BMT Day 7 – 13.2 miles (124.9 miles total)

I was up just before the sun, drinking coffee and writing. When day broke I was once again surrounded by incredible beauty. This trail so far has been world class in views and terrain. It’s not easy, but then again, most things worth doing aren’t easy.

I touched the Imnaha river again. Remember night one when I descended from Hawkins Pass to sleep near the headwaters? Well here I was again near the end of the Imnaha’s run to the Snake River. This river does have a road alongside it the whole way, but I would love to come back with boats and experience this landscape from moving water.

The problem with hiking down from the top of these ridges is that you have to go up the other side. I was looking at a climb of over 4,000′ in just a few miles. By the time I set off it was late morning, and for October, the temps were in the 70’s….all things leading to a sweat-fest of a climb. The first marker i saw was for the Nee Me Poo Trail, which is what the Nez Perce call themselves…to really put this climb and moment in place, I was listening to Thunder in the Mountains, the heartwrenching story of Cheif Joseph’s attempt to keep his tribe’s homelands of the Wallowa Valley for his people when homesteaders started trespassing in the mid to late 1800s. Ultimately they were pushed out; this trail i was walking was part of their exodus. (BTW, remember that i finished the CDT at the Cheif Joseph Mountain trailhead on the Canadian border? Yep, the Indians marched from right here, their homelands that are at this moment under my feet, to Canada via Montana). I have a lot of rage and anger for what “progress” and “manifest destiny” did to the people we thought were inferior. I have a lot more reading and thinking to do, and my understanding of the Nee Me Poo people is just beginning. This history is part of the Blue Mountains Trail. It’s almost too much to take in, but my hope for the development of this route is to give hikers a reading and resource list so we can be learning as we are moving through this landscape. It’s past time for us as hikers to engage in a deeper way with the places we are walking through.

So back to the climb. It was brutal, but actually there was a lot of shade, there were berry bushes, apples, and water. It was gorgeous. 

When I was almost back on top I collapsed onto the ground in a puddle of my own sweat. I lay flat out for a good half an hour before I considered moving again.

Fortunately the next few miles were on a blissfully graded old road (I LOVE a road walk after a hard section of trail).
I was meeting Christina from the Greater Hells Canyon Council at Buckhorn Campground in a few hours. I had mailed her a resupply box, and she offered to come out and camp with me for the night. Company! Food! More bandaids!

I got to the campground and chatted with a few hunters who immediately offered me cold drinks and various other luxuries. I hobbled down to a spot by a deliciously cold spring, and proceeded to sit and air out my blisters until Christina drove up.

What a night! She made amazing food, brought fresh fruit and veggies, chips and salsa, wine…it was a wonderful evening and I know I connected with another kindred spirit trying to navigate this world with intention and grace. So far the people I have met on this hike give me hope, and its exactly what i need right now. 

BMT Day 6 – 19.5 miles (111.7 miles total)

Every day my feet feel better and my body stronger. Today it might be the intoxicating cocktail of a cup of french press coffee, turmeric cashews, and a few vitamin I, but I’ll take it! (tumeric is anti-inflammatory…i put a little in my oatmeal every morning too).

I love my body the most when I’m thru-hiking. 

The morning brought a quiet walk along the edge of the world before i turned left to continue on the ridge; the Snake River below also began a left turn on its journey to the sea.

I walked through meadows and forests, a number of springs flowed into troughs and I spied more hunting camps in the thick woods. As i was approaching Lord Flat I remembered a note that Whitney had passed on after he hiked through…to stay on the runway because the trail/road disappeared there. Just about that time I look up to see a plane circling….an active runway I see!

As i rounded to corner I saw a group of hunters eagerly awaiting the plane. The runway was little more than a two-track in the grasses, but sure enough there was a windsock. As the plane landed I put on my best smile and asked the group if I could lighten the load by taking some cold drinks or snacks off their hands. One guy went to a tote and brought back four clif bars. Ahhhhh, thanks guys…(but not exactly what i had in mind…did you drink all the beer?)

As they loaded the plane I quickly walked down the runway to another faint two-track headed in the direction i wanted to go, and soon after the plane took off. I could see two people on horseback heading towards me and when they got within shouting distance I joked that it was the first traffic jam I had seen on the trip. 

Jim and Paul were frequent visitors to this spot and I had just passed their hunting camp, although they weren’t really hunting on this trip, just enjoying the warm fall. We chatted for a bit and they invited me to their camp for elk steaks for dinner, and as much as i would have taken them up on their offer had it been the end of the day, there were miles to make. 

Jim said that i was the first backpacker he had seen in that spot in the years he had been coming up here, but, mentioned that sometimes when he is riding on other trails hikers are openly pissed off when they see horses. That’s not cool. Reason #1??? It’s mostly the horse packers that use these trails, and CLEAR these trails. Almost every packer has a saw on their saddle, and since our agencies haven’t had the resources to prioritize trail maintenance, it is left to us as users to clear the trails, and equestrians do. (I could go on and on about the state of trail maintenance in this country…i know a lot of people who would love a good paying job in the woods all summer to clear trails, but the agencies cant maintain everything in their purview, and as such primarily rely on volunteers and nonprofit groups to do the work. What that means is people either do it for free, or it doesn’t get done. Lets fund our agencies so they can hire people and pay them good money to maintain trails instead of relying on the public to do it). 

Jim tossed me an apple as we said our goodbyes….now THATS some trail magic! Fresh fruit! He also said I could help myself to some water in his truck that I would pass on my walk down the next drainage. A true trail angel.

Thru-hiking has taught me the valuable lesson over the years that what you put out into the world you get back…it works with people and the natural world. It all feels reciprocal. Maybe thats the secret…life is all about your relationship with the world around you….every part of your world…including yourself. (Hiking gets my brain ruminating like nothing else).

I traversed some skinny trail that dropped off steeply and couldn’t imagine Jim and Paul had just rode this on their horses. I don’t think I could trust the animal to walk it better than I could…but then again, I dont ride horses.

I started a steep switchbacking descent next; right now the word I have to define the climbs and descents in this section: grueling. It’s no wonder really, I’ve been walking above the deepest canyon in the country. Getting to the bottom is going to be difficult on foot no matter how you slice it.

But! The end of the switchbacks that had me slipping and falling on my butt several times was water. A creek. A creek with water. I sat down in a cloud of fatigue and willed there to be a nice cobble beach where i could access the water and shed the last four days of dirt and sweat. I walked more, and thank you world! I found my watery bath.

Refreshed and the least stinky I had been in days, I ambled a few more miles before setting up another cowboy camp on a bluff overlooking the stunning canyon. There is lots of bear poop now that I’m in a canyon, so thats something else to keep in mind.

BMT Day 5 – 22.5 miles (92.2 miles total)

I know the vegetation has been changing as i hike north along the Hells Canyon rim, but this morning i noticed I was surrounded by sagebrush. It’s started like to look a lot like the high desert I know.

A note for future hikers: most of the springs up here have been flowing to some degree. This also explains why it is such an ecological hot spot…year round water is important in that way. Its pretty amazing considering what a dry year it has been.

The walking this morning was on trail, and it was easy and gentle. When I started dropping down to Freezeout Saddle (I’m now on the Western Rim Trail), I think I encountered the second best views on the trip. The wind was rippling through the tall grasses, the trail was illuminated in the morning light against the golden hills, and the Imnaha Canyon and its many tributaries were crystal clear, away from that Idaho smoke on the other side of the ridge. There were cows, which left braided trails everywhere, but they couldn’t detract from my moments of awe on that walk. I put on some music by Arvo Part and literally floated down….not really, the view was so magnificent and the trail so narrow that i could either stop and look, or hike and focus on my feet. It was brilliant anyway.

I took a long break at Freezeout Saddle, my jaw hinged open half the time as I stared down the Saddle Creek drainage. There is a trail down there, and next time I come out I want to hike into the canyon. There are infinite ways you could connect this ridge trail with trails that drop to either side. I could truly spend a lifetime out here without hiking the same thing twice.

When I’m on a break I frequently study the maps and try to understand what my next hour or two looks like, and what to expect. That is very important out here because if i expect to walk downhill for a mile and then turn right at a spring and that doesn’t happen, i stop, look at my map, and pull out my phone and turn on GaiaGPS or CalTopo to check myself. I probably do that 50 times a day. It would be so easy to get distracted and end up thousands of feet, or miles, from where I really needed to be.

Actually this is the first time I’m using the Cal Topo app for Android. It doesn’t load as fast as Gaia, but when i leave note about trail conditions or track my bushwacks it automatically updates the web map I’m using each time I turn off airplane mode and have cell reception. It’s pretty amazing! Instant feedback to anyone who is watching! I asked Kirk to see if the map was populating and he repeated a few of my comments back to me, “no good,” and “terrible bushwack,” and I think there was a “why?” In there too. 🤣

I had a big climb out of Freezeout Saddle up to another major road that had campgrounds and the popular Hat Point lookout. I put on another grind song (today I started with Warpaint’s Disco//very). I didnt make it to the top without stopping, but i can feel my endurance improving. 

I finished the Timber Wars podcast when I was up top on the road, and if that won’t get your blood boiling about how we and our government have been treating our forests in the west, i don’t know what will. Its an excellent poscast that I would suggest you all listen to. One of the producers is Ed Jahn of Oregon Field Guide who produced my ODT episode a few years ago. Great guy and I really respect his work.

I was back on the Western Rim Trail in mid afternoon and was shocked to see a ton of cars at the teailhead. I guess this is a popular stretch…and i soon saw why. The trail walked the edge of the rim to stunning views all around.

I passed a few hunters, and when the second couple I passed slowed to ask me about my pack, I stopped to chat. Would you believe what happened next? I don’t think I still believe it.

I was explaining what I was doing, this father/daughter couple had already mentioned they had thru-hiked the PCT a few years ago, so I knew they would understand what we were trying to do with the Blue Mountains Trail. The dad then asked if i had heard of the Oregon Desert Trail, of course I had to tell him I had been living and breathing the ODT for the past five years, and he says, “I’ve emailed you, I wanted to hike it this year.” Not only has he emailed me. When he told me his first name I knew exactly who he was and knew his last name. Even stranger? In one of the emails he had sent me a picture from the Hells Canyon Rim in winter…about 20 feet from where we were standing at the moment. Woah. Chills. And get this, they are not local. Cameron lives in Salem and his daughter Amanda in Portland. And we all crossed paths up here.

What a world! And if that doesn’t tell me I’m exactly where I need to be, I don’t know what else does. The world is a amazing place.

BMT Day 4 – 20.9 miles (69.7 total)

It’s day 4 and I still haven’t settled into life away from all the stresses of this year. I’m starting to crack though; nature is having her way with me…slowly soothing and comforting the 2020 anxieties.

I am not pitting myself against nature on this hike, I am hiking with nature. I am rediscovering my place in this natural world.

I woke early…before sunrise early, so I worked on my blog and read a bit. The sun didn’t come, and it still didn’t come. Sunrise is almost 7am now!! I have just about 12 hours of dark, a guess ill be doing a lot of reading this month if I can’t manage to sleep that long. 

I watch the light finally spill over Hells Canyon and made a second cup of coffee. Finally i was jittery enough that i needed to walk off the excess caffeine, so i hit the road to head up to the legit Hells Canyon Overlook, complete with pit toilets and informational signs. 

Most of the day i would be walking on gravel roads that straddle the Snake and Imnaha River canyons. Very few cars passed, and when i got to a section that I thought would be trail, found it was still road. Then I got to a section that I thought would be road, but it was gated, so was a trail on an old road. Regardless, the walking was easy and I didnt have to wonder where I was at all during the day.

I know I will be up here a few more days and I finally looked at the databook and realized this was one long 52-mile ridgewalk! If you love ridgewalking like I do, you might have an idea how excited that makes me.

Even though the walking was “easy,” I still had to grind. What does that mean you might be wondering? Grinding is what i call hiking up a hill, incline or mountain, without stopping. You put yourself in a low gear and walk at a steady pace as long as you can. If you want to stop, walk a little slower and keep going. Eventually you will be able to hike farther and faster if you make it a practice grind regularly. I find music can help, and today this song did it for me. 

Towards the end of the day I was filling up water at a spring when I heard a rustle behind me and a hunter materialized out of the woods. He came over and we chatted for a few…he and his friends had been packed in by some horsepackers for a week up here. There were some other guys camped near by on their own hunting trip too. He was nice enough and it was good to speak outloud for the first time today.

I made my way a little further before setting up with a view of the Seven Devils mountains in Idaho.

BMT Day 3 – 17.6 miles (48.8 total) 

What luxury to spend the second night on the trail with a trail angel! Mike and Donna Higgins rolled out the red carpet for me, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner, a berry dessert (made with two kinds of fruit grown right there in Pine Valley…they live in Halfway, Oregon), and hours of excellent conversation. 

Mike has spent a lifetime exploring the Wallowas and Hells Canyon area. In fact, he was a big part of the local effort to designate the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area a few decades ago. He also joined Loren Hughes and Dick Hentze in their effort to create the Blue Mountains Trail in the 90’s, and he is absolutely thrilled that we are out here hiking it. (Blog post coming soon about the 60-year history of the BMT!).

Now that a few of us are out hiking it, the route seems closer to reality than ever before…and I have a new respect for the vision these environmentalists had decades ago to create an experience through this stunning and ecological wonderland.
I can confidently add Mike and Donna into the category of: I’m better to have met them.
Mike also hosted the Intrepid Three (his name for Whitney, Mike & Naomi), and when i started to unpack my resupply box I had sent to his house, he also brought out a giant hiker box of goodies the Intrepid Three had left. Mike ended up meeting them three times on their just completed BMT hike, and man, they leave a GOOD hiker box!!

I took a slow morning, indulging in a scrumptious breakfast and a map session. Mike and I are cooking up plans to connect the Oregon Desert Trail up to the Blue Mountains Trail, and we’ll be putting some ideas together over the winter (hint: perhaps we tie into the Desert Trail route where it deviates from the ODT at Frenchglen!)

The purpose of today’s hike would be to transition over to Hells Canyon from the Wallowa Mountains. I would walk a series of dirt roads and trails that sit high on a ridge above the Imnaha River. An alternate option in here is to stay in the Imnaha drainage…but it’s a paved road full of cars and people, so hiker’s choice. I chose the high road, and all went relatively smoothly except for losing my Steens and Alvord Desert hat in a bushwack today (check out this beautiful painting by Bend artist Shelia Dunn on this hat I lost). 

Day 3 is when the blisters really start popping up, and i contended with them all day on my breaks. I’m looking forward to when these soft spots harden up soon!
Since I had gotten a later start in the day, I hadn’t set my sights on an end destination for camp, but when I saw that Hells Canyon was in reach, I made a goal to sleep on the edge of the deepest canyon in the country.

Twilight was coming on and I still hadn’t reached the canyon, but i was so close. Even more concerning was my dwindling water supply. In the transition over from the Wallowas, the plentiful water became not so plentiful anymore. The springs and drainages were dry, so when I started up the paved road to Hells Canyon Overlook, I waved down a car with my empty water bottle. A very nice woman gave me three liters, and I was rejoicing the watery trail magic. Thank you random woman!

I had spied a spot on the map just off the road where it first meets a canyon overlook, and posited that there would be a spot for my prone body to lay down for the night. And there was!!!

I watched night fall over Idaho and this magnificent canyon. The stars and Milky Way are brilliant tonight, and once again I am sleeping out in the open on this amazing adventure. 

BMT Day 2: 16.7 miles (31.2  total)

My new quilt is like a dream. It is so fluffy and warm that I feel like I’m glamping. This is my first Katabatic quilt, but friends have been using them for years. When my pal Speedstick did a winter thru-hike of the AT a few years ago she kept talking about how she loved her chocolate caterpillar. She lived in her dark brown quilt that winter, and i will live in mine for the next month. 

I was walking at first light and soon saw two hunters also out in the early day. This weekend was the start of hunting season, so i draped my pack in an orange hunting vest and wore my bright red coat.

It was incredibly warm for early October, and soon I shed my coat when it was time to ford the Imnaha River. I was due to climb up Blue Creek to walk below Sugarloaf Mountain later in the day. 

The trail was in decent shape, although not exactly where drawn on the map. Once I got to my trail junction, a trail junction was not to be found, so I bushwacked up the drainage until I stumbled on trail tread a short while later….i guess I should have hiked past where I thought the trail should be. This trail was in good shape too, although i lost it up top…but when the climb ends at a saddle, it’s pretty easy to find your way…the terrain practically leads you there by the hand.

A beautiful and smoky view awaited me up top, and I took my first break of the day, three hours in. I don’t usually wait that long to sit down, but I was meeting Mike Higgins, one of the brains behind the BMT  tonight at Twin Lakes Campground, and I didnt want to be late!

When I turned on my phone I had a message from Allgood, Mike, and Naomi that they had finished their hike of the Blue Mountains Trail! When I knew Jared was looking for more people to groundtruth the trail, I mentioned it to Whitney (trail name Allgood). He decided to take it on with 2 friends, and they set off in early September to hike it all. We had been sharing data and determined I would hike a series of alternates this fall when they encountered sections that posed some issues. Some of yesterday and most of today would be a different route than what those three had hiked…lots of options out here!

The walking from there was wonderful; the trail the rolled up and down folds of the earth. Everything was hazy due to fire smoke drifting over from Idaho, but I loved it none the less. 

At a small cow-poop infested pond, the trail got confusing with cow trails criss crossing every which way, but i finally found myself again.

More lovely trail, more lovely terrain.
I made it up to a decommissioned lookout tower on Russel Mountain and walked dirt roads from there, listing to episodes of Timber Wars, a new podcast from OPB. 
I beat Mike to the campground, he said he’s bringing chips and beer!!!

BMT Day 1 – 14.5 miles

Months of planning can feel almost uneventful when the trip finally arrives, or maybe it’s just hard to believe I’m actually here. The way 2020 has unfolded has been anything but expected, and here I am, at the start of a 500-mile, month-long hike to walk the rest of the Blue Mountains Trail and almost everything is going as expected. In fact, for an early October day, it’s warm…unseasonably warm. The extended forecast is warm and dry. I’ll take it! 

We woke at first light in our car camping site at Wallowa State Park, and soon had mugs of coffee to fuel the packing up. The drive out from Bend yesterday had gone smoothly, and now it was time.

We drove to the trailhead which was perched at the mouth of the west fork of the Wallowa River. Kirk decided to hike in with me a couple miles, so we set off on the gentle climb through the lush forest. Even though the days had been warm and dry, the trees and brush had gotten the memo that it was fall, and were turning brilliant yellows and golds.

When it was finally time to say goodbye to my beau, I got a little choked up…i had all the feels, as they say, and i was overcome with the realization that I was here, i was hiking, and I wasn’t alone…metaphorically speaking. The day washed over me in a cascade as i hiked beneath towering granite mountains. I was finally here.

The first few days of the Blue Mountains Trail from the eastern terminus are quite different from the hike out of John Day 600 miles to the west. Oh I was gaining thousands of feet in elevation, but instead of hiking on hot chip-seal, i was walking on the soft dirt of a well-loved trail heading into the heart of the Eagle Cap Wilderness: the Lakes Basin.

The climb was gentle until it wasn’t. As i approached Frasier Lake the granite walls got vertical and towered over the drainage.
Simply out of this world.

I had a short lunch at Little Frasier Lake and couldn’t resist the draw of the next climb…another 1,000 feet up to Hawkins Pass. The trail switchbacked through a gauntlet of granite, and i could spy the route from my lake-side lunch spot, so I cut lunch short, eager for the views up top.

Many steps and photos later, I reached the pass at 8,570 feet and audibly gasped when I saw the other side. 

I won’t ruin it for you….consider this your invitation to visit Hawkins Pass.

I slowed waaay down and positively sauntered down to the headwaters of the Imnaha River. I didnt want to rush a moment of it.

Camp was a small nook perched high on a slope with views and sounds of rushing water.

I settled in for my first night on the trail, cowboy camping under the stars. My first meal would be a NEMO-special. Nemo is my soul-sister hiking partner (we met on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006 and have since hiked thousands of miles together) who sent me a few goodies to take with me on the trail. In fact my breakfast this morning was a pear and tomato grown by my dear friends Brooke and Adryon. Who says this is a solo hike? My friends are feeding me already 🥰.

Thank you to all who helped get me here! The list is long, and I appreciate you all so much.

I decided to dedicate this hike to a dear friend of the family who passed away suddenly a few weeks ago, Pete Morgan. Pete and my dad worked together at the University of Wisconsin- Stephens Point for years. When our family later moved to Illinois, my parents would meet up with Pete and his wife Verona regularly. When I started writing about all of my adventures, Pete was always there with an encouraging word. He has been one of my biggest supporters as i threw myself into the unknown year after year, trail after trail. It was comforting to know he was cheering me one, and it’s my time to be thinking of him on his next journey. 

(Photos to come later)

Gear List

It’s time to update my gear list.

Modeling my new Katabatic 5 degree quilt

In 2020 I plan to do a fair amount of hiking in the fall, so have prepared this gear list for cold temps and snow hiking. Some of these items will be switched out for other items on the list as I go. The main objective for a mid-fall hike? Stay warm, stay dry, stay alive.

AND new on this gear list are some discounts you can get from some of my sponsors. Thanks Six Moon Designs, Food for the Sole, and Gather Nuts!

Check it out here.

Nutrition on the Trail

The eating habits of thru-hikers can be quite abysmal. We typically look for calorie-dense, easily accessible, and cheap options. This is where you can insert the ongoing joke of thru-hikers eating a snickers bar a day (but seriously, I have eaten a snickers bar a day for some of my adventures).

Access and price are often determining factors when filling your food bag, especially when you decide to resupply on the way, meaning for the duration of a hike your provisions come from the next grocery store you encounter. Sometimes that grocery store is a gas station or remote wilderness outpost where you are lucky to find ramen, pop tarts, chips, and candy at three times the usual cost.

For many of the 13 different long-distance trails I’ve hiked over the last 20 years, resupply along the way has been my strategy. It massively cuts down on the logistics of putting together food boxes before you go (can you imagine how many food boxes you would need for a 2,000-mile trail?). Buying your food along the way can lead to more flexibility, for example: if you send your food box to a post office, you are tied to the post office’s open hours (which can be quite minimal in very small towns), where most grocery stores (and gas stations) keep much longer hours. Buying along the way also allows you to change up your diet as your tastes change. I’ve met more than one hiker that got a deal on 200 energy bars of a certain brand only to find by week two that they couldn’t stomach eating even one more….and…as luck would have it…those bars were in every pre-made resupply box for the whole trail.

Now that I’m in my 40s, I’ve started experimenting with eating more nutrient-dense and healthy foods off-trail, so accordingly have begun to experiment with how I could eat that way on the trail. No more She-tos for me! (The She-to mix combines cheetos – a long staple in my trail diet – with nuts and cheddar pretzel bits. If your blood pressure just went up reading that, then you get the salt-bomb intent of the snack.)

She-to mix

I’ve had some hikers try to impart the wisdom of nutrition on the trail over the years; probably the most passionate food-aware hiker I know is Zoner, who I met in 2006 on the PCT. Zoner created his 2,000-mile Hot Springs Trail with the express purpose of routing you through towns with farmers markets. His real agenda for this route was to help hikers eat better. Wow!

Katie Gerber is a nutritionist who hiked the Oregon Desert Trail a few years ago and is a frequent guest on hiking podcasts to talk about eating and nutrition on the trails, she also has a hiker nutrition consulting business. So the knowledge and resources have been there for a while, I just needed to listen.

Last year I started to experiment with a plant-based diet. I was given the nudge by my good friend Carrie and her journey in exploring how food can improve different aspects of life.

What changed my perspective about my eating habits was considering food as medicine, that everything I put in my mouth could be working for me instead of against me.

Once I started eating this way I would bring actual fruit instead of gummy bears on a hike (I used to say I would eat something from the gummy family every day on a thru-hike). Instead of chips, I choose roasted chickpeas or veggies and hummus. Instead of a potato bomb (ramen with instant potatoes to soak up the salty msg soup), I would eat meals from Food for the Sole (a vegan and gluten-free backpacking food company started in Bend), or something that had a list of ingredients that contained real food (can’t pronounce an ingredient? Don’t eat it).

Pocket of gummies

the way lunch can be if you try…

I know, I needed to do this years ago.

For short trips this strategy works great! Kirk and I hiked the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood last year, and for the 5 days we were out I could eat and carry lots of fresh foods, but for longer trips fresh gets heavy, and the availability of good fresh fruits and vegetables in gas stations or very small remote towns can be hard to come by.

Then the pandemic happened…I let the global pandemic derail my new-found good habits, and I’m still not quite where I’d like to be with treating everything I put into my mouth as a performance enhancer or detractor. (It really can be that simple).

But I’m trying to pay attention to how my body feels and acts when I eat certain foods and think critically about changing my resupply strategy thanks to COVID. On a recent 100-mile section hike to ground-truth part of the Blue Mountains Trail, I hiked out of town with 7 days of food. 7 days is really the longest stretch I’ll do between resupplies. It’s just an almost unbearable weight and quantity if you try to carry much more than that. I spent some time dehydrating food and making my own cold-soak lunches and hot dinners. I carried dried fruit, dried veggies, and tried to find bars and other snacks with as few ingredients as possible.

I’ve always eaten a lot of nuts, and they can provide a powerful punch of calories and protein on a hike. A lovely and tasty addition to my diet has been to carry Gather Nuts, a soaked and then roasted line of very flavorful nuts and seeds. I met the owner, Shanna, this summer and was taken with her process of soaking each batch for 24-hours then slow roasting them on a low temperature… which all allows for better digestion and nutrient absorption…and they taste AMAZING! The nuts and seeds come out super crunchy (I love a good crunch), and the variety of flavors can satisfy both my sweet and salty tooth. (I have a trail “happy hour” with the Rosemary Olive Oil nuts, and the Maple Cinnamon Brasil Nuts are….well…you’ll just have to try them for yourself.)

Good with breakfast

Good until they are gone 😦

I have also found MicroBiome Bars which includes four prebiotic fibers, omega-3 fatty acids, beta-glucans and fermented protein (that’s all to say they include whole foods like organic wheat, oats, flax, and barley malt) and other ingredients like chocolate, cherries, oats, honey, peanut butter, cranberries, raspberries, apples, and almond butter. YUM.

MicroBiome bars are good on a ski tour too!

So finding healthy foods that have a shelf-life, or dehydrating whole foods (check out this great dehydrator cookbook by Julie Moser, founder of Food for the Sole) has become part of my food resupply strategy, and with COVID in our lives for the foreseeable future, making my own food boxes and avoiding extraneous contact on a hike is the new normal.

And lucky you! You can try some of this too. Gather Nuts has created a coupon code so that you can get 20% off an order of $25 or more at their store using the code: WEAREHIKERTRASH (my instagram handle).

Food for the Sole has a one-time use code you can use to get 20% off your order by using the code: SHERAHIKES.

So join me on my journey to be more intentional about what I put into my mouth, I can’t promise that cheetos and gummies will never pass these lips again, but I want to make them the exception, not the rule.

BMT – Day 7: 5.4 miles (109.8 miles total) 500ish left to go!

I woke early and spent some time writing up my blog posts. Most days I don’t write much when I get to camp. It’s all I can do to stop staring at a nearby tree stump in a tired daze to set up camp and make dinner. Now the mornings…that’s my jam! Words flow in the morning.

This morning I also decided to rock out to some yacht rock as I ate breakfast. 💜💜💜 

I am so thoroughly Gen X it’s not even funny…the nostalgia of light-rock radio growing up in the ’80s is right up there with my grunge rock loves from the ’90s (Candlebox anyone?) Thanks to Spotify premium (this is not an ad, but you can download music for offline use), and my local library which has digital downloads (just started Michael Pollen’s new book last night) and podcasts (The Trail Show!), I am overflowing with things to do, and now have a supercomputer at my fingertips. I started hiking before this mobile technology, and I can definitely say I appreciate both styles, but this trip is definitely tech-heavy and I’m embracing it. (Now Steve Miller Band is playing 😄).

This trip has highlighted how much public land we are fortunate to have in Oregon. 100 percent of what I hiked is public, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about the history and current issues facing these lands. I know this route travels on Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Northern Paiute land. I know there are important habitat and wildlife concerns along the Blue Mountains Trail. I know there is much to discuss and discover.

The morning walk was quiet and didn’t touch the creek again. I guess I stopped at the right time! 

All smiles (especially since I know there is a cafe at Austin Junction!)

I rolled into Austin Junction about 10am to see Christy and her husband, who own the place, just back from a week in Idaho. I had considered stashing my bike in the woods, then I thought this would be a great opportunity to get to know what is available at Austin Junction as it will be a very important resupply stop!

I ordered a breakfast sandwich to eat outside on a picnic table (there is a cafe, gas, small store, ice cream…the perfect trail stop), and after eating, picked up my bike.


Tots in my fanny pack for later

I had asked if I could drop the bike off here last week. (Hiker tip: if a small business is going out of their way to do you a favor, consider donating some $$. A lot of these small stops do everything from making fries to pouring gas to running the store, and even a small ask can be very well received if you respect their time).

As I was hopping on the bike for my 28-mile ride back to John Day, Christy came out to chat some more and take my picture. We had a lovely talk, and I look forward to visiting again when I do the next section.

Thanks for the pic Christy!

And the bike. What was I thinking? Riding with a full pack on my back is not a great idea. I wanted to be self-contained and human-powered in my loop, but I could have put a rack on my bike for the pack, or at least remembered padded bike shorts? But no. It was a slog up to the pass, but I knew the other side would be mostly downhill back to John Day. 

This seemed like a good idea….mmmmm not so much when you forget padded bike shorts!

At the pass my life got easier, and I rode the brakes as I picked up speed down the hills, still feeling a little unsteady with my pack and change in velocity. I had been traveling at 2-3 miles per hour for the past week, and now I was hurdling down a pass on two skinny wheels.

I passed through Prairie City, a charming little town, and spied a coke machine, so got myself a cold root beer that I enjoyed in the shade. It was another hot day. 

I peddled on, only to find a flagger stopping cars for a crew chip sealing the highway. Oh noooooooooo.

Chip seal consists of a layer of hot tar covered with loose gravel. There are steam rollers to smush the gravel into the tar, but they also use cars driving over it to compact the bits of rock. That wouldn’t go over well with my skinny bike tires. 

I followed a line of cars over the fresh surface and immediately moved to the opposite side of the road that hadn’t been worked on yet until a road crew directed me to the other side. I rode carefully as close to the drop-off as I could to avoid the worst of the piles of gravel that had accumulated on the side of the fresh tar. What timing!

I was a few miles out from John Day when a car pulled over in front of me. To my delight it was Beth! My co-worker at the Oregon Natural Desert Association! Beth and her boyfriend had been adventuring and just happened past when I was biking by. What are the chances!!! So fun.

Then I was back on the bike,  and finally pulled into town and found my car where I parked it behind the 1188 Brewing Company.

Shannon, the owner, was generous enough the let me park there for a week, and a trip to brewery seems the most fitting way to finish a trail! I expect that will be a hot spot once the route is complete. 

I changed out of my sweaty clothes, put on my N95 mask, and got a growler of lager to go. My stomach wasn’t up to food after the ride, all the outdoor tables were taken at the brewery, and I’m not comfortable eating inside a restaurant at this point in the pandemic. 

So that was it! I got in my Honda Fit for the 3-hour drive back to Bend, and managed to make the whole trip in one take of gas! I had wanted this to be a self-contained trip and managed to do it, with just a few interactions in town/Austin Junction.

One of the parts of long-distance hiking I enjoy the most is interactions with folks along the way, and in trail communities. I really enjoy sharing the culture of long-distance hiking, and helping to pave the way for future hikers out there…but a lot of those interactions are derailed by this pandemic.

I sure hope we can see the other side of this soon, but I do know a week hiking a route that engaged my body and mind so fully that I didn’t have time to ruminate on the world was a gift I had given myself.

So now, I’ll pass on the data to Jared and the Greater Hells Canyon Council, and prepare myself for the next phase of hiking the BMT….stay tuned!