“Collecting brain lint.” (AT2015 mile 274.4) 

This is gonna be short and sweet cause I’d rather go take a soak. Made it to Hot Springs, NC. 

I mostly only took pictures on the day we hiked with a new friend, Kimchee, and an old friend we met on like day three, who’s now being called Yogi. It was an awesome, hard day that ended with summiting Max Patch and rain all night while we were cozy in a shelter.  

             Got three Snickers bars at Standing Bear hostel. Someone warned me about expiration dates there.  

 Oh! And we actually got a view from Charlie’s Bunion, and I got a view of Rock Licker taking a pee.  

 

“Small house, big porch.” (AT2015 mile 207.3) 

Waiting for three weeks to take my first zero was not the best idea ever. BTW, a zero is a day in which no miles are hiked. It just sort of happened this way, due to logistics. 

It seems like everyone around me is falling apart, including myself. It’s mostly just that my body is really tired, but also I had sore ankles today, which has happened exactly never. 

We pushed hard through this fucking brutal section though. Almost 100 miles in seven days, with no neros, the two intense climbs out of the NOC and Fontana, and two 15s and one 16. Like champs!   Okay, but let’s start at the beginning. Franklin, NC treated us well. We had Yeti beer at Outdoor 76, Life Saver caught up with us, and we slept on REAL beds at Gooder Grove. This is a new hostel opened up by this chill dude named Colin. He’s in the process of turning his garage/basement into a bunkroom.       There was rain for the first time on our day out of Franklin, which happened to be my first 15. Postman and I were ONE MILE from the shelter when it just started pouring. We got soaked. It was beautiful all day before that, though… …as was the next morning during a quick hike into the NOC, during which I caught up with #1.     The bubble we’d been in kind of coalesced at the NOC, with the addition of Happy, Fury, Crash, and Glider. (Postman didn’t make it into the picture 😟) We’d all stayed in bunks (or on the floor) at the NOC, drinking beer and making a ruckus until long after hiker midnight (9pm, when it gets dark enough to justify sleeping). 

All I remember from the NOC to Fontana was running from the rain. Actually running. Imagine a buff dude in an action movie running from an explosion.  

  


And this weird shrine.  
Fontana was mostly disappointing except for some trail magic beer. Thank disc golfing dudes with the cute dog!  

Then we finally got to the Smokies (da Smockies!). Beautiful day passing military guys with 80 pound packs.  





I’m remembering a surprising number of details from two years ago. Like the exact shelter and the exact spot where a guy I’d been hiking with got yelled at by a ridge runner for attempting to graffiti his name (which was Snafu).  

I’ve totally run out of steam finishing this shit up, so here’s Rocky Top, a fake candid hiker evening, Snow as a lunch lady, a handicapped privy, and no view from Clingman’s. Mostly a whole lot of WTF.  





Last thing, injury roundup! Woo fun yay not. My knee has been quite good, basically not sore at all. Probably because I started taking ibuprofen this week, but I’m hoping to wean off of it this next section. I tore my feet up hiking in wet socks and shoes into the NOC. No blisters at all, just tender red skin, which I’ve dealt with before. I taped them up for a few days and it seems to be all healed up now. Oh, and also some ass chafing (TMI, whatever, don’t care) and a partially torn off half a big toenail (kicked a door, so dumb, then pushed it back into place and have been taping it). That is to say, my body has been holding up real well, and that’s not sarcastic at all. 

Sorry if the formatting of these posts have been wonky, the WordPress app is kind of a jerk. 

Gatlinburg, where I’m zeroing, is such a trip.  

 

“Georgia wolf danger?” (AT2015 mile 109.8) 

Tuesday was border day! Otherwise known as cinco de drinko to you poor people trapped in the real world.   One down, thirteen to go. 

North Carolina has been easy cruising so far. Even Courthouse Bald right after the border, which I was warned about by several different people, was really NBD. 

Albert Mountain was the other little bitch of a climb, but the views!     Been hitting some 12s since my last post and my body has been fantastic. I haven’t had a single blister, and my knee has been cooperating. 

We’ve had a little bubble going since Top of Georgia. I’m still hiking with Postman, and we’ve been seeing Lone Ranger, Life Saver, Smoky, Fireman, and two section hiking UF undergrads, who I definitely hit up for advice about Gainesville. The latter were hiker trashing it up with us while waiting for the hostel owner to pick us up.   Life Saver attempted to give me the unfortunate second trail name of Bullet. I shut that down hard. 

Some views and other miscellaneous pics.               That last one is a funny misspelling. 

I’m hanging out at Outdoor 76, an awesome outfitter in Franklin, NC that specializes in helping AT hikers out with shoe problems. They’re amazing, and they have craft beer in the store. Double win! 

I’m planning on hitting up some bigger miles this next week to get to Gatlinburg next weekend. Nerrrrrvous! Hopefully Postman will be able to accompany me, but his awful blisters might require a zero when I hike on tomorrow. 

I’m really loving every day, every mile, and every hiker out here. 

“Name of your sex tape.” (AT2015 mile 69.6)

This is the best. Like actually the best. I’m having the time of my fucking life. 

Anyways, hello from the very new Top of Georgia hostel. It just opened last year, and it’s super clean and nice and the workers are friendly. They offered us soda and coffee the moment we walked in. And the guy who runs it is Sir-Packs-A-Lot, lolz.  

   The weather has been off the chain (i.e., not freeze ass cold, raining, or SNOWING), which is one of the benefits of starting late. It’s been sunny and clear except for a few sprinkles one day.    I’ve forgotten how much more brutal hiking is out here than out west. At least there aren’t any steps for giants (I’m looking at you, Bad Monkey!).  

So I’ve been hiking in tandem with another thruhiker, Postman, since we met at the Springer Mtn shelter the first night. I’ve been keeping my miles low and slow, good luck to all these dudes busting out 16 and 19 milers this early and blowing past me.

I’ve gone through a lot of firsts. First time tenting this trip (I’ve been a shelter rat mostly).  First town stop in Suches, GA, cute pudgy dogs included.  

  And first hostel, the one at Neels Gap. There were a bunch of old dudes staying there, but I had caught up with Postman because he was taking a zero.  Speaking of old dudes, I’m going to flip my shit if another one asks me if I’m okay or tells me to stay safe. I’m not the one who could drop dead from a heart attack with the next step. I may be a lady, but I not some fucking delicate flower. And I could do without all the racist comments. 

Though I did meet a couple cool older gentlemen from Mississippi while camping at Lance Creek before Blood Mountain. We had some good giggles, between their anecdotes about the south and me telling them they were sparkly clean.   I still can’t believe how beautiful it is out here, and how grateful I am to be here.        Dat swag doe!   Thanks to my sister and dad for coming down from Iowa to see me off, and to Wes for giving me a ride and being my moral support. Love y’all bunches!     Edited to add this pic, cause town is where it’s at.  

“Do you want a hug?” (AT 2015 Gear List)

I’m not going to wax poetic about any of my gear, cause ain’t nobody got time for dat, but you can correctly assume that I love all of my gear and selected each piece for particular reasons. If you have specific questions about any of this gear, ask in the comments.

Big Three

Tent: Six Moons Lunar Solo LE + stuff sack + 6 stakes + Tyvek sheet for groundcloth

Pack: ULA Catalyst + pack cover

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Sleep system: Western Mountaineering Ultralite down bag (20*) + stuff sack + silk liner + Thermarest Prolite Plus

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Clothing

Wearing: New Balance Leadville trail runners, Darn Tough socks (1), Under Armor compression shorts, Under Armor tank, Nike DriFit bra, black sleeve (to cover up my tattoo), buff

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Carrying: Nike Drifit running tights, Nike Drifit synthetic long sleeve shirt, Darn Tough socks (1), Patagonia synthetic puffy jacket, Patagonia down vest, Smart Wool beanie, Terramar wool long sleeve shirt, Terramar wool tights, Frogg Toggs rain jacket, cheap Walmart camp shoes

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Town: North Face town dress + small bottle of sunscreen (in a ziploc to keep safe from other smelly clothing)

*Latter two categories in a Zpaks dry bag

Cooking+

Jetboil + fuel canister + mini bic

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Water: Smart Water bottle + Sawyer Squeeze, 2L Platypus bladder

Gummy vitamins

Light My Fire spork

Miscellaneous

2015 Awol AT guidebook + ziploc + pen

Petzl headlamp

Stamps

TP bag

First aid+: bandaids, athletic tape, super glue, duct tape

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Toiletries: toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, half a comb, Diva Cup, glasses (for emergencies, I’m wearing contacts)

ID + money holding cards

iPod + iPhone + headphones + charging cords

Leki Naya trekking poles

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Keep in mind that I’m using cold weather gear and will switch out bags and some clothing when I get to Virginia.

I developed a nice cold this morning, the result of a week of stress from packing and moving across the country and partying with all of my homies, so that’ll be fun. I start tomorrow!

TBS

It’s like Throwback Thursday, sort of.

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This is from when I started the AT in 2013. Yes, I was crying. I was happy though, promise.

One week from today I’ll be back there again, starting a new AT adventure.

You can tell something is happening, judging from how much of a hot mess our house is.

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“In July neither women nor snails.”

Hey creepers. Long time no talk. How’s it hanging?

In anticipation of doing this for six months while on the AT, I’m writing this post from my phone. For one, definitely expect shorter posts, I don’t want to get carpal tunnel or anything. Also, if it’s too challenging to do otherwise, all the photos might go at the beginning or end of posts.

I’m currently back in Utah, “enjoying” my last couple of months here. I had been in Tennessee since December though. I went on a couple of hikes there, which would have been way more if I had brought proper cold weather clothes, but whatevs. So that’s what we’re talking about today.

The first was on MLK day (whoah long ass time ago). I went with a couple of furry friends, and their non-furry owners, to House Mountain. This is probably the most decent hike that’s close to Knoxville. There are only a few miles of trail total, but they’re somewhat steep and have good views of the surrounding countryside. It was also a goooooorgeous day.

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Then in early February, we had a ladies-only hiking experience at Frozen Head State Park. This park is also really close to Knoxville, but has a lot of trails, some of which are rather extreme. There’s a badass ultramarathon called Barkley hosted here every year that only a handful of people have ever even finished.

Because we’re way too chill for that shit, we just did a few miles on Panther Branch and Emory Gap trails to the falls. We ate a lot of baguette and I managed to not hurt myself using a stick as a baseball bat.

There was so much water! Luv it. Something Utah lacks and I always miss.

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Elf.

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I wish we could say this came from brushing a black bear, but it was just lying on the ground.

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A few more.

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Besides that, I’ve done no outdoors things of note. And I effectively stopped working out and started couch potato training. It was awesome but now I’m going to get my ass in gear to prep for the AT. Training for the AT is mostly pointless, because within the first three weeks you get trained, but I kind of want some baseline fitness. I’m going to swim and stationary bike, and hike up Logan Canyon as often as possible.

BTW, using my phone for posting is kinda fucking annoying. And my phone is only able to upload about five photos before it times out. Useless.

Expect both a general gear list post and an AT-specific post in the near future. I’m out. Have a good week, so as many beers as that entails.

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“Runnin’ like a superhero, mommy.” (Zion Recap)

Zion! Everyone keeps asking me about it, so here is the whole shebang.

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This past weekend was fall break at USU, which meant a three-day weekend. Wooooo!

My friend Erica and I decided to utilize this time properly by heading to southern Utah for some exploration. Because we’re both leaving Utah next year (she’s in the same lab), the pressure is on to take advantage of the incredible, and incredibly close, natural beauty of this state.

By some miracle, we hauled our sleep-deprived and hungover selves out of bed Friday morning to hit the road. Zion is about 6 hours away from Logan.

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It was so completely uneventful that I don’t remember anything about the drive. We rolled up to Springdale, UT, the main town just south of the park, and parked the car at Majestic Lodge. To prevent having an outrageous number of cars on the roads in the area, they’ve implemented a great shuttle system; one part is a shuttle that runs continuously through Springdale to the visitor center, and a second that goes up into Zion Canyon from the visitor center.

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We took the shuttle from Majestic Lodge to the visitor center, where a park ranger kindly informed us that our plans were fucked because all of the backcountry campsites on the West Rim trail were booked for the weekend. After probing the rangers for some info and chatting amongst ourselves, we came up with an alternative. These new plans may have been somewhat hastily conceived because it was already 5 pm, but we threw caution to the wind like proper dirtbag hippies.

After paying for the backcountry permit, we turned right around and hopped on the shuttle we just got off to head back to the car. This backtracking continued to the southwestern corner of Zion, and the Coalpits Wash trailhead. This area seems somewhat neglected by tourists, though you’ll see this is not warranted.

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You can see a beautiful representation of our weekend jaunt through this area below. Notice the lines. Different colors correspond to different days.

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And we were off!

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We hiked about four miles up to backcountry site #5 that first evening (see blue line). The first half of this was a hard-packed sandy trail in an open desert landscape.

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Once we actually entered Coalpits Wash, there was no trail to speak of. Though you’d have to be a dumbass to get lost. There was really nowhere else to go but along the wash. This was quite a bit more strenuous, with plenty of loose beach sand (though no beach in sight) and large boulders to scramble over.

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And scramble we did, as it was getting dark. But we managed to find our campsite, set up camp, eat dinner, and pass the fuck out at an unreasonably early hour.

You should be familiar by now with my penchant for not waking up early while backpacking. I rolled out of my sleeping bag at the ass crack of 9 am, and that only because it was getting mighty toasty in my tent. It’s pretty awesome get up and see an awesome landscape that had been cloaked in darkness the night before.

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We grabbed some water from the tiny spring near the campsite, the last water source of the trip, and stepped onto Chinle trail. We spent the rest of the day traversing this trail, all the way to its end and then back to backcountry site #1 (green line). One might say we were ambling; we had no particular place to be and were resigned to spend some time backtracking Chinle instead of setting up camp woefully early.

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It was a beautiful blur of colors and textures. My mind was blown over and over again. I’m gonna let a bunch of pictures do the talking, because my words aren’t so good.

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There were so many washes, from tiny to massive. The force of floods that had ripped through recently was apparent and frightening.

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We also noticed some peculiar rocks early on that day. Erica insisted from the get-go that it was petrified wood while I was the asshole skeptic hesitating to agree. The rocks did look alarmingly like wood and they were everywhere. Turns out we were in a PETRIFIED FOREST. I didn’t even know such things existed.

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NSFW.

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LOOK AT IT. Ugh.

The campsite that night was the best. It was out on a sort of peninsula of land, so we were pretty much surrounded by canyons and washes.

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Unfortunately, we had to wake up horridly early the next morning. It was still cold.

And then all that was left was “just” the hike out (see purple line, yo). Haha, just. It was still miraculously beautiful, and our first cloudless blue skies of the trip.

We backtracked on the Chinle trail again, though just a baby bit, to the Scoggins trail. This led straight down to the bottom of the deep Scoggins wash. We had very brief moments of real sun while hiking down to the wash.

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The trail met up with the aforehiked Coalpits Wash trail.

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Then, BAM we were back at the car. The southwestern part of Zion is great, very desolate and glorious. There aren’t a lot of trail miles, but it was just enough to explore basically the entire area in a weekend. And if you want isolation, this is your place. We saw four people the entire time and they were all day hikers.

And that was that.

Right?

Hell no! Do you think I would leave Zion without doing Angel’s Landing? We drove back to the Majestic, took two shuttles, and paid $24 to get to the Grotto trailhead, cause we ain’t playin.

The hike up to the top of Angel’s Landing is pretty steep. And the last half mile is basically a rock scramble that isn’t highly recommended for those who get queasy being in high places (sorry Erica). So so so worth it though. Even with a shit ton of tourists milling about.

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Highly recommend.

Guys, I think I like the desert. Who am I?!

“I feel like a million grams.”

Okay, I have two announcements to make. And then a third one, because two just wasn’t enough.

These are BIG and IMPORTANT announcements, so pay some motherfuckin’ attention please.

The first is that I will be moving to Florida next year. Yes, I might die of heat stroke or white trash or alligators. But all jokes aside, I’m actually very excited. I think it will be better in every way than Logan besides the mountains, though the mountains are substantially significant. My advisors got a very good offer from the University of Florida, so we’re officially starting there fall of 2015. And I guess I’ll be living in Gainesville.

Ooh, and there are beaches! (Sort of close.)

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Second thing is that I’m going to have a second attempt at a thruhike of the Appalachian Trail next year. All the stars have aligned in the most beautiful, unbelievable way. This is happening for real and I cannot fucking wait.

I’ve mentioned my first AT attempt on the blog a couple of times, and most people who would be reading this know about it already. I started at Springer Mountain in Georgia in March 2013 with the intention of hiking over 2,000 miles to Maine. I didn’t finish because I had to start school in August and also my best friend from high school was getting married, so I got off in New York about four months after I started. It was still an incredibly life-changing experience.

That really deserves a post of it’s own, but don’t hold your breath. I’m a lazy bastard. You’ll at least get a few photos.

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I’m getting excitement goosebumps just looking at those.

After I got off, I thought that would be that. But no. That unfulfilled goal of a successful thruhike has burned hard in the back of my mind ever since and I’ve realized that I won’t be happy (or at least content) until I achieve that goal. And because of a series of fortunate events, some due to my initiative and some not, I will have the opportunity at an attempt.

And while these sorts of events are an attempt because there are so many uncontrollable factors, I know I’m going to make it. I was mentally and physically in a great place when I got off trail last year and I’m quite confident in my ability to have a successful thruhike. And an amazingly fun one. I’ll be starting in April, most likely near the end of the month, next year at Springer.

Hyperventilation-level stoked.

And then there’s the news that’s not so good, and actually pertinent to this blog’s original purpose. (There’s a little foreshadowing for you.) I went on an easy 3 mile run around my neighborhood a month ago after getting back from a wedding in Tennessee. Apparently I’m no longer allowed to run on roads at all anymore, because it tweaked my knee. While the knee is slowly but surely getting better, there’s been no reason to give y’all any updates since then because pretty much all I’ve been doing is swimming.

It’s caused me to ponder my fitness choices a lot lately, though. I even wrote a 1,500 word diatribe about my knee and the emotions it evokes that I intended to post here, but it got much too dark and intense and I was worried someone would try to get me committed. Maybe I’ll throw it up someday. Let’s just say, I get very stressed out and depressed when my knee flares up, but I constantly deal with the fear of a flare-up even when it’s fine. And it worries me that it seems to be chronic, but I don’t have the means to get it looked at.

So I’m making the executive decision (I am, after all, the executive of my own life) to take an extended break from running. Ever since I became a runner in 2008, I’ve never intentionally stopped running for any length of time. I’ve stopped due to injuries and for the couple mandatory weeks after track season. I’ve never even thought seriously about stopping because it’s such an important part of my life. I need workouts to stay mentally balanced and running has always been my absolute favorite.

But I need to think long-term here; I would rather take months off now and be able to run for years. I would also really appreciate a break from the emotional trauma of dealing with this injury. I’m going to take off about a year from running. That’s the six months until I start the AT, and then the six months I’ll be on it (I wouldn’t be running then anyways). Some of the motivation for that timeline is to ensure my knee is fully healed and ready to go when I start hiking.

I’m definitely going to remain active. I plan to completely replace running with all of the other activities I love. There will be plenty of boring-to-write-about cross training (stationary biking and swimming mostly), lots of hiking which will transition to snowshoeing/cross-country skiing in the winter, and hashing, obvs. And possibly picking up yoga again in the spring.

At this point though, there’s no way that I could reasonably finish the 1000 Mile Challenge. Without any miles from running, and from this past month off, it would be difficult to maintain the required mileage and probably put me in a bad physical spot for the AT. No more weekly updates then. But I’ll be posting sporadically, probably mostly backpacking trip recaps and maybe some of the more ridiculous hashes. And hopefully I’ll keep this blog rolling while I’m on the AT.

Is that enough words for you?

Because I want to end this on a positive note, here are some pictures from THE FIRST HASH I’ve done in FIVE MONTHS. I had to do quite the supercharged down down for backsliding.

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Identity crisis.

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I’ve missed my Salt Lake hashers so much and it’s great to be back.

And more pictures, this time from a 4 mile Card Canyon evening hike.

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Hopefully I’ll be back next week with some cool shit from my first trip to Zion. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy getting fat from being lazy, and you are very welcome to join me.

Weeks 21 & 22: “Rub it all over myself.”

I just had THE BEST WEEKEND EVER.

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No joke.

But that’s not what this blog is all about, so you’ll just have to suffer from not knowing why.

 Week 21

Wednesday: 4 mile trail run

Thursday: 2 mile walk

Friday: 2 mile walk

Saturday: 9 mile hike

—–

Week 22

Monday: 3.5 mile run

Tuesday: 3 mile hike

Saturday: 2 mile walk

Sunday: 3 mile hash

—–

TOTAL total: 464.7 miles

I’ve finally busted out a couple of hikes in the Logan area since I’ve been back.

The first was Logan Peak Trail a couple weekends back. Damn, that seems like it was a longass time ago.

Anyways, I’ve been meaning to attempt Logan Peak for quite a while, mostly because the trailhead shares the same parking lot in Dry Canyon as the south section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. I only saw maybe a half dozen people while I hiking, which surprised me, but it’s probs underutilized because it’s not in Logan Canyon.

The deal with this peak is that it’s one of the taller ones in the range to the east of the town of Logan, topping out at over 9,700 feet. There’s a really nice, pretty well maintained trail that starts at the bottom of Dry Canyon and goes steadily and gradually up the canyon for 3.5 miles or so. It’s forested for most of the way, but opens up higher to some dec views of the canyon and Logan.

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And then there’s this.

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The trail forks, with Syncline going south over into Providence Canyon and the left fork going up and over into Logan Canyon. That the left fork is labelled Dry Canyon confused the shit out of me and I stood there staring at the sign for a while.

From what I had been able to deduce from the internet, I needed to take the left fork for a little bit, then magically know where to turn right off that trail and head up to the top of a ridge. I bushwhacked for a while in the wrong place before realizing that I had turned too early, but I did somehow actually magically find that turnoff!

I knew from there on out there wasn’t a real trail, but I had expected it to be a little more obvious than it was. I mean, srsly?

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I spent a while slowly making my way up the ridge, grumbling and stomping through the bushes. I would think to myself, oh, this is fun, sort of maybe, uhh nope nopenopenope, stupid, this is so dumb, fuck no. I went through this process a handful of times before I gave up and sat down on the ground in the bushes to eat lunch and listen to some cows mooing in a semi-distressed fashion.

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It’s no big thang for people from out west to just bushwhack straight up to mountain tops with no trail required. I’m definitely not down with that (yet). My sense of direction is pretty shit, and I’m so used to dense woods that you will absolutely get lost in if you leave the trail, that doing that sort of thing is not my idea of a good time.

So I said fuck it and turned around. I cruised down to my car and that was that.

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I did have a spark of inspiration for a excellent new project for this challenge while hiking down. It’s going to be EXCITING and PARTICIPATORY. I’ll probably talk about it soon, so keep an eye out for that.

While my bf was visiting last week, I dragged him out to Wind Caves trail, which I did the very first week of the challenge, to make him suffer from the altitude and heights.

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I’m not actually taller than him, I was standing on a rock.

I think he had a good time. With that juniper.

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This is definitely what I’ll miss about Utah.

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this past weekend was THE BEST WEEKEND EVER. I went to Denver to hang out with my hiking partner from the AT. He was visiting Colorado, so I decided to visit him.

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Luckily, the stars aligned and there just happened to be a hash in Denver while I was there. It was the annual high altitude hash, so the trail went up to and around St. Mary’s glacier. Super cool! I went with my hiking partner’s friend, who’s also a hasher.

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For some reason, Spam is an integral part of the high altitude hash. One of the hares walked around feeding people Spam with a plastic fork. Cause why the fuck not.

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The Denver H3 crew was awesome and we had a fabulous time. Hashing is a global organization and most bigger cities have a kennel, so whenever I travel I always try to visit other kennels. Every kennel runs their trails and circles slightly differently, but hashing draws in a particular type of person so I always feel comfortable and have fun with hashers no matter where I am.

Also, hashing on a glacier. Duh.