able to since and as sad as this is, it is a hard pill to swallow.  My body doesn’t go very fast, I’m not as strong, and my body fatigues much faster still than it used to.  I had to come to a place that I am okay with that, accepting my new normal.  This is what I am capable of now and it is much better than not being able to workout at all.  There are many positives. I am still more fit than I was before I started CrossFit eight and a half years ago.  In just the past month and a half I have felt my body getting stronger.  I still feel my body fatigue pretty quick in a workout, but my body doesn’t feel horrible and awful, I just fatigue.  I’m still not really any faster, but sometime I feel like I am able to push myself harder than I have been able to. So there are improvements.

So, I was back at CrossFit, but due to an incredibly busy family summer I really wasn’t able to fully commit to my workouts or the coaching intern process until this Fall.  However, this fall was the right time and there is always a right time for everything.  I’ve learned some things can’t be forced, and usually patience prevails, even though patience is NOT my strong suit!  For the first time in about three years I have set goals for myself in the gym.  This is a big deal for me.  Finally, and with a big sigh of relief, I care enough to want more from my workouts, not just get through them.  This is my passion and love for working out and fitness coming back to me.  I finally feel like I am on the other side of the darkness and ugliness that weighed on me for so long…and it is such a great, healthy place to be.

I’ll finish up this long story with a couple things I have learned and recognized through this process.

When going through something hard you will find that there are two kinds of friends, fair weather friends and friends that weather the storm.  I’m at a point in my life that I am okay with ridding myself of the former and I will always strive to be the latter.

I think I was a good coach because I cared for and loved the people I coached.  I loved connecting with women that didn’t think they were strong enough to do things in the gym and being there when they realized they could. However, I realized that I was taught to just lead classes instead of really coach classes and teach people. I have great opportunity now to become a much better coach at a gym that encourages always becoming better and learning more.

Sometimes you have to be selfish and take care of yourself.  Find something, or more than one something, that makes it easy for you to take a deep breath again.  Something that excites you, something of your own, something that makes you feel like yourself again.  Something that makes you feel like a new, better version of yourself.

I can finally breathe again.

~Thank you to my friend, V, that encouraged me to write about this and thank you to BMCF for giving me a place to help heal my mind, body, and soul.~

“If you ever find yourself empty from something you cannot know or name, find a stretch of ocean, a field, or mountainside, or even clouds, or trees.  Because there are 1,000 simple ways to fill your tired soul so you can remember how to be, how to see, and most importantly, how to breathe.” ~Victoria Erickson

{elizabeth lake to many glacier.glacier day 2}

Well, it’s been months since we went on this backpacking trip and months since I posted the amazing first day or this trip.  So to be consistent with my inconsistent blogging, it’s about the right time to post about this second day.

Let me first explain why it is that I don’t blog often. It’s because I am the slowest writer ever.  It takes me forever to formulate my thoughts, type, edit, and be okay with the final product that I have a hard time taking this time from my mom and home duties to blog.  I’m trying to change that.  I enjoy typing up my thoughts and sharing so I’m going to try to sit and type more, me time.  I’m going to share past hikes, as well as new adventures.  I went on some great hikes last year, took a lot of pics and it seems a shame for them to just sit buried on my computer.  I’m excited for this summer!  I have plans for new hikes, exploring new mountain ranges, new trails, mountain biking, kayaking, and any other outdoor exploring that comes my way.

Day two of our Glacier trip started out how I expected it to be, cold and in pain with a tight back. Ugh! I never sleep well in a tent.  I have a new sleeping pad for next season so hopefully that will help.  It took me about 30 minutes to sit up, stretch and do exercises just so I could get dressed for the day and make my way out of the tent and down to the food prep area.  I was greeted by a fire to warm up to and we started heating up water for coffee and breakfast.  We ended up heading out for the day about an hour later than we had planned as we sat around the campfire with the other backpackers that had wandered in the evening before and enjoyed breakfast together.  I just have to mention something amazing that I’m not sure I will ever be able to accomplish.  One of the guys in the group had his pack down to 19# for a five day trip! Very, very impressive.  I think I still pack too much like a girl to even understand how one does that. The pic below preparing a meal was actually dinner.  I was adding water to meals I made at home. I think these were Thai Chicken and noodles.  I forgot the peanuts which would have made them even tastier and added some fat to the meal.

The morning was gorgeous just like the day before when we headed out on the trail along the lake and it was going to be plenty warm.

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Gorgeous morning sun and beautiful blue skies.

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Heading out on the trail along the lake.

By the time we made it to the foot of the lake I dropped my pack and had to take off some layers. The great thing about being in the back country, very little chance of seeing somebody so you can strip down to your panties on the shore of a mountain lake in the morning sunshine to shed your base layer bottoms! I’m not going to lie, I would have loved to sit there on that lake shore like that for quite awhile to soak up my surroundings. Once redressed we were back on our way to climb a mountain…and climb a freaking mountain we did. Holy moly! Once we rounded the foot of the lake we were pretty much on our five mile up mountain hike to Ptarmigan tunnel. About the first mile and a half to two miles were in the trees, we got many peeks at the lake below us as we hiked through the trees.  As we climbed, that lake got smaller and smaller, but as we climbed we were able to take in the entire lake and look down the valley at where we had hiked the day before.  It was spectacular.

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Griz footprint frozen in the snow on the trail.

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Elizabeth Lake and looking down the valley where we had hiked through the day before.

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Looking down the opposite direction from Elizabeth Lake. This is the end of the lake where we camped.  At the base of the mountains in background, in that cirque, is Helen Lake.

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Helen Lake

One thing I regret is not having the time to hike into Helen Lake since we were so close, yet we still didn’t have the time.  Had we known this lake was just two miles past our camping spot, maybe we could have extended our trip one night to have the time to explore the area for another day.  In the pic two up you can see a cirque where Helen Lake sits.  The second pic was from much further up the mountain where we could see the entire lake.  I can’t remember if there was a campground there.  This is a backpacking trip I could do on my own, out and back from the border.  Maybe I will do that one day! I want to see that lake!

Lunch on the trail with the most incredible view.

Our hike continued up and up and up the mountain on a trail to Ptarmigan tunnel.  I found the tunnel very intriguing.  “Hey, lets just drill a hole through the mountain for people to get from one side to the other!”  It really was pretty damn amazing.

Right on the other side of the tunnel we stopped for some snacks and heated up some water for hot tea.  It was lovely, sitting in the sunshine looking down the mountain where we would be making the last half of our hike for the day. Right below where we sat for lunch was Ptarmigan Lake.  I didn’t think it was the most spectacular mountain lake I have seen, but I still love seeing any body of water in the mountains.

Though the downhill side of out mountain was much easier on my lungs it was torture on my knees and feet.  It was the longest six miles ever.  I found myself having to redirect myself several times.  I got to a point were I was just staring at my feet on the trail, staring down the trail just willing my feet to keep going, ignoring the discomfort, and wishing for the time to pass quickly so we could just arrive at the lodge.  I finally stopped and said to myself, This is hiking and backpacking, this is what I signed up for.  I do this to be in the mountains, to see places many people don’t see and I’m staring at the trail wishing for the day of hiking to be over.  From that point on I kept my head up and soaked in the mountain and remoteness around me.  I stopped, turned around and look back at where we had come.  When you hike, don’t forget to do this because it looks totally different looking back than what you see moving forward.

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Looking Forward

Looking Back

Many miles behind us and me with a weary back, knees and feet we finally arrived at Swift Current Lodge at Many Glacier where rooms, hot showers and a restaurant awaited us.  This trip was beyond words incredible.  I learned a lot, saw some amazing country, met people, and came home with a desire to do more.  I can’t get enough of this.  A special thank you to my friend, K, for joining me in the mountains, teaching me how to be safe and take care of myself in these remote areas, and for having a great sense of adventure that matches mine.

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A new hiking and backpacking season are upon us and I intend on making more memories and enjoying new adventures. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for me!

“You need special shoes for hiking-and a bit of a special soul, as well.” ~Terri Guillemets

 

{chief joseph to elizabeth lake.glacier day 1}

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My backpacking partner has always wanted to adventure in Glacier Park. My family and I live about 45 minutes from Glacier Park and we VERY rarely go.  I love and appreciate the scenery and grandeur of the park, but I don’t like going.  Too many people (even after Labor Day we found out!) and I don’t want to go where everybody else goes.  Also, dogs aren’t allowed in the park and I don’t want to hike without Moxie. However, backpacking is another story. Though I want to venture out backpacking with Moxie sometime, I’m okay to leave her home if I have company on the trails.  So when my friend said he wanted to go somewhere in Glacier I said yes, because though I don’t want to go where a lot of other people are, I do want to see as many new places as possible while on this earth.

After some research he came up with a plan, a two-day hike starting on the Highline Trail at Logan’s Pass, camping at Granite campground and the following day hiking over Swiftcurrent Pass to Many Glacier, about 14 miles, catch a shuttle back to Logan’s pass to the truck…wah-lah!  One last backpack trip in the books before the end of the season. It was a perfect plan until about 28 hours before we were to head out. While checking trail status I saw online that Logan’s Pass was closed due to snow.  I saw this while I was up in the middle of the night freaking out at the thought of meeting bears on the Highline trail with nowhere to go but over a cliff to escape and snow on the trail over the pass.  So I sent him a screen shot of the closure information and efforts began to come up with Plan B, the day before we were leaving.  When camping in the backcountry of Glacier there are logistics, picking up Backcountry Use permits, should you reserve campsites or try to save a little money and reserve a campsite the day you go in, hoping there are some available when you show up to buy your permit. Also, where to camp, some campsites don’t allow campfires and if you have done any camping or backpacking you know how sad and cold it is if you can’t have a campfire.  Do you hike out and back or do you thru hike and arrange a ride or shuttle to take you back to your vehicle at point A? After a day of discussing options we came up with Plan B, park at Many Glacier, hike up through Ptarmigan Tunnel and down to Elizabeth Lake, the following day hike back out the way we came.  We both preferred the thought of thru hiking from Chief Joseph Border Trailhead to Many Glacier, because you get to see something new every step of your trip, but there were more logistics.  We would have to catch a shuttle from Swift Current Lodge in Many Glacier back to the border and my friend had to drive back to Helena when we were done and the shuttle doesn’t run until 1:00 p.m.  That just gets to be a long day and getting home late for him. I felt that was just a ridiculous amount of driving, both at the front and tail end of the trip.

So with a new plan in place we were ready to go.  My hubby drove me out to a meeting spot to toss my 28.6# pack in the truck and we were on our way at 7:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.  The day was already sunny and gorgeous and that was the forecast for the next couple days. Magnificent backpacking weather. We enjoyed a quiet drive and gorgeous fall colors up to Many Glacier to buy our permits.  We walked inside the visitor’s center and the woman behind the counter asks where we’re going, “To Elizabeth Lake through Ptarmigan Tunnel”.  She says, “We had a report this morning of snow drifts on the North side of the tunnel.” “Well, what kind of drifts?” From hikers coming through it was described as “doable, but unpleasant”.  With this information we checked the campground status and found there was only one campsite left at the head of Elizabeth Lake.  This campground is an additional 1.6 miles from the trail that reaches the foot of the lake, but this is the campground of the two on the lake that allows campfires! Sold! Well, also “sold” since it was the last campsite available. So we had a campsite secured, now just had to decide how to get there, through the tunnel with unknown severity of snow and drifts or head up to the border and hike out and back from Chief Joseph trailhead, both equal distance, about 11.6 miles.  After little deliberation and in an effort to make sure I wasn’t freaked out if the snow and drifts were bad on the side of a mountain we chose to drive another 45 minutes in the sunshine and changing fall colors up to the border and hike out and back from there.  If you have been keeping track, we are now on Plan C.

With backcountry permits in hand and a new plan we hopped back in the truck to head to the border and Chief Joseph Border Trailhead.  As we’re making the drive I said, “You know…if we wanted…instead of hiking back out tomorrow, we could thru hike to Many Glacier and hitch a ride to your truck in the morning…..”  “YES!!!” was the answer I got without hesitation. Plan D!! We were back to the plan we decided was crazy because of all the extra driving, but why not! We were adventuring and where’s the adventure if there isn’t a possibility of hitchhiking?!

So our adventure began around 11:00 a.m. with cloudless blue skies and giddy excitement as we headed into the Glacier backcountry from the border.  I love this part of a backpack trip, the beginning, anxious to see new things and knowing I will be in awe and wonderment of the grand scheme of the beauty in front of me. Excitement for my favorite parts of remote areas, meadows and anything water, ponds, rivers, lakes (oh my, the lakes), and waterfalls.  Loving the thought of being out in the middle of nowhere, the backcountry, a place where so few go, see things that many will never see. (More on Glacier backcountry later…)   From the Chief Joseph Border Trailhead we headed out on the Belly River Trail.  This route to the Elizabeth Lake Head campground was 10.9 miles (we swear all mileage was much longer according to our GPS unit and hiking times, but everything online agrees with the parks mileage) with our first destination point along the way being the Belly River Ranger station which was 6.1 miles from the trailhead.

This route to Elizabeth Lake is the most gentle and kind, as in it didn’t kick my ass like day two. It’s a pretty “flat”, easy route, with an elevation gain of 475 feet and a 741 elevation loss. Piece of a cake and a leisurely walk in the park (No pun intended!) we will find compared to our hike on day two.

Despite a lot of slogging along muddy trails due to recent snow, the hike to the Belly River Ranger station was incredible, it started out in pine trees for only a short distance and then opened up to what seemed like meadow upon meadow broke up by aspen groves.  I had in my mind we would at some point hike along the river, but we never did.  At every meadow I wanted to lay down in the long grass and look up at the sky, at every meadow I would quietly sigh, it was my soul settling and feeling absolute peace, embracing the solitude. This is what being somewhere remote does for me.  This is what I was searching for when I bought hiking boots, a Hiking in the Flathead book, and a bear bell for Moxie this spring.  I wanted to be alone and escape from the world.

I can’t remember the exact time when we arrived at the ranger station, but it was probably around 2:00.  When we arrived at the trail intersection we met three guys that were hiking together, two from Missoula and one from Atlanta.  They had all got snowed in at Granite Campground a couple nights before.  The two guys from Missoula saw that Atlanta was traveling alone and invited him to join them, so he did. This was something I loved about hiking in Glacier, but also something that wasn’t my favorite part, it was a pro and con. Meeting people on the trail.  Let me explain. My fascination with long distance hiking (which I’ve decided I am not woman enough for! lol) started with watching and reading “Wild”.  A memoir by a woman who in an effort to heal herself emotionally went on a trek to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2,659 mile hiking and equestrian trail that runs from Mexico to Canada.  I’ve been intrigued with the thought of hiking that distance alone with everything you need on your back.  In reading and watching documentaries on this trail and the Appalachian Trail I loved the stories of people meeting on the trail, hearing their stories, learning where they had traveled from to make their journey, why they chose to hike where they did.  So though we were going to be covering less than 1% of the distance of the PCT we were still enjoying meeting people on the trail.  We were learning a little of their story, people you will never see again, but you will remember that you met in the middle of nowhere all with the same goal, to escape from the real world for just a short time and see something amazing, something that really so few people see.

Now why I also put meeting people on the con list.  It isn’t necessarily the meeting of people, it’s not being totally alone in the backcountry.  Glacier’s backcountry experience, at least the route we chose this time, is too “civilized” for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love the scenery, the massive scenery, and any experience that includes carrying all that I need for a couple of nights on my back. But, to me backcountry isn’t meeting ten to twenty people on the trail every day.  It isn’t designated campsites and designated food prep areas with constructed fire rings, bear boxes and poles for hanging your food and pit toilets in the middle of the mountains. Yes, all great conveniences provided for a fantastic backpacking experience, but just not what I envision for MY backpacking experience.  I want to search for a site adequate enough for pitching a tent, I shouldn’t have a toilet at my disposal (though it was nice not to dig a cat hole to do my business…pro and con), preparing meals with strangers isn’t my preference (again, pro and con…more later).  For myself, backpacking is for solidarity and I like “roughing it”, so to speak. That’s what the backcountry means to me.

We wished our fellow hikers good-bye and safe travels and walked to the edge of the meadow along a fence that ran past the ranger station. We unbuckled and dropped our packs, for a much deserved rest and to enjoy lunch in the sun. I shed my long sleeve shirt because it was warm, nearly 70 degrees, and it felt so good to sit in the sun in a tank top in the mountains.  What a gorgeous day, great company, and still early in our adventure.  Happy doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt in that moment.

After about an hour break to relax and thoroughly enjoy our surroundings and the gorgeous sunshiny day it was time to load up and continue hiking.  We had about five miles left to our campsite at the head of Elizabeth Lake. We walked out of this meadow and into the pine trees.  The nice easy hike, very little elevation gain and lost, continued on down the trail.  A little over a mile and a half past our lunch spot we passed a sign that said Mist Falls and a trail heading off to the left.  With our mind on our destination of Elizabeth lake and the trail we were following we didn’t think anything of it and then all of a sudden we realized that the dull roar in the air was water, a waterfall, Mist Falls. We couldn’t not take this detour and see the waterfall when we may never be back on this trail again so we turned around and hiked the short .3 mile detour to the falls and, oh my, thank goodness we did. It was named Mist Falls for a very good reason, the mist that sprayed back up into the air as the 50 foot waterfall crashed into the water below was gorgeous, especially since we had sun to shine through the mist. The falls were magnificent and equally gorgeous was the view when you turned around and looked down the river.  We stayed there for about twenty minutes and enjoyed having the waterfall all to ourselves. What an amazing place in nature to sit and feel the peace in the day.  That scene was a blessing.  We hiked back up to the trail and after a few minutes the trees cleared out and we were able to see the river cascade into a waterfall.  Simply beautiful.

We hiked on through the trees, passing a volunteer ranger along the  way, for a couple more miles before reaching the Elizabeth Lake Foot. By this time I was totally wore out and my back and knees were hurting big time.  I really try to never complain when tired or hurting, because if you have just hiked 11 miles carrying 28# on your back, what can you expect but some fatigue and a little discomfort.  It was such a relief arriving at Elizabeth Lake, but…our campsite was at the head of the lake, another 1.6 miles.  So after some much deserved oohing, ahhing and celebrating our arrival at the lake we hiked on as hard as we could to get to our campsite and start setting up camp.

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Elizabeth Lake Foot

The hike along the shore of the lake as the day was coming to an end was outstanding.  A hiker the following day asked if Elizabeth Lake was the one with the mosaic rocks.  Looking back I wonder if they were talking about Lake McDonald, but the tiny rocky and sandy beaches definitely could have made this the lake he was indeed talking about.  The sandy beaches of this lake would make this a number one recreation lake in my opinion if it wasn’t a day hike into it. 🙂 I would love to be there in the middle of the summer and have a day to spend hanging out on the beach basking in the rays of the sun.  Maybe I will do that sometime!

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Black bear sow and cub prints in the trail along the lake, there were sightings of them earlier in the day.

Finally around 7:00 we arrived at our campsite.  At this point we were the first ones to arrive at the campground.  The first thing you are required to do when arriving at a campground in the park is to hoist all your food, toothpaste, toiletries, and cookware up in the food storage area.  No food is to ever go in the campsites.  After that task was taken care of we chose a campsite and got to work on starting a fire, filtering water, and making some dinner in the food prep area.  It was nice to know we would have a fire going for the rest of the campers arriving that evening as it was now pretty darn chilly out.

About an hour after we arrived we were no longer the only ones in a campground, four of a party of six hikers from Cincinnati on a five-day backpacking trip arrived and began their tasks of setting  up camp. This is one of the pros/cons for me.  I love the idea of being someplace and never seeing a soul, total solidarity, but there was also something very enjoyable about sharing a fire and sitting around and meeting new people. I did enjoy that, the camaraderie of warming up and settling in around a warm fire at the end of a long day, knowing tomorrow will be the same.  In addition to our fellow hiking guests we had a bull moose stroll down the trail right next to the food prep/campfire sight.  My hiking partner is a wildlife biologist and apparently with that comes the knowledge of a moose mating call! 🙂  He got it to stop a couple of times and look back at us, but thankfully it didn’t find any of us pretty enough to come back for an up close and personal visit!

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Here ends day one of our two day backpacking trip in Glacier.  It was glorious and I can’t wait to share day two with you.  I think it will be a bit shorter of a tale, but the pics are equally spectacular!  I’ll see you later on day two! Happy trails!

“Nature is one of the most underutilized treasures in life. It has the power to unburden hearts and reconnect to that inner place of peace.” ~Janice Anderson

{blogging slumber}

I’m a pathetic blogger, okay, maybe I’m just a busy, tired mom that wants to blog, but because I am a slower than molasses writer it takes me AGES to pull a blog post together so they rarely happen. BUT, I’m trying because writing for my blog, whatever the topic, has always been therapeutic for me and to be totally honest, I could use a little writing therapy so I’m going to do my best to get some blogging accomplished.

Because winter has come to our beautiful state in full force and I loathe winter I’m going to slowly write about my hiking and camping adventures this past summer.  Everybody can benefit from a little sunshine during these dreary months, so hopefully some pics of the beautiful places I have been can provide some sunshine.  I’m just sorry I can’t provide the vitamin D to go along with it.

I hope your holidays have been merry and if you love winter you are out enjoying it and if you don’t, I hope you are like me holing up inside trying to stay warm and not drink too much hot chocolate with coffee flavored tequila.  Yes, this is a real thing and it is addictive, you have been warned!

You know what? I was going to add this to an upcoming backpacking post, but that post is already pretty long so I thought I would add a little something-something special to this post and share this tequila spiked deliciousness with my readers.  While backpacking this fall, my packing partner found this great recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate.  I supplied my dad’s homemade hot chocolate mix and he provided two shots of Patron XO Cafe Dark Cafe tequila.  To make this little tale even better he brought each of our shots in an empty Five-Hour Energy bottle which actually holds 1 1/4 shots each!!! 😉  He found this recipe here on a great blog called Dirty Gourmet.

As recommended on the site you will need a small pot, spoon, stove, two insulated mugs, and…

  • 2 packets of your favorite instant hot cocoa mix
  • 2 cups of water or milk
  • 3 ounces cocoa cafe tequila (we used Patron) or other alcohol of your choice (I like one ounce/serving)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Simply make your hot chocolate, add the tequila, stir and enjoy.  We didn’t have cayenne in the mountains, but we did have a cinnamon stick.  My friend made it at home and said the 1/2 t. of cayenne for two servings was quite aggressive.  I always just leave it out. This was amazing by the campfire in the cold at the end of a long day of hiking.  I’ve also found it is almost as amazing at home in my kitchen. 🙂 Enjoy!

{moving on}

I sent my husband the link to my new blog.  He came home and said, “So why did you decide to start a new blog?” I have no idea. lol Okay, well I kind of have an idea, but not sure why the need or want to start a new blog or continue blogging. I started my first blog, CrossFit, Family and Life In Between, at least regularly started posting on it, three days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time.  It was my therapy. It was my way to take the ick of cancer and do something good with it, journalize and maybe help another woman by what I was going through.  It did.  I met women and made friends through my blog that found comfort in it.  That was the “In Between”.  I wrote about random family things that I was able to put words to, my mom, my kids smiles, and kid’s activities.  That was the “Family”. I wrote about CrossFit, personal accomplishments and the positive it brought into my life.  That, obviously, was the CrossFit.

So why not just continue posting to my first blog? Well, I have been spending much of 2016 trying to move on, move past the things that crushed me and my soul last year and some of the fall out from that crushing.  There are the things that crushed me…chemo, losing my hair, radiation, and losing my love of fitness.  I was not myself, I was sad, angry, broken, and wanted to be left alone.  Then there’s the fallout…some people stuck with me while I tried to find my way back, others didn’t or couldn’t, they took my pain and grief personally. Through this I lost some friends and I lost my CrossFit gym. What does this have to do with starting a new blog? Well, my first blog was mostly the “Life in Between”, which included my cancer ick x2, and the “CrossFit”, which was a 7+ year run of CrossFit at a gym that ended poorly and with a broken heart.  Two out of three negatives.  So, I’m moving on and I don’t want cancer or memories of my old CrossFit (except of my friends from those 7+ years, they are coming with me!) as part of my moving on so I’m starting afresh.

What am I going to write about? Well it’s my blog so I guess what ever I want! 🙂 I’m guessing it will mostly be my outdoor adventures and random family stuff.  I found a love of hiking, backpacking and being outdoors this year and I’m using the solitude and beauty of it to keep a chaotic soul at ease.  I also have a border collie puppy that needs all the outside activity she can get! She’s good company and good for my soul, too.  Oh, and she alerts me when there is something not good on the trail ahead! So, I’m moving forward and climbing mountains, literally and figuratively.  I promise to post pics along the way!

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ~John Muir