Woke up early this morning to see Christof start his ultra run of the Oregon Desert Trail. It will be fun to follow his track over the next few weeks. I may even see him in the Owyhee when I’m out there not running 40+ miles a day.


Hmmm, my gear pile seems to be getting big. Hiking and packrafting adds up.


It doesn’t help that I’m carrying 7 days of food to start.



Screw it, I’m gonna ski Colorado if I have to

The major hurdle for northbound thru-hikers on the CDT pivots on snow levels in Southern Colorado. This is a major point of stress, and rightly so. Stories of thigh-deep post-holing for miles (a veritable swimming pool of spring snow) may sound sweet if you are a skier, but as a backpacker intent on making it to Canada before NEW snow falls on THOSE mountains, anything that slows your pace down to 1 mile an hour deserves the panic. Just ask anyone intent on heading out on the CDT what their snow plan is, and see the wild look that comes into their eyes. It’s a real fear.

My good friend Speedstick had EPIC snow in 2011, her stories made me think...

My good friend Speedstick had EPIC snow in 2011, her stories made me think…

Since moving to Bend, and taking up several new outdoor sports, backcountry touring has been one of the most enjoyable ways Kirk and I spend time outside. We’re not talking about skiing sick lines off of Broken Top or South Sister, but traveling long distances over snow. Really, it’s backpacking…in winter.

Here we are camping on LaConte Crater (think the volcanic cone on the PCT right at South Sister) in JULY 2011.

Here we are camping on LaConte Crater (…think the volcanic cone on the PCT right by South Sister) in JULY one year.

2010 was a low snow pack was much heaver as we hiked half way into Tilly Jane hut on the east side of Mt. Hood.

2010 was a low snow year…we hiked half way into Tilly Jane hut on the east side of Mt. Hood before the skis went on.

So Kirk and I got to thinking after hearing our friend’s horror stories (or lack there-of because they skipped around the heavy snow sections) about these “spring skiing” conditions on the CDT. Spring skiing is some of the best skiing out there! The snow pack is relatively stable, the air warm, the sky blue, and the snow slushy in the mornings, icy at night. I feel pretty comfortable in those conditions.

And then Kirk, ever the searcher of cool experiences and amazing adventures, commented that he had seen shoe bindings made for polar expeditions that would probably work if I wanted to ski some of Colorado. What!!?!


Needless to say I liked his idea, and we decided that some old Atomic Rainier metal-edge touring skis that he had were light, and would work well for the job.

So now to make the binding.

Now please don’t think I’m any sort of McGyver type here. This is all Kirk. I would still be in snowshoes if it wasn’t for this man. He can make anything, and I think we are a pretty damn good team.


He started with a cardboard template.


Now for the webbing and such…


Yep, yep, a little more this way…back an inch…


Now for the plastic.


Ok, yep, this is coming together.


Let add the shoe!


Damn, that Oboz Luna looks good in there, oh and hey, nice socks!

Things came together over the past 4 months. Some of that time was spent sitting on the couch talking about the idea of how great these would be if they worked, but for practicality, I was eager to try them, could this really work?

Cut to this weekend.

Kirk finished up the bindings  on Saturday and mounted them on the Atomics. We headed to Dutchman Sno Park for another amazingly clear “spring” day in Central Oregon.


First ski!

renee ski binding

I hiked in a ways before putting the skis on (you know…simulating real world conditions!!) Really, how will these skis carry on the back of my pack?? Verdict: very well indeed. The two skis together weigh just over 4 pounds.




I discover my limiting factor will be the strength of my ankles.

All in all a great first run. We started to ski into some more varied terrain, but after falling a few times it sunk in: I was not in my plastic touring boots, I was in low-top trail shoes (no ankle support).  I think these shoes will be perfect if I have a deep snowy section of less than a week. If it happens that there is a blizzard Armageddon in Colorado between now and June, and I think I’ll need the skis more than a week or two, I would get high-top hiking boots instead for the extra ankle support. That, however, is unlikely.


Kirk went for it though. Whenever we are out touring he’s always climbing to get in some short runs.


Oh! Maybe some air?

On the ski back we took off layers and again bemoaned the fact that this was the winter that winter didn’t happen, all the while pretty happy to soak up the warm sun on a beautiful day.


Ahhhh, life.

And here’s a short video I put together of the ski.

Continental Divide Trail Coalition Fundraiser in Bend March 12

After the great suggestion from Brenda and Candace at Nevado Mountain Adventures, I’ve decided to hold a fundraiser for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition in Bend before I leave for the hike.

Join me and three other bad-ass local ladies who have already thru-hiked the CDT at Patagonia @ Bend, 1000 NW Wall St., on Thursday, March 12 at 7pm to learn more about the trail, raise funds for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, enter the gear raffle, and drink free beer. (Below is the press release)

badass ladies

As the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s first Trail Ambassador, Renee will share the story of the organization’s mission to complete and protect America’s wildest and most remote long distance trail along the backbone of the Continental Divide. Learn about the youngest and longest of the “Triple Crown” trails: a path that stretches from Mexico to Canada and passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The trail isn’t complete, so in addition to raising awareness of the incredibly scenic and difficult endeavor of thru-hiking (completing the entire trail in one trip), she will raise money for the Coalition’s efforts through a gear raffle.

Enjoy free beer and hear stories from three local women who have already thru-hiked the CDT: Sage Clegg, Mary Moynihan, and Kim Geisreiter. Sage was the first woman to have completed the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail) in 18 months; Mary was the only women to successfully complete a north-bound thru-hike of the CDT in 2011, a year with some of the highest snow levels in recent history; and Kim not only completed a south-bound CDT hike in 2011, but will be thru-hiking the trail again this year north-bound.

The CDT will be Renee’s 8th long-distance backpacking trail, and she will not only talk about what it means to hike the trail in one trip, (long waterless stretches, high snow levels, grizzly territory) but will have a “show and tell” with the gear she will be carrying, including some unique homemade items.

Come support America’s longest backpacking trail and learn more about the intrepid folks who hike it.

The raffle will include items from: Hikertrash, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, Namaspa Yoga & Massage, The Trail Show, Lava Love, Silipint,Oregon Natural Desert Association, Oboz Footwear, TurboPUP, GoMacro Macrobars, Point6, STANLEY, Embrace the Brutality: A Continental Divide Trail Adventure,, Cairn, Hikertrash: Life on the Pacific Crest Trail, Nevado Mountain Adventures, Bronwen Jewelry, Pizza Mondo and more.

Training for a Thru-hike

When people ask me how I train to hike a long trail, my first response is, “by eating everything I can.” Then I laugh. But it’s kind of true.

Really? You are going to put that into your body? Well, yeah, sometimes...

Really? You are going to put that into your body? Well, yeah, sometimes…

During a typical 20-30 mile day on the trail most hikers burn around 6,000 calories a day, an amount that is impossible to carry no matter how much peanut butter, olive oil, or chocolate you have in your pack. By the end of a 5-6 month long hike many thrus look like mere shadows of their former selves, as often the body starts consuming muscle once it has burned off all the fat reserves.

Now for women, this isn’t always the case. Our womanly figures like to preserve the baby-making ability, and will hoard the fat/muscle more than our male counterparts. I’ve heard some women say they didn’t lose any weight during a hike, which can come as a surprise to them.

I’ve typically slimmed down quite a bit over the duration of a long trail, but then again, my preparations have included consuming as much cake, beer, and cheetos as possible.

I find an amazing cache of trail magic at Rainy Pass, mile 2,593 on the PCT. At this point you really can eat whatever you want.

I found an amazing cache of trail magic at Rainy Pass, mile 2,593 on the PCT. At this point you really can eat whatever you want.

This year I’m doing things a little differently. While I probably won’t say no to a pint of IPA from one of our local breweries in Bend, I am keeping up a regular fitness routine, and I do want to eat more nutritious food on the trail.

Over three years ago I started attending the Namaspa yoga studio in Bend that specializes in Baptiste Yoga, an incredibly challenging yoga discipline, that has transformed my body from regular 2-3 sessions a week. I have never been as strong as I am now.

Now this is a full-body strong, not the typical strong that results from 2,000 miles, a condition we like to call the T-Rex syndrome. The T-Rex is a hiker that has tree-trunks for legs, someone who can climb thousands of feet without labored breathing, but can’t throw a rock past the closest tree. Think T-Rex: all leg and no arm.


Oh I hear hikers say they are going to keep their core & arms strong through daily sit-ups and push-ups. But really? At the end of your typical 28 mile day in the mountains it’s all you can do to lift your spoon to your mouth before falling asleep in your Ramen noodles. We expend so much energy during the day it’s unusual for the idealistic fitness routines to last past the first week of a hike.

So this year I’m starting the trail stronger than ever before (thanks to yoga) and also with a steady program of weekend warrioring. Kirk and I usually get out of town as soon as we can on Friday or early Saturday morning to ski, hike, packraft, raft, bike or any of the other 100’s of activities close to Bend.

Last weekend we went packrafting. This is my patented don't swallow any of the cow-dung water move.

Last weekend we went packrafting. This is my patented don’t swallow any of the cow-dung water move.

I’m hoping this will make the first month on the trail a little less painful than my previous 7 thru-hikes, but you never know. I’m 37 this time around, and age has a way of throwing aches & pains your way in body parts that you never knew existed.

But really…hiking all day every day is really hard to train for. The first few weeks will suck and your body will hurt, I’ll try to spare you too much whining when I start hiking north!

Oh feet. That's a whole other issue the first few weeks on the trail.

Oh feet. That’s a whole other issue the first few weeks on the trail.