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!

 

Emerald City

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Hanging out in Seattle processing the last 5 months. Sometimes it’s like a blur, while some moments I remember with amazing clarity. I’m fortunate to have amazing friends here in Seattle that allow me to decompress in their beautiful spaces. (Yes, I was here also after the PCT)

Cerrie and Chad (missed ya, but Flapjack took me on a nice walk about!) have taken me in this time around. Cerrie you’re the best taking care of me, working and whipping out homemade dumplings, you rock! This was a last minute stop over, too bad. So many awesome people to see here. Some I just didnt get to see. But they too are in the midst of decompression and dusting off.

I did get to catch up with a dear friend from Iowa Sheri! Old friends are best they remind you how far you’ve come but that ya haven’t really changed. On trail I dreamed of a ‘nice’dinner (ya know with silverware) got to share that with my friend James. Thanks man your energy is contagious!
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Today I’ll hop a plane back to San Diego. Feels like I’ve been gone foreva!

Where there’s smoke..

There was an Apocalyptic feel leaving camp for Many Glacier. Going to the Sun Rd was closed over night from fire. So it was weird crossing the road and there being zero traffic. Just the day before it was teaming with tourist headed for the falls. I am so coming back to Montana when it’s not on fire. First thing the permit was changed (Waterton was evacuated) so Chief Mountain it is! The rangers are keeping tabs on where hikers are in case conditions change, that’s nice to know.

Luckily, Garbelly told us about the Ptarmagin Tunnel trail it runs 20 miles, through a tunnel then right out at Chief Mountain at the border.

Another round of boys showed up that evening. Hikers are stacking up with the closures and rerouting. Moist, Roswell, Quicksilver and Mac (always fun to meet a blogger in person. We sat around laughing, chatting and eating.

I was excited and sad only one more day on trail. Had fun walking about the campsite talking to other campers, checking out their car camping rigs. A car camping road trip may be in my future!

Toasted Toad helped with us slack packing! That was fun for me, even the climb to the tunnel, then it was downhill  (except for the last 3 miles uphill, really). Embracing the Brutality, yep…….almost there…..

 

Gonna miss this..

Well the first day into Glacier was great. What a beautiful area. There was only 11 miles to Two Medicine where we’d get our backcountry permits. About 2 miles out I ran into some goats on the trail!


Unfortunately at the ranger station we found out many other hikers beat us to the punch. Most campsites were full so our next day would have to be 26 miles, a long day, then 14 miles the next day. The other news was that the border at Waterton was possibly closed due to fires. We might not make it to the monument. The detour would put us at Chief Mountain…nooo (well ok, im being dramatic). Basically we’d have to wait til we got to Many Glacier for updated fire information.

Luckily Toasted Toad met us and had a campsite already at Two Medicine. He also brought drinks and dinner! Other hikers came in and enjoyed hot dogs, chardonnay and jack daniels shots!


Thanks to ME for grabbing my buff I dropped on trail! So glad I got to see Garbelly, ME, and Thor we were all on the same shuttle to the border the very first day….later sharing shade in the desert! There’s not a lot of people out here but the ones that are are pretty awesome.

To Canada….

So I managed to get my package, but Kelsey did not. Hanging around town we run into Flip flop and Quicksilver, apparently they were hiking about 5 miles behind us coming into town. We hung out that night and caught up over some beers. The boys were zeroing the next day and that is contagious. Suffice it to say we decided to stay and zero also. Plus we were hearing news other hikers were headed our way.

The next day we spent hanging out checking news on the fires. There are fires everywhere. Matter of fact turned out we had hiked through a fire closure. There were signs at the north end of the trail but not yet posted at the South!

Later about 10 hikers rolled in to town! Wow, I was super happy to see everyone. Garbelly, ME, Thor, Drive by, Scrapbook even Kate and Liam! We all went to the Mexican restaurant for dinner. Had a great night hearing everyone’s trail adventure stories. Funny how we are all on the same trail (sometimes within miles of each other) and have different but similar experiences. This was one of the best nights for me. The trail community really makes the experience. It sucks for those that had to skip the Bob Marshall wilderness due fire. We are not sure where some hikers are, hope they are safe if they pushed on into the Bob.


Today wake up early for one last hot coffee. We will wait a bit for Kelsey’s package then hit the trail. Most everyone else is doing the same thing. It would be awesome hike to then end with a fun group.

For now the CDT is open to the border, hoping that does not change and the fires stay to the east. I heard this is the worst fire conditions in 50 years. I’ve been looking forward to Glacier National Park for this whole trip.

Still can’t believe only 100 miles left about 4 days. But time to move, it’s getting chilly again. These last 5 months have been an incredibly crazy journey. Guess this is my last post til Canada…….see on the flip side!!

So close but yet so far

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Laying in my tent stealth camping in East Glacier, Mt. I lose track of days on trail, didn’t  realize that it was Labor Day weekend. Hostel is booked and so are most hotels. Hiking straight through that last section (with no town stops) was tough. It’s a 140 mile section if you go straight through. I under estimated my food needs, had to start rationing.  (This was poor planning and me being lazy. But food is heavy, yo. Ha, you’d think this was my first thru hike. Certainly not the first time I ran out of food. Doh! Was doing some 27 to 30 mile days to get done. I wasn’t hungry but my energy levels were super low. Pretty much stumbling into camp (seriously, over ever tree root) eating a tortilla with peanut butter and passing out.


My legs are so scratched and tender from all the branches scratching, over growth, climbing over blown down trees and just tripping.


The route is beautiful taking us right by the wall and through the Bob Marshall wilderness. (The Chinese Wall is limestone averaging about 1,000 feet tall and stretches unbroken for miles. The rock face marks the Continental Divide through the Bob Marshall Wilderness) However, there a lot of fires, one we passed within 1/4 mile of the trail. The smoke limited the views and made the sun an eerie red. Many of the trails were closed, glad we made it through.
the wallThe Chinese wall

Our last day we hiked 29 miles to get to East Glacier. That was a super long day, but being that I was down to a bag of Skittles and a granola bar….well I was motivated. Made to town just in time to grab a burger before the restaurant closed!!

After stealth camping we headed to Brownies Hostel to grab our last packages. Unfortunately, the did NOT have them!! I was more than upset. I purposely had the packages sent early AND to the hostel to avoid the post office being closed upon arrival.

So frustrating, so close to Canada (like only 100 miles left) and this happens. I don’t want to (and can’t afford to) to sit here and wait. Mostly annoyed that the hostel is like, oh well.

On the upside, walking through town I run into a hiker I met on the PCT, then randomly in Portland, then ha here in Montana! Small world! They were in town for a wedding, gave us fresh fruit (Oh how I miss fruit,yum plums) and drinks! Made me feel better.
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Not sure, guess I may have to leave without packages. I’ll keep checking til we leave tomorrow. Packages have been known to just “show up”or “be found”. Fingers crossed.

PS:  Thanks Gary for the lift back to the trail! Oh and my shoes….yep duck tape!

Highway to HELena..

Hiking south from Anaconda turned out to be a great idea! The trail was nice, but it was really nice to run into other hikers we haven’t seen since Colorado! They were all guys, where my girls!? I wish I had taken pics, hope to see you guys up the trail!
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Last day hiking south I hiked 26 miles in about 9 hours, with breaks and stopping to chat, guess I was in the flow and feeling good. I love times like that everything just clicks and your floating down the trail. Got lucky on a hitch from a guy nice enough to give us a lift 60 miles back to Anaconda! After a good night’s rest Kelsey took off early, I slept in. She is itching to get home. I on the other hand want to savor these last days. I did a quick resupply at the Dollar then found Kelsey at the McDonald’s, we headed out on a long hot road walk. While hiding in the road side shade a local guy (Eddie Murphy, yes jokes were made) came by and said not to drink the water from the nearby stream. Instead he said stop by his house for water and camping in his yard. Took him up on the water but just rested in the yard til it cooled down, then night hiked on further.


The terrain in Montana changes quickly from farm land to forest. I really love that the climbs are gradual. However water is getting scarce. Learned quickly when there is water you better take it. Second day out planned on hiking and camping at a lake. I had about a cup of water left when I got to the “lake” The lake ended up being a shallow swamp. Ended up hiking another 1.3 miles to a dripping creek then carrying water uphill to find a campsite.

Other than limited water I’m enjoying Montana and cranking out 25 mile days! Less than 400 miles to go, I’m gonna make it! But first a stop in Helena…

On the highway to HELena we met trail angel Barb!! She gave us a lift to town, a tour, and McDonalds (I was so hungry)! She even let us shower and do laundry!! She lives in a nice neighborhood where people hang out on their porches and chat. She even took us to the grocery and back to the trail!! Thanks to you and Max, you went above and beyond.


There are fires in the area and trail closures ahead. Thanks to all those firefighters out there on the ground and in the air!

Montana Idaho part 2

Well you really haven’t lived til you have slept on the floor at a truck stop. Yep that happened. The bus left at 5am and stealth camping was not an option with all the truckers and mosquitoes. Greyhound, man, I have no words. Seriously this girl on the bus (who had already been told to stop singing by the bus driver. His words: “this is not American Idol”, too funny) got kicked off the bus for shoplifting, for real.

Had a layover in Salt Lake City (why are people fascinated with the SLC convention center? ) Spent the 6 hour layover laying in the grass, looking real homeless, watching tourist take pictures of the convention center. Back at the bus station I did a happy dance when I found out the rest of our trip would be on this comfortable sprinter van!!!!

Finally arrived in Butte, Montana at 3:15 am, walked 1.7 miles to my motel. What? It’s to early to check in, shocked. Oh well luckily there was an empty couch in the lobby where I took a little nap. I don’t think they really liked that, but hey I got in my room by 10 am! I was in need of some real rest. The next day back on trail headed for Canada…..or so I thought.

To get back on trail where I had gotten off (Idaho not Montana, aka Montanaho) a few hitches were necessary. Seemed simple enough, wrong.
4 hitches and 6 hours later, found myself in nowhere, Montana! By nowhere I mean nowhere near the trail. DOH!! Finally gave up getting to the trailhead and took first ride I could get into town. See the trail goes right through the town of Anaconda, way north of where I wanted to be. So guess who’s southboundING, this girl! Then I am so headed to Canada.


Oh many thanks to the Adventure Camp Anaconda trail society for providing that sweet shed for hikers to crash in, in Anaconda!

Got to catch the eclipse from the Idaho/Montana border. Then had a great day seeing our hiker friends, on trail, we haven’t seen in a month or 500ish miles. They were all headed north while Kelsey and I were headed south!

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