Let’s get dirty

I’m relieved for the break in regularly scheduled adventure posting to get that beaver nonsense off my chest. Because if you’re going to get to know me, you should really know me.

The good, the bad, and the mortally embarrassing.

Amiright?!

But let’s get back to it.

The dirty business of getting out and having yourself and honest-to-goodness adventure.

Muddy boots
The muddiest of adventures! 33 miles over 19 hours and at least a thousand mud puddles

Don’t let this scare you from strapping on a pair of sneaks, filling up your water bottle, throwing on that sweat stained ballcap you keep finding buried under junk in the garage meant for the dump that your significant other swears they know nothing of how it got there, and heading out for super fun time.

Because as they say, God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.

Clean!…but soggy, oof!

It can be a nuisance, though, especially for those clean-conscious. I am that tribe, friends. I know the anguish of planting a hand on a log while hoisting the body up and over a protrusion only to find said hand covered in sap, and eventually every particle that wafts by.

But you must know: if you’re dirty, you’re doing it right.

You’re getting down and really in it. Literally, in the weeds.

You’re invested and making those damn memories.

Resign yourself at the very beginning to stepping in mud at some point, or scraping a knee, or sweating through your clothes. Tell yourself that this is your day, as Mark tells me every single time we stare down a real monster of a hike or training run. Your day is going to be full of unexpected good, bad and uglies.

Hurray!

Mid-half marathon; before death set in at mile 8

This is my own on-going journey since I first wrangled my man and we became adventure buddies. Because of said cleanliness-focus, I am constantly aware of…my state, and so I’m constantly reminding myself that my dirt is like a completion patch so many of us hikers covet. It’s my badge that I earned, and that I wear and share with others.

You smell me coming?

Well yeah I just ran 26.2 miles, what did YOU do today?

Like I said, a journey.

Early on, though, I was not so proud of my badges.

Years ago, while still baby hikers, Mark decided we were ready for back-to-back hikes over one weekend; 13 miles one day and 12 the next.

Sure!

Sounds GREAT!

Great Range Traverse, Adirondacks
…and it WAS great! Look at those Adirondacks

But, um, what do we do after the first hike? Like, what do we do with all the sweat and sunscreen and bug spray?

Lucky for us, there is a lodge used for campers and hikers; they offer info and pay-by-the-minute showers!

Unlucky for us, the lodge was in the middle of construction on this very weekend and the showers were closed. Not just closed, removed. Forever and EVER.

Sleep dirty? CANNOT do it.

Cannot. Will not.

I can hike for miles and miles, I can run for miles and miles, but at the end of the day there is usually promise of a hot soak and fresh clothes. On this day there was no respite from the stink. I saw my tired self crawling into my sleeping bag and utterly corrupting it. And I broke down.

I cried and yelled.

I yelled and Mark saw my head spin.

I became irrational and tried to ”bathe” in a Stewart’s bathroom; foot in sink, zero shame, zero dignity.

(Out-of-towners picture gas station/convenience store bathroom.)

Needless to say, It did not work. I was not going to effect the kind of clean my standards demanded. Mark was not surprised, he offered another option: beach bathrooms, maybe they have showers?

They did.

A completely wide-open-to-anyone-walking-in-to-do-their-business shower.

Oh…..

HAPPY DAY!!!

Inside, I was deliriously happy. Outside, I stripped down and washed my day of fun and adventure and dirt and smells down the drain. Later, in my sleeping bag, I dreamed the dreams of a delicate princess who rests atop the mushroom clouds of Fairyland.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Bring cleaning implements. NOW, we fill up a pesticide sprayer with water and ”hose down” at the end of a particularly messy day. It works on sandy feet, it works on muddy boots, and it works on sticky peanut butter and jelly hands. It takes up little space and holds plenty of water.
  2. Sometimes hostels offer up their showers, and just their showers, for a small fee. We found out too late that the hostel across the street from where we ended this fateful hike would have rented us a shower for $5/each.

And that’s all. That’s all I learned.

No self improvement, no growth or realization of my short-comings.

Just how to clean myself when I am dirtiest.

And for that I say, ”you’re welcome.”

Extreme Sledding

**Warning, controversy alert.

We are going to cover a topic that on mountain forums is hotly debated.

And no, for anyone with a single minute of winter hiking experience, I am not talking about the “P” word.

Me: looks around nervously.

Absolutely no one:

Post-holing, I mean I’m not talking about post-holing. For now at least. That’s an argument that deserves a good amount of rest before tackling.

Vague much?

Today we cover EXTREME SLEDDING! Also known as hiking up a mountain and instead of trudging down, weary and cold, sliding down…on your butt!

WOOSH! WOOSH!!

Start ’em young!

For me, this is the number one reason to hike in the winter.

Maybe tied for first. The views are spec-tac-u-lar.

The quietness and serenity: also grand.

So one of the TOP THREE reasons to hike: sledding.

The controversy comes in when you find a group of purists who believe you walk up a mountain and then walk down, as nature intends for you to travel. You leave the trail in pristine condition, and anything other than a snowshoe track is an affront to the mountain and to your fellow man.

Please. People who are more knowledgeable: educate me. Because after years of sliding on my backside down trails of all conditions, after climbing up trails after someone has previously slid down, I cannot find a way that this practice is a no-no.

In light of no contradictory information, let’s talk about BUTT-SLEDDING!

I always end up carrying the baboon-butt-sleds up; small price to pay.

STEP ONE

Get yourself a real sled. You are not going to be able to fashion something small and sturdy enough on your own with everyday household items.

Like dollar store plastic placemats and twine.

Like cardboard and duct tape.

Like grocery bags.

Like your plain ’ol snow-panted butt.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

THIS (pictured above) is the sled that we use. Inexpensive and sturdy. Came quick and the whole family has gotten many fast and furious miles of enjoyment out of them.

STEP TWO

Find your climb.

In THIS POST I directed you to our favorite hiking implement, the AllTrails GPS hiking app. In addition to keeping you from wandering blind and lost through the wilderness and the inevitable death by hypothermia, AllTrails also tells you the grade of your hike! A 20% grade is great for meandering up to the top. A 20% grade is not going to be steep enough to make a grand descent.

We’ve found that sweet spot around 35%.

Of course that depends on the condition of the trail and weather. Is it a warm, above freezing day? Great! But the snow is going to be mushy and bunch up under your sled. Look for trails with a steeper grade. Is it cold? Cloudy? Icy? Hang on to your butts because you are in for a teeth-rattling ride at any grade.

STEP THREE

Go. Hike. That. Mountain!

Scout out the sweet spots for sliding on your way up. Take note of any rocks, downed trees or other impalement hazards.

For the 40ish-and-over club, mentally prepare yourself for the eventual bruising and soreness to come because you are not made for this. I spent the winter of 2020 with bruises on my thighs the size of my face from bouncing off boulders and trees AND YET: totally worth it.

TIPS

Let’s talk safety.

First, you’re hiking a mountain in the winter, remember, so plan accordingly:

  • Warm clothes, socks and mittens
  • Insulated boots
  • Spikes and snowshoes
  • Water (remember, DLIFS: don’t let it freeze, stupid)
  • AllTrails App

And second, on your way down:

DO look ahead at the trail you’re planning to sled down. Are you near a cliff? Maybe DON’T sled there.

DO watch for hikers on their way up. DON’T run them over, plz.

DO use your spikes as breaks.

DO shriek with wild abandon.

DO freakin’ enjoy yourself, you wild and crazy kid.

Vacay in the ADKs

When they go low, we go high…in altitude!

While most kids head down south to warmer weather and sandy beaches for their mid-winter school break, for the past two years we’ve headed north with the 12-year-old to drag her up and down mountains in near zero temps.

Child abuse?

We prefer to call it ”character building.”

She loves it.

Golden hour on a picture-perfect day 😍

On deck for this year’s break were just two mountains, one super easy warm up, the other a bit of a ball-buster. (Down from two ball-busters because someone wanted to have a life and, like, go home early to make it to a sleep over birthday party, or whatever.)

(And with that I’m done saying ”balls” because I know it’s making my mom uncomfortable.)

The first day of our mini-break provided clear blue skies, views for miles and smiles, lots and lots of smiles. We have been climbing the firetowers in the Adirondack Park lately, and this one was short and sweet. A quick two miles, hard packed snow and only 200 feet of elevation gain.

A quick walk up to this lil’ guy

We didn’t even earn the mac ’n cheese skillets we devoured back at our hotel later on.

The second day brought a winter storm. One that dumped half a foot of snow before we even got to the mountain, and another half a foot while we were out trudging to the top. The kind of storm that weather guys and gals recommend you stay inside for.

It was miserable.

All ”smiles” on day two

Mark and I were miserable, and the poor kid was miserable.

The climb was hard on its own. Elevation gain from the very first step. The driving snow that filled in our tracks with every step and soaked into our clothes only made the hard stuff harder.

Snowshoes, a winter must-have for this very reason!

Every ten yards we stopped to breathe, and every hundred yards we stopped to remind the kid that we can turn around if she doesn’t think she can make it.

She made it.

This picture spells r-e-l-i-e-f.

Of course she did. Girlfriend is tough as nails. Despite all that pre-teen angst, she pushed through with strength and determination she might not have known was even there. But she knows now. And I’m so excited to see what she does with it.

(The pizza and ice cream promised at the finish was probably a bit of a motivator too, but let’s say it was a solid 90% strength and determination that got her there.)

Snowy tower

Take the mountains home with you!

Did you know…

…that I am now selling canvas prints from Mark’s and my hiking trips?!

You can find these prints in my Etsy store!

Just a little memento for YOU!

Now. These prints are not to adorn your walls in place of your own adventure mementos. These prints are to encourage you to find your own views!

And to add to your decor because that’s what photography is also for. Obviously.

The fog on Haystack Mountain, in my Etsy store!

Every one of these prints has a special story. This one is from a 15+ mile day in 2018. We had our eyes on this three-peak hike for some time, saving it for near the end of a 46 mountain hiking challenge because of the breathtaking views from the top and the difficulty of getting there (Saddleback Mountain cliffs, cringe).

But as we set out the rain started. Knowing we’d be hiking from sun up to sun down, this was devastating. Even more devastating given we had just hiked 16 miles in non-stop downpour over three peaks not long before this day.

We set out anyway; as Mark always says, ”this is just what we’re doing today.”

Then the rain cleared.

We were treated to a breathtaking cloud show from the bottom of the mountain all the way to the top.

Mark is there on the right, I promise.

I threw in a little bonus with just this one print.

Mark and his bright orange pack cover is in the picture!

Do you see him??

He’s there, I promise!

Guess you’ll have to buy the canvas to see for yourself…

J/k, he’s on the wrapped edge 🙂

But I do hope you bring one of these prints into your home and enjoy them as much as we enjoyed capturing them!

You can find my store here: http://www.fineandfir.Etsy.com.