Life is about growth.

Truly Proud.

I cut my hiking time by more than 1/3 today. As in, I made it to the overlook at my best time yet. I find a lot of accomplishment in pushing my body (and mind), figuring out what I’m capable of.
Our bodies are pretty amazing.

In fact, I remember learning about why we produce sweat- I probably know more than I should because I sweat a lot. After learning how it is our bodies way of cooling off I learned to appreciate it. And since switching to natural deodorant I REALLY can’t control the prespiring aspect at all- so I completely feel the benefits of our bodies cooling system. For those of you looking for a natural deodorant, I’d highly recommend Little Seed Farm and at the moment you can order 2 free samples on their site if you click here. My favorite scents are: Rosemary Patchouli (more musk) and Jasmine Green Tea (sweet); I also like Lavender (floral), Black Charcoal (neutral).

For more of my favorite Zero Waste / Less Waste products click here.

I digress…

Challenging myself

I’m so happy to learn about how our bodies work; and while I am careful not to push myself too hard- taking breaks when necessary and filling up on nutrients and staying hydrated are key, I absolutely love challenging myself. Hiking has been my number one way of doing that; it all started at Delicate Arch when I realized just how out of shape I was. I even challenged myself to climb Mount Kinabalu- I still remind myself of that hike when I need an extra push. That’s by far my hardest climb and my body was out of commission for about a week thereafter; I’ll write about that when I post about my time in Malaysia. Then there was my first comparison hike at Angel’s Landing- I completed it twice, 9 months apart, once in early November 2018 and again in early August 2019. I remember it being so much hotter the second time and yet I didn’t take any breaks, not even on Walter’s Wiggles- I was so fucking proud of myself I cannot even begin to describe that feeling. It wasn’t the same as Kinabalu because I had nothing to compare that to; that was more mind over matter and determination. This was just, ‘I love this hike and want to do it again’ type mentality and then surprising myself as to how much more capable I was- how much I’d improved my endurance.

Me standing at the end of Angel's Landing, August 2019.

And then there’s the last few weeks. Let’s face it, the winter was pretty cold and I didn’t get out EVERY week as I previously hoped I would; I did as much as I could though, which did include some VERY cold hikes. But now it’s March 9th and 70 degrees and I’m sitting atop one of my favorite local hikes proud of myself, again. I’ve done this hike many times, albeit I highly recommend checking the website (here) DAY OF, if you plan to come because it’s closed a lot. In fact, a portion of it is currently closed until July 31, the area I typically would scramble upon rocks to find a perfect private overlook; but I still managed to find solitude today because it’s Monday.

A cairn stack at the top of Maryland Heights, the Potomac River is below in the distance.

About 2 weeks ago I FINALLY completed the Billy Goat trail (A), one of my favorite hikes in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area. Not that it’s necessarily challenging but it was still an accomplishment. I climbed rocks- bouldering without equipment… and I am not referring to the 50ft rock climb necessary to the trail. I stopped very few times during the hike and finished beyond the trail as I crossed a log to get to the island rock at the end. I was hiking with a friend, a hangry man, who wouldn’t let me just sit, ponder thoughts, and write like I am now. Had I done that though I probably would still never be able to say I completed the trail. The trail itself is a moderate hike of 3.7 miles total but for me it is nostalgic and conjurs up lots of thoughts. So I completed that hike and I also hiked at Canoctin Mountain park that week- only 2 days before that, as I was cleaning for #IMPACTDAY.

A real sense of Pride

Anyway, then there was today. Maryland Heights trail* in Harpers Ferry National Park might be the most challenging hike within… well I’d say all of Maryland because I’ve been to many, but I really just mean for a short hike. Of course there’s the Appalachian Trail but I’m ONLY referring to an easy day hike. I believe the quickest route is 4.5 miles and there is an extra loop that adds 2 more miles; I haven’t done that yet because it is already strenuous! It’s mostly a steep incline the entire way, and I mean, lean forward practically knee yourself in the face kind of steep. And then the last small portion is a rocky decline to the overlook. It’s also dog friendly!

I’m so happy that I accomplished this hike with little breaks- I had to stop to actually get my water bottles from my pak and to calm my heart, I wasn’t ready for this heat… but I only took 1.5 breaks. Now that I’m here I think maybe I should’ve brought sunscreen, a lot of the trail closures over the previous months were due to tree removal; I was exposed to the sun the entire time. The current closure on this specific hike (until August) is to protect nesting of the Peregrine Falcons. They haven’t successfully nested here since the 1950’s most likely because of disturbances from humans; the falcons will abandon their nests if threatened by human traffic. To promote falcon babies there is a large portion currently blocked off, but the overlook is still accessible.

What are you capable of?

Looking forward at the rocks I'll climb and boulder through to get to the end of Billy Goat trail- A. My back is toward teh camera, February 2020.

My point of writing this post is to encourage people to challenge their bodies. Believe me, I hate cardio but I love to work out. I like to compete with friends and I like to look good. Hiking did none of this for me in the beginning. For 1 it is cardio. If I even wanted to compete I would place the bet on me not making it to the end and as for looking good while doing it- well that was a big NO. Now I am more confident from hiking,  and my body has changed drastically, too. This is essentially ‘hidden’ cardio but it’s more than just a full body workout- it’s just healthy. It feels amazing. So I encourage people to get out of the gym and truly challenge your body. Obviously connect with nature because who am I if I don’t talk about how obsessed I am with Mama Natch? But also my body acclimates to altitudes and different conditions and terrain that cardio equipment in a gym just can’t give you. The outdoors provide plenty of opportunity to ‘work out’… may that be physically hiking or using your upper body to boulder and rock climb, kayak… the list goes on. I promise if you are challenging your body you’ll have that great full body soreness gym rats crave. I get it and I get a great night’s sleep, too.

Why run in place when you can move forward?

One more thing, if you feel inclined to protect the wild, bring a grocery bag or a reusable bag to pick up trash. There’s a ton of it.
AND EVEN IF YOU DON’T please don’t leave any behind. “Pack in, pack out”. Enjoy the land while you can!
Bring your own snacks and reusable products. I’ve never found a reusable water bottle or Tupperware on a trail, it’s usually bottled water bottles and Ziplock bags / wrappers…  also PACK OUT NATURAL FOOD- if pistachios, bananas, mangos and apples aren’t growing on the trail they’re not native there. Introducing these peels, seeds, and shells can be detrimental to the environment.
&& now you know.

Did I mention I’m officially a Wild Keeper?

Me in Catoctin Mountain park holding a 'Keep Nature Wild' trash bag as I collect trash on the Cunningham falls trail, February 2020.

Another thing I’m proud of!
I’m an ambassador for a community of people who care about Mama Natch and contribute locally from all over the world.
We keep in touch through Slack; we share pictures and information.

This is with Keep Nature Wild, a great organization from Arizona.

*Harpers Ferry has limited parking at Maryland Heights so come early or come around 2p when the first crowd leaves- also try to come during the week. After hiking take a path to the Potomac River, there are narrow clearnings from the footpath by the road to the river. In the river, there are huge rocks you can sit on or you can swim around, watch for the current though! I typically will bring a grocery bag for the trail hike and then a larger mesh ‘trash bag’ for the river; there is tons of trash here- a lot of it is tucked in the rocks at the overlook and it’s also abundant by the riverbed. The Potomac feeds into the Chesapeake and then to the Atlantic.
Please, please, please, ONLY contribute to this problem by picking up!

A grocery bag full of trash from the Maryland Heights trail in Harpers Ferry National Park, March 2020.

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