Winter hiking is better than summer hiking.

I have officially declared this to be the case.

Today I went on my first real solo hike(!) on the edge of the Ossipee mountains in Moultonborough, NH. Well, OK, I do frequently hike solo here, near my parents’ place in Maine, but I know that trail system very well and it’s pretty low-key and very low-risk. I was supposed to run today — I am, after all, training for all those half marathons! But I really needed to get in the woods/up high.

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Antidepressant.

For today’s excursion I chose a 4-mile route that I have done before in an area I know moderately well, but it’s cold and there is a little snow on the ground, so there was potential for incidents and/or accidents. As you’ve probably figured out by now, though, I made it! And I decided that winter hiking is better than summer hiking. It’s not hot, it’s not humid, there are no bugs, the bears are all hibernating, there are no leaves on the trees blocking views you probably never knew were out there, and there are very few other people on the trails. The only downsides I identified, which are easy enough to handle, are A) rest stops and summit enjoyment time are limited because I get too cold if I stay still too long and B) (TMI alert) my nose runs almost constantly. Ew. But the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

As a follow-up to my “Running with Raynaud’s” post, here is my gear/clothing list for today. It was mostly cloudy and about 35 degrees with very little wind (until five minutes after I reached my destination, cutting my enjoyment time even shorter than I had planned). The trail was mostly covered with snow with conditions ranging from packed-down (slippery!) snow to ice to bare spots.

Clothing:  lightweight baselayer top and bottom; midweight tech shirt; dorky-yet-comfy-and-functional hiking pants; puffy coat; and, of course, socks and boots. Please don’t beat me up about the boots — there was less info available when I bought them and I thought they were leather-free. I’ve already beaten myself up enough. I usually hike in minimalist

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Shannon (Brook).

trail running shoes but I found (not surprisingly) that I really need more substance — and INSULATION — in the winter. These boots are lightweight and comfy (I generally HATE hiking boots) and WARM. Again with the whole health & safety over preferences/ethics thing. I also carried a midweight, hooded fleece but did not end up needing it.

 

Accessories:  buff; warm hat; flip-top mittens; hand warmers and toe warmers. I forgot to pack my shea butter for the weekend but I encountered very little wind.

So… this is only my third? fourth? real winter hike and this is pretty much the system I’ve stuck to. It’s not perfect. When I’m climbing steeper terrain I get sweaty pretty quickly. I can vent a bit by unzipping my puffy coat but taking it off leaves me too chilly. So, my baselayer top gets damp and when I’m not working as hard that can be a little uncomfortable.

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Winni and the Belknaps. My new band’s name?

I’m considering switching to my midweight baselayer top to see if that keeps me any warmer even when it’s damp. Head, hands, legs, and feet usually stay comfy and cozy. I usually lose the mittens at some point on the way up and may or may not need then on the way down. So sometimes I’m too warm, sometimes I’m a bit cool, but I’ve never been dangerously (Raynaud’s attack-inducing) cold. Except for when we climbed Kearsarge North a couple months ago and it was crazy cold and windy at the top but too stunningly beautiful to leave. I was OK once we started moving again.

 

Sometimes I feel like a dork when I day hike because I carry a Camelbak pack that probably has too much stuff in it — mostly extra layers because I figure I can’t be too safe. Plus I really, really, really prefer a hydration pack to water bottles. I can never comfortably reach around to a water bottle out of a pack’s side pocket, let alone get it back in without having to stop, remove my pack, get out the water bottle, drink, put back the water bottle, and reshoulder my pack. Ugh. I don’t care what all the UL geeks say. I’ll carry the extra few ounces of weight and take the risk of springing a leak over wrestling with side pockets/water bottles any day. My point, though, is that I really felt this today when I met a pair of probably 75-year-old men near the summit this afternoon. They were carrying gas station coffee cups. No packs. No gloves/mittens. Puffy coats! But no “gear.” In my defense I was a woman hiking solo and took a more technical trail than they did most of the way up. Plus, circulatory condition. I got over my dorkiness. And they were fun to talk to. They know the area well and have spent a lot of time on the trails.

So despite the runny nose and sweaty baselayer shirt, I pretty much had the time of my life today, even without the boyfriend (who is nursing a knee injury). I now have grand illusions (delusions?) of following winter wherever it goes every day for the rest of my life. And hiking in it.

 

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Running with Raynaud’s

Remember when I was complaining about the rain and the record-breaking (high) temperatures a couple weeks ago? Well, winter has finally arrived and it’s making up for lost time. For the past few days we’ve had temps in the 20s and CRAZY wind, resulting in wind chills either side of 0. Here’s the thing:  I love cold weather. Here’s the other thing:  my body does not. I have asthmaRaynaud’s Disease, and very sensitive skin. I won’t whine or go into any gory details, but the fact is that all this makes being outside in this weather challenging. Cold, dry air is one of my (several) asthma triggers; my face is very susceptible to windburn; the circulation in my hands and feet can get compromised enough to be scary.

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Today is downright balmy compared to the past two!

Here’s how I handle the bitter cold so I can still play outside. For today’s 45-minute run I wore/used…

Clothing:  long-sleeve tech shirt; mid-weight tech pullover, mid-weight running pants, and, of course, shoes and socks.

Accessories:  Buff (to cover my neck and face/warm the air for breathing), a thick, warm hat, half Buff (under my hat, around my ears because I haven’t found a hat that truly protects them), flip-top convertible glove-mittens. Confession:  my Buff is made of merino wool. My glove-mittens are alpaca. Sometimes I wear wool socks. I realize this is not vegan but sometimes I have to compromise for the sake of health and safety.

Seemingly excessive but often necessary extras:  hand warmers and toe warmers.

Oh, and a healthy dose of pure shea butter on my face to protect it from the wind when I have to pull my buff off my face because I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate/suffocate. Note:  pure shea smells a little funky. Today I finally remembered to add a drop of essential oil to combat. Mmm… grapefruit

(notice I said I mixed some essential oil with my shea butter. this is key information.  please do not ever put undiluted essential oils on your skin! they are very potent and can burn skin… especially citrus oils.)

Oh, and I ALWAYS use my albuterol inhaler before running. This is the only pharmaceutical product I use on a regular basis. Again, health and safety sometimes trump ethical preferences.

I have learned over the past couple of years that keeping my core warm is very important in preventing Raynaud’s “attacks,” as is keeping my wrists warm — it’s all about keeping the blood that’s flowing to the extremities warm. Not only are attacks common in this single-digit weather, but in anything below about 60 degrees. When I worked in a grocery store I had to wear a cardigan and wrist warmers almost every day — even in the middle of summer. I wasn’t necessarily cold but my hands and feet often ended up being so.

Today’s experience? Fairly typical: within five minutes I’d pulled my Buff off my face; within ten minutes I’d put my hand warmers in my pocket and flipped back the tops of my mittens; within fifteen minutes I’d removed the mittens altogether. My head got pretty sweaty though my ears were still cold most of the time because this wind penetrates everything. The rest of my body was pretty comfortable. Fifteen or twenty minutes after the run my hands got very cold, but this happens in almost all weather conditions — even when it’s warm out. Breathing was a bit painful, but I knew that would be the case. And my face stayed soft and smooth and happy.

This is what works for me. Your methods/results may vary. The links included here lead to the products I like the best — I am not affiliated with any company, nor do I receive any kind of compensation from anyone.

Stay tuned for a similar entry involving hiking clothing. This is my first winter hiking  on a fairly regular basis so I’m still working on my system but I do already have a few items I know I love.

Back in Business…

… the half marathon business, that is.

I came to running a bit later than most — I was 41 when I started. 9 months (and a few days) after my first run I ran a half marathon. I ran that whole race at a ten-minute-mile pace and I didn’t stop to rest once. I could not have been more proud.

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Thin, fit, owning the hot pink compression socks, and running fast (for me), May 2013. Photo credit:  the boyfriend’s dad.

Other than fair-weather hiking and kayaking I had never been “sporty” or “athletic” or even “fit.” But in the spring of 2013 I was all of those things. I was “in shape” for the first time in my life.

 

And then it all kind of went downhill from there. Summer came. It got hot and humid. I hate hot and humid. I didn’t train enough during those months even though I had another half in late September. I let myself transition from running entire races to doing running/walking intervals:  run for three to five minutes, walk for a minute to 90 seconds. Rinse. Repeat. I still intended to run that entire half marathon course, though, despite my lazy training.

And then I came down with a cold the day before the race. Come race morning I felt like HELL. But it was my birthday, I’d travelled all the way to Providence, and there was no way I was going to skip that race. So I did my little intervals, pounding Boiron ColdCalm every fifteen minutes, and I finished that race. I had every intention of getting back to training for real as soon as I was better.

And then Life happened. Some shitty things happened. I let those things get in my way and I let myself train lazily throughout 2014. I don’t exactly regret the way I handled my training and running that year, but I do wish I had tried a bit harder. I never really got back to fully running anything longer than a 5k. I gained 10 pounds. I lazily ran five(!) half marathons. I did run/walk intervals for all five of those half marathons.

Meanwhile my boyfriend and I had started experimenting with trail running. We found that we enjoyed it much more than road running and decide to shift our focus from road running and racing to trail running for 2015.

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Less thin, less fit, owning the hot pink compression sleeves, running a trail race, May 2015. Also, that guy I frequently run with. Photo credit: Gameface Media.

I’d grown tired of half marathons, and he (who was never really interested in them in the first place but had gotten into the game by then anyway) was in complete agreement. We spent 2015 running more trails, fewer road races, and, of course, doing a lot of hiking and camping. It was great.

And then it was late 2015 and we found ourselves talking with a friend about the coming year. Before we knew it we had all verbally committed to three half marathons in 2016. We’ve already registered for the first one (taking place in May). The second and third are in September and November. We’ve been running more seriously for the past two months and I can do four to five miles without walking, albeit not at my preferred ten-minute-mile pace… yet. But I feel confident that I will be able to do these races with very few (if any) walk breaks. I’m even toying with the idea of breaking the 13.1 mile barrier this year. No, I am not interested in running a marathon. But I might at some point this year be willing to run a little farther than ever before. And I mentioned earlier that I don’t make NY resolutions, but I do plan on getting back to some semblance of my 2013 self this year.

So. It seems as though we are back in the half marathon business.

 

The Power of the Written Word

I. Love. Books. Fiction, non-fiction, travel, adventure, sci-fi, food, fitness, and the list goes on… the printed word has always been incredibly important to me. My mother taught me to read before I was four and I never looked back. Never have I been so influenced, so enraptured, so utterly hopelessly completely in love with a book, though, as I am with my “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have had this set of books for almost as long as I can remember and I have read them countless times through.

The books, however, had been packed up in a box for far too long — so long, in fact, that I had no idea where this box was. I thought it was in a particular closet but was proven wrong last year when I dug through said closet in search of my beloved books.

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Only the most cherished books on the planet.

It turned out, I discovered a few weeks ago, that my boyfriend had moved this box (and a few others containing most of my books from my childhood) to his parents’ attic in New Hampshire. And now we have finally been reunited. My books are safe and sound in my apartment and I am devouring them for probably the 27th time.

I know that these books are technically fiction loosely based on Laura’s life. In my mind, though, every word written in these books is exactly how things happened, lo, those one hundred plus years ago. I certainly can’t remember conversations I had with my parents when I was five but I know deep down in my heart that Laura could. And did. And she wrote them all down much later in life and published the best books ever written.

When I was a kid my favorite was On the Banks of Plum Creek. The Ingallses lived in a sod-roofed house (hole!) dug out of a hillside; Mary and Laura attended school for the first time in their lives (at ages 9 and 8, respectively); Laura met the evil Nellie Oleson (who reminded me all too much of a group of Mean Girls I grew up with). As an adult I am partial to Farmer Boy, the story of a year in Laura’s future husband Almanzo’s life in upstate — and I do mean UPSTATE — New York. As much as I love the writings of Ruth Reichl, Julia Child, and James Beard, none of them has anything on Laura. The best food porn of all time is contained in Farmer Boy. Read it.

  

If you want to read the whole series but aren’t sure of the order in which the books are meant to be read, I found this handy list in Little House on the Prairie. I was probably just either side of ten when I wrote it:

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Apparently I’ve been a crazy list-maker for even longer than I realized.

And for the love of all that is holy (namely this set of books), PLEASE do not ever. ever. ever. mention that TV series named after one of these books to me. Thank you.

 

Blargh.

It is a nasty, nasty day in New England. I’ve been wishing for snow all week but to no avail… it’s windy and crazy rainy with a record-breaking temperature of 58 degrees in my town — at 5:30pm. In January. In New England. Apparently the temperature is going to drop like a rock tonight and tomorrow’s expected high is 34. I’m OK with that. We’ll be going on a 65 minute run. I’d much rather run in 34 degrees than 64 degrees. My dad has always said I must be part penguin.

So instead of being outdoorsy I haven’t left my apartment and have been cooking. I made walnut pesto (#pinenutsaretoofreakingexpensive), carrot-harissa dip (mostly based on this recipe but I always tweak recipes to suit my needs/preferences/ingredients on hand), and baked doughnuts (mostly based on this recipe but I always tweak recipes to suit my needs/preferences/ingredients on hand).

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I’d love to blame the poor quality of this picture on my haste/laziness in taking it. That’s partly true but I am also just not a very good photographer.

I made the doughnuts with some butternut squash my aunt in Maine grew and topped them with apple cider glaze instead of chocolate. Creativity! I also made homemade Swiffer wet cloths by mixing water, white vinegar, and peppermint Dr. Bronner soap in a big zip bag and adding enough cheap, thin washcloths to soak up all the liquid. ‘Cause I’m weird like that (and I hate using synthetic chemicals to clean my house just as much as I hate using them in/on my body).

 

If you know me you know that I am currently unemployed — by choice. I am dreading the day when I have to start looking for a job… and that day is approaching far too quickly for my taste. I would much rather be making hair conditioner, relearning to play the piano,, and, of course, playing outside.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a gorgeous daikon radish and a less-than-perfectly-fresh cucumber that are just dying to be pickled. Heheheheheh.

12 in ’16

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged (and no, you probably wouldn’t know my previous blog. it still exists, though, so maybe I’ll link to it someday). I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about creativity. I used to be very creative — cooking, writing, crafting, blogging, singing/playing instruments… but I spent the past ten years in a retail job, the last five of those while working on my bachelor’s degree. There wasn’t much time or energy for creativity. Now that I have completed my degree and have escaped my somewhat stultifying job I’ve decided that it’s time to reboot my creative side. First step:  cooking like a madwoman. Second step:  new blog. Third step:  dust off my guitar. And so on, and so on, and so on.

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Heading into the woods on a recent hike in New Hampshire.

Why “Happy Vegan Camper?” I’ve always loved being outdoors, walking in the woods, kayaking, Geocaching, feeling the sun on my face. Something really clicked about a year ago, though, when my boyfriend mentioned his longtime fascination with Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness. I was suddenly consumed by the idea of more serious hiking and even backpacking. I spent last winter reading, researching, and buying gear, and we did a lot of hiking, a little car camping, and a tiny bit of backpacking in 2015. We love it. We can’t get out in the woods nearly enough to satiate ourselves. We don’t have immediate plans to hike the 100 Mile Wilderness but we may get there someday. For now we are spending as much time as possible exploring the wilds of New England and hope to do more backpacking this year.

And yes, I am a vegan. I am also obsessed with living as natural a lifestyle as I can. I moisturize my skin with organic, extra-virgin coconut oil; I burn essential oils to combat colds and flu; I clean my apartment with white vinegar. I eat as organic as is feasible for me. I avoid at all costs artificial sweeteners, colors, flavorings, and preservatives.  I try to err on the side of more whole foods, fewer processed foods.

So sometimes finding outdoor gear and food can be challenging. I make the best effort I can at adhering to my ethics, though, and I’ll use this site to share my findings with you.

I also run. Roads, trails, the pond we live next to when it freezes over. Some of that will probably sneak in here, too.

By now you’re probably wondering what “12 in ’16” means. I can’t take credit for that — that’s all my boyfriend (who is far more creative than I have ever even hoped to be). He has this idea of having one major adventure each month this year (in addition to our regular adventures). Figuring out WordPress is turning out to be more of an adventure than I thought it would be but we are also hoping to spend a night or two at Mass Audubon’s Innermost House in Topsfield (MA) for our first adventure. We did this last March, and it was great, but my boyfriend (I really need to come up with a nickname for him) had a pretty bad cold and couldn’t fully enjoy our time there. So, new year, new adventure in Topsfield!

I hate blog posts that go on forever. Trying to curb my penchant for overwriting will be another ongoing adventure for me this year.