It’s Ruckin time!!

Preparing for a long distance hike? Have some questions?

Whether you are on trail for a few days or several months, if you’re hiking this summer, this is the event to attend! 5 venues …….check out one near you! Come chat with me in Oakland!!

NorCal Ruck
Oakland, CA
January 26, 2019

Cascade Ruck
Stevenson, WA
February 23, 2019

Colorado Rockies Ruck
Golden, CO
March 9, 2019

Bellingham Ruck
Bellingham, WA
March 23, 2019 

Inland NW Ruck
Coeur d’Alene, ID
April 6, 2019 


Thank you for being a friend -Andrew Gold

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People often ask how am I able to take time off and hike the trail for month(s). Well I say, I work hard and a lot. However, there’s another bigger part of the equation. People. By people I mean family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. My family doesn’t completely understand what I do and my mom wishes I didn’t do it at all!! But like every other crazy adventure that I take off on they support me even when they are not sure how.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again, I have the BEST friends. They have shown up every freakin time, financially and emotionally. Whatever I needed and things I didn’t know I needed. When I needed extra work friends hired me, when I needed a place to live pre/during/post trail they took me into their homes, they gifted me gear and threw going away parties and camp outs. They sent packages, watched/repaired my car and took phone calls from the trail keeping me up on goings on at home.

Because I work for months at a time I work with a staffing agency (Ultimate Staffing). Vicki has been on it for the last three years, finding me great long/short term positions with great companies. My current assignment is with a auto dealership and it’s been a great job with fun people. Super happy that they want me back, they celebrated my departure with tasty food (carbs and meatballs!!) and gifts!

 

Thanks Apothekayla for the healing salve!

Then there are the strangers, aka friends I haven’t met yet. People who follow my blog/Instagram, leave supportive comments, messages, jokes, tips and donations. This is so over whelming at times it brings me to (good)tears.

Gracias     Merci Beaucoup      Grazie     Danke sehr   Mahalo

I’m out there hiking the miles, adventuring, ‘living the dream’ but it wouldn’t happen without my awesome support crew! I never walk alone! So much love and kindness. Thank you all for ALL THE THINGS and being on this journey with me.

I love y’all………..yep you!

Heavy Things -Phish

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Time to come clean……I am not ultralight. There I said it. Actually I started out kinda light on the PCT but over the years and other trails I caved to carrying more stuff. It wasn’t planned it just snuck up on me. Add this add that…ounces count and add up. When I first thru hiked the PCT I didn’t know really what I was doing nor did I know anyone who had taken on such an endeavor. So I googled it of course, depending on books, blogs, and online resources. There’s no shortage of people ready to share all about their gear and weight issues. Continue reading “Heavy Things -Phish”

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

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Chardonnay- Looking for a Triple Crown This Summer

 

If you haven’t heard I did a podcast interview with Rudy over at Cascade Hiker Podcast. We chatted about thru hiking, what inspires me, and going for the Triple Crown. Going for the Triple Crown (hiking the three major U.S. long-distance trails) is something I don’t really talk about much. Seriously go check it out. He has a great conversational style and besides me he has talked to some really interesting, motivating and knowledgeable outdoorsy people! Let me know what you think, my recorded voice sounds kinda dorky but I tend to be my harshest critic!

Reminiscing – Little River Band

 

April is derived from the Latin aperire meaning “to open”, for me that means two things: opening my memory book, reflecting and being open to what the future holds. Also it’s “trail-aversary” time!!

4/12/15 started hiking Pacific Crest Trail
4/15/16 started hiking Appalachian Trail
4/13/17 started hiking Continental Divide Trail

Let me tell you it feels so strange not to be heading out for a thru hike this week, it’s like I’m missing something. Just can’t shake that ‘isn’t there something I’m supposed to be doing’ feeling. Thinking back to my first day on the PCT I waved enthusiastically to my friend that drop me off at the southern terminus.  Trying to look brave and confident I turned and realized I didn’t know which way the trail actually was! Thus began months of me muttering some variation of “where is the trail?….is this the trail?…..why am I not on trail”?

Sometimes in regular life I am plagued by these questions still. Am I going in the right direction, is this the right life path? These are great questions to revisit on the regular. Otherwise you may find yourself wondering aimlessly, lost if you will. Heck I got ‘lost’ going to a friend’s house recently. I took the wrong exit. Trail lesson: check your map

Thru hike PCT California chardonnay
chardonnay PCT thru hike in N. California

People have asked which trail was my favorite. The Pacific Crest Trail, of course, it was my first and holds a special place in my tiny heart. The CDT was challenging, but fun and the AT was, well, the AT. But I hear the parts I’m going back for are awesome.  All three are amazingly different and offer their own challenges. Trail lesson: celebrate our differences

 

Since I got a month before I hit the trail I’ve been helping others get to the PCT terminus to start their journeys and picking up hitching hikers.  I found gratification in hearing their stories and lending encouragement. Trail lesson: be of service to others

Three years of long distance hiking reminds me the importance of appreciation, kindness, community, dreaming, good wine, and good shoes. Long distance hiking is hard…. but I’d do it all again! It’s good to reflect remembering where you started and how far you have come. But stay open to the future possibilities!

Speaking of anniversaries…… it’s the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act!  The PCT, CDT and AT are just 3 of the eleven National Scenic Trails. Get out there and find your trail! I see more trails in my future! Happy Trails!

Perfectly Flawed – Otep

Before I started hiking I was 211 pounds. I never really mentioned it or talked about it here on the blog. Really I didn’t want it to be a “thing”. Weight loss wasn’t my reason for doing a thru hike and I have an adverse reaction to being labeled. Prior to losing the weight I outwardly played the “I’m happy with my body game”. While inside I knew that wasn’t true. You can lie to everybody and everybody will lie to you saying “you look fine”, but you can’t lie to yourself.

The PCT blogs I started out reading were these girls pulling 20 mile days the first day on the trail! Ok, I thought guess that’s what I’ll do too, if they can, I can. So I started hiking 2 miles, then 5, then 10. When I hit ten miles I was elated and deflated, crap 10 miles….I have to do that like twice. But I quickly learned my body was capable of more than I thought. Turns out you just need to keep going. Or have a 10 mile out and back, training loop where your only option is to walk back.

PSA: It’s gonna hurt, you will cramp and be in pain. But pain is just weakness leaving the body, or so drill sergeant told me. However preparing yourself physically can make a world of difference.

By the time I hit the trail I had lost 60 pounds! I was looking good, feeling strong and loving the compliments, yo. But I wasn’t at my goal weight, you know that magic number that will make everything right in the world. Now I didn’t change my eating habits, I just hiked, a lot. I was determined to be ‘ready’ for the trail. It’s worth mentioning that I have eating issues when I hike. Most people can hike and eat, I cannot. When I hiking I just have zero taste for anything. If I fill my day-pack or hip belt pockets with snack they will be there when I stop for the day, unless I force it down. One of the joys of hiking is all that food you get to eat. Unfortunately for me that hunger doesn’t come till I stop moving.

That first day on the PCT I did 20 miles, I was completely spent but I did it. Fast forward a month I was hiking the Sierras and losing weight due to a major calorie deficit. Down 20 more pounds I hit my goal! Yeah…..no not yeah. I was scarily thin and weak. Weak was not what I’d envisioned. I ended up getting off trail in Bishop for a few days and I just sat and ate. That magic number meant nothing if I couldn’t get to Canada.

Returning home from the trail I was still pretty thin. I got less compliments and more “girl you need to eat”. Luckily I was down with that idea, mmm non trail food.

Over the next two years I would hike two more trails the AT and CDT. My weight fluctuating, up when off trail, down during hiking season. I’m maintaining strong and healthy though. I still have eating issues on trail (hiker hunger eludes me). But I’ve come to terms with my weight, there is no “magic” number. I’m heavier than that, stronger than that and ok with that.

Girls in their summer clothes – Bruce Springsteen

As a long distance hiker spending 4-6 months on the trail at a time you get a little dirty. In an effort to be ultra-light (backpacking that emphasizes carrying the lightest and simplest gear safely possible for a given trip) most hikers only have one outfit for this entire time. This can leave a hiker looking pretty haggard and getting some side glances from people in town. But I’m here to tell you roaming around in the woods is no excuse to not look good. Even if you are just going out for a day hike looking good is an avenue to feeling good! It can even put a little pep in your step!

                                        runaway?        runway ready!     day hiking diva!?
Now I don’t always look pulled together, but I try. Last year for the CDT I had the cutest teal Brooks top and thrift store skirt and matching teal trail runners. Unfortunately that outfit was pilfered at the gym the day before I left for the trail so I ended up with a last minute Walmart dress/plaid top uncoordinated ensemble. It worked fine but for pictures I looked like a hot mess, not cute. Looking nice is important, well for me it is, don’t judge. This one time I went into a runners shoe store in search of trail shoes. The guy helping me knew all about shoes, arch supports and toe boxes. He brought out a plethora of shoes for me to try on, but when I asked him “do you have some in a cute pink or teal” he was stumped. He replied “color doesn’t matter”. Ha! Wrong answer I replied heading for the door. Seriously, I’ve painfully strutted around in 3 inch black suede heels, but I looked so good. Now I highly recommend you getting some comfortable (preferably broken in) footwear for the trail. That being said if you want a nice color don’t be afraid to seek that out.

Now a days there are a multitude of options in ladies outer wear. If you can’t find your look in the sporting goods store, outfitters, online or just don’t want to break the bank; I got two words for ya. Thrift Store. There’s probably a flowy dress or skirt in there just waiting for ya! Throw on some leggings and boom you’re ready to crush it. I found a nice butterfly dress, that coincidentally matched my Dirty Girl gaiters, for three bucks at a thrift shop. It’s my “town dress” for when my hiking clothes are in the laundry! Turns out it’s also great for pictures and works with my tutu. Tutu!?! Yess, I wear a tutu (that I have to carry for about 50 miles) at the end of my hikes. It’s fun, cute and makes me happy, kinda like my Cargo Tail. Wait, what? Yes it’s fun and people interact or speak to me on trail because of it. Hiking is about the challenge, feeling empowered, blah, blah, blah……and fun, don’t forget to pack your fun! Besides fashion forward hiker trash get quicker hitches, maybe.

                                            Nice tail. Thanks, I been crushing it!

She believed she could……again

The fact is not lost on me that I did not post a made it to the border post. For those of you who don’t know yet……I made it to Canada (and where you been?). I made it thru, yeah me! That last day is really hard to write about, though. There were so many conflicting feelings, happy but sad, tired yet elated. (that every present question where do I go from here?) Second guessing myself, should I hike faster or slower, enjoy the last miles or get them over with, eat gummy bears or skittles. With a light pack I really couldn’t help but hike fast, I was in the flow. Only stopping to get water and take off clothing as it got warmer. The climb up to the Ptarmigan Tunnel was actually pretty nice, full disclosure I was so hyped on caffeine. Roswell was just ahead of me, we made it to the trail-head, unceremoniously, about the same time. Glad he was there to capture the moment.

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That look you get when you realized you walked to Canada and there is no ticker tape parade…..

We then headed down to the actual border crossing to get our passports stamped and chat it up with border patrol. And of course take more pics. Due to fires we ended at the Chief Joseph Pass not the northern terminus at Waterton. Hey Canada is Canada, no?

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So yup I made it to Canada…..again! That night I lay in my tent, sipping Chardonnay feeling the feels. It was good. So attempted to thru hike the CDT….well, I hiked it, I survived it, learned from it and grew from it.

cute dress ✓, tutu ✓, carton of chardonnay ✓

Thank you so much for reading (and commenting) my stories of my thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. Even more thanks to those that helped me get out there and along the way. Please continue to follow me on my other adventures as I continue to find my way through the vines!

“Feeling Good” – Nina Simone

Life is not designed to make things easy for us, but present challenges that help us grow- Terry Laughlin

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photo cred?

I did a lot of growing 2017, thanks life! This year was an incredible journey for me, trekking up the Continental Divide, maintaining a social media presence, and deciding how best to share (or not share) my experiences with others. It was great hiking the CDT seriously, it challenged me and gave me new (trail/life)skills.  So grab a beverage and let’s reflect on the last year of hiking adventures and forward to the new year of possibilities.

Website and Social Media 
Wandering Chardonnay website and social media sites continue to grow by the numbers:
12,195 page views (1,066 followers)
169 Facebook Likes
578 Instagram followers
37 Twitter followers 
Thanks for checking it out. These numbers are not outstanding by comparison. But who should I compare with; I’m one of a kind! Like hiking growth takes time, patience and perseverance. I’m learning and putting myself out there more every day! I just hope my story continues to inspire people to get out on their own adventures. But navigating the www is like hiking off trail, you know where you want to go but can you get there, from here.  Not without some surprises and lessons.

I’m learning about self-hosting my own site, making trail videos and oh the hashtags (which will always be a pound sign to me, old school).

One lovely surprise for me was becoming a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador! If you haven’t yet checked out the HLAW website, what ya waiting for, hop to it! I’ve learned tons from these motivated ladies. There are some great podcasts (find mine here), tips, great articles and more.

Trail and Life Lessons
The trans-formative nature of thru hiking has always been a type of therapy for me. The trail is a metaphor for life and it reminded me of many lessons in 2017:

  • Just because someone comes into your life doesn’t mean they have to stay. Walking the trail and life with difficult people sucks. Don’t let other people tell you how to feel, act, or that something is impossible. Walk away, trust me on this. Be bold, show up as yourself.
  • Surround yourself with people who uplift you and believe in your crazy dreams. If someone is taking jabs at you (even tiny ones) those jabs only add up to knocking you down.
  •  Life changes aren’t easy, especially when evolving into the best version of you; it’s exciting and scary all at once. But with every challenge or struggle you grow stronger and more confident in your abilities.  However, it turns out my strength and change is uncomfortable for some, so I’ve had people closest to me disappear or just not show up, that hurts. 
  • But then there are other people that I barely know that have completely shown up, thank you.  See there are really kind people in the world (no matter what the news says) wanting to see you succeed. Go seek them out, find them, they are waiting for you…so am I.
  • Fear is part instinct, part learned, part taught. Fears are created by imagination, when you face them you realize that reality isn’t nearly as bad as your imagination. Like that grizzly bear I heard probably wasn’t nearly as big as I imagined, right?! Be courageous.
  • We need nature, whether or not we ever set foot in it. It’s where we come from, it’s our history (good and bad) and our future. We need to now it is there, a possible
    escape from the madness. My experience is proof that nature will and can be a refuge for all, no matter your skin color.
  • There is a whole lot of talk about POC (people of color) in the wilderness. Let’s stop blaming the lack of money or that we don’t see ourselves or fear of past atrocities. We ARE out there! The outdoor industry and past stories may not have included us,
    but a new chapter is being  written. Stop using the past as an excuse. Be the change, corny but true.
  • Solo hiking is great, but it is always great to get to camp and see a friendly face that is glad you made it. Or at least someone to laugh WITH you because you got lost or scared. I thru hiked the CDT with some top notch, bad ass, ridiculously funny people. Thank you for accepting the bare bones me. Cherish every moment, treasure every mile.
  • Experiences, get you some. Experiences become a part of our identity. We are an accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done and the places we’ve been. What’s your story gonna be this year?

Next Adventure and Opportunities 

So people have asked “so are you done hiking yet”? Answer: NOPE. It’s a big world out there with a lot of paths to walk, people to meet and lessons to learn. I am looking forward to more adventures and experiences in 2018….Like completing the Appalachian Trail, hiking the Arizona Trail, providing some PCT trail magic. Basically spreading black girl magic all over the place! Locally I’ll be doing some group hikes (with wine tasting!), some Get Out Doors presentations, redesigning this site, and some other things (I don’t want to jinx it). oh I’m excited, stay tuned!

Happy New Year and Happy Trails…………..

In The End – Linkin Park (GEAR REVIEW)

Before I go through my gear list and review each item, please note that most of my gear I have used for the past three years. While I ended up sending home some gear home and shaving a couple of pounds off of my base pack weight, the only gear I purchased while out on the trail was a poncho. Please remember gear doesn’t have to be expensive, I had gear gifted to me, bought things from Walmart/Thrift Store. That being said invest in some quality gear, take care of it and it will serve you well.

Sleeping bag –  Big Agnes Mirror Lake 20 degree
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes
This is the same sleeping bag and it is awesome. There are a lot more expensive bags out there but this one worked incredibly for me. After three years of getting it crazy dirty and washing it, that thing still has loft and is STILL toasty warm. Highly recommend it and take care of your bag.

Backpack: ULA Circuit
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes and Yes

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One heck of an investment. Love this backpack. Full disclosure I did tear the back panel on the CDT but nothing a little duct tape and sleeping pad patches couldn’t fix. That pack has held 7 days of food and 3 liters of water and all my crap at once. It rides nicely on my shoulders and rest nicely on my hips without chafing.pack

Tent: REI Passage 1
Rating:  Love
Take again: Yes

I was gifted this tent at PCT meetup! For me free standing tent is where it’s at. I’m just not that into staking out a tent. This is a one person tent but there is plenty of room in there for my pack and shoes. No condensation issues, it sets up quickly and handles the rain like a boss.

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Tent: Nemo Sleeping Pad
Rating: Good
Take again: Yes
First time taking a blow up pad. This one takes a bit to blow up but it is comfy to sleep on and it doesn’t make that crunchy noise some pads make when you lay on it. I also used a piece of my old z lite (for day sitting) underneath it as I was bit concerned about popping, but nope.pad

Tent: Jet Boil
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes
I went stove-less on the PCT and then the Esbit stove on the AT. Well it makes a big difference to be able to have hot coffee and a hot meal. Once I got to Montana, the weather warmed up (and being close to finishing) I sent the Jet Boil home. Overall it’s a great stove, heats quickly, fuel is easy to find and except for the large fuel canister I kept getting it takes up very little room. boil

Trekking Poles: MSR Talus Sure lock
Rating: Like
Take again: Yespoles

Honestly I don’t use trekking poles very much, mostly just for crossing streams or when I really want to move faster. Otherwise I just don’t like have things in my hands, constantly. These actually were gifted to me on the PCT from the Dinsmore’s (Hiker Haven) after I broke my other poles (at the time I needed poles to hold up my other tent).

Shoes: Saucony
Rating: Good and inexpensive
Take again: nah, going back to Altra, maybe

Full disclosure, I bought these shoes because a) they are inexpensive and b) the teal color matched my hiking outfit, don’t judge. They are great for day hikes and in the gym, but they took a real beating on the trail. Lesson learned, invest in some good shoes.  I did the AT in Altra running shoes, they were awesome and I should have had them on the CDT. Heck I’m wearing them right now……and they come in great colors to match your outfit, oh and gaiter traps! (side note: old shoes make great planters)plant shoes

 

Laundry Puffy Jacket
Rating: Love
Take again: Yes
This jacket came from…..wait for it…..Burlington Coat Factory! I got it for like $60 in their winter close out sale. Thing is great. Kept me warm and made a great pillow too! Sure you can spend twice as much on an ultra light coat, or not.

 

So that is me and my stuff. Oh that dress is totally from Walmart! (notice the bags on my feet, stepped up my game later with Neoprene socks) If you have any gear questions…..ask away!