Five More Minutes – Scotty McCreery

 

“Time rolls by the clock don’t stop, wish I had a few more drops
of the good stuff…”

Hiking Estes Park Colorado
Hiking Estes Park Colorado

You might have heard me say I started hiking 4 years ago (long distance anyway). Well I’m getting old and forgetful! This popped up on my Facebook memories (FB you don’t totally suck)! Look at me hiking Estes Park, when I was living in Colorado 10 years ago. Rockin actual hiking boots AND a camo backpack.  You’ve come a long way chardonnay!

That’s me a real OG (outdoorsy girl)! I’ve been “adventuring” for so long it’s become my normal. Normal or not, the memories coming in waves are special and remind me the clock doesn’t stop for anyone. Take in every moment in life or you’ll blink and it’ll all be over.

Nature Therapy: Why The Great Outdoors Is Great For Recovery

Feature Image: Courtesy Pixabay
This guest post was written by Michelle Petersen

In the 19th century, aristocrats and well-to-do members of the upper-middle class flocked to spa towns and health resorts across the western world. From Bath, England, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the Great and the Good pursued wellness by going out into the countryside in search of fresh air, sunlight, flowing water and green space to combat the tyranny of disease. Research is proving them half right.

Spending time in nature boosts immune response, improves the symptoms of depression and lowers blood pressure and stress levels. For the millions of people struggling with addiction, access to a good therapy program that incorporates outdoor activities could make the difference between a successful recovery and relapse.

Green Exercise

Physical activity in the natural environment has been demonstrated to bring about improvements in both short and long-term health outcomes. Studies show that a simple walk in the woods helped patients with ADHD to improve their concentration after only 20 minutes. Just living in an area with abundant parks and woodland can have lasting positive effects on mental health. Japanese research indicates that people who exercise regularly in fresh air and natural green spaces actually extend their lifespan.

A Healing Environment

Researchers are investigating the ways in which our stress responses are mitigated by being in the outdoors. A Japanese team from Chiba University theorized that our bodies evolved to interpret information about plants and streams, not traffic and high-rise buildings, and that we are adapted to relax and heal in pleasant, natural surroundings.

Finland has gone so far as to implement a program of five hours a month of nature experience to help combat their population’s high rates of alcoholism, suicide and depression. South Korea has three official “healing forests” utilized as treatment therapies for maladies as varied as cancer, depression and addiction. They plan to advance the program by adding 34 more in the next two years.

Healthy Changes In Lifestyle

In the U.S., there is a growing demand for experiential therapies to assist patients with their recovery from substance abuse and addiction. Along with traditional approaches, such as counseling and behavioral and nutrition therapies, many hospitals and rehab centers are taking their patients out into nature, with great success. Patients are engaging in myriad physical activities such as rock climbing, kayaking and hiking. These programs focus on strengthening the body and mind with healthful exercise in enriching surroundings. Participants learn teamwork and cooperation while building trust and self-confidence.

Hiking in the woods offers the recovering addict a peaceful environment in which to distract themselves from their problems, while providing them a series of obtainable goals. The next hill, the next tree and the next rock — these are all achievable. As they learn new, natural skills, they improve their mindset and find a new sense of self-worth. In nature, they are able to focus on the task at hand and draw strength from their surroundings. They can clear their minds and renew their commitment to their improved state of health.

Time spent engaged in pleasurable activity outdoors amid the shade of trees and the music of flowing water, encourages our sense of wonder and promotes a feeling of joy. It helps us to connect with nature and improve our health and well-being.

For an addict in recovery, it can also ease the symptoms of withdrawal and foster healthy lifestyle changes and the acquisition of natural skills. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds, and for our overburdened spirits… Remember that Nature is your great restorer.”

About the Author: Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of RecoveryPride, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.

 

The Samples – Could It Be Another Change

So I survived birthday month! Got a few more bumps and bruises but I made it. Managed to camp/hike every weekend except on my actual birthday. To say the least I did all the things. Camping in the Eastern Sierras (it was so beautiful with the fall colors and lakes) to camping at the La Jolla Indian reservation then camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert. The best part was doing it all with friends old and new.

Magical moments in nature is what keeps drawing me back out there. The winding creek under a star filled sky, climbing the same hill over and over, a light rain falling on my tent, avoiding poison oak as I scramble down a mountain while people in onesies laugh and dance the night away.  Disco camping! Ah, yes Youtopia, San Diego’s regional, it was the best year yet, magic on the mountain. While I was hiking the CDT I wrote this poem regarding the burner/thru hiking community, nature can really ignite your creativity.

Finding My Flame

I am only ordinary 
Not special in any way
Not even noticed
As I go on day to day

I went in search
Of something
But the dust made it hard to see
What was truly me

But the voices around me
Said what do you want to be
Confident humble strong
With that
I could not go wrong

From the desert city
To the woods I did flee
There I’d find what eluded me

The path was full of obstacles
Night dark as could be
Yet there was light from
The desert community

A flaming fire
Inspired encouraged
and restored my soul

From sunrise at a fence
To sunset on a mountain
I began to see
What I seek is
Inside of me

 

Now with the month of November kicking off I am reminded of all the things I planned to do but have not. So it is certainly time for me to reignite the flame. Time to start closing out this year and prep for the next.

Blue October – Into The Ocean

It has been a little over a month since I finished my thru hike. You would think after 3 long hikes I would be better at reintegration, but I’m not. Returning to
“regular’ life has not gotten easier. The me I am on trail is different from the me in regular life. The same but different, two sides of the same coin. I long to
be back on the trail because I love the person I am when I’m there. Stronger, more confident, inspired, independent, the stripped down basic beautiful me. If you
are wondering, yes I will be back on the trail. There are miles on the AT that stand between me and the Triple Crown and I want that, for me. If nothing else I’ve
learned not to let anything stand between me and my goals.

Being back in regular life means dealing with all the things. Adulting. There are so many things to do.

Had a lovely welcome back party with friends. (thanks everyone
who came and put up with my absence in the middle of it all!) Still so many people I would like to reconnect with. So much changed while I was away, births, deaths,
engagements, marriages, and situation rearranging. As I moved up the trail life moved on, I knew that it would. I’m catching up, processing and oh my gawd the politics.

My car needed to be repaired (darn little beasties chewed my wires). Posted one message and so many people offered help, thank you. (special thanks Nick for going
out of his way to repair my janky car and deal with my crazy that day, love you) I needed to find a place to live and work. I am deeply grateful to my friends for
taking me into their homes when I return. I’m finally getting some work but the commute makes me question my sanity.

TRAFFIC
Yeah…..back to work!!!

There are also the internet things to do. You might have noticed I have posted in a while. Some posts I only wrote half of and never finished, like my gear review.
Those awesome ladies over at HLAW (Hike Like a Woman) gave some great advice about blogging. That’s when I realized I really need to redo my blog too! Honestly it all
got a bit overwhelming for a bit. So when some friends invited to hike the Eastern Sierras with them I was like, “Yes, yes, and yes!!”

PSA: Prolonged contact with nature can promote positive mental health.

Four days in the Eastern Sierras, just what the doctor ordered. Short hikes to beautiful lakes, fall colors, laughter and marshmallows around a campfire.

Can’t think of a better way to kick of birthday month! Friends with birthdays (thanks Leslie including me in your celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, great time! All this time in California and I’m only just now seeing the Hollywood sign!)

Oh and MY BIRTHDAY! This being my 46th trip around the Sun, a time of reflection is in order. 20, heck 10 years ago I never would have imagined this is where I would
be in life. Even with all the craziness I love what my life has become. It’s not for everybody, but its mine.

elsyew

Winter Wonderland

This past weekend I got to go play in the mountains…..snow covered mountains! Joining some friends from Minnesota we met up in Denver and headed out to Steamboat Springs! If you like to ski (or snowboard) and you haven’t been to Steamboat…..what are you waiting for. It’s been almost 10 years since my last trip there. Honestly I have only skied a handful of times since I moved to California. So to say the least I was a bit rusty. Luckily after a few warm up runs on Thursday Night Ski I was just fine!

winter

Did I mention the snow!? It snowed everyday we were there except one. This made for some great morning skiing and some visibility issues when it got windy. I went with three guys that ski well and often. So we hit it early and hard, there was minimal lollygagging in the lodge. Everything was super full anyway with Winter Wondergrass going on (and it was sold out). What’s Winter Wondergrass…..hmm…bluegrass bands and craft beer festival. I didn’t hear a single band but I did get a few drinks with the locals!

steamboat

We skied as a group in the mornings, that was fun. I chased the boys down black diamonds on fresh legs then broke off in the afternoon to ski longer runs. I really like the longer runs rather than repeatedly flying down the mountain to sit on a chair lift. Steamboat has great long runs, by the time you get to the base your feeling it!

The CDT comes pretty close to Steamboat, I’ll probably resupply there. I couldn’t help but wonder how much of that snow will still be there when I hike through!

 

Have wine will hike

From time to time people ask me about the name chardonnay. I give people the side eye who ask if it’s my real name. No. It’s a nickname, cycling, playa and trail name. Typically I only use my given name at work. I started using the name back when I was cycling, I liked carrying Chardonnay on my bike for adult beverage stops. When I went to TTITD it just felt right to use chardonnay as my playa name. When I found out about trail names I was certain what mine would be. And yes it is chardonnay with a small c!

Did you know Chardonnay is the most diverse-and most planted-white wine grape in the world? Full bodied, bold, beautifully crafted and quite mature…..I identify with all those descriptors. See chardonnay is more than a nick/trail name, it’s my alter ego, a better version of me.

wine-register
Signing the register……Chardonnay and mashed potatoes!

When I hike I pack in (and out) Chardonnay in cartons. I’ve even had it shipped in a mail drop (thanks Leslie) to celebrate at the PCT northern terminus.  Bandit wines and Wine Cube (easy to find at Target) are great for hiking, they are lightweight and can be recycled. They also have Merlot (what up Brenda) and Cabernet Sauvignon which are great for day hiking and camping. But when I thru hike I tend towards Chardonnay. Pack up some cheese and Nut Thins crackers and boom, instant motivation to get to camp!

Even got to do some wine tasting on the Appalachian Trail (Delaware Water Gap). Checkout The Renegade Winery out of Stroudsburg, Pennslyvania great wine, good people

chardonnay everyday……happy trails!

 

20160820_181853_resized
Chardonnay in Gatorade bottle…….Babybels and crackers, classy.

A change is gonna come

Hey everyone!! I know it has been awhile since my last post. I finally got back home to California and needed to get a job ASAP. I have a very long to do list, car registration, place to live, find 2nd job and still maintain a social life. Don’t even get me started on the CDT to do list, so-many-details. So I’ve been busy with life.

I have written a couple of posts, they are hanging out in drafts….I keep changing my mind, I’m wishy washy like that. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of writing a post on race & diversity. I just don’t know, one must choose their words carefully when dealing with said topic. That and everyone is hypersensitive right now. People have asked about being a solo black female on the trail. With almost 4000 miles of hiking under my shoes, I have to say race has not been an issue.

My whole life I’ve participated in activities that were mostly white. That’s just my life. From hockey cheer-leading (yes we cheered on the ice, I get that question so often)to skiing to road biking. I’ve never let participants race determine if I was gonna give something a try or deter me.

Of course I’d love for more African Americans to experience the joys of being in nature. It’s good for both mental and physical health…and just plain fun. I’d also love to see more representation in ads and magazines. But until that happens. Make A Plan and go for it! (I’m talking to you people of color) Every camp out doesn’t have to be a epic adventure, maybe just an over night. Represent! Take a buddy with you. Please don’t wait until you see someone who looks like you before decide to go. Just go. You can do it. African American clothing designers, how about some hiking gear! I enjoy answering backpacking/hiking/camping questions, lay them on me.  I’ve had this blog since what, 2014  and still people are like ‘I couldn’t find any African American hikers’. I was inspired to thru hike by just reading some blogs by some tough ladies who tackled many a trails. They were all white btw.

On the PCT I hiked with some great…. people (yes mostly white people). We hiked and talked about our families, hopes, dreams and silly things. We all want the same things, but most importantly we talked, that’s where it starts. See when it comes to race on the trail…..let me put it this way. When you are cold, got miles to go, scared, and trying not to slide off the side of a snowy mountain; your trail buddies skin color isn’t really important. You just make it happen….together.

 

Logistics

So flying over the length of the PCT to get to the AT was an interesting route. Stirred up a lot of emotions reflecting on that journey.

In a year so much has changed but so much is the same. Looking forward to a couple of months of trail therapy. The trail is a good place to work through some “stuff”. Talk it out with a fellow hiker you may never see again, talk it out with yourself as you struggle up a mountain. Sing it out while listening to Pearl Jam on a summit! Experience is wasted if you don’t learn or grow from it.

I performed a poem for the XSL Poetry Slam/Cookoff last weekend.  It was a great lesson in facing my fears and speakin from the heart. Nervously i stepped on the stage…I had to start over once…but when looked into the crowd…. (no I did not picture them in their undies, granted that might be fun ..wait i digress), what I saw in that crowd was friends wanting me to succeed!

Man that was just was the confidence builder I needed. (Oh and the bacon/mac&cheese, egg rolls, specialty drinks & desserts….well I’m about to live on ramen for 4 months…. that was the bomb..all of it !) I’ve said it before but my friends are crazy talented, generous, and supportive. I am one lucky badass hiker.

**special shout out**
Thank you Dan & Kimmie for watchin my wheels at the last minute!  This trail I got Dr. Bronners soap, hand sanitizer, coconut oil……I’m ready, AT bring it!

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. -SEH

Well if you haven’t heard (where have you been?) I’m off on another thru hiking adventure! This time I’m tackling the Appalachian Trail 2200 miles, through 14 States -Georgia to Maine. Watch out East coast I’m coming for ya! I’ve given my work notice and fly out of San Diego on April 13th hope to see you before I go!
I’ve planned, read and researched my little heart out so now it’s just putting one foot in front of the other. The PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) tested me emotionally, physically, and mentally and the AT will as well I’m sure.
The last weeks of preparation have been an emotional rollercoaster. The hurt and loss I let wash over me like a tidal wave. Then I surfaced and let it all go, buoyed by the encouragement and support of my friends and family. Oh the feels. Lets just say the excitement of starting a new journey and the sadness of leaving everyone behind can be so overwhelming.
Spending time with close friends before I leave has saved my sanity, for reelz. Thanks for dancing in the desert with me, watching the Sun/Moon rise and set, Mimosa brunches, hikes, Survivor nights, all the hugs, laughing til my gut hurt, loong phone calls, and so much more.
After completing the PCT I was compelled to learn/dream/live/do more. (lord knows I’m tryin) I even gave in to identifying reasons for thru-hiking so I can keep them in the forefront of my mind. You know when my feet hurt. Here’s some:
-If you can Inspire just one person…… do it!
-To gain courage, perseverance and sweet hiker legs
-To learn to be patient, flexible and less afraid of new things, face the fears.
-Growing as a hiker but also as a person.
Thank you (yes you!) for being part of my story this next chapter should be a real page-turner! Send Good Vibes my way, mkay, and follow me on my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail 2016 this should be good. Much luv.
(I will try to keep y’all updated, but my tech skills in the woods are shotty at best, don’t judge, kisses.)