the camping trip that almost wasn’t

A9R87quki_13leff6_2ccIt’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve last written, and I have a very good reason.  The dog and I went on a 4-day camping trip the weekend of October 6.  We re-visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park which is near Amarillo, Texas (very West Texas).  We had camped at Palo Duro at the end of last May but the heat index was in the triple digits, so we didn’t get to hike the Lighthouse Trail.  I wanted to hike that trail so much that I decided to return when the temps were much cooler.

Solo camping is hard.  You are responsible for everything – planning, packing, setting up.  I typically set aside the week before a camping trip to prepare and do things such as planning meals, buying groceries, packing for Rosie (food and treats), packing up the backpacks … yada, yada, yada.  Fortunately, my little camper keeps 90% of the camping gear ready to go any time.

We headed out early Friday morning for the 7-hour drive to Palo Duro.  It was a looooooong drive.  I really like to drive only four to five hours at the most in one day.  In fact, on our previous trip to Palo Duro, we stopped about 3.5 hours from home to spend the night at a hotel and split up the drive.   So much easier on me.  But since I had Friday off from work, I decided to drive the whole way.  I will not do that again.  From now on, weekend camping trips will be within four hours of my home, or I will take the time off to split up a longer drive.  Lesson learned.

When we finally arrived at the park headquarters, I noticed several red paper signs posted around.  It wasn’t until I pulled up to the gate to check-in that I could read the signs.  Trail systems closed.  Whaaaat?  That was the primary reason we had gone to that park – to get in some good hiking in the canyon.  Seriously, I thought hard about just turning around and going back home.  But I talked myself out of it and decided that I was going to stick it out and make the best of the situation.  As it turned out, the weekend was great.  There were more little challenges along the way, but as I resolved to do, we made the best of the weekend and had a great time.

On Saturday the trails were still closed, so we headed off to Caprock Canyons State Park, about an hour and a half away.  What a great park!  I actually liked it better than Palo Duro – easier check-in, beautiful visitor center, smaller and a lot less crowded.   A park ranger suggested that we hike the South Prong Trail since that trail has water for the dog.  It was a beautiful 4-mile hike that winds along a river bed with a small running stream of cool, clear water.  Rosie loved being able to walk in the water, drink whenever she wanted, and especially liked laying in the cool water when she got hot.  She’s probably wishing all hikes were like that one.

After the hike, I stopped in a little diner and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich.  While I waited for my sandwich, I munched on tortilla chips and homemade salsa.  Yum.  Chips and salsa is an entire food group for me.  And the ham and cheese?  I expected a cold sandwich which would have been totally acceptable because I was famished after the hike.  But this sandwich was one of those grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with Texas toast and mayo.  It definitely hit the spot!  We had a nice drive back to our campsite at Palo Duro, and after a shower and some relaxing, I fixed chicken sausage and sweet potatoes in the electric skillet.  Another great meal!

I woke up early Sunday morning and again wondered if we shouldn’t just cut our losses and head back home.  I didn’t have to work Monday so I’d have the whole day to do things around the house.  But I also needed to do some caulking on the camper and finish up the screen door I made for the door.  I had been procrastinating getting those tasks done for months.  So I decided that this was the best time and I could finally mark them off my to do list.  I finished my screen door for the camper, so now I can leave the door open to enjoy the scenery while I read before going to sleep.  I caulked around the door handle and several spots on the roof of the camper where I thought the water was leaking in between the walls of the camper.  And like magic, just as I was finishing up about 9:30, the park ranger drove up to let me know that the trails were open.  The trails are open!

I quickly packed up my and Rosie’s backpacks with LOTS of water as is strongly recommended.  I included some turkey jerky and a granola bar for snacks.  We hit the Lighthouse Trail at about 10 am.  That’s a lot later than I typically like to start out on a hike, but the weather was absolutely gorgeous with a cool breeze.  We ended up not needing near as much water as I packed, but I’m a strong believer in carrying much more water than you think you’ll need.  Rosie did great with her backpack that carries her water and bowl.  Everyone gets a kick out of seeing that big dog with her backpack along the trail.  As I like to say to them, “Everyone carries their own water on my hikes.”

That evening we ate pizza in town in Canyon, Texas, at a place called LaBella’s.  It had received really good reviews on Yelp and deservedly so.  I had a healthy side salad (love to get my veggies in!), homemade bread sticks, and a cheese pizza with diced tomatoes.  Not thin crust, not thick crust but in between.  Really good!  I ended up eating half the pizza Sunday night and then eating the rest for lunch the next day while driving home.  I love pizza so much.  And I loved that glass of wine which I so rarely indulge in.

So although there were many little “bumps in the road,” the weekend turned out to be a good one – awesome hiking, good food, beautiful weather.  We even managed to sneak in a new state park to check off on our State Park Quest.  It was on our way home on Monday that things took a particularly nasty turn, and I’ll save that for part 2.




how’s it going

IMG_3750 - CopyI just finished the first week of half-marathon training.  I really like having a clear goal to focus on that’s only 14 weeks away, as opposed to The Big Hike that’s a year away.  I don’t think there’s any way I could stay focused on food and fitness for a goal that’s a year away.

My long walk this week was six miles, which I ended up doing here around home and the neighborhood.  I typically prefer going to a more scenic place for the long walks, but it turned out to be nice to do this one here locally.  It’s always interesting to me to see how far six miles actually is.

I have already had to tweak my training plan to accommodate a few things.  Thursday nights are date night with Max, my grandson.  I’m definitely not giving those up.  And the training plan originally had my long walks on Sunday, but I moved those to Saturday.  I much prefer doing my long walk on Saturday morning, and saving Sunday for church and afternoon yoga.  I read that it’s okay to re-arrange the days like that, but the most important thing is to make all the walks.

For strength training, I’m doing Jillian Michaels’ DVD workouts.  The workouts I’ve been doing are about 30 minutes long and they definitely kick my butt.  I start out saying that I’m going to do two of her workouts for a good hour-long workout.  I never make it.  They are good hard workouts, and I sure hope they fit the bill as strength training.  While I’m training for the half-marathon, I think they’ll help me a lot.  After the first of the year, I may need to look for other strength training to help me prepare these legs, knees, and hips for a 10-mile hike up a canyon wall.  Gulp.

sub-training … is that a word?


Technically I’m in “sub-training” mode. What the heck does that mean?  When I made the commitment to do The Big Hike, I knew right away that I’d need a shorter-term goal because I knew it would be hard to keep up my motivation for an entire year until The Big Hike.  I’m a big believer in baby steps … or at least small chunks.  So I signed up to walk a half-marathon (13 miles) on New Year’s Eve.  Personally I love doing something fun and different to close out the old year and bring in the new one.  (Would someone please remind me I said this at about Mile 9?)  I’ll be working for the next three months to increase endurance, stamina, and speed for the half-marathon.  After the half-marathon, I’ll be working on cardio and exercises to prepare for The Big Hike.  Lots of lunges, squats, planks, stair climbing etc.  Pretty much all the exercises I hate … maybe I hate them because I need them?

While I’m preparing for the half-marathon, my biggest goal right now is to lose the extra weight. So far I am down 20 pounds.  It’s taken me almost four months to get here.  It feels really good.  To slim down, I’m counting calories and working out five times a week for about an hour.  That’s it in a nutshell.  There are easy days, and there are oh-so-hard days.  But I know that losing this extra weight is the best thing I can do to help make The Big Hike less difficult and somewhat enjoyable.  If I can lose 17 more pounds, I will have met my goal and that will make me very happy.

This chart below is my training schedule for the half-marathon. The official start day is Monday September 25l, but I’ve been putting in the miles for a few weeks now.  I’m actually looking forward to starting this training.  You can find all kinds of training plans on the internet for a variety of fitness events.  I actually blended 2-3 plans that I found and then moved the days around to make it mine.  Now it’s time to own it and make it happen.

training chart for half marathon

Day 1 – Official Training Starts

20150605_153551Today marks one year I have to train for the rim-to-rim hike at the Grand Canyon.  I’ll be doing the hike with my dad on Friday, September 14, 2017.  We’ll spend Thursday night at the North Rim, and then very early Friday morning we will start down the North Kaibab Trail, 14.3 miles.  We’ll spend Friday night at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  It gives me goosebumps just to type that.  We’ll get up the next morning and climb up the Bright Angel Trail, a total of 9.6 miles, every single one of them up.  All total, we will hike 23.9 miles.

The first step to planning this trip (aside from my dad convincing me to do this) was reserving a room at the Phantom Ranch. I’m a natural-born planner, and my dad is a planner times 10.  There will be no stone unturned when it comes to research for this trip.  In order to reserve a cabin to spend the night at Phantom Ranch, we knew that we had to be prepared with a script for if/when we talked to someone at the reservations office (“any day after Labor Day, and we’d like a stew dinner please”).  On Friday, September 1st, we manned our stations; Dad in the Houston area, me in the Dallas area.  At 9:00 am sharp, we began dialing into the reservation center and emailing each other with our status (mostly “still on hold”).  It took about 10-15 minutes to actually make the connection with the reservation center and hold for a ranger.  We were both on hold for approximately 30 minutes.  Then Dad got through to Ranger John.  Hallelujah!  I received an email from him saying, “Speaking to Ranger John.”  The next email I received said we had a cabin reservation, stew dinner for two, breakfast the next morning, and a sack lunch for our ascent up Bright Angel Trail.  My dad said he was just saying yes to whatever Ranger John suggested.  I must say that every time I spoke to a ranger at Xanterra Resorts, she or he was extremely helpful and so patient, answering every one of my questions, no matter how inane. (Next year, reservations for Phantom Ranch will use a new lottery system. It will be interesting to see how that changes the way reservations are made.)

My hope is to chronicle the upcoming year of training, preparation, researching and planning.  Maybe it will be helpful to others. Most of all, I think it will be fascinating to come back and read this after we’ve completed The Big Hike.

Here’s a partial list of what I hope to write about as the year progresses:

  • Food/snack choices
  • Water
  • Clothing
  • Weather
  • Training (this will be a major and ongoing topic!)

It’s on.

the best kept journal secret

nightstandFor years and years and years, I wanted to keep a journal.  But I didn’t / couldn’t / wouldn’t.  I would buy the most lovely blank book, convinced that this was The Book that was going to make me a consistent journal writer.  None of them worked, no matter how beautiful they were.   Then I listened to an audio recording of one of my favorite motivational speakers, Jim Rohn, and he was talking about how important it is to keep a journal.  It all made perfect sense as I listened to Jim talk about all the good reasons for writing in a journal.  And one of the things he said turned out to be The One Thing that finally motivated me to be a more consistent writer in my journal.

Over a year later, I still write in  my journal – sometimes multiple times a day.  Sometimes I just jot down a simple sentence, and sometimes I write for pages.  But it’s now such a strong habit that if I do go a day or two without writing, I feel a tremendous tug to write in my journal – even if it’s just my to do list for that day.

And here is Jim Rohn’s tip for consistent writing:  Carry your journal with you everywhere.  Everywhere.  All the time.  No exceptions.  Buy a journal you love and carry it everywhere all the time.  I really love the easy things in life.

books and libraries

Books have been on my mind the past few weeks. I have a small bookcase loaded with books.  Too many books.  Which ones do I keep?  Which ones do I donate?

And then a few weeks back I looked at what I was spending on Kindle books, and I was surprised to add it up and see that I was spending a minimum of $50 on books each month.   (I do read a lot of books.)   It was so easy – press “buy” and the book magically appeared on my Kindle.  There was no visual of seeing the money actually leave my checking account.  It’s as if the transaction truly happened up in a cloud when it was all actually happening in my checking account.

So I did a little research and found out that because I live in a suburb of Dallas, I can borrow books for FREE from the Dallas Public Library. And not just books, but also eBooks and audiobooks.  How did I forget about my love of the library?  Library Day in elementary school was my favorite day, right next to Scholastic Book Club order day.  Right now I have three eBooks loaded on my tablet, six more on hold.  And I have several books with waiting lists requested at the library, and I get a nice email when each one becomes available.  FREE.

I was telling my dad about my new re-discovery, and he told me when he was 12 years old and living in Oak Cliff, he would ride the bus to the downtown Dallas library and spend all day there. Yeah, I got that gene.  And I’m so glad.

Here’s another post about books and libraries I found this week that I really enjoyed.  And yes, I put her book on my library request list too.