Hike, hike, baby

The Guy’s first hike

I’ve been on hiatus since September, but now I’m back – with a baby in tow!

Several people have told me something along the lines of, “Now that you have a baby, you won’t be able to do all your hobbies anymore. Say goodbye to [hiking, backpacking, climbing, etc.].” I smile and nod and completely ignore them. I can still do all the things I love – I just have to transform them to work for my new setup.

Continue reading “Hike, hike, baby”

Fear Of Missing Adventures

(FOMA?) Also, why I fear I’m a fraud.

Hello, my name is Firestarter, and I have fears. I fear I am a fraud, and I fear I am missing out on adventures because of my life choices.

We’ve all heard of FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. The quickening of the pulse when you accidentally leave your cell phone on the charger at home and only realize it when you get to the gym. The little sinking feeling in your stomach when you cruise Instagram on Saturday morning to see all the fun you missed on Friday night when you were too tired from work to go to that party. The twinge of guilt when you know you should be going to sleep but need to scan Facebook/Instagram/CNN headlines in case something insane happened in the 17 minutes since you last checked.

Lately I’ve found myself dealing with a different kind of FOMO. The typical things – forgetting my cell phone, spending a night at home verses a “fun” night out, etc. – don’t rattle me, but I’m also the kind of person who saves up money to get away periodically from cell phone reception. The fear I’ve been battling with this winter is much larger to me: the Fear Of Missing Adventures.

This winter has been very hard for me. We lost our dog Margo to cancer in November, adopted our dog Moka in December, lost our dog Sage to kidney failure in January, and adopted our dog Minnie in February. Throw a couple of temporary foster dogs in the mix, and life was hectic and distracting. I grieved my dogs’ deaths very deeply. There were the holidays – a crazy time for almost everyone. I had a family member suffer an unexpected major health issue. I received an unexpected (and undesired… long story) promotion at work at the beginning of the year, with more work, more stress, more business travel, and no additional pay. Wedding planning kicked into full swing, which can be fun but also stressful when you have to figure out how you are going to pay for it all. We have taken on side jobs (some manual labor for me, extra work shifts for him) to keep from using credit cards. We budget and account for every penny. While I love backpacking in the winter, I didn’t want to travel away from home while Sage was so ill because I didn’t want to risk not being there when she died, and travel is an additional expense that just isn’t in the budget right now.

Put this on top of existing mental illness and Seasonal Affective Disorder, and you’ve got a recipe for a good deal of depression. In addition to medicine and therapy, I normally keep it at bay by getting outside, but in the cold rainy winter, that can be hard to do. With depression, sometimes you just don’t want to go outside, even if you WANT to want to go outside. So, what did I do?

I stayed glued to social media. I have a lot of dear friends that live for the outdoors, whose feeds are full of breathtaking scenery and fun adventure pics. Some were big epic trips, some were fun mid-week mini-adventures. Some were just part of their awesome day job (ski patrol). As I saw all these incredible pictures of healthy active beautiful friends living their best lives, I fell further into depression. Not only was I missing out on outdoor backpacking trips (sick dog, saving money) or fun trail runs (exhausted from my stressful day job when everyone else goes running on Monday nights), I was constantly comparing myself to what I saw. I was constantly comparing myself to the person I think I am supposed to be.

Welcome, Imposter Syndrome.

I felt – and still feel, honestly – like a fraud sometimes. I’m Firestarter. I’m the bad@$$ trailblazer, the solo hiker, the challenger of bears and snakes, the eater of food that I accidentally dropped in the mud but, damnit, I carried those calories in and I’m eating them. I solo backpack, I rock climb, I mountain bike/ski/snow shoe/trail run/hike/kayak. I have gaiters with flames on them and an entire GEAR ROOM.

And, from mid-November 2018 to this very day, I have been on ONE hike. And it was only about 2 miles with my dog Moka at Percy Warner. I haven’t backpacked, or climbed, or been on a bike, or even strolled along a greenway.

It’s easy to get lost in the deluge of internal messages, the ones we tell ourselves about how we aren’t “authentic,” or “living our best life.” About how we are a fraud. How on earth can I claim to love the outdoors if I haven’t pulled myself out of the house in three months? What right do I have to write a blog that provides trail reviews and talks about gear? In what world am I qualified to teach another Backpacking Basics course for Nashville this year?

It’s easy to start that self-doubting spiral. I do love the outdoors. I can write anything on my blog I want. And I can teach a course. But that doesn’t stop the fraudulent feeling, especially when battling depression and anxiety. It’s easy to forget that decisions you make (to get married, to start a family, to strengthen a financial future by working a desk job you may not like very much) aren’t sacrifices. They are choices. No, I won’t be thru-hiking the Te Araroa in October 2019 like I planned. No, I won’t be able to Triple Crown before 40. But those are my choices. I choose other things right now. That’s not an excuse, though, for stopping adventures. Sure, it puts a bit of a hold on long adventures, but I can still take weekend backpacking trips, still hike, still do all the things I love. (Yes, even when I have kids.)

This post isn’t a gear review, or trail review, or full of fun trick and tips. I’m not sure what this qualifies as.

I lead a women’s meetup group in the Nashville area (You Are a Badass Lady!), and one of the key things we do at every meetup is say our fear(s) aloud. Naming and verbalizing fear tends to take away some of its power; for me, at least. So this post is my fear-naming.

Hello, my name is Firestarter, and I have fears. I fear I am a fraud, and I fear I am missing out on adventures because of my life choices.

This is a good place to start.

Backpacking Tip: Paint your stakes

Neon isn’t just for those shorts you wore in 1992

Just a quick tip to pass along: paint your stakes. I like bright orange, but any bright or neon color will work. For you weight weenies out there, it doesn’t add that much weight at all, and it prevents accidentally leaving a stake in the grass even if you do a dummy sweep as you leave your site. I still have all the stakes I started with, even after 2,400+ miles. I also just repainted them; it takes five minutes and is totally worth it.

That’s it – short and sweet! Happy trails!

Like camping, but on steroids

Backpacking 101 overnight excursion

One of my bigger flaws is admitting I don’t know something. I hate for attention to be drawn to my ignorance, and that flaw has kept me from pursuing hobbies or goals that would otherwise really strengthen me. It’s also annoyed the heck out of Thrillbilly, because he’s usually the one teaching me things.  Continue reading “Like camping, but on steroids”

Trail Tips: Creating your backpacking kitchen

Because everyone deserves a hot meal at the end of the day (Part 3)

“A woman’s place is in the kitchen. A man’s place is in the kitchen. Everyone’s place is in the kitchen – kitchen has food.”

Everyone sets up their kitchen differently, depending on heating method (or lack thereof), fuel needs, cookware, and accessories. Here’s a look into my backpacking kitchen. Continue reading “Trail Tips: Creating your backpacking kitchen”