Inspirational Tourist Trap aka TCT

Waking up in my tent I felt the familiar pit in my stomach like before every backcountry hiking trip. But this was kinda different. I can’t do this. I’m not sure I want to do this, what if something goes wrong, breaks, hurts……When did I become this person. Oh yeah it came with my cancer diagnosis. Side effects: Fear and self-doubt.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After my surgery I didn’t do much of anything. What could I do? What was I supposed to do? So I spent days dreaming about getting back to hiking and my life in general. Knowing I needed to start out slow I latched onto an old idea of hiking the Trans Catalina Trail. 

The trail runs along Catalina Island, which is 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. (trail distance 38.5 miles), Planning and getting there is an adventure in itself, and part of why I’ve always put it off. There are reservations for campsites and a 60-90 minute boat ride via the Catalina Express. (oh and if you happen to mess up and book your campsite on the wrong day they charge you $9.00 to cancel! Tourist trap.) After getting thoroughly ripped off it was time to pull together some gear. 

My pack, shoes and sleeping system is alway at the ready, cuz you never know. But I needed to get some new trekking poles and I had to borrow a tent from a friend. I was gonna purchase a new tent but the fearful,doubting voice in my head was all “what if it goes badly, you never backpack again and you’re stuck with a tent you’ll never use again”. I was listening to the voice.

So on Monday I drove up to Dana Point to catch the ferry. By the time I got on the afternoon ferry lugging my heavy pack I was tired and slept the whole boat ride. After a quick bite to eat (two bites of a grilled cheese, I can’t eat much in one setting anymore. This was a concern knowing the calories I’d burn hiking) I walked sweating to the first campsite. Finding my spot quickly, I threw up my tent, crawled in as if I could hide. It was still light out. 

The pit in my stomach only highlighted my lack of appetite. Oh well, I popped my meds (a new addition to my gear list). I packed early/quickly before I talked myself into going right back to the ferry. The climbing started straight away. It really sucked when people started passing me. The voice in my head was singing a different tune “no worries, we have all day”. I drank more water….if I couldn’t bring myself to eat at least I could be hydrated. 

There was a lot of, well, stopping and resting. It’s an exposed trail with endless ups and downs. I wasn’t moving much faster than the first buffalo I saw on a hilltop.  Super happy to finally make my campsite (Backpackers can stay at four campgrounds along the way, each with bathrooms and running water.) I tried to force down a dehydrated meal, but it didn’t go down well. Eventually I just ended up eating ramen with two flavor packs. I needed the salt desperately for the cramps in my legs. 

Sure it’s been awhile since I did a multiday hike. But you would have thought this was my first time. Waking to a thick layer of fog and cool drizzle it dawned on me I didn’t even pack a rain jacket or even long sleeves! But I live in the desert, whats rain? Looking at the elevation for the day I said screw it, popped my meds and I started hiking in the drizzle. The drizzle soon ended but the overcast sky made for a much cooler hike! A very nice ranger gifted me some water, I needed it. Later, at one point I rounded a corner, I came upon two bison one coming right towards me, one lolling on the hillside. I stopped. The buffalo, with huge a head, shaggy beard and sharp horns, stared at me. I took some steps back. There is currently a herd of about 160 on the island. Having hunted bison, back in my hunting phase, I wasn’t too scared.

Expecting to get into Two Harbors after 5, fueled by Skittles I made it by 3pm! Yah me! But I was hella tired and some how missed the campsite by a 1/4 mile.

As I dragged myself to the local store I heard someone call in my direction. Odd. I turned and a you guy approached. He told me he followed me on IG and had hiked the PCT. I rarely meet people like that. Our chat was short, but his kind words and generosity meant so much. Thanks Branden. In an era of diversity inclusion and rasied tensions more people have helped me than tried to hurt me. That has been my outdoor experience.

 I would have love to beach camp at Parson’s Landing, but everyone does and it was full. So I did some eplorative hiking and then beat it back to catch the shuttle boat then hop on the ferry. All in all It is was a tough challenging time but that is how we grow the most. My faith (in my abilities) was not completely restored and many adaptations are necessary to hike in my current state. But I’m not giving up or giving in. The fear, doubt and cancer will not win.

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… 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.

“Feeling Good” – Nina Simone

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

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…………..

Colorado you win…for now.

Soooo, plans have changed, as they do. Left Chama and was in so much snow. We were moving at a snail’s pace, maybe slower without snowshoes. With all the snow we are consistently wearing crampons and even with neoprene socks my feet get wet and numb. Camping at high elevation  (11000 to 12000 feet) is really cold. Only doing about 10 miles a day made the section way longer than expected, so running out of food was a strong possibility.

I knew Colorado would be tough but it kicked my butt. The first day only did 10 miles. Didn’t make it to water source so I had to melt snow. You know how long it takes to melt snow, forever. Being slightly dehydrated I had leg cramps through out the night. Agh.

On the 3rd day out we started out optimistic, but within a mile the post-holing began (taking a step on packed snow, only to hit a soft spot and sink straight down into it). So much so we actually crawled at one point. It takes a lot of energy if you sink in really deep, say up to the hip, just pulling your leg from the hole is a real chore.  A group of guys came by moving at a pretty good clip. We thought we could fall in behind them and at least not have to consult our maps every mile. (the trail is under all that snow so you are constantly checking to see if you are even remotely on trail) However that was about when it started hailing, then snowing, sideways!
Long story short that was enough for me. This was not meant to be torture. Nor did I want to die of hypothermia, know when to say when.  So we hiked the 22 miles back to Chama, New Mexico. That in itself was an experience also as it stormed on us both days returning. I have never been so wet and cold. Kelsey had to talk me through some high current stream crossings (while snapping photos!) Have you every been on a snow bridge? Scary. Hearing the rushing water underneath your feet, praying your next step won’t send you plunging in the icy water.

Back at the Y Motel Ann and Bud took care of us, again! They used to live in Poway, CA!! Thanks for getting us to Pagosa Springs Bud (see ya in August).

So, yea, current plan is to flip up to Wyoming and head north, then back to end in Colorado. Or something like that, the logistics is, well complicated. Let the hitchhiking, bus riding adventure commence!

Slow going

When the weather was warm it was easy to get  up early, hike 20 mile days and stick to a schedule. Then it got cold. (Yes, I realize I will more than likely be cold til, well Wyoming.) Cold mornings mean late starts, short days and low miles. So I am “behind schedule” so to speak. But then plans tend to change daily out here, I should know better.


We had planned to roll in and out of Ghost Ranch, nope. A storm rolled in just as we picked up our winter gear packages. $35.00 campsite in the rain didn’t sound appealing so we hopped a free shuttle to Sante Fe. That didn’t pan out either. The bus dropped us “near” a hotel way out of price range. We must have been a sight, walking in the rain, full packs, carrying axes and boxes! See ya Santa Fe, we hopped the bus back to a town called Espanola. Good place, friendly people and cheap motels. Valerie at the Days Inn even offered a ride 30 miles back to the trail!
Now I like town days (especially when Survivor happens to be on) showers, sleeping in a bed, reorganizing my pack (where do I attach this ice axe? ), and watching it snow from inside! But honestly all that sitting around zaps your trail legs.

Back on trail we were moving pretty slow to start. But then Kelsey got sick and the snow got deeper. So what was a section that was supposed to take 4 days to hike took 6 days.

Then as we were packing up I tore a huge hole in my backpack! I patched it up with duct tape and a sleeping pad patch kit. Hopefully it will hold.

Now I’m not complaining, ok yes I am. It is SO cold and crazy windy. Even had to break out the crampons for the steep section into Chama. Thanks to the warmers from Leslie the nights have been warmer! Hot coffee in the morning is a great warm up too!


On the upside, made it to Colorado!! 800 miles done. Plus so much more wildlife, a lot of elk, turkey’s, (chipmunks) little beasties tried to take my gummy bears, and paw prints I have yet to identify. Over appreciating nature one mile at a time!

Embracing the Brutality- New Mexico

So we left Silver City (did you know Billy the Kid was jailed in Silver City? Geronimo ran in this area too!!) It’s like being in a Western out here! The pine trees smell so good, not like Pinesol or a Yankee candle pine….real pine.

The terrain keeps changing, rolling hills, deep canyons (I did not know that was coming). You can mountain bike these trails, we met a nice couple out for the day.
There was a real steep climb Sunday, twice! What a day. There are many alternate routes on the CDT, it’s very choose your own adventure. We are hiking the Gila alternate route to a place called Doc Campbell’s. After the climb we came all the way down, slowly on loose rock. Finally ended up at the Gila river. Now I was a bit concerned about crossing this river. As reports had put the water depth at chest deep in some areas. FYI, I DO NOT, like river crossings. Just to keep things interesting we had to cross multiple times! The trail basically goes up the river so you cross back and forth sand bar to sand bar. Man, I had to break out my other trekking pole the current was strong. At one point both Kelsey and I are both just standing in waist deep water trying to figure out which way to go! Too funny.

Suffice it to say we didn’t get washed away. Finally found a camp, my shoes are soaked and full of sand. But wait we have cross that river AGAIN the next day! We were in the river from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. I basically hiked a canoe trip. This is the Gila Alternate Route, only cairns, no CDT signs. We hiked up stream on the banks, when there was no bank we crossed to where there was.

I was wet, hot, and beat after only 14 miles. But boy was it fun! I’m better at crossing rivers, a little bit anyway. I kinda liked finding our own way. Then we camped at the hot springs…..that had Baby goats!! There was a real nice hippy couple camped there also. They extended an invitation to come over and drum with them….um, I passed.


Heading out on a 7 day leg next, longest yet. Still haven’t decided which route to take -The High Route or Low One (probably high route I’m over the river right now).

Happy trails!!

And they’re off….

Leaving the border, southern terminus.

It’s now Day 2…..and we are thoroughly scratched up from playing “find the trail.” First day went great, even though it was plenty hot. I was only carrying 1.5 liters of water so I beat to the first water cache about 13 miles then camped about 2 miles after that. Water is heavy, yo. So, I like my Nemo air mattress, not love; only because I’m  concerned about popping it. It miss my Zlite I could just throw down anywhere. Got a good nights rest even with Border Patrol barreling by at about 1am, shining a spot light on my tent.

Kelsey and I started day 2 realizing were off trail. (Kelsey and I met on the PCT, hiked part of the AT together, so it only seemed right we start this challenge off together! ) We had to go through A LOT of brush to get back on trail that morning. I brushed by a cactus, ouch, they were in my shirt and my arm. Think I’ll live. Made it to the second water cache, met Youngblood, he is a young guy hiking alone, and did the PCT last year. We discussed the lack of shade and trail finding difficulties. I got 3.5 liters to get me 20 miles to the next water. I cameled up (drank 1 liter), so I should be fine.


One week out…..

In one week I’ll head off to Lordsburg, New Mexico to start my CDT adventure. I’m not gonna lie I’m a bit anxious. I’ve got a bunch of little things to do….you know pack, unpack, repack….weigh pack for the bjillonth time. Seriously I can’t believe it’s just around the corner.

Last weekend I got to have a Bon Voyage Campout with a bunch of friends! It was great and chilly, we were up near Mt Laguna. But my friends know how to camp so we were all good. Most of us car camped, but there were some hard core tenters! There was smores, champagne, meats and cheeses, music….and hiking both day and night. Even a fire ranger stopped by to personally give us a permit and, of course, have some of our tasty grilled meats (on our not supposed to be there grill!). Thanks Pat for getting it all together!

like they hike
we going hiking!

I’m really gonna miss everyone. Everyone has been SO helpful and supportive. Now I better get back to packing, again.


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.

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!


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

High on a Mountain Top

Went for a great hike this weekend. San Gorgonio 11, 503 feet, the tallest mountain in Southern California. We took the Momyer route up 15 miles of, well up. We had 5 in our group and picked up 3 more all of us camping at the summit.


The first part was steep and the younger crew tore out. Actually we all went at a pretty good clip through the first part, that would catch up to us later. It graded out nicely and the clouds and cool breezes made for great hiking.

The part that got me was the last haul. We had to carry out water about 6 miles to the summit. It was alot as we wouldn’t have water again until three miles down the next morning. Plus there seemed to be numerous false summits.


I so glad we finally made it, and beat. And super happy I was wearing my brace no ankle issues. Now since I left a good portion of my camping gear back in Michigan, I was making due. Borrowed a huge 2 person tent from a friend, thing took up half my backpack. But once I set it up in one of the rock formation wind breaks I was balling mcmansion style! With no puffy jacket I just wore multiple shirts and my super kitty sweatshirt! It got down to 36, brr, but at least it wasn’t super windy as it can be up there.


After enjoying some wine and cheese and catching the sunset I slipped into my sleeping bag. It’s a 20 degree bag so I was toasty in there. But I used a cheap replacement sleeping pad. Don’t do this. Not a good night sleep AT ALL. Luckily the view was amazing. Crawled out of my tent in the middle of the night and enjoyed the bright moon shining on San Jacinto an the city lights of Palm Springs and Hemet. It’s so eerily quiet up there after being in the city.

After a restless (thirsty) night, i woke and made a half cup (last of my water) coco and coffee. Forgot me oatmeal (not that I had water) so I ate two handfuls of peanut M&M’s. It was a 10 miles downhill so I saved my protein bar for later.


We took the Vivian Lake route down. BTW I would recommend this route up its shorter and nicer. There were a ton of people coming up that morning. Chatted wit some nice guys out from Arizona at the water source. They had run into the same Ranger we had the day before. The Ranger was putting the fear in everyone about the fires.


Anyways we made it down in pretty good time. Even after little sleep it was a good hike down. Even got in some trail dance party!!

So I’ve gotten 3 of the six pack of peaka done. San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and Mt San Antonio(Baldy). Just have Mt. Wilson, Cucamonga Peak and San Bernardino to go!