3 Recurring Dreams and My Sleeping Bag

I have had a recurring dream three times recently. I usually remember my dreams when I wake up and sometimes I will jot down some points.  Dreams are entertaining and I find a sense of comfort in the stories of my imagination while I sleep. My dreams tend to be quite vivid and action packed.

The recurring dream takes place on a hiking trail. I am not certain of where. I’m at various stages on the trail including the trail head and at camp. In each of the three dreams I realize that it is winter and I am unprepared with my sleeping bag. I only have my 0 degrees sleeping bag with me.

In my dream I am not worried and there is no sense of panic. I think or say to myself: I should have known better. Why did you do this? How are you going to fix this? I have woken up each time before I decide what to do.

Now in reality I wouldn’t make the mistake of taking a sleeping bag that is rated to 0 degrees on a hike in the winter. The end of October is my limit.  Winter camping would be cool to explore and we have a -20 sleeping bag if the opportunity comes up.

So now I am left to think, what does my dream mean? I am slowly preparing for 10 days on the Appalachian Trail. This will be my longest and most challenging hike to date. Maybe my mind is telling me to triple check all of my gear and supplies and to ensure my choices are smart and informed.

These are some of the items that I am bringing:

Kelty Salida Two Person Tent or as I call it Kelty Salida 1 Human and 1 Large Dog Tent. We have the Kelty Grand Mesa 4 as our family hiking tent and the set up is nearly identical to the Salida. The Salida is a two minute set up, durable, and right in my comfort zone with having experience with the Grand Mesa 4.

On a side note with Kelty, I am becoming quite the fan of their products the more I use mine, seeing what others think with reading reviews, and following their posts on social media. I like looking at and buying new camping and hiking gear. It has become my new splurge. I am kind of in the market for a larger pack and I will likely explore Kelty as one of the main options when the time comes to buy. Their gear is “innovative, uncomplicated and built to last” and the prices are budget-friendly.

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Stock photo of Salida 2. Look how cozy and comfortable that is!

Hotcore Roma 100 Sleeping Bag

Cabela’s Instinct Insulated Sleeping Pad (shhhh, it’s a Christmas gift for me that I did not see in the closet) This sleeping pad is a popular choice with hunters. At 2 pounds, it is heavier than other sleeping pads but I trust that it will perform well.

MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove

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Boiling water to make soup on the trail a few weeks ago.

MSR SweetWater® Microfilter

I am confident with my sleeping and cooking set up for the middle of July. Additional items will include rain gear, first aid kit, toiletries, compass, eating utensils, GPS, food, clothes, trekking poles, camp shoes, and my Kindle and a journal. I have a planning document complete with a detailed checklist. I am certain that I am not going to make a grave mistake like packing a 0 degrees sleeping bag to go winter camping with. I will run my packing list through multiple people too.

I like that I am having a recurring dream about being unprepared on a trail and in the dream, I am calm and collected. I hope there is a continuation from the camp scene. I want to know what I chose to do to stay warm over night. My arms and mind are wide open to learning and growing.

P.S Build a nice fire, heat a rock and put it in my sleeping bag, layer up, and hightail it out of there at dawn back to my car. Drive to nearest place that sells pancakes and eat a big breakfast and drink lots of coffee. I wonder what else my subconscious knows that I don’t yet realize.  

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Back to the Workout Mat

I have been working out to Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and just completed day 12. I really don’t want to focus too much on the past but five years ago I was living a very healthy lifestyle complete with chia seeds and daily work outs at the gym. I’m getting a glimpse of how amazing I felt back then from my twenty minute daily workouts. Five years ago really isn’t that long ago. 

Before the cheesecake hit the wall with my mental health breakdown brought on by mixing alcohol and anti-depressants, I had begun training for a 5K marathon. Life spiraled out of control and day to day living became about survival. I gained back all of the weight I had lost (plus some) and all of my healthy lifestyle choices plumated into a big dark hole that was covered in dirt. 

Fast forward to now. There are a lot of good changes happening with my physical health. My workplace brought Weight Watchers meetings to our office and we meet weekly at lunch. There is talk of continuing the meetings after our 22 weeks. A group of us from our WW meetings walk one to two times every day for 15 minutes. It’s fun to be cheered on by people as we pass their desks as quietly as possible. Sometimes they are louder than us. On nice days we walk outside. I really love the group environment of people all working towards bettering themselves. 

I don’t judge myself on how I look on the outside, lord knows there are enough people out there who will do that for me. I love how I look with my curves, grey hairs, and the wrinkles starting to appear on my face. I work out so I can become stronger, physically and mentally. Wearing different sized clothes is a bonus that comes with weight loss but it is the strength that I want. 

There have been a few times between day one and day 12 of 30 Day Shred that I sat out. My depression kept me in bed one day after work, a sore throat another, and on another day I chose to do a restorative yoga practice. Oh yes, and let’s not forget the day I binged on cheesecake and rolled into bed. I owned all of my choices and I think that’s really important to do when working towards a lifestyle change.

I really like who I am when I work out and I feel a high that lasts into the next day. I love the way my heart races, my arms and legs pulse, and the way my hair looks as a wicked mess. Deep down inside of me is a really fit, strong person just wanting to high kick her way out. 

Training for the Appalachian 

I came across a great article by Zach Davis, author of Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking The Appalachian Trail. 

http://blueridgehikingco.com/training-brain-appalachian-trail

The book is on my list to read before I venture out for 10 days in the back country of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. 

I am well-aware that hiking up and down a mountain range for 10 days is going to kick my ass. I’m an over weight asthmatic with a phobia of snakes. Do you realize how many snakes are in Pennsylvania?!? It sounds fucking nuts what I am planning to do! And I love that it is a crazy!

The connection that I have to nature, hiking, and camping makes everything about this trip make sense. While hiking is a physically demanding activity, it’s more mental for me. When it comes down to passion, I have learned that nothing should stand in my way. I have lost out on a lot of opportunities in life because of depression and anxiety. 

Now that my mental health is finally well taken care of, I’m not about to let something physical stop me that feels right on so many other levels. It’s an amazing feeling to have something right in front of me that motivates me to be the best person that I can possibly be. 

I have been working out with Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and walking on my treadmill with my hiking pack. I have about 10 other Jillian Michael videos that I will dive into soon. I love that woman! 

It’s small steps that I will conquer a mountain with. Mind over matter truly will prevail. 

Appalachian Daydreams 

The Appalachian Trail has filled my mind this week with research and daydreams. I have an opportunity that I want to turn into a reality. A friend who I met through the hiking community mentioned to me that she is planning a 200 mile segment of the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 2018.

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We were hiking together at Devil’s Punch Bowl in September and I have kept the thought of the A.T. in my mind since. The A.T. is one of those trails that people write memoirs about. I haven’t given serious thought to doing a thru-hike, even after reading and watching Wild. I recently read The Gratitude Diaries and chapter 10 is entitled Wonder Woman on the Appalachian Trail. I could totally hike a portion of the trail!

As the weeks have gone by since my hike in September and reading The Gratitude Diaries, I have become more and more excited with my research on the trail.  I mentioned to my husband that I thought hiking a portion of the A.T. would be a wicked awesome experience and he agreed. With his encouragement, the would-be-cool-thing has turned into a you-really-should-do-this-cool-thing.

My preliminary plan is to book two weeks off of work and spend 8-9 days on the trail between two A.T. communities (towns that the trail runs through or nearby). During my time on the trail I will hike approximately 71 miles (114 km).

My husband asked me what my training plan is and honestly the first thing that came to mind was when Barney ran the New York Marathon on How I Met Your Mother

No, no, I am not that silly to just start walking on the A.T like it is nothing. From now on when I am day hiking, I will carry the pack that I will have with me on the A.T.

Am I seriously going to do this? I’m about 95% sure that I am. My friend and I are getting together soon to start rolling ideas together. I have the gear, I have the skills, and I will be fine distance wise as long as I am realistic with my pace and abilities. The other 5% that is holding me back are the venomous snakes on the trail. Other than that, I am 95% gung-ho to go!

My Morning with Dogs

Dogs! They are supposed to help me but I can’t move on from how irritated they made me this morning. It set my mood for the whole day. Damn furry four-legged best friends who I love so much. 

Asha – just get in the flipping house!  You know the drill. Don’t just lay there and look at me all derpy like. I shook her bison treats that usually gets her butt moving but she just stood at the base of the stairs, wagging her tail. Well, at least I got her up. Get in the god damn house! She came in and trotted right past me and onto her bed, not stopping for her treat. She knew I was irritated and didn’t deserve a treat.

Arya – why the heck are you trying to leave with us? You never come with us in the morning. I know you love us but come on, you know the drill. Plus the car makes you sketchy. It wouldn’t be enjoyable and you would try to climb into the front seat and distract me. Just go upstairs and chill. But no, I had to lift you up and ended up knocking something off a shelf, causing a kerfuffle, which sketched you out. My poor puppy. 

I hate mornings. I could give myself all the time in the world and there would still be something that would annoy me. Why dogs, why did it have to be you today? I love you dearly so just give me a break. 

Gratitude, Nature, and Mental Health 

I have been making a mindful effort to focus on gratitude.  I have an abundance of blessings in my life and I am thankful for who and what I  have. Focusing on gratitude has done wonders for my mental health and I feel like I am in a really good place. I have solid ways that I am managing my symptoms.

Although when it comes to depression and anxiety, some days are still really hard and it’s challenging to cut through the fog. The days are fewer than they have ever been but with that being said, Thursday was a really rough day for me. It all started Wednesday evening and I went to bed around 8 PM so that I could escape.

Every ounce of my being fought me on Thursday. I felt alone. I felt like I was trapped on the inside, looking out into my world that I could only physically be part of. I didn’t feel connections or desires. I was numb. I tried to raise myself up but it only lasted a few moments. Time simply healed and when I awoke on Friday, I felt better and I silently gave thanks for a brand new day.

I have been reading The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan, a memoir about a year of research and focus on gratitude. The year long experience was life changing for her and the memoir is inspiring with what is possible in our lives because of gratitude. I am on chapter 12 and eager to finish the book.

Last night I read chapter 10 — Wonder Woman on the Appalachian Trail. Kaplan explored exercise as a way increase gratitude but found the atmosphere in a gym to be filled with intrusive noise. The gym for her felt more like a chore rather than a release.

She lives in Connecticut near the Housatonic River. The trail that runs along the river is officially part of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. She describes the section near her house as flat and peaceful and she decided that this location was the perfect place to test the connection between nature, gratitude, and exercise.

She ran for 60 minutes, listening to the sounds of nature and taking in the sights that nature offered, opting not to listen to headphones with a podcast. She described her experience of running in nature as being emotionally transporting, a form of meditation.

I was immediately reminded of the hike that I took by myself at the beginning of September. I soaked up every ounce of pleasure for those few hours. I turned the bend in the trail and was over come with joy when I saw leaves that looked like Mother Nature set her paint brush free. The air was crisp and cool. The moment was beautiful. I called out thank you to the universe for all of my the blessings. I was immensely grateful for it all. Looking back on that day, the hike felt like a form of meditation. My meditation.

I had my first late fall hiking and camping experience last weekend. I was on an exhilarating high the whole weekend and into the start of the new week. I was high from moving outside of my comfort zone, high from the physical activity, high from gratitude, and high from surrounding myself with nature.

 “Happy to discover the power of nature in increasing gratitude. Grateful to walk on a nature trail and see how it affects my body and mind. Lucky to discover that green makes us grateful.” – The Gratitude Diaries

My pack was 38 pounds! I carried two heavy-duty 7 pound sleeping pads equaling 14 pounds. I didn’t bring my smaller back country pad since I was unsure about the warmth it would give me from the ground. The second pad was for a friend who has no backpacking gear and the pad would not fit on the pack she borrowed from me.

My sleeping bag is rated to 0°C. It went down to around – 5°C between 1 – 5 AM. I put hand warmers in each of my socks and moved two around on my upper body every two hours when I woke up to turn on my other side. I was comfortably warm except for my top arm.

The connection for me with my mental health, nature, and gratitude could not be anymore clear. I see the utmost importance of being outside and being thankful for what nature does for me. I don’t always need to do anything extravagant like hike and camp, even just taking my dogs for a walk around the neighborhood and breathing in fresh air does me wonders. I really need to try and get myself outside when I am feeling a struggle. It’s hard with depression but if I can even just go sit outside on a bench, it will be worth it.

Empowering My Daughter Through the Outdoors

The outdoors is an amazing place to come to relax, challenge myself, teach and learn, and build a life around.  The outdoors and nature is my passion.  I take a lot of pride in passing my fondness of the outdoors on to C, my daughter, especially in the age of digital technology and people being outside less. It is empowering for me to teach my daughter what I know and for her to feel confident while doing activities.

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Hiking on Brule Trail in Riding Mountain National Park Spetember 2017

We collaborate as a group and focus on teamwork. I have been blown away by her abilities when teamwork is front and center. As a rule, we go as fast as the slowest person. As I have said before, it is not the distance or the time spent on the trail, it is about what I gain while out there. If we need to take time to stop and rest, it can be made into a beautiful moment instead of being focused solely on the end goal, which will always be there. Practice gratitude for all of the moments on the trail.

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Hiking at Pine Point Rapids in the Whiteshell in August 2017

When it comes to packing for camping and hikes, C is in there like a dirty shirt. She insists on carrying her own bag, packing her own food, and offers to carry necessary gear. I was prepping my bag for our overnight hike coming up and she grabbed her backpack and began to add stuff to it. She is responsible for carrying her sleeping bag, hot dog roasting sticks, first aid kit, and her pajamas. She is also bringing two books and a deck of cards.

On one of our day hikes this summer I admired her initiative to want to prepare, pack, and carry the food. She chose dry Lucky Charms for us to eat for lunch. I helped her round out the meal with bagels and cream cheese and apples, all of which she carried for us. In time she will learn that dry Lucky Charms are not a substantial trail food to nourish bodies, as delicious as they are. It is the effort that I praised.

Hiking and camping has opportunities for trial and error and the outdoors is a place of ongoing learning. I want C to see me make mistakes, see me problem solve, and see me learn from situations. Learning how to problem solve is incredibly important in life. Where we venture for now, we are never too far from help and I let my common sense and gut instinct lead the way, which is something I want her to learn to trust for herself too.

I am raising my daughter to be strong, courageous, and to know how to fend for herself should she come across a time in her life (on the trail or otherwise) that she can’t rely on anyone else but herself. I want her to seek adventure and soar where her heart desires and remain rooted, grounded, and humble. I want her to feel empowered and inspired to forge her own trail through the uncharted. Learning to hike and camp is just the tip of how these goals will become a reality.

Camping Gear Round Up

I spent time over the weekend sorting through my camping gear to prepare for a final overnight trip of 2017. Fall camping is a new experience for me and one that I am eager to try. All of my gear is three season so the window for camping comfortably is quickly closing. The group I am going with are novice overnight hikers. We are all getting ready to experience something new. There are also going to be 5 kids including mine coming along.  

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Picture courtesy of Google

My camping gear is a combination of car camping and back country camping. For now I make everything work together as best I can and overtime I am adding to my backpacking gear to round it out. 

Here are some of my favourite pieces of gear:

  • Cabela’s Ultimate Sleeping Pads These pads are by far one of the best investments I have made for car camping. We ditched air mattresses about three years ago and sleeping in a tent has never been better. These pads even beat some hotel beds for comfort. I am seriously not making that up. They weigh about 7 pounds each so they are not intended for back country but that being said, my husband hauled two of these in and out for our first overnight family hike. I am also bringing one of these pads with me to share with my daughter on the upcoming fall hike. We will share the pad for body warmth. These pads also kept us really comfortable when we were camping in Lake Louise and the temperature hovered around 0°C overnight on average between the nights we were there. 
  • CamelBak Crux 3L Reservoir. This hydration pack comes in at spot number two for the best camping purchases I have ever made. This is my first hydration pack so I don’t have anything to compare it to. I bought it so that I can carry enough clean water for my dogs and myself and if anyone else in my group needs water. I underestimated how much water to bring on a hike this summer and I had my daughter and two dogs with me. I thankfully planned ahead to have a 4L jug of water back at the car but that didn’t help us on the trail. I am determined to not run out of water again.
  • MSR SweetWater Microfilter This filter has served us well on a few different trips. It pumps 1L per minute, which serves my family well, especially now that I can easily carry 3L of my own water. My daughter is at an age now too where she can carry a hydration system for herself. Comfortably carrying more water means filtering less. In the summer I guzzle so much water as does my dog who wears a winter coat wherever she goes. I am so glad I have my water situation figured out because even with all the fancy and nice gear, if you don’t have water, everything else means nothing. 
  • Hotcore Roma 100 Series Sleeping Bag. This sleeping bag weighs 2.2 pounds, has a temperature rating to 0°C and packs up incredibly small. I have slept at -4°C while in the mountains in this sleeping bag and I was quite comfortable. During the summer on the prairies, I roast in this bag. One of the features that sold me on this sleeping bag is that it has a short tapered shape. At 5’0″, this bag provides better thermal efficiency than a full-size sleeping bag and I stay pretty toasty in it. Fingers crossed that in performs well this weekend on the hike.
  • GSI Pinnacle Cook SetI like neat things and GSI has some really cool cooking and dining solutions. I’ll be honest, this was an impulse buy that I made and I debated back and forth with my husband about returning it or keeping it. It was purchased with the intention of slimming down our car camping bins into one kitchen and multi-purpose bin. I am quite proud to say that everything we need for car camping outside of sleeping, hygiene, food, and clothes fits into one medium sized Rubbermaid bin, including our regular stove, two 16 oz containers of propane, and my french press. I am a bit of a coffee snob, even while camping. Maybe being proud of having a condensed camping kit is a funny thing to be proud of but it makes planning and packing way easier and gets us on the road with little to no stress. I’m ready to camp at a moments notice.
  • Cutlery Kit – I created my own kit based on the GSI Camp Kitchen Gourmet 11-Piece Set. When it is fully stocked I have 4 forks and 4 spoons, kitchen knife, matches and lighter, small plastic cutting board, can opener, wash cloth, dish towel, and soap, and collapsible tongs and spatula. There is room available too if I wanted to add something extra. My cook set and cutlery kit is perfect for road trip cooking and takes up little to no room.

  • Kelty Grand Mesa 4. I chose this tent for a few reasons with the first being ease of set up. I wanted something that I can set up by myself in 5 minutes and something that can work as a family back country tent. It was one of the most reasonably priced 4 person back country tents at $219.99 that I came across and weighs 7 pounds, 7 ounces. The tent stood very well during a May Long Weekend thunderstorm that dumped rain on the tent for most of the night and pounded the walls from the wind.

I have been researching 1-2 person back country tents and hammock camping. I want the ability to have my dog beside me so I am sure that I have written off hammock camping for that reason. I want a smaller tent so that I can cut down on weight when I go by myself. I don’t need a 4 person tent if it is just my dog and I on the trail.

I am also researching backpacking stoves. A stove hasn’t been a necessity for me, especially in the summer. Where I hike and camp there are fire pits with supplied wood so if I did want warm food, I had fire pits as an option. I envision myself branching out to trails that may not have fire pits so it may be nice to have if I decide to go somewhere different. 

We have one semi-backpacking sleeping pad that our daughter uses for all her camping adventures that my husband used when he hiked. It is certainly a lot smaller than our heavy duty ones so I have it available if I go by myself. I would eventually like to get a pad for myself that is small and compact, like the size of a pop can. 

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Size difference between two sleeping pads

Gear wise, I am all ready to go on the final overnight of 2017. I can’t wait to see what this adventure brings. I need to finalize what I am bringing for food. We will likely roast hot dogs on the fire pit for dinner and have Lucky Charms for breakfast. I am super excited to get out on the trail, set up camp, and explore a look out point near the camp site.

A Taste for Sobriety 

There is no mental health manual that lists out the milestones that we are supposed to celebrate. Every journey is different and each one of us sees achievements in a different way. Right now I want to celebrate that I am comfortable being around alcohol without any desire for it. 

I kissed my husband on Friday evening and his lips tasted of beer. I thought about it for only a few seconds and how alcohol had not touched my lips since February 14, 2016. I otherwise was not phased and I just moved on with the task I was working on. My ability to focus has grown considerably. 

I can only imagine how I would have reacted had I kissed his lips with the taste of beer on them before mid-summer. I was still sorting out what I needed to do to feel comfortable around alcohol. A quiet moment on a dock early in the morning made it all come together for me. I don’t really have words to express it but in that moment something had changed within me. 

I am fairly certain that there is beer in our fridge right now. I don’t know for sure though. If I did see it earlier in the day, I looked past it. I have absolutely no interest or temptation for alcohol. For the most part it is not on my radar unless someone brings it up in conversation. 

I do however recognize that soon the Christmas season will be here and last year I struggled. I made a visit to my therapist for a check up and I am prepared to do it again if I feel the need. I am not going to pretend for a second that I am invincible and can handle sobriety completely on my own. I know with certainty that if I told my husband that I was struggling that he would remove his beer and not bring it back until I was comfortable, even if it was never. 

I need to honour my journey and not keep any emotions tucked away. My continued success will come from being authentic with myself and not pretending to be someone I am not. It would be a disservice to myself if I did not honour how I feel. 

I have emense gratitude for the life I have now and the road that has brought me here. I wouldn’t be as strong as I am without the struggle. I have forgiven myself for treating myself the way I did. I did what I had to do to get my needs met. My needs are now different. I honour the past, present, and future.

Spiritual Punch Bowl

I stood alone and listened to the sound of water that dropped from the wooden shelter I stood underneath. I needed to catch my breath and rest. I looked out into the openness of rolling hills, sandy dunes, fog, leafless trees, and pines. The dripping water was all I heard and the rest was silence.

As I stood in place and looking out, I felt a spiritual connection and a belonging but I also felt discouraged. In my mind I kept telling myself that I was out of shape. You’re so damn out of shape. How could you let this happen? I nearly cried twenty minutes before as I struggled to climb a sand dune with slippery wet wooden logs for steps that were placed in the deep sand. I struggled with every step to try and move my body up. Even when I found good footing, my legs screamed with every move of my muscles.

From where I stood alone, my hiking group went to explore a 1.6 km loop and I opted to stay back. I sipped hot tea from my thermos, affectionately named Hikers Honey Ginger from Tea Leaf Boutique in Jasper, Alberta. Own this moment, Christina! You like solitude and right now can be a perfect moment for you. Own it and make it special.

I quietly practiced yoga, focusing on my breath and leaning deep into standing poses. Bliss.

Out of nowhere I heard HELLO DOWN THERE and about 15 people come walking down the sand dune where my friends would eventually come from. The lively group was from Westman Wilderness Club on a hike around the Spirit Sands and Devil’s Punch Bowl for what they boasted as a wine and cheese hike. Even though I do not drink, I immediately fell in love with the idea of wine and cheese and the punch bowl. Anything to do with cheese grabs my attention. We chatted more about their group and some of the adventures they have been on.

When my friends returned, I told them all about the awesome group of people I met. Had I not stayed back I likely would have missed the opportunity to meet people who share a love for the wilderness like I do. We later connected with the Wilderness club at a look out point and everyone chatted and shared some laughs.

We hiked the Spirit Sands and Devil’s Punch Bowl trails for about four hours. After lunch the grey, overcast sky from the morning changed to blue and the sun came out. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for a day of hiking. With farm land surrounding Spruce Woods Provincial Park, the Spirit Sands desert offers a unique and challenging hike.


I felt amazing after spending the whole day outside. What I feel most proud about is how I was able to change my mindset. I went from feeling discouragement to owning who I am in this present moment in my life. I chose not to hike an additional 1.6 km but I practiced yoga, meditated, and met a fun group of people. I would call that a win! Like I said before, hiking is not about the distance for me. It is about the connection I have with nature and the connection I build within myself. Body, mind, and spirit.