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Sunday, February 23, 2020

No Substitute - Get Out And Hike - Hiking Post #3

As I prepare for my trek in the Colombian Andes mountains in May, I’m trying to figure out gear, food, safety, and fitness. There is one thing that everyone’s been telling me...”Get out and hike!”

I’ve been pretty disciplined when it comes to weight lifting and riding my bike for cardio, but I needed to get on the trail and try out some local hikes. Good thing I listened! I have a whole set of sore muscles that I didn’t even know existed! I’m finding out that 58 years old is not the same as 30, or even 40 for that matter. I may not be able to roll back the clock, but I’m determined to push myself with a set of goals that helps me keep up with the youngsters!

This past week I hiked Mount Woodson trail to Potato Chip rock with a twist...I hiked it with my 12 year old grandson, 10 year old granddaughter, and my 6 year old niece! This is a 7.6 mile up and back hike with a 2,000 foot climb. I knew I could do it, but wasn’t sure about the rest of the hiking party.

Making a memory with my grandson!
We got about 1/4 of the way up the hill, well past the last Port-a-potties, and mother nature was calling the littlest one in the pack. Well, let’s just say she conquered that fear with flying colors and got a whole new burst of energy...enough to make it to the top at Potato Chip Rock! I was SO PROUD of these guys! That was no joke of a hike for a 6 year old! I think my grandson could have kept going for days!


On Saturday, I went with a pack of my adult friends to Mount Wilson trail in Angeles National Forest. I was a little nervous about this one as there is a 5640 foot ascent up a 7 1/2 mile trail. When I first started, I could feel my heart pumping. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep the pace with these guys as they had way more hiking experience than I did. But off we went! Even though it was cool outside and overcast, I could feel myself getting drenched with sweat. Good thing I brought lots of water!

After we had hiked about a mile, we took our first short break. I had all kinds of thoughts going through my head. What did the rest of the trail look like? Was it going to be one giant staircase to the top, or would we ever get a little bit of a flat section? What if I got so tired that I would lose my footing and fall off a cliff? There were a few sections where that could have happened. I just kept saying to myself, “just keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay focused.”

We finally made it to the top. My feet and body were sore, but the feeling of making it to the top was great! Once at the top, the cold weather started to set in. Hail was coming down and the wind was blowing. My shirt was soaked, and I quickly reached into my backpack to pull out my puffer jacket and rain jacket so I could get warm. I underestimated the weather at the top of the mountain. I wish I would have brought gloves and a beanie. Next time I’ll remember.

Sometimes you can’t learn things until you actually do them. You can read about needing to go on a hike to build up your endurance, but you can’t really understand walking on uneven dirt and rocks until you do it! You can read about doing lunges to build strength in your legs, or running to build up your cardio, but getting on the trail gives you the real picture of how strong your legs are, and how good your cardio is. After hiking with my buddies, I knew I was making progress, but I had a long way to go before I could trek the Andes mountains.

In the end, it was a good couple of hikes, but my friends were more fit than I was at this point in time. They were gracious with my pace, but I’m determined to keep improving my fitness and my hiking! My goal now is to be able to run up those trails, which means I’d better add a bunch of trail runs into my fitness. Time to put in the work!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Backpacking Starting from ZERO - Fitness First - Post #2

How does a person get ready for a major backpacking trip in the Andes mountains starting from basically ZERO knowledge or gear? Fortunately, I work for Sawyer, and we have several employees that know a thing or two about backpacking.

I had a few hurdles to overcome. The first one was, how do I get myself fit for backpacking? I try to stay in decent shape by lifting weights a few times a week (skipped a few leg days here and there) and riding my bike up hills for cardio. From everything I was hearing, your core needs to be solid, but your legs are what carry you so you have to get your legs ready. The first piece of advice I received was to do lots of walking lunges. Did I say that in the past...I HATED LUNGING! I needed a goal or I would never make it.

I’ve always been a goal setter when it comes to fitness. I like a challenge, I always like a fitness program catered towards my goals, and I always monitor and evaluate my fitness. When I was in my 30’s, I had the opportunity to create a fitness program designed by a trainer who trained several of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Cardinals. That guy changed my fitness future. It was a scientific method that included resistance training, cardio, and diet.

I track everything with a Fitness app. By doing this, it helps me to meet and exceed my goals, especially on days when I really don’t feel like working out, and everyone has those days. If I track my weight training, I know where to set the weight and reps and I make sure I don’t cheat. If I did not track my program, I know I would cheat and not work out as hard.

Adding lunges to my fitness routine became somewhat of a distance challenge for me. I’d lunge as many times in a row as I could, and then do as many sets as it took me to go a certain distance. We live near a green belt that is about 1/4 mile long with a paved path in the middle. Goal number one was to lunge 1/4 of a mile. My first day, I made it about 1/3 of the way doing multiple sets. The next big lunge day I pushed it to 2/3’s of the way, and on my 3rd day, I actually hit the 1/4 mile mark. I was surprised at how quick my legs responded. I got a little sore along the way, but it was a good kind of sore. Now I’m working on getting to 1/2 mile and I’m getting close.

I can feel my legs getting stronger in everything I’m doing, including hiking, and even on my last trip to Israel where we walked a lot each day.

The other fitness piece of advice was to get out there and hike and walk for distance and with elevation gains. People told me that there was no substitute for actual walking and hiking. Those require different muscles than I normally use. They were right! My first hike up Cowles mountain showed me that I could do it, but I definitely felt different muscles hurting afterwards.

On my first few hikes I only carried my water. Everyone was telling me that I needed to add weight and actually practice carrying a loaded backpack. Well that sounds great, but my biggest problem was that I did not have any gear yet. How would I accumulate the gear I need? How will I know what to buy? Isn’t this stuff expensive? How do I best prepare? In my next post, we’ll look at the gear journey, but there’s really a helpful way to learn about backpacking when you are starting out, and I’m going to let you in on the secret!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

My Backpacking Trip to the Colombian Andes from A to Z - Post #1

The Colombian Andes...Google it and you will find some of the most beautiful outdoor adventures in the world. The thought of backpacking for several days in the Andes mountains sounds amazing, but also a little intimidating, especially since I have ZERO backpacking experience! Until now, I wouldn’t even call myself an avid hiker. I had not hiked even one of the San Diego trails until recently!

In this series of posts, I’m going to take you on my journey from ZERO experience on the trail, to an actual backpacking adventure in the Colombian Andes with Backpacker Magazine. Here’s the deal...I’m not sure how this whole thing is going to turn out.

So how in the world did a backpacking trip to the Andes even come up? Well, it started at last years Outdoor Retailer Convention in Denver. This is the ultimate outdoor conference with every outdoor company you’ve ever heard of, and hundreds you’ve never heard of. I was a kid in a candy store. I was in the Sawyer Products booth talking with different people along the way, sharing some of our great clean water stories around the world, and somewhere in the mix was a crew from Backpacker Magazine. 

Backpacker Magazine often features Sawyer gear like Insect Repellents and Water Filters in their articles, but the idea of doing a feature article on Sawyer’s philanthropic clean water work around the world became a topic of exploration. The question came up of where we could go around the world where we could participate in Sawyer’s clean water mission to change the world, and combine that with a backpacking adventure in a place where backpackers would want to go?

After a few phone calls we all decided that a trip with our great NGO (non-profit) partner Waves for Water, would allow us a clean water adventure in Colombia, and provide an awesome backpacking experience in the Northern Andes mountain range.

All of this sounds amazing, except that little detail of “I’m a total novice at backpacking starting from ground ZERO!“

Follow me on this series of posts and I’ll take you through my discovery, learning, failures, and wins on my way to this amazing adventure in the Andes! We’ll talk gear, fitness, prep, meal planning, water, and more! Then you can follow me live on the trail in May!