2016 PCT Hike – Southbounders from Mt. Etna to Castle Crags

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Welp…I suppose I should explain my lack of a post.  Largely no real posting in 2016.  I don’t have a great excuse and yes, I missed being here.  Writing.  It’s been a good many months.  Months full of lots of changes.  New religion, new job and new car.  Those of you who have come to know me largely know how big the latter item was for me.  May this new one last at least 16 years.  Not to discount the other two items as they were pretty big as well.

Anywhooo.  We are here for hiking.  Yes, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) again.  I’ve grown quite fond of the left coast hiking routine.  Primarily the nice temps, low humidity and next to zero percent chance of rain in August.  Oddly on day 3 we ran into these weird wet droplets falling from the sky.  Before I could inquire they stopped.  Strange.  My good friend Tom and I have been hiking together for over 20 years with this trip.  We’ve kept up an every other year hiking routine largely since 1998 when he moved out west.  In this time we’ve hiked all of the John Muir Trail, the entire high Sierra section of the PCT including the side trail to the tippy top of the continental United States of America (Mt. Whitney – 14.5K feet) and through the Tahoe region.  This trip we skipped up closer to the Oregon border and headed south to I-5 and Castle Crags where we left Tom’s car for the week.  Full transparency I had little idea where we were going this trip until the morning of – I had wrongly mapped us out on the section south of this area.  An area that had many miles well below 3,000 feet which out west means much warmer temperatures.  Candidly I was worried the hike route was going to stink it up a bit.  A la the 20 mile section crossing farm fields in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail.

Yep.  I was wrong.  While we weren’t hovering around the 10K foot line like we did in the High Sierras, we did manage to hang out around 7-8K feet for the majority of this trip, had incredible views of the surrounding areas inclusive of the 14,200 foot snow capped Mount Shasta (massive mountain both wide and tall), Mt. Lassen, the Trinity Alps and Castle Crags.  All pretty spectacular in their own rights.  The hiking was more aggressive in the early days of our trip (when pack weights were at their most) and smoothed into longer but more gradual ascents and descents in the later days.  The over 3,000 foot descent in the final miles of the trip wasn’t nearly as bad as feared either.

Overall the trip was fantastic.  It’s great to jump right back on the trail with Tom and pick right up where we left off on the last hike.  Standard fare for us after 20 years of doing this is to set a healthy agenda of topics (this year we actually wrote it down – good for my older memory), during times while hiking together (typically late morning or afternoons) we pick a topic and drain it.  We saw some wildlife like yellow jackets (apparently they LOVE salami – mental note for Tom – drop the salami for the next trip), deer, birds, fish and bear.  The food on the trip was our best ever.  Aged gouda cheese, Whole Foods GORP, salmon jerky and the traditional chocolate covered almonds mixed with walnuts were notables.  A healthy variety of bars plus freeze-dried meals for dinner as well.  Best freeze-dried for me:  Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai.  Somehow I walked out with 7 more bars than Tom – no idea how this happens year after year.  Another mental note:  bring 1 bar per day less than Tom on the next hike (saves almost 2lbs in my pack!).  In addition, there’s something amazing about having hours each day to walk and think in nature.  If you haven’t given it a try I highly recommend it.

As always – a big thanks to Cindy (and Debbie) for making it possible for me to get this reset via the woods every other year.  I know I joke about it being in our marriage contract but I think she fully agrees I need this reset.  I’m also grateful that my Dad introduced me to hiking at a young age.  It worked – he now has 2 kids who really enjoy hiking.  Hopefully this Fall we can find a weekend to get out with the kids and Dad.

Click here for a slideshow of the 2016 PCT Hike.

Click here to see what us Sutton’s have been up to in 2016.

WLC Journal #6 – WLC Hacks

Given this isn’t my first WLC “rodeo” I’ll spend my last mandated journal entry providing what I think are “hacks” to make the WLC a little more do-able.  Some of these may fall into the category of obvious.  If so, I blame the 10 minute writing minimum.  I’d also like to note that this lifestyle challenge, journaling, the first of eight in the challenge ended up being a pleasant surprise to me.  I enjoy spending a few minutes each day writing in non-email form.  Make this an email for work and it will sit half-written and open in my Microsoft Outlook for what seems like days before it gets sent.  But I digress…

Today I thought I’d list some of the things I like doing to make the WLC a bit more hospitable.  For you to benefit from or ignore, either way I get a check in the box for journaling.

  • Plan meals in advance – this takes work.  Best part of having Cindy do the WLC is that she’s amazing at this.
  • Plan snacks in advance.  Nuts, raisins, Larabars, dried fruit (unsweetened), real fruit, hard boiled eggs are always on hand.
  • Fruit in water – gives some variety to the endless H2O battle.
  • Set a timer to get up every hour at work and do a minute or two of stretching.  Before sitting back down go refill that water bottle.
  • Fresh almond butter, peanut butter are a great add to many, many things.
  • Ready-now brown rice and/or quinoa in a rice cooker.
  • Park further away or take the long walk into the office.  On tough days 5 minutes of walking into work and 5 minutes out of work can count as your exercise.

Week #1 is always the hardest.  Weeks 2 and 3 are where you start to feel/see some early benefits.  Plus, the WLC gives you some breaks and free cheats to help keep you interested.  You can find me at Brewster’s on my first indulgence token.

What are your favorite hacks?  Tricks to stay ahead of the WLC?  Please share.

 

WLC Journal #5 – Exercise

Exercise on the WLC is not that tricky. Move for 10 minutes and count it as done. When I’m in a non-running mode as I have been the past several weeks (calf strain), I’m forced to get creative. Cindy has introduced to me the power of the exercise video. At first I might have poked some fun at the exerciser-by-video type. Yet I’m hear to publicly confess that I’m now that type. Would I prefer to be running outdoors over watching and following a tape indoors?  Absolutely. 

As a convert, I’m here to say the exercise video space is a good alternative.  Warning, it is also a space filled with many, many alternatives. I fear we may own most of the alternatives. So why do I share this?  Partially to set the truth free. But partially as an opportunity to…to…BUILD A ‘BEST OF’ LIST!!  In order of almost great to great:

  • Piyo – there’s a lady with a name I can’t spell or pronounce and she’s stretch-goodbody flexible. The video will make you work and parts will make you sore. It would be higher on the list if you believed her co-stars of exercise really liked each other. Unfortunately, there’s this creepy feeling that they don’t. 
  • T25 with Sean T –These are good but there are maybe too many videos. You’ll get sore but also wonder how good of a workout it really was. 
  • P90X – old school video that will kick your arse. Truthfully I can only do about 25% of the stuff in these videos but I feel good about nearly master the ‘Ab Ripper X’ video. If this list were based on the best quotes on the videos this on would have easily won. “You love it, but you hate it.”  Plus one of his exercise compadres is named Jason which makes it sound like he’s yelling at me. Personalized torture. 
  • Insanity – if you get through the 60 days, you can be proud of the distance you will have come. I saw the most difference from any of the videos with this one. Unfortunately the high impact nature of these workouts have me thinking they are geared for a generation or two south of mine. And the winner of greatest exercise video we own is (drumroll please!)…
  • T30 Max – another Sean T special. This one hits the sweet spot for time, will make you sore, has a strong mix of cardio plus a few folks scattered about the video taking a break here and there (this always makes me feel better). The goal is to increase your max over the 60 day video program.  

There you have it. My personal ranking complete with my offer for any local readers to borrow all except the last mentioned video.   The last is spoken for at least for the next 40 days. 

WLC Journal #4 – Protein

Four days into the WLC and my biggest challenge in the challenge continues to be eating. Specifically eating enough protein. Cindy is convincing me that this is behind my spate of calf injuries over the past 2-4 years. I think she’s right. 
Here’s the math:  6 foot man of average weight/build needs somewhere between 80-100 grams of protein per day or so the Internet tells me. I get 25-28 from my morning shake but on some days that can be my peak for the day. Yesterday I had a shoddy lunch (read: I missed a full lunch) and ate nuts at a couple of different windows in the afternoon. Then the bean surprise and an apple with real peanut butter for dessert and I may have ended up with 50-60 grams of protein total for the day. Not. Even. Close. 

So, the presenter theory from Cindy is to make a simple dietary adjustment:  eat meat. While a sure fix then that puts me back in the mode of not feeling efficient and as good as I do without the meat. Plus the return to regular stomach issues isn’t something I want to return to anytime soon. 

This leaves me at an interesting point and with the same general conclusion:  I love to run. I REALLY LOVE to run. I like not eating meat. Therefore I need to find protein in more places than I currently am. Simple, right?  Maybe not as much as I thought. 

More fish?  More beans?  More shakes?  Any more ideas?  I’d love to hear them. 

WLC Journal #3 – C is for Challenge (Not Cookie)

I have said it before, the WLC is no lay-up but it does get easier over time. The Challenge is real and comes in many forms. For me, the most challenging of the challenges is eating. It isn’t hard to eat compliant but it can be hard to eat compliant and do so with flavor (note: if I were talking to you from the Food Network I would have said ‘flavor profile’ instead. You’re welcome.). Creams, milks, cheeses and breads really do have a hold of me when it comes to my favorite foods. Not to mention my nemesis, that evil dude sugar. Then there’s the part about not eating meat and the choice/taste curve heads to the bottom right quadrant fast. 

So what does one do to help bring taste back in the WLC?  Plan. That’s what. Here are a few tips and then the best tip of all at the end. 

  • Pesto – pine nuts (pecans or almonds can also work), garlic, salt and olive oil in a food processor
  • Mrs (or is she single?) Dash – there’s a chipotle version of this that’s quite fine
  • Butter – beans and greens are always better sautéed in butter with a pinch of seasoning
  • Texas Pete – goes on almost everything
  • Cinnamon – chopped apples, pecans, butter, dried fruit (no sugar added) and cinnamon sautéed is something special.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes – these make everything better
  • Fresh olives – chop finely with olive oil, salt to make a nice a tapenade 
  • Dates – chop these finely and use where sugar was needed; insane fiber here too. DON’T DISCOUNT THE DATE!
  • Cocoa – add to chopped dates, pecans, vanilla then ball up and roll in coconut; high energy snack and/or dessert
  • Sweet potatoes – purée for pancakes (with coconut flour), add to smoothies or bake and eat with butter and cinnamon

The best tip of all (and no, I’m not too skeert to admit it)?  Pinterest. Search on ‘Whole Life Challenge’ or ‘Whole 30’ to get a good sample of the possibilities. Or you can take a peek at our board here. That’s right, I like Pinterest. Loud and proud baby!

What’s your favorite WLC recipes or kitchen hacks?

WLC Journal #2 – Why WLC?

This is round of three of the Whole Life Challenge (WLC)  for me and by far the most frequent question I get asked is: “Why do you do it?”  Contrary to Cindy’s belief that I truly enjoy removing things from my world regardless of the pain created, the simplest answer is I like how I feel when I’m in the Challenge.  It holds me accountable to do the things I aspire to do on most days anyways.  Exercise, stretch, drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier.  I’m confident when I don’t do one or more of these things I feel notably worse than if I had done them.

My reasons for participating in the WLC have shifted since my first round.  Initially my reason was to dump my ridiculous sugar habit.  Once and for all.  A habit that I know I came into through only the best intended genetics.  Generations of chocolate pies, scratch-made chocolate chip cookies, coconut cakes and even Publix-baked sweets left me a mere hapless victim.  Unleash me into the freedoms of college and where found I could buy and consume frosting by the tubs as reward for a completed paper or exam.  Then see me through marriage and early child-raising where homemade cookies and sweets were reward for running mileage goals met and less sleep than I ever thought imaginable.  While still a side-benefit, detoxing from sugar is no longer my sole focus.  I found after about 2-3 weeks into the first round that I felt really good.  Alert during the slow part of the day.  More rested when I woke up.  More efficient when I worked out.  I can tell whether I had a good day of food or a bad day of food when I wake up each morning.  The difference is stark.

Why do I WLC?  For the feeling.  Sure the challenge is what I like too and truth-be-told, I do like the simplicity that a life with less offerings.  It is probably a big part of the reason why I stopped eating meat.  Being a veggie vastly simplifies eating out in the days of multi-page menus.  The challenge of the WLC is worth exploring a bit more in a different journal entry.  For now, just trust me.  If you work to eat better, drink more water, exercise a little and sleep with higher quality the benefits on how you feel are right around the corner, just past the sugar detox shakes and sweats.

Words That Inspire Me to Act

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Just Do It.  Challenge.  Top that.  Help me.  All words that make me want to do something, better, more.  Two 56-day challenges ago a good friend of mine inspired me to act.  He may not know it but his introduction to me of the Whole Life Challenge (WLC) hit two words near and dear to my action sensors:  Challenge and Accountability.  Both words inspire me want to do something but for differing reasons.

One word hits my inner ego.  The part of my mind that says “don’t lose.”  The part of my mind that says you can’t do anything unless you try it.  This is the part of my mind that competes wildly with self doubt and doesn’t always win.  Such a loss means I stay dormant on the thought, inactive.  Almost hiding from the very thing that inspires me to act.

The other word hits the part of me that gets me moving.  Not exactly peer pressure but maybe a cousin of it.  When I think of always striving to do good I find I sometimes do good.  When I SAY I want to always do good I find it is harder to veer from that goal.  That’s the power of another set of eyes.  I find nothing inspires action in me more.  I’ll admit, there’s probably some first-childism surfacing here that only a therapist could explain.

As I embark on another 56-day journey I find myself more excited about this challenge than the previous two.  Maybe a part of the excitement is a lack of fear.  This time, I know I can do it.  Maybe not the challenge it once was but still a long ways from being a lay-up.  Some of the excitement is in the accountability.  It is the difference between eating 1/2 pound of M&Ms in the nights before the WLC started and eating raisins and cashews for “dessert” the night after the WLC started.  But primarily my excitement stems from the camaraderie with the other folks on the team.  It is fun to see the struggles, surprises and frankly learn more about people you thought you already knew everything (or at least a lot) from simple daily statements shared across the team.  From the challenge I know Alex has an odd affection for the cracker product.  My brother has a wit in writing I never knew existed.  Cindy fears meditating.  Tracy finds sneaky good meals that are compliant.  I look forward to learning what I’ll learn about others this round.

Lastly, a few parting thoughts for those on their first round of the WLC.  The first week is the hardest.  Getting food right takes time, effort and discovery.  Pinterest is your friend (yep, said it publicly).  If you need ideas on compliant meals, snacks, etc. let those who have done this help.  If you find things you like to eat, share it as most of us are still looking for the elusive joy in eating known as variety.  It is alright to fall off the wagon.  In fact, it is inevitable.  Wagons by nature move slow.  Just get back up and jump back on it.