Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hex Tarp Set Up!

Check them out for yourself!
I love the new Hex Tarp!
Doesn't it look comfy?
Look at all that extra coverage!

Awesome location!

I can’t believe the gorgeous weather here on Vancouver Island in February! This morning I headed over to the park with my Hennessy Hammock to try out my new Hex Tarp.  I ended up spending most of the day there just hanging out and enjoying my hammock. The new tarp is huge compared to the original tarp that the hammock came with. I am impressed with how many options I have to set it up. I can hang it above my hammock or attach it to the ridge line (like the original tarp). I like the little pockets built in to store the guy lines or tarp cords when they aren’t being used. It’s bigger than I expected and gives me full protection from the wind and rain with enough extra space under the tarp for me to spread out all of my things. I can use it to give me more privacy or set the tarp up more like an awning. I love it! Thank you Hennessy Hammock! 

I do have a few decisions to make regarding what I will bring with me on the PCT. The original tarp was 11oz the new tarp is 18oz. I’m hoping to shave weight a little bit to make up the difference. In the past I have used and carried two pairs of snakeskins, one for my hammock and one for my tarp. Snakeskins weigh 2oz per pair and make setting up, taking down and packing the hammock easier. When I packed up my gear this afternoon I put my hammock and tarp in one set of snakeskins. It fit perfectly and I can save 2oz if I leave a pair of snakeskins at home. I can save 4oz (a quarter of a pound) if I leave both sets of snakeskins at home and just cram everything into my pack but I’m not sure I can handle an unorganized pack and untangling a mess every night when I’m exhausted and just want to crash in my comfy hammock. I weighed one of the original Hennessy Hammock bags that the hammock arrived in and it came in at under an ounce. Maybe I should use the bag instead? I am still thinking about it. I like the simplicity of the snakeskins and am used to using them. I may go out on a few overnights soon without the snakeskins and see how I feel about it.

I do have a video in the works about my hammock but for now I will just leave you with a few pictures from earlier today. If you have any questions you want answered in the upcoming video please comment below and I will make sure I cover it.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Learning to Follow Your Dreams

What does your heart tell you to do? Do you listen to it? What are you passionate about? How often do you do the things you are passionate about? 

For years I spent my life doing the things I thought I ought to do. I always chose the responsible route, the safe way. Then something happened that threw me for such a loop that it made me rethink everything I had ever learned. My kids were still young enough that I was responsible for them and I was still too chicken to take any risks that might jeopardize their well being. But that was the beginning of a change for me. When the kids were in their teens I started doing things for myself. Things I had always wanted to do but put off for a better time. Things that had never been a priority because they had always been trumped by responsibility or obligation. Things that may have been a possibility back then but I didn’t entertain the thought for something that might be just for me.  I didn’t think it was appropriate. I thought it was selfish to do something for myself when there were so many other people around me who needed help. I continuously put my wants, needs, goals and dreams on the backburner.

I started with something simple and believe it or not still practical as I didn’t have a vehicle at the time. I got my motorcycle license and bought a bike. I didn’t realize it but later on I learned that I had inspired a few other women and gave them courage by my actions. In the meantime my kids got their motorcycle licenses too and a short time later my son and I went on a road trip to the east coast of Canada. This was a trip for me and we had a blast! This time I started getting feedback from co-workers, friends and even just acquaintances that I barely knew. I got comments that ranged from “oh, I wish I could do that,” or “I have always wanted to do that,” to “Wow, that’s gutsy,” “I would never have the courage to do that.”  A few girls I knew went out and got their bike licenses and bikes that year and one has since gone on a few solo bike trips halfway around the country. I didn’t know it at the time but later they said I had inspired them. They said they had always wanted a bike but never actually thought about getting one until they saw me and my bike going places and doing the things they had dreamed about. Funny when you think about it, me doing something I had always wanted to do (for myself) and it inspired other people. Wow! 

Shortly after I started planning an Appalachian Trail thruhike. It was something I had wanted to do since the day I had found out the trail even existed but back then my kids were too young to even consider it.  When my youngest left for university that was my year to take the risks I had never before felt comfortable to take. Even then I played it safe taking a six month leave of absence rather than quit my job. I had purchased all of the gear I would need ahead of time and had saved up money. When you think about it, I wasn’t really even risking anything. 

While I hiked I kept an online journal where friends, family, coworkers and total strangers could follow along on my journey. I knew thousands were reading it but I was too busy hiking and enjoying myself to think about it too much. A couple of times during my hike I was approached by total strangers who had been reading my journal. They were now planning day hikes in hopes of a future thruhike. At the time I was a bit flattered but mostly embarrassed. I was just out there hiking doing what I wanted to do.  I didn’t see myself as an inspiration to anyone and it felt dishonest to accept their thanks. After returning home and going back to work I had so many people tell me how much courage I had given them just by living out my dreams. I couldn’t believe it! Total strangers emailed me to say they were now planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail and thanking me for allowing them to follow my adventure. They were asking me for advise. Acquaintances I barely knew told me how they read my journal and were so surprised that I had made it the whole way. They claimed it helped them to realize how they could reach their goals too.  They all had different goals! Some lost weight and got in shape, one decided to take up running, some of them started solo camping trips and two of them went on to hike the Appalachian Trail! I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I am in any way trying to take credit for their achievements but I am trying to show how the actions that I thought were just for myself were not.

It turns out that following  my heart and trying to live out my dreams isn’t just for me. I was wrong to think it was selfish. Instead it has helped so many other people have the courage to listen to that still, small voice inside them and act on it! 

I am sure that I was just one of many of the people who motivated and inspired those people I mentioned earlier. There have been lots of people in my life who have inspired or motivated me and yet for some reason I didn’t stop to think that maybe they were just following their goals and dreams. Maybe by following our dreams we are living out our purpose in life and in that way helping the people around us in the best possible way that we can. All I know for sure is that since that time every single time I have followed through on one of my own personal goals or dreams it has turned out to benefit more than just me. I will go further and say that for every security (real or imagined) that I have given up to live out my dreams I have helped someone else feel more secure in making the decision to follow their own dreams. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Do What You Love

I can’t believe a whole month has gone by already this year. I’m still reminiscing over the past year, the last big hike and all of the places we’ve been. Combine that with an interesting conversation with an old friend and a drive to pick up Michael at an absolutely beautiful location along the water in Youbou, BC and my thoughts turn to the incredible opportunities we’ve had since we moved into our bus!

We took a huge risk leaving stable jobs to live this lifestyle. Although I was confident it would turn out, I know that Michael was a little skeptical. He isn’t skeptical anymore! When we have had to pick up jobs for money we have worked at and stayed at some of the most amazing places. Who would have thought that downsizing and moving into a short bus would result in so many jobs on million dollar properties! Seriously! Michael is just finishing up a job where he can fish  off a private dock at lunch with a beer in his hand! Over the summer we were invited to work on several private island “cottages” painting or doing maintenance while the owners were away. We could even bring our dogs! And there is the waterfront estate just outside of Huntsville where we were asked to stay for a week and do simple landscaping and  stain a deck. All of these experiences would never have come our way with the traditional nine to five jobs. 

This isn’t to brag in any way but to point out the opportunities that arrive when you  give up the safe and socially accepted thing to do and try to live out your dreams. I’m also not suggesting everyone go out and quit their jobs but for us this is working out way better than we even imagined. The only time in this past year that I questioned things is when I was trying to play if safe instead of doing what I loved. Lesson learned. This year will be spent doing what I love!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Huge Announcement!

This was my first Hennessy Hammock.

It’s big, huge announcement day! Finally! It feels like I have been waiting for this day forever but the reality is it has only been two weeks! 

Gear choices are extremely important when you are planning on being out in the wild for months at a time. Hikers literally stay alive with the help of the gear they choose to carry. On top of that we try to keep our packs as light as possible and carry only the bare essentials of what we need to stay alive. I am sure there are many great gear companies out there who make good gear but there are only a few I would  feel comfortable recommending based on my own personal experience as well as what I have seen on the trail. The items I choose to carry are all items that I am willing to risk my life with. Items that will keep me protected, warm, safe from the elements. Basically items that will keep me alive.

A few weeks ago I sent out a request to a few select companies whose gear I would love to represent. I didn’t get my hopes up because I know that even small cottage companies get thousands of sponsorship requests per year.
You can imagine how excited I was when my all time favourite company responded right away with a yes! I am a trail ambassador now! Hennessy Hammock is sponsoring me! I am so honoured to have been chosen to represent them. I first used one of their hammocks when I thruhiked the Appalachian Trail and loved  everything about it. I loved how comfortable I was every night. I loved how I was up off the ground especially on all those rainy nights and only had to deal with a wet tarp in the morning. I loved how easy it was to find a spot to hang not having to search for flat ground. I loved how I could use the natural landscape and set up my hammock in the best spot to keep me out of the wind and rain while others had to set up out in he worst spot because they needed a flat space. I can go on and on. Trust me, I can. 

The funny thing is that I already have a Hennessy Hammock that is in excellent condition. I don’t need a new hammock and I am  not a wasteful person.  I will be hiking with the Explorer Ultralite Asym Classic Hennessy Hammock that I already own (I will talk more about this specific hammock in the future). Instead of a new hammock that I don’t need Hennessy Hammock is sending me the upgraded tarp that I had wanted for this hike! Thanks you James Hennessy from Hennessy Hammock!

Please check out the Hennessy Hammock website and feel free to send me any questions you have about their products in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What does a hike, a bus and a minimalistic lifestyle have in common?

When I thruhiked the Appalachian Trail I kept a journal over at Actually for the decade prior to hiking I read other people’s journals on this site and really that’s what inspired me to hike in the first place. Anyway, now that I am getting ready for another hike I can’t help but think back to that hike and how awesome it was. This was one of my last posts from that journal. I originally wrote it on October 1, 2013. 

“I told myself that I wouldn't be one of those people who keep writing posts after the trail and that I would make only one more post a month after I got home but it's so hard to break the habit. I think about the trail everyday and even if I didn't my body would remind me of the trail. I am still sore and hungry all the time (pretty sure Melkie is too because he has already gained all his weight back). It is so hard being back "in the real world," I definitely feel like I've lost something by coming home. I liked my life before the trail, now I'm not so sure. There was a bumper sticker on Miss Janet's van that read "The AT ruined me" and I truly think it did. My life will never be the same. No, I'm not depressed (although that does happen to a lot of thruhikers when they return home), I still go to work everyday with a smile on my face but I realize that on the trail I had a total sense of freedom that disappeared the minute I came home. It feels weird to walk downtown and have people walk by me without a hello or acknowledgement. It felt so normal to talk to everyone I met on the trail and now that I am back it feels so abnormal. Every week on the trail there would be some random act of kindness and I am sure it happens here too, it's just not as noticeable here. I miss my trail friends, I didn't have to explain anything to them because wherever I was on the trail, they were at the same place and had gone through the exact same things. And I had never realized before how much we are marketed to but since I have been back the advertisements and commercials have been driving me crazy telling me I need plastic surgery or teeth whitening to succeed in life. Whatever! And that's another thing, on the trail I felt so beautiful and so happy and more myself than I had ever been. I felt strong, like I could conquer the world (even when my feet were killing me and my body was falling apart I felt so strong)! Everyone around me was just as beautiful and just as strong and infinitely happy even though we weren't wearing make up or deodorant or even brushing our hair. We looked and felt amazing! I remember one day when it was raining and I was totally drenched and dirty, Hobo took a picture of me (he said I reminded him of an old ragamuffin doll his daughter used to have). It's one of my favourite pictures, you can't tell that I was wet and dirty and totally worn out all you can see is how happy I was from my bright shiny eyes and my big silly grin! Since I've been back to the land of mirrors (on the trail I might see a mirror once or twice a week at most) I am reminded of imperfections daily (if not hourly) that I hadn't even thought of the whole time I was away. Was it because I was far away from anyone who would care what I look like (let's face it I wore cut off pj's for at least a month) or is there an unrealistic pressure society puts on us to keep up appearances. It was even more noticeable when my beautiful daughter came home for reading week and spent hours in front of the mirror with all kinds of products for her face and hair. Do we really need all this? Do we need any of it? And the stuff! Why do we have so much stuff! We carried everything we needed on our backs and I admit that it felt amazing to come into towns and enjoy so much luxury but I can't believe how overwhelmed I felt the other day in a department store. Why are there so many choices, I ended up leaving not even buying the few items I needed. Friends and co-workers have started Christmas shopping already and sometimes it's hard to bite my tongue when they speak of all the stuff they need to get for Christmas and the money problems they have. It seems like everyone I know at home is stressed out, was this what I was like before I left? Is this what I will return to? While I was away I noticed some of this when I would call home and hear a stressed out voice on the other end of the line or when all I would hear about is problems when I called home but I find it so hard to believe that I was like this or that I will ever be okay with living like this again. I have experienced total freedom and peace. I remember someone once said that thru hikers were adrenaline junkies who couldn't wait for the next peak or thrill and that I would understand when it was over and I was craving for the next long trail but I'm thinking it is the beauty and peacefulness that has me addicted and the total freedom to be me that I want to somehow get back. I'm not opposed to hiking another long trail but I would much rather try to figure out how to live my life here with the same freedom and peacefulness and beauty that I felt on the trail. What can I do to avoid this money hungry, perfection seeking stressed out society? It's pretty unrealistic to think I can just go back to the woods maybe the AT has ruined me! Good night world!”

Well, that was back then. It’s so hard to believe how much my life has changed in these past four years! I quit the job, got rid of any obligations I had and moved onto a short bus.I am so fortunate that my spouse who didn’t hike with me was willing to adapt his life so much. We travel around barely a part of “normal” society. It’s not quite the same as the freedom I felt on the trail and we do have to stop and work when our funds get low but it is freedom! And it is peaceful! I know now that I will never return to that stressed out segment of society that has to do everything a certain way. I will never feel that I have to do things out of obligation again. Helping people because I want to is so much nicer than helping someone because I felt obligated to. And I seem more willing to help anyone I meet now. I’m less skeptical and I think more understanding of others.

I wonder how different I will be after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail? 

Monday, January 29, 2018

How to Leave No Trace

This is not my picture.
I am sharing this word for word because I think it’s important. Not just on the Pacific Crest Trail but wherever you are. This past year I have seen so much litter along the trails I hiked. I often found gear or clothing items left behind. On one of my hikes with a friend I was surprised when she thought it was acceptable to pee right near a water source and that started a whole conversation about other ways to leave no trace that she had never heard of. This is for anyone who maybe isn’t aware  and honestly doesn’t know what they can do to help keep our land undisturbed. This is directly from the PAcific Crest Trail Association.

“Right now make the decision to travel lightly on the land and practice Leave No Trace principles. You can protect the environment, wildlife and the experience of others.” 

Top 5 Leave No Trace Focus Areas for the PCT in 2018

Don’t start a wildfire. Campfires are banned in nearly all of Southern California. And, they’re likely to be banned elsewhere from the middle of the summer to the end of the trail season. This is issue #1 for us. If it’s legal and appropriate to have a fire, ALWAYS drown it with water when you leave it.  Keep it small. Did not build new fire rings or have a fire in a location that has not previously had one. It’s imperative that you fully extinguish your campfires before you go to bed. Many forest fires have been started by backpacker’s campfires. Your fire must be doused with water and cold to the touch before you leave it unattended. You may be held liable for the cost of fighting a fire that you started. It is trail users’ responsibility to get up to date fire restrictions for the area of the PCT they are traveling through. It is imperative that trail users abide by these current restrictions to reduce the potential for wildfire.”

“Don’t be disgusting when going poop. Go poop far, far away from campsites, water sources and the trail. Carry out your toilet paper. If you only walk a short distance away from camp, a steam or the trail - or if you lazily dig a shallow hole - that’s a problem. Do this work properly to protect the trail and the experience it provides. We hear a lot of complaints about this.”
“Dispose of waste a minimum of 200 feet from water sources, campsites and the trail. Bury waste in soil at least 6 inches deep.
Do not just cover waste with a rock!
Pee on the ground rather than plants.

When choosing a place to sleep, find an existing and appropriate campsite. You’ll get to see a lot of camp spots that are visible from and far too close the the PCT or water. Go further. There are many wonderful existing sites further away from the trail.

Protect water quality by never washing yourself, your clothing or your dishes in springs, lakes and streams. Thousands of people will drink from these places after you leave. Your sweat, sunscreen, insect repellant, and the germs you carry are bad for everyone else. They’re also bad for the environment. Carry water in a pot or dromedary bag away from the water source to clean yourself. Stay away from fragile riparian areas. Backpackers are contributing to the mass die off of amphibians and other aquatic life.”

Be considerate and low impact with your relationships with others. Our friends in trail towns have been helping the PCTers for decades. It’s their home and you are their guest. Give more than you expect to receive. Be an ambassador for the trail. In the backcountry, respect other people by giving them space. Take your breaks off the trail and don’t assume everyone is happy to share their tent spot. Use your smartphone privately. Use headphones instead of speakers. Take calls and text messages away from others.”

There are more Leave No Trace principles. Please take the time to learn them even if you never plan to hike the PCT. These principles can be used anywhere. If you have any questions (even if you think they are silly) please ask me anyway. You can leave a comment below and I will get back to you. If you want to know more about LNT leave me a comment and I will find a few links or videos to watch. This is for our future! We need to preserve these amazing wild spaces for our grandkids. Thank you for taking the time to read and learn about this, it is important to me.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

We Carry our Fears

This was taken a year ago inside the bus.
This was taken while hiking the Appalachian Trail.


This is a term we hear in the hiking community a lot but I think it applies at home or on a bus (as in our case). When I first started hiking the Appalachian Trail I had at least five pounds of extra stuff that I thought I needed. As time went on I slowly got rid of extra pieces of equipment with each town stop. I can remember somewhere around the five hundred mile mark being at the laundromat washing our stinky hiker clothes and going through the stuff in my backpack. Hikers around me were laughing at some of the extra stuff I had carried up steep mountains for five hundred miles and never once used!  At that point I knew they were right and ditched anything that I hadn’t needed so far along the way. It seems to be the same with our everyday life too. How much extra stuff do you own? When we first moved on the bus we both downsized quite a bit. I thought we had done well and only kept what we needed. But as time went on I was continuously getting rid of stuff we just hadn’t used yet. Taking all of our stuff out of the bus to move the furniture around has been the equivalent of that laundromat visit at five hundred miles on the trail. I can’t believe all of the extra stuff we have carted across the country! I bet our gas mileage would have been better it I had ditched it 3500km ago! 

I guess it is a process. Right now as I prepare for a Pacific Crest Trail hike gear choices are on my mind a lot. I know that I won’t be starting out with five pounds of extra gear but I bet that even after hiking as much as I have there will be a few extra unneeded items that start with me. Why? Why do you think that is? 

When I talk to friends about this hike, they ask questions that sound crazy to me. “Do you have a gun?” “What weapons will you carry?” “Aren’t you taking more clothes than that?” From their perspective, they wouldn’t feel safe without a gun or a weapon or extra clothing. They would be willing to carry extra because it would make them feel safe. I did the same when I started the Appalachian Trail. The question is, what are my fears now? What am I choosing to put in my pack that  is just based on fear and not a necessity? What is in my bus right now that is based on fear and not reality?

The reality is that we as humans need very little to survive. Access to clean water, food (and not as much food as you think), a very basic shelter and a way to keep warm. Not much more than that. There are hikers who have sub five pound packs and hike crazy, long distances. There are vagabonds/ nomads who live their lives with what they can easily carry. 

I’m not suggesting that we go to these extremes. I will be carrying a few luxury items in my backpack (phone, battery bank, solar panel charger to name a few)  because I want to document my journey and I enjoy keeping in touch with friends and family. On my bus right now we also have luxury items. Things we both enjoy and want to keep. Tools, dremels and paints to create things come to mind but I know there are more. I want to eliminate the needless things. I want to eliminate anything I carry out of fear. What do you carry out of fear?