Holiday Gift Guide 2017

It's time again to start thinking about getting a gift for the outdoorsy person in your life! If you're at a loss for what to get the hikers you care about something unique, let my holiday guide help you.  

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GSI long-handled silicone spoon - VERY necessary for those who eat pre-made freeze-dried meals! This guy will get down into the nooks and crannies of even the longest bag meal. 
Hikertrash Stickers - I don't know a single hiker who doesn't love putting stickers on just about everything they own.  Help them rep their Hikertrash status proudly!
Sawyer Mini water filter - Being able to have clean water on the go is very necessary for anyone who spends any time outdoors.  These compact filters are super easy to use and easy to clean.
Klymit Pillow X - Makes a great pillow for backpackers and a good seat on a day hike too!
Therm-a-Rest Z seat - In case your hiker isn't a fan of things that can pop on the trail, consider this Z seat instead of the Klymit Pillow. 
MSR Piezo Ignitor - If your hiker uses a canister fuel stove, this thing is amazing! Lightweight and doesn't require fuel like a lighter.  Never worry about running out of fluid again. 

Under $30

Road ID - Have piece of mind when your hiking buddy is out solo. These bracelets (or shoe charms) can hold emergency info and some charms too. 
Darn Tough Socks - The only socks I've found that can keep up with the abuse I put them through - and that's saying a LOT! 
A Scratch-off Map of the US - for the hiker trying to hit every state (or every high point!) this fun multicolor map is a great way to keep track of your travels in the US. 
A US National Parks Scratch-off Map - Just in case you're trying to get all those parks in there too ;)
An Anker Portable Charger - A lightweight charger that won't break the bank. Great for those who use their phones to listen to music or podcasts in the tent at night. 
GSI Microflip Mug - This mug is vacuum sealed to keep your coffee or tea hot on the way to the trailhead on those early mornings. 

Under $50

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 - A new stove is never a bad thing! This guy can boil water in 3.5 minutes. 
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - 350 lumens to keep the trail bright when you're night hiking or getting in those before dawn miles. 
A Mountain Ring - Let's face it, sometimes lady hikers want to look nice (and sometimes we even have to go to places in the "real world"). This ring will let her take the peaks wherever she goes. 
White Blaze Pendant - This unisex Appalachian Trail
pendant comes on polycord and is adjustable.  In fact, check out ALL of Tarma's jewelry. 
Dirty Girl Gaiters - Keep debris from your shoes and look good at the same time. 
Altra StashJack - A jacket that leaves room for your pack in the back, so you can put it on and take it off without stopping. Why hasn't this been thought of before?

Splurge Items

A Handmade Replica Trail Sign - Handmade to match nearly any sign, these will definitely make your favorite hiker's heart skip a beat. 
Suunto Traverse Series Watch - For the hiker who loves data and stats, this watch will leave a trail of breadcrumbs and show the trails in the area right on the wrist. 
Excalibur Food Dehydrator - For the hiker who loves eating well in the backcountry! This 9-tray dehydrator will make huge batches of jerky, meals, and more. 
Helinox Chair One - Because being comfortable shouldn't mean breaking your back trying to carry that chair to camp. 
Altra Wasatch Rain Jacket - A breathable rain jacket you can run in?! Yes, please!

These are just a few of the things I'd love to see as a holiday gift this year.  What are some of your favorite gifts to give? 



Gear Sale!

As an avid backpacker for nearly 10 years I have acquired my fair share of hiking gear.  However, I'm in the process of simplifying things right now and changing out some of my personal and guiding gear.  I figured what better way to clear out items than to offer them up for sale to people who would appreciate gently used, well taken care of gear.  Please check out all my offerings below. These pieces of gear I'm offering up would be great Christmas gifts for the beginning backpacker in your life! (3).png

Prices are set and are firm and shipping is included in the price (local pickup will not get a discount - sorry). This isn't a flea market - No negotiating.  Gear is sold AS IS/ALL SALES FINAL and descriptions of any imperfections are included in the item description.  Payment is accepted through Paypal or by cash/check if you're local.  Local pickup in Knoxville, TN area only. Shipping is to the US and US territories only.  Shipping will be first class US mail with a tracking number provided (priority available - please ask for pricing to your zip code!).  

*SOLD*MSR Pocket Rocket (original) Stove - $10 (fuel can not included)

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

I used this stove for several years and am upgrading to another version instead.  You'll notice some slight discoloration at the top tips of the pot stands.  Works beautifully and I've never had any problems with any canister fuel I've tried, including: SnowPeak, JetBoil, MSR, Coleman, and any other cheapie you find at a resupply spot.  Specs from the manufacturer: 

  • Weighs just 3 oz. (85 g), with palm-sized dimensions
  • No need for priming, pressurizing, or maintenance.
  • Boils 1 liter of water in under 3.5 minutes.
  • Glove-friendly controls allow precise flame adjustment, from a simmer to a boil.
  • Tri-sectional Windclip wind shield protects flame and boosts efficiency.

*SOLD*Sierra Designs Rosa 20-degree Sleeping Bag (Synthetic) - $45

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

I used this sleeping bag a total of probably 10-15 times and don't have a use for it anymore.  It's clean and in amazing shape.  It comes with a stuff sack for packing in your backpack as well as a breathable cotton bag for storage.  Loft is in great shape.  It has a small pocket near the top of the bag for earplugs or headphones.  It also has a pocket in the back to stuff clothing to make a pillow.  It won't slip from your sleeping bag thanks to the straps on the back of the pad. Specs from the manufacturer are below: 

The Women's Rosa 20 Degree Sleeping Bag by Sierra Designs is rated to 20 degrees F/-7 degrees C. Continuous-filament synthetic insulation provides reliable warmth for the life of a sleeping bag, even in damp conditions. We build the Rosa with Climashield HL, and wrap the whole package in 70-denier nylon for a durable bag destined for seasons of use. Rated to 20 degrees, the Rosa not only provides warmth, but serious comfort, too - an ergonomically shaped foot box won't cramp your feet and Pad Locks mean you won't roll off onto the hard ground during the night. Will be compressed for shipping. 

  • Specifications and Features for the women's Rosa 20 Degree Sleeping Bag by Sierra Designs:
  • Insulation: Climashield HL
  • Material: Shell: 70D Nylon
  • Material: Liner: 75D Polyester
  • Trail Weight: Regular - 2 lbs 12 oz
  • Zipper Side: Regular - Right
  • Fill Weight: Regular - 24 oz
  • Stuff Size: Regular - 9" x 19"
  • Chest Pocket
  • Draft Tube
  • Ergonomic Hood
  • Pad Locks
  • Pillow Pocket
  • Snag Free Zipper Tracks
  • Two Color Options
  • Woman Specific Bag
  • Continuous Filament Insulation
  • Offset Layer Construction
  • Tricot Lined Footbox
  • Tuck Stitch

*SOLD*MSR Seagull 1.1 Liter Stainless Steel Pot - $10
*SOLD*MSR Seagull 0.75 Liter Stainless Steel Pot - $8

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

These pots are great and durable.  Used on my AT thru hike and intermittently as car camping gear.  While they're a bit heavier than aluminum, they're durable and showing no signs of wear other than minor scratching - no blackening.  The 0.75 L pot does have one small spot on the inside on the bottom of the pan that can probably be scrubbed off.  I'm just lazy!  See manufacturer specs below: 

  • Dual purpose handle/lid lock flips up and over the fitted lid to securely lock the lid in place during transport
  • Fitted lid with a top handle
  • Scratch and dent resistant stainless steel stands up in the most rugged conditions
  • Rounded corners help heat travel up sides of pot more quickly, boosting efficiency
  • 1.1 L pot is 15 oz and measures 7.6 x 6.6 x 3.75 inches; holds 37 oz
  • 0.75 L pot is 13 oz and measures 6.75 x 5.75 x 3.5 inches; holds 26 oz

*SOLD*The North Face Rock 22 Backpacking Tent WITH Footprint - $65

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

Taken out into the backcountry probably 20 times and it was mostly used as a car camping tent.  Comes with stakes, poles, footprint, original guy lines, and all stuff sacks.  Two of the stakes do have a slight bend in them from use.  The tent is freestanding in design and super easy to set up with color-coded tabs/grommets for making assembly super simple and newbie-proof.  Notice in the photos there is a patch in the floor and some red mud staining on one door.  Other than those two things, the tent is in practically brand new condition with minimal dirt.  See manufacturer specs: 

  • Versatile two-person, freestanding design has two doors each with their own vestibule
  • Continuous pole sleeve construction maximizes stability through even weight and pressure distribution
  • DAC® aluminum poles are lightweight, strong and durable for long-lasting use
  • Color-coded canopy and rainfly webbing provide clear and easy pitching
  • Internal prayer-bound floor seams increase user space with clean angles; taped nylon taffeta floor
  • Four internal pockets keep small items organized
  • In nice weather, minimalists can leave the tent body behind and use just the rainfly, poles and footprint to save weight
  • Packed Size: 7 x 25 inches
  • Floor Dimensions: 87 x 55 inches; 33 square feet
  • Vestibule Area: 8 square feet per side
  • Peak Height: 43 inches
  • Packed Weight: 5 lb, 11 oz

Leki Cressida DSS Women's Trekking Poles (with packaging) - $110

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

I bought these poles to replace some ancient ones and the quick lock system just isn't for me. I wanted badly for them to work, but I just didn't like them. These are still on the market brand new for $159.  They have less than 40 miles (and some dirt) on them and come with a "free" strip of duct tape featuring kittens wearing bowties! (Ha!) See manufacturer specs below: 

  • Dynamic suspension system (DSS) antishock technology reduces peak impacts by approximately 40% to help protect muscles, joints and ligaments
  • Stable and durable aluminum HTS shafts with matte clear finish feature light, strong Speedlock 2 and Super Lock systems that offer extremely fast pole-length adjustment
  • Short carbide flex tips with interchangeable baskets deliver precise contact and traction on nearly all kinds of terrain
  • Edgeless, ultralight Aergon Thermo foam grips offer a soft feel and a fit designed for a woman's hands
  • Short, ultralight, breathable straps offer maximum comfort with minimum weight and bulk

For more info, you can see this exact pole on their website:

Deuter ACT Lite 28 SL (Women's specific) Day Pack with Cover - $50

Click on the photos to scroll through them. 

This pack has been used as my guiding daypack for one year.  It never did fit me right, but I never had time during the season to replace it.  I have a 15-inch torso and the frame hits me in the back of the head, that's the only reason I'm selling it.  This pack would fit anyone with a 16 inch torso or longer.  The pack is dirty, not gonna lie.  I haven't taken the time to try and clean it up, which is why I'm letting it go cheap.  It comes with a built in rain cover with it's own pocket at the bottom of the pack.  Also, the front zipper pocket has a tear, which I repaired with tape.  See manufacturer specs below:

  • Anatomically shaped, women-specific Airmesh harness provides maximum ventilation and weight savings while load adjuster straps reduce bulk and ensure proper carrying comfort
  • Compatible with a 3-liter hydration reservior
  • 2-way front zipper allows direct access to the main compartment for easier gear retrieval even while the lid is closed
  • Thin, mesh hipbelt fins enhance breathability and weight savings and easily stow flat when not needed
  • Lid pocket; internal pocket; valuables pocket on hipbelt; side zippered and mesh pockets; ice axe and trekking pole loops
  • Holds 28 Liters
  • Weight: 2 lb, 8 oz
  • Torso - 15-19 inches (Note from Sprinkles: I think 16 and up would be better)
  • Internal Frame with Delrin U frame
  • Ripstop Nylon

For more info you can see this pack on their website:

If you have any questions about the gear you're seeing here, please feel free to reach out to me via messenger on Facebook. I'll answer any question you might have about the gear.  Also, if you're looking for an overnight pack, please message me there as well.  I have a few options I'd love to share with you!

Giving Back

With the holidays rapidly approaching, many casual hikers are slowing down and prepping their gear for a long winters' nap.  For some of us other hikers however, the holidays mean long weekends and time to spend out on the trail.  Many others fall into a place somewhere between - not quite retiring all their gear for the season, but not ready to spend all their free time out on the trail during the cooler winter months.  Since this time of year is about giving, I'd like to talk about ways you can give back to the trail for the holidays - maybe in a way you never thought about!


Take Someone Hiking

It's my opinion that the best thing we can do for any trail system is to help make other people aware of it's mere existence!  Helping friends and family members discover a trail can lead to a love of hiking or trekking, which in turn helps the trail.  How, you may ask?  When other people learn about a trail they're more inclined to take care of it.  Learning a trail is nearby means you take pride in that trail, you share your positive experiences with others, and that helps spread the love even more by word of mouth.  Sharing a trail with someone is a super easy thing to do!

A Group Cleanup

Head out to a trail with a few friends and make a friendly competition out of the day.  Have everyone take extra gallon-sized Ziplock bags and have rewards for those who pick up the most trash, weirdest item, or even the biggest item.  Picking up microtrash (small items like the tabs off a candy bar wrapper or a plastic water bottle lid) really add up quick!  

Donate to a Trail Conservancy

If you have a long distance trail in your neck of the woods, add them to your charitable giving this winter.  If you don't have a trail near you, donate to a local park or outdoors organization.  Preserving the outdoors for the public to enjoy is a gift that keeps on giving!

Sign Up for Trail Maintenance

While some maintaining jobs require licenses (like operating a chainsaw), many trail and outing clubs encourage any and everyone to come out and help.  Find out when your local club goes out for trail maintaining and sign up!  Not only will you meet new people, you'll help out and give back to a trail system local to you.  

These are just a few ideas you can try to give back to a trail system or park near you.  Have you ever participated in a trail cleanup? Do you like to share nature with others? 

Packing Mindfully

The Japanese use a word - Kaizen.  Simply put, this word means "change for the better" but can also mean "continuous improvement" when applied to business.  Kaizen is an everyday process.  You can't just make one change and expect it to serve you forever.  When it comes to hiking or backpacking, practicing the Kaizen method will never do you wrong.  Whether you've been backpacking for two months or twenty years, every hiker could use a gear improvement every once in a while!  For me, as a guide in the Smokies, practicing Kaizen on every single hike not only makes my load lighter, it also keeps me hiking happily.  Let's look at some ways every hiker can practice Kaizen on any hike!

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When you are packing for a trip, you will obviously be checking the weather and maps before you pack your gear, right?  When you're packing your gear, decide what is really and truly necessary.  Do you really need to pack a coat or can you wear a long sleeve shirt with your rain coat instead?  Will it be necessary to bring a winter sleeping bag or can you get by with your summer bag and a liner?  By taking a few moments to ask yourself these questions, you can whittle down your gear pile in no time!  Something NoKey likes to teach new hikers is to divide your gear into three piles - the first will be things you definitely need, the second will be things you need to decide on, and the third pile will be for the cast-off (or items you didn't bring on previous trips).  By making these three piles, you'll have a visual for the gear you'll be bringing before you start cramming your pack.  Being able to visualize what is going in the pack will help you realize how much you're carrying.  If you're new to packing a bag, check out my post about how to properly pack your backpack here. 

During the Trip

Whether you're out for an afternoon or a week, keeping track of gear you're using is easier than you think.  If you're simply out for the day, you may not be in and out of your pack as much as you are on a backpacking trip.  Since your pack is basically a giant tube you store things in, having to dig all the way to the bottom for more used items is a hassle.  You may find yourself practicing Kaizen by simply rearranging the way you place items back in the bag before you continue hiking.  

Post Trip

When you get home and cleaned up make note of the items you used and didn't use.  I'm a fan of keeping your day pack ready to go, but regularly replacing and maintaining the items inside will keep your gear in good repair.  For backpacking gear, it's a good rule of thumb to unpack everything and set it up to dry before you even hop in the shower.  This way, especially if you have muddy stuff, you won't make a bigger mess of yourself in the process!  Another trick I've recently learned is to take apart trekking poles to allow them to dry on the inside as well.  This will keep your poles in working order for THOUSANDS of miles!  Once your gear is clean and dry, repeat the three pile process and put away your gear accordingly.  If you have items you use on every few trips for example, you can keep these items all in one place.  You may find that they go from every few trips to no trips at all!

Bonus Points

Something fun I like to try and teach newbie and experienced hikers alike is how to think of two uses for every single item in their pack.  Basically, there should be very few unitasker items in a backpack.  For example, instead of carrying a bandana and a hat, why not carry a Merino Wool Buff instead?  Instead of packing a pair of gloves, why not bring a pair of socks you'll only wear as a second layer while you're sleeping?  By finding more than one use for items in your pack, you'll not only save yourself space, you'll also save yourself a few extra pounds in the process!

How do you decide what to bring on a trip and what to leave behind? What is one item you always bring on the trail with you, regardless of how silly others might find it?

The Evolution of Gear

I recently, as a member of the Green Mountain Club, read an article in their quarterly publication about a man who decided to thru hike the Long Trail using the gear early hikers would have used back in the 1910s (when the trail system was officially open for use). This interesting read got me thinking to how much gear has changed in the past 100 years.  I thought it would be fun to do a little research and share my findings with all of you guys.  I hope you find it as fun to read as I had writing it!  Since the article I read was replicating a thru hike of a trail in 1917, that's as far back as I decided to go.  Since the National Park System in the US was developed and created only a few years prior to this, I decided that many people were more than likely not camping recreationally before this period.  Granted, people were following their herds to the high country for the summer and camping out long before this, I find that those "headed to camp" accounts don't really make for good backpacking gear stories.    

The Early Years

Catherine Robbins, Hilda M. Kurth and Kathleen Norris, 1927 photo (and great story) from Seven Days. 

Catherine Robbins, Hilda M. Kurth and Kathleen Norris, 1927

photo (and great story) from Seven Days. 

One of the first things that stuck out to me in the article I read in Long Trail News about the gear was this paragraph: 

"For food, bread and bacon will keep you going with little weight." "No person should ever travel The Long Trail without axe, compass, and matches" "A tent is not necessary on most of the trail; it may be needed in the southerly part if the hiker desires to sleep out, in which case a very light, small tent of balloon silk is advised" 

Already the gear differences and advice are pretty fun to read about.  I also loved reading that Mike MADE HIS OWN PACK out of brown ash wood.  Yep, that's right.  A "pack basket" was all the rage back in those days.  For an example of gear you would have carried in those days in your pack basket see below (it's also worth noting that back in those days it wasn't uncommon for hikers to cut boughs off trees to make a bed for the night; since that is no longer done for obvious LNT ((Leave No Trace)) reasons, it's worth noting that the hiker here stuffed a pillowcase with leaves):
-Wool blanket
-Homemade waterproofed cotton tarp and cotton groundsheet
-Camp knife (hand forged) in a leather belt sheath
-2 Quart metal canteen
-Bug Net
-Alcohol stove with alcohol carried in a GLASS bottle
-Tin cup
-Waxed cotton food bag
-Candle for nighttime
-Wool knickers
-Wool knee-length socks
-Leather hat
-Leather boots
-Rubberized poncho
-Hardboiled eggs, rice, cashews/almonds/raisins, bread, cheese, cured meat, canned fish, and hershey's chocolate

I also love that for this hike Mike used birch and beech twigs to brush his teeth!

Mike Debonis on his 2017 thru hike of the Long Trail, using 1917-style gear. 

Mike Debonis on his 2017 thru hike of the Long Trail, using 1917-style gear. 


I couldn't find much for the period in between our history hiker and the WW2 era, so I'm going to skip ahead to Earl Shaffer - the first ever thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail.  It can be said that Shaffer was the first ever Warrior Hiker - he took to the trail to "Walk off the War" in 1948.  Earning himself the name "The Crazy One", he was the first person to ever hike the trail all the way through in one year.  At first, even the Appalachian Trail Conference (later, Conservancy) didn't believe him!  He may also be considered the first minimalistic hiker, being that his tent failed in the first week on the trail and he got rid of it, saving himself an additional five pounds!  Back when Shaffer thru hiked in 1948, he was taken in by friendly fire tower wardens and fed meals; he even hiked hunting camp to hunting camp in Maine.  On his thru hike in 1998, Shaffer relayed via letter to Gene Espy (the second thru hiker of the AT) by letter that the trail had become much more difficult than when they hiked it decades before, the trail conservancy having routed the trail up to the higher and harder ridge lines instead of being down low near the hunting camps.  An example of his gear can be found below: 
-Mountain Troop rucksack
-Military issue poncho (which also served as his rain shelter at night!)
-A Daisy Mae Rainhat
-Match safe
-Sheath knife and small handaxe
-Sewing kit
-Snakebite kit
-Mountain Troop cook kit
-Wool blanket
-Wool pants
-Russel Birdshooter Boots

Earl Shaffer atop Katahdin in 1948 with his pack (photo from

Earl Shaffer atop Katahdin in 1948 with his pack (photo from

Gene Espy, our second-known thru hiker went through northbound in 1951.  He had some great gear as well, including one of my favorite luxury items - an inflatable pillow! His gear weighed in at a whopping 50 lbs and included the following (from gearjunkie): 
-Steel frame pack
-Lamb’s wool used as comfort under the heavy pack straps
-Tent (without a floor) and tent posts
-Down sleeping bag
-Watch; to know his time between shelters
-Guide books
-Hatchet and rope
-Inflatable pillow
-New Testament Bible
-Diary and pencil
-Collapsible cup
-25 caliber pistol (which he claimed he used as protection from bears)
-Carbide lamp (this is what miners used back then as a headlamp - it requires chemical reaction to make it work!)
-Nylon poncho used for a rain jacket and as flooring in the tent
-Pants from the Navy to protect his legs from thorns
-Two long sleeve shirts
-2 pairs of hiking socks
-Tin water cup
-Snakebite kit
Gene carried about a week of food at a time, and his favorite foods included chocolate pudding, loaves of bread, and Baby Ruth candy bars.  

Gene Espy during his thru hike in 1951 (from

Gene Espy during his thru hike in 1951 (from

1960's and 1970's

With the 1960s and 70s came the "heyday" of the American National Park System.  More and more folks were able to get out and enjoy not only the national parks of our country, but also the backcountry and hiking trails provided by our parks!  Check out some of these vintage ads I found while scouring the internet.  Heck, I know some sleeping bags that weigh more than 3.5 lb have even tried to make their way out onto a backpacking trip I was leading!

During the late 1950s the AT saw it's first female thruhiker, Grandma Gatewood.  She would go on to hike the trail two more times during her life, making her the first multi completer of the trail.  While I couldn't find a comprehensive gear list, I did find a photo of her gear (circa 1960) (thanks, Reddit!) at the Appalachian Trail Museum.  It's safe to say she was the first ever "dirtbag hiker", hiking with a homemade denim sack, a rain cape made from a shower curtain, and was the first hiker to ditch the heavy boots for lightweight shoes, recommending Keds to all hikers she met! She was also the first thru hiker to "slackpack" her way along the AT.  She often wandered off the main trail to knock on doors to ask for a place to stay or to get a hot meal.  

Photo Courtesey of the AT Museum and google images.

Photo Courtesey of the AT Museum and google images.

The 1970s is when backpacking really started changing.  Jansport and Kelty led the way in creating lightweight external frame packs with specially designed pockets for hauling gear ergonomically.  Also during this era we see the very first Therma-A-Rest mattress hit the market.  Now, instead of cutting live tree boughs, hikers can sleep on an ACTUAL mattress in the woods! Check out the weight of those "lightweight boots" by the way - only THREE POUNDS!

You also start seeing the commercial freeze dried and dehydrated food industry taking off.  Yes, America - you too can eat like our astronauts!

Click on the photo bar to scroll through! (Photos here are sourced from google images)

1980's and 1990's

Lightweight was the name of the game!  Ultralight was truly being developed during this time period, despite how many of us would think it was something more recent.  In fact, 2-lb packs were being developed during the late 1970s and early 1980s!  Nike was even on the forefront of developing a lightweight hiking shoe/boot hybrid - the Lava Dome! While many folks were still carrying external frame packs during this period, the frame during this time started moving to the INSIDE of a pack - something unheard of before now!  During this time period we also meet some of THE names in backpacking that many hikers still know today, the most famous of whom is Ray Jardine.  Ray and his wife, Jenny, began thru hiking in the late 1980s and can still be found out on the trail today.  In 1991, Ray wrote a book about his PCT thru hike, talking about how it was possible to hike much faster and lighter by making homemade gear.  In fact, he still regularly publishes and hikes today.  

During the 1990s we see many what we would call "Cottage Industry" companies starting to pop up as well.  Dana Designs and Gossamer Gear both got their start in the 1990s when regular hikers started getting fed up with not being able to find what they wanted in gear that was commercially available.  

During this time we also see people hiking in light athletic shoes versus heavy boots.  Laurie "Mountain Laurel" Pottieger (of ATC fame) switched to running shoes during her 1987 thru hike of the AT.  While she switched back to boots for rockier sections of the trail, at the time it was practically unheard of (and was done by the Jardines as well!)

(photo of the boots from google images and Jenny and Ray from

The 2000's and 2010's

These days, fast and light is the name of the game.  With more and more FKT (fastest known time) attempts on the trail and more hikers getting savvy to the "less is more" way of backpacking, it's possible to hike more than 2000 miles carrying little more than a daypack.  Some of the more famous names in the game right now include Anish, String Bean, and Lint.  For an example of what these ultralighters are carrying, check out Lint's thru hiking gear list.  

While not everyone is going ultralight, it's pretty unusual to see anyone out on the trail these days carrying more than 35 lb.  We know now that the average pack should be 25% or less of your total body weight.  With lighter packs comes the ability to wear lighter shoes as well. In fact, reading surveys of commonly used gear online you'll see that less than 20% of hikers are now wearing boots on trail, opting for lightweight trail running shoes instead.    

An example of what a thru hiker would carry on the AT courtesy of @GossamerGear on Instagram (@ryanshamy original)

An example of what a thru hiker would carry on the AT courtesy of @GossamerGear on Instagram (@ryanshamy original)

And there you have it - a pretty comprehensive history of how gear has changed since the early days!  Gone are the days when heavy boots and 50-lb packs are the norm.  Here to stay are the lighter, easier to carry packs with quick drying shoes and gear to get you from point A to point B in relative comfort!

Would you have been able to thru hike Grandma Gatewood style?  When did you first start collecting your backpacking gear?  What piece of gear do you remember and miss the most? 

A Walk For Sunshine - a hiking memoir and book review

Disclaimer: In order to be honest with my blog readers, I am disclosing that I received a copy of A Walk for Sunshine, 20th Anniversary Edition, for free in exchange for a book review on this blog.  As always, all opinions are my own. 

A WAlk For Sunshine.png

Being that I'm a distance hiker, I'm asked all the time (and I mean ALL THE TIME) if I've read certain books.  You guys know the ones.  If you hike, you're probably asked all the time too, right?  Well, as a distance hiker reading books by and about ACTUAL thru hikes are always much more interesting to me.  That's why when I was contacted by Beaufort Books regarding the 20th Anniversary Printing of A Walk for Sunshine I was super excited to read it.  While books written about hiking by writers are great for entertainment value, as someone who has taken a long walk on a distance hiking trail it's always a lot more fun for me to read about the experiences of others.  Here are my thoughts on the book A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt - a memoir of his 1998 Appalachian Trail thru hike.  

The thing I really enjoyed about this book was the trail journal style it took on from the very beginning.  The book follows Jeff starting in Georgia - making the mistakes all newbie thru hikers make, and documenting his way northward into Maine.  Being that his book takes place 20 years ago you would think that hikers of recent years might not find common ground with Alt (who adopts the name Wrongfoot mere hours into his hike).  This is where you would be wrong.  Although the trail has changed quite a bit since his hike in 1998, so much of it remains the same.  Hikers who have even stepped once on the Appalachian Trail will immediately find common ground with Wrongfoot - knowing the places or parts of the trail he mentions.  

Being that the book adopts the trail journal style, it's easy to get sucked into reading this book and not wanting to put it down (Seriously, I read it in an afternoon).  Wrongfoot captures the spirit of a thru hike - the difficult and long days, the insanity of the weather brought forth by Mother Nature, even the simple pleasures of making it to a restaraunt as iconic as The Homeplace in Catawba, Virginia are documented here.  I found myself laughing and reminiscing while reading this book, remembering the emotions and experiences I had at the shelters named and the hostels visited along the way.  

One thing that cannot be overlooked in this story is the fact that Wrongfoot is hiking for charity.  When he set out on the trail in 1998, he was raising money for Sunshine Communities - where his brother, Aaron, lived with cerebral palsy and mental disabilities.  During the course of his hike Jeff not only raised money for Sunshine, he even started a Walk, Run, and Roll event that still takes place 20 years later.  His annual inspired event has raised more than $500,000 to date for the Sunshine Communities.  

The great thing about this 20th Anniversary edition book is the fact that there is an Epilogue about life lessons learned, as well as a post script for wannabe thru hikers.  Also something I loved was the recommended reading list in the back - it has many of my favorite hiking memoirs listed, as well as it lets hikers of today know that the gear Wrongfoot carried in 1998 is by no means the gear you'd carry today.  It has practical advice on the fact that the trail is now longer, gear is lighter, and information on the trail is endless.  This practical advice is definitely welcome!

I highly recommend reading this book if you love books about thru hiking, especially on the Appalachian Trail.  You'll find yourself laughing and cringing just like you would if you were talking to a friend about the trail.  You can get a copy of the book your favorite local store or online as not only a paper book, but also an ebook.  You can visit for more information.  

A Walk for Sunshine

Ultimate Coffee Date - October 2017

The temperatures are cooling, the leaves are changing, and the tourists are flocking to the mountains like it's going out of style!  It must be October, and since it's the first Saturday of the month, it's time for our Ultimate Coffee Date.  Grab a mug of your favorite warm beverage and let's catch up.  

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If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I've taken the leap and signed up for my very first 100-mile race! I have decided to do the Pistol Ultra Hundred Miler instead of attempting to break a 4-hour marathon this spring.  In a perfect world I'd be able to do both races, but it's just not going to happen in 2018.  

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: There are big plans in the works for 2018.  Since our vacation didn't quite go as planned this year I didn't get my fill of thru hiking as I'd hoped.  In the coming months, look for an announcement as to what next year will bring!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: How excited I am that the temperatures are finally cooling off.  This fall I've been able to run a lot more than I did last year.  I've been really lucky to be able to get a good number of days off this year and I feel like I'm doing a much better job at taking care of myself than I did last fall.  Being able to focus on not just my running, but also being able to get back into yoga has been so much better for me.  I am finally starting to feel like myself again. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: Living in this small town I grew up in has kind of put me in a funk.  I was doing well for several years while I was living up north.  These days, being back in a tourist town in the American South has really taken a toll on me.  It's not that I don't love the low cost of living or the scenery, but the fact that we are so incredibly lacking in culture and diversity has been tough.  It's also been pretty cruddy that there is really nothing to eat here other than chain restaraunt and American-style bar food.  I've not been eating well recently and I'm hoping to fix that soon.  

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: Even though I am still here in the south, I'm definitely enjoying the work I've been doing lately.  I was recently given the opportunity to plan several hikes with a much more strenuous pace and distance than many we offer at the company I contract for.  While I love getting people out into the woods and guiding many people out into the wilderness for the first time, getting the chance to stretch my legs has put me in such a great mental place.  I hiked nearly 60 miles in a week a few weeks back and I really got into a happy place.  

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: that speaking of work, some great opportunities for next season are in the works!  I'm super excited to feel like I'm being challenged when it comes to getting out and going hiking.  For me, getting outside the comfort zone is what my job is all about, and when I can do it I think it makes for an amazing experience for both me AND my clients.  

What would you tell me if we were catching up this week?  How was your September?  Did you reach any goals or milestones?!

The Ultimate Coffee Date

Catching Up - My Favorite Posts of the Summer

Hey all! I know most of us have had a busy few months and I'm no different!  My work schedule, vacation, and even just life have gotten in the way of my writing recently.  I know I had promised back at the beginning of the summer that I would get back at it blogging for you guys, but it honestly just didn't happen.  Instead, I've been out working and getting ideas for things to write about for you all.  

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Unfortunately, I missed a ton of news out in the hiking world over the summer.  Below, I'm going to share with you some of my favorite blog posts from OTHER outdoor writers that I was reading the past few months. Those of you who follow me on Facebook may recognize some of them.  

First, my favorite post about why switching out of those heavy hiking boots and into a lightweight shoe makes so much sense from Clever Hiker: Ditch the Boots. And if that isn't enough for you, check out some more scientific posts from this Reddit Thread

Second, the AT speed record was broken again this year, although quietly, by String Bean!  Regardless of how you feel about speed records existing, it is still an amazing feat! Check out this post from Gear Junkie about his record setting unsupported hike that even beat the SUPPORTED record time!

In August, I was loving An Ode to Every Woman Who's Ever Been Called Outdoorsy.  I even read this post to my women's backpacking groups.  I hope you are as inspired by it as I am. 

And finally, it's just not hiking season these days without a little controversy.  This year, look no further than Stacey Kozel (yes, the "paralyzed" hiker).  While last year I had heard of her, this year she was virtually off the radar until just a few weeks ago, when she popped up again on the nightly news as an inspiring woman who thru hikes.  Unfortunately for Stacey, she picked a hell of a year to fake a thru hike with the highest reported snowpack in 30+ years and wildfires that made it nearly impossible for thru hikers going NoBo on the PCT to even hike it at all - seriously, the unofficial motto for NoBo's this year is 2017 - We Tried.  Anyway, check out this great post by Clay Bonnyman Evans about why it's not harmless she's lying about her hikes.   

Anyway, I hope you guys all had a wonderful and amazing hiking season and that your shoulder season is cool, colorful, and full of adventure!  By the way, if you're looking for more adventure from NoKey or me, feel free to follow us over on Instagram! You can find us @SprinklesHikes and @NoKeyRules. 

Ultimate Coffee Date - August 2017

July came and went so quickly it felt like a blink of an eye.  Of course, it always helps my month along when I leave for vacation for half the month!   While I didn't do a ton of work in July, I definitely have a ton to talk to you about - so grab your favorite mug, your favorite beverage, and join me for August's Ultimate Coffee Date!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: That I'm halfway through my busy season at work now!  I'm almost counting down the days to the off-season at this point.  After backpacking a little on vacation I can't tell you how much I miss being able to do my own thing.  Leading trips is great and I love teaching people the 'how-to's' of being outdoors, but being able to enjoy it for myself is so fulfilling. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: Our vacation was definitely a mixed bag.  We had to scrap our original plan of thru hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail due to NoKey's dad getting sick and being in the hospital.  Thankfully, he's doing much better now, but he was in pretty bad shape and we thought it best to head out to see him and then make a road trip out of it.  Unfortunately,  I also lost a diamond earring in the White Mountains and blew a tire in Connecticut, leading me to have to buy four brand new ones.  We also discovered that there was a class action lawsuit involving my model year of vehicle due to tires always blowing out (I've blown three in three years).  Unfortunately, I missed out on the lawsuit, but I will be getting the part fixed soon. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: Not all things on the trip were bad.  In fact, we spent some time in Delaware (the last state I needed to visit on the east coast!) hiking and kayaking, drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and then did a road trip with hiking every few hours on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The vacation was a great break from the norm, but not quite the thru hike I was craving and needed. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I'm so incredibly thankful for my friends and family who helped us make the trip possible.  Being a "mom" to five cats and a dog, all of whom are getting older and have their own set of issues, going out of town and off the grid for periods of time can be really difficult.  If not for my parents, grandma, and a few close friends it would be nearly impossible.  

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I'm looking forward to the off-season this year.  I've decided to pursue a few things that I've been interested in for a while now.  I'm also trying to decide between attempting to finally get that sub-4 hour marathon time or attempt my first ever 100-mile race... Stay tuned for that!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I'm so thankful for those of you still reading the blog.  This project started out on Tumblr as a way for me to keep track of my hiking miles and has turned into SO.MUCH.MORE.  Without my readers, I'd be lost!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: In case you missed it, I'm really proud of this post I wrote before I left for vacation.  I've really been not too happy with how I'm looking physically lately, and honestly I'm old enough to know better ;) 

How was your month of July? What would we talk about if we met up for a coffee this morning? I'd love to hear about it!

This post is a link-up with Coco @ Got 2 Run 4 Me, Lynda @ Fitness Mom Wine Country, & Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner!

The Ultimate Coffee Date

Distance Hiking and Body Image

Body image always seems to be in my social media feed - it seems like we're obsessed with it.  A new ad campaign promoting something regarding celebrating your body seems to pop up every month.  As someone who grew up in the age of Title IX but before crazy photoshopping, body image never really played into how I viewed myself.  Granted, like every teen girl on the planet, I learned to point out my flaws for a good 15 years or so.  Recently though, especially after hitting my 30s, I've learned to let a lot of that go.  While I think part of that comes with age, I think another part of it comes with my experience as a distance hiker.  In fact, distance hiking has helped me come to terms with my body more than any body-positive ad campaign ever could. 

When I first set out to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2012 I knew I had a few pounds to lose.  Not many, but a few.  When those few pounds came off in the first nine days I knew I still wasn't happy with my body.  In fact, there are still some photos from the trail that make me cringe when I see them.  Sure, I was (and still do) wearing Spandex.  Sure, I had a waist belt cinched tightly to carry the weight of my pack.  Sure, I had just finished camelling up (drinking a ton of water) at a water source so I wouldn't get more dehydrated.  To me though, these photos don't show me at my best.  In a highly curated world, these photos are sort of embarrassing to me even now.  I recently came across a photo like that, seen here:

My least favorite photo from the entire AT. 

My least favorite photo from the entire AT. 

I could nit-pick at this photo all day.  The way my waistband sits, the way my stomach sticks out, the way my hair is in that weird in-between growth stage.  When we took that photo it was just after we ate a ton of food (read - sugary snacks), drank even a ton more of water, and had hiked about 15 miles that day.  When I saw that tree, all I wanted to do was hop on and take a photo.  We camped that night and had an amazing time with our other fellow thru hikers.  It wasn't until months later, when I saw this photo on my Facebook feed (as I often uploaded without editing) that I was horrified at my appearance.  Weren't female thru hikers supposed to look strong?  All the other girls I hiked with looked so thin and confident.  They were all stronger than me, weren't they?  It really put a dark cloud over what I was actually out there accomplishing.  

The same day the photo above was taken, the photo below was taken... yes, the SAME DAY:

There's nothing wrong with this photo (in my eyes) and I remember feeling so great that day.  So, why do I feel so bad about the first one?  

In a world where our images are perfect, photoshopped, and manipulated and curated to fit a certain image, it's important to see our photos for what they are: a memory of a time we wanted to document.  I think people are truly never happy with their bodies, but the truth of the matter is our bodies can do amazing things.  For me, my body has carried me more than 7500 miles - through physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging terrain - and given me a career.  My body has carried me through an ultramarathon and a distance hike.  My body has been grimy, slimy, and scabby from months outdoors.  I've been covered in bruises and DEET.  I've been energized and exhausted all in the same day.  I've walked 30 miles and I've barely moved.  The fact of the matter is that none of this matters because my body is strong.  My body is beautiful.  My body can get out and climb that goddamn mountain.  

With this post, I'm issuing a challenge to all those outdoorsy folks - go ahead and post that photo.  Share the moments you're proud of.  Don't be distracted and disheartened by all those pretty white 20-somethings with colorful tattoos and John Muir quotes on Instagram.  Your experience outdoors is just as important.  Be proud of who you are and what your body has done for you.  I know I'm proud of mine. 

National Backpacker's Day

In the age of social media it seems we are more aware of the daily holidays that exist in our country.  When I saw there was a National Backpacker's Day I knew I had to get on board with this one!   I mean, how do you NOT celebrate National Backpacker's Day when you're basically a professional backpacker?!  I won't be able to spend the day backpacking, but I'll be out on the trail in just a few days.  In the meantime, I can actually reflect on what being a backpacker means to me. 

As someone who was never deemed athletic as a kid or an adolescent, becoming a backpacker in my mid 20s had such a positive change on my life.  In fact, I can honestly say I wouldn't be the person I am today without putting that pack on my back over Labor Day 2008.  I remember that trip incredibly vividly.  Not owning any gear of my own and the person I was with only having enough gear for one person we did the best we could.  Armed with a sleeping pad, a bag, and a liner, we decided one person could sleep in the sleeping bag and one person could use the pad and the liner.  I carried a day pack with some food, the liner, and the pad.  He carried the alcohol stove, sleeping bag, and some food.  We hiked in a whole 2 miles to the Kephart Prong shelter in the Smokies.  I remember thinking just before we got there just how hard this hike was and hoping it was going to be over soon.  Just before I asked the ubiquitous "are we there yet?!" we had arrived.  I hardly slept at all - I was freezing cold for one thing, and a mouse kept getting in the sleeping bag of the person above me in the shelter, so she was yelling periodically.  The next morning I was chased by bees at the fire pit.  Still, I was hooked.  

Since that trip nine years ago I've learned so much about hiking and backpacking.  In fact, I'm still learning things every single time I'm out on the trail with someone new.  I've gone from carrying a 29-pound pack to a 19-pound pack.  I've upgraded my gear and hiked closer to 10,000 miles than I ever thought I would.  I've learned I'm capable of making critical decisions and doing hard things.  I've discovered that my body is stronger than I ever gave it credit for.  I also discovered that the old adage "Garbage in, garbage out" is truer than you'll ever know. 

For me, backpacking isn't just a way of life.  Backpacking is my life.  I am so incredibly lucky to get the chance to teach people how to do it the proper way.  I get to share my love of distance hiking with wanna-be thru hikers.  I even get the chance to take people out into the forest for what could be their very first trail experience.  National Backpacker's Day, for me, is a way to honor the role it plays in my life. 

Does your favorite hobby or job have a national day? What does it mean to you and how do you celebrate?

Hiking the Great "Soaky" Mountains - My Flash Flood Experience

I recently had a brand new experience during a guided trip - a flash flood.  While many of us go through our daily lives and hear or see the words "Flash Flood Warning" pop up on our phones or scrolling across the screen during a weather report, none of us ever actually get a chance to see or experience one.  While I hope you never do, I'd like to recount my experience, share a video, and let you know how you can avoid a situation like that while you're out on your next hike.  

During my most recent Women in the Wilderness trip thunderstorms were again in the forecast.  So far this year it has rained on every single trip I've taken.  Granted, after our severe drought last year, the rain is a welcome sight.  Even though I'm grateful for the rain and the fact that we are now two inches over our normal rain level, I'm starting to get a bit sick of it.  Knowing rain was in the forecast I made sure I had packed my usual rain kit for a guided hike, including my uncomfortable and hot rain jacket and a large and incredibly heavy (when it's dry) tarp for my clients to relax under.  While our first day on the trail only gave us a sprinkle or two when we first took off, our second day was calling for afternoon thunderstorms.  It was while we were lunching that we heard our first thunder clap, but after about 45 minutes of all bark and no bite the storm never materialized.  However, just as we arrived at camp, around 3:30 in the afternoon, the sky in front of us was nearly black.  I knew we'd be pushing the rain and we hiked downhill to my favorite campsite in the park, campsite 49 (Cabin Flats).  We walked back to the farthest site from the trail, right next to the river, and immediately put up our tarp to keep us dry.  We assembled all the tents and got underneath the tarp as the first rain drops started to fall.  Our group joked how this would be our trip high point - we assembled the tents and tarp just before it got wet, assuring that when we finally set up our tents on the inside (putting our sleeping gear inside) it would be nice and dry.  

At first, the rain was steady and not out of the ordinary; however, after approximately 15 minutes, the rain began falling in heavy sideways sheets.  The tarp quickly slackened from becoming wet and due to the sideways rain and winds we ended up holding some of the edges, moving to the middle of the tarp with all our gear and hoping the storm would let up.  The sideways rain continued for about a half hour before it finally let up, but the rain continued steadily.  After approximately 1.5 hours the rain had let up to the point where one of my clients asked "so, how much longer will we have to do this?" meaning stand under the tarp before we set up the rest of our gear.  As if on cue, as soon as those words escaped her mouth, we all heard a deafening roar.  Looking toward the river, we all watched the water level rise from normal to just at the shoreline and ready to breach.  After looking at each other and saying "did everyone just see that?" we ran over to the tents, picked them all up, and moved them to a higher point in the campground.  After standing for a few minutes and chatting, we decided I would head up to the top of the campsite, which was higher up, and see how the river looked.  When I got there, the water had risen to above the shoreline and was beginning to cover the upper part of the area.  I instructed everyone to grab their packs and head up the hill, leaving the tents for the moment.  

After bringing all our gear, minus the tarp and tents, to a safe point we came up with a game plan.  We definitely weren't staying at the campsite because it could still be raining upstream and the water could get higher.  We now had a few choices - grab the tents and stay right on the main trail, hike up to a different site about 3.5 miles away and stay there illegally without a permit, or hike out to our cars.  My group was shaken, but not ready to call the trip.  We decided to grab the gear and camp somewhere else.  Staying as a group, we broke down the tarp and three tents quickly and brought them up the hill to pack them up.  On our way back the second time, the water level had risen even more, despite the rain stopping where we were.  We sloppily packed the gear as best we could and decided to make the 3.5 miles trek to campsite 50.  

My biggest concern with hiking down to campsite 50 was the fact that it was at an even lower elevation than our campsite at 49.  I also knew the water would be higher down lower and that we had four bridges to cross to get there.  After approximately half a mile we came to the largest and what I considered the most secure of those bridges and I looked to see the water was only about a foot and a half from the bottom of the bridge.  This water, at normal levels, comes up to about my mid calf.  We paused on the bridge to take photos of the water and I shot a video as well.  You can see that below: 

For reference - this is what the river normally looks like. 

For reference - this is what the river normally looks like. 

Our walk continued along the Bradley Fork Trail and over a few more bridges that spanned the raging river.  We could see several walls of debris that were freshly piled up on the shorelines at the turns of the water.  Thankfully though, the water never breeched the trail.  When we got to campsite 50 we were shocked to find it was empty on a Saturday night.  We set up our tents, cooked dinner, and spent a dry night cozy inside them.  

I would be lying if I told you I felt 100% calm about the situation.  I've never experienced water like this in the Smokies before, although flash floods have been known to happen in other parts of the park.  Now that I've been through the experience, I can be better prepared for dealing with this situation in the future.  Here are my tips for dealing with a flash flood: 

1) Stay Calm:
If you panic your body won't help you make a rational decision.  In retrospect, it may have been safer to break down the tents and the tarp first to avoid taking that second trip down to the site.  Either way it would have taken the same amount of time.  

2) Know your outs:
Even if you're backpacking someplace new to you, having an evacuation plan is key for a situation like this.  The most important thing you can do during a flood like this is getting yourself to higher ground.  Knowing how you can get back to your car is even more helpful, but it's not always possible. 

3) Keep paying attention:
Even though we had a plan to continue onward with our hike, and even though we were still talking, laughing, and joking, I was still paying attention to that water and listening for anything out of the ordinary.  While you want to get out of the area quickly if possible, it's also important to stay safe while doing so.  

4) Report the incident to the proper people ASAP:
I had no cell phone service on this entire trip.  For me to report what I had seen I actually had to talk to the backcountry office at the park once I drove to it.  Letting the proper people know will get someone out there to check the site for anything unsafe and possibly close it to keep other people safe as well.  

While I hope I never have to deal with a situation like that again, I know that hiking for a living in a park with more than 3,000 miles of flowing stream it is a distinct possibility that I will.  I'm hoping to be better prepared and even more in control if I ever do. Have you ever experienced a flash flood?

Ultimate Coffee Date - July 2017

Another month has come and gone and the year is now more than half over (and my hiking season is getting close to that too!).  Time to play catch up with all you guys and let you know what is going on in our neck of the woods.  So, grab a cup of your favorite morning beverage and let's have our coffee date!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: that June was a great month for me.  I was able to get back into running a bit and I've proven to myself that I haven't lost my fitness level too much!  Since I started seeing a chiropractor back in April I've really cut back on running to allow my body to heal after my marathon season.  I'm finally back to feeling great with very minimal pain. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I didn't have much time to focus on myself last month, however.  I led a lot of trips, some of which were added to my schedule last minute.  I got to run one of my AT Shakedown trips and that was such a blast!  I love seeing former clients go to the next level of backpacking.  I was so proud to see how much she had accomplished.  

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: our vacation is looking like it unfortunately might be a bust.  It looks like, at this time with less than 20 days til go-time, that some parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail are still covered in more than 8 feet of snow.  We are going to make a decision soon as to what we might do instead.  I'm pretty heartbroken that my planning might be for nothing.  While I love working as a guide, I really need some time to get out and hike the way I want to hike. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I've got some new backpacking gear coming in the next few days for said vacation.  I finally decided to try a Zpacks Arc Haul and we made the switch from a single walled Tarptent to a double walled Nemo Blaze.  The only thing sad about that is my new gear won't be here until after I get back from my final guided trip before our vacation, so I won't get a chance to try it all out under a load of weight.  

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I'm toying with signing up for my first ever hundo (a 100-mile race) in March next year.  The race, the Pistol Ultra, is normally over New Years' weekend, but had to be moved due to the host school's schedule this year.  I don't really want to run an ultra in southern spring heat though... decisions, decisions!

While I'm definitely looking forward to a busy July, I'm also really looking forward to some "us time" on vacation.  What are your summer plans shaping up to be?  Are you planning an epic end-of-summer trip? 

This post is a link-up with Coco @ Got 2 Run 4 Me, Lynda @ Fitness Mom Wine Country, & Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner!

The Ultimate Coffee Date

Hiking in the Rain

I don't know about the weather where you're living, but here in the southeast the late winter and springtime have been full of rain and thunderstorms - a huge difference from the hot and dry weather we were experiencing last year.  With wet weather in the forecast it can be very tempting to cancel your much-anticipated hiking trip, but it doesn't have to halt your plans!  In fact, hiking in the rain can be enjoyable if you've got the right gear.  Check out my advice for hitting the trail in the rain and how to enjoy your trip.  

Invest in Some Contractor Bags

A box of contractor clean-up bags will be a wonderful investment for any backpacker.  An unscented bag can be your pack liner.  You simply slide it into your empty pack and load your gear as  you normally would, twisting and tucking the top/extra plastic before closing up your pack.  Pairing this with your pack cover will give you an extra layer of waterproof protection that can stand up to nearly any storm.  It's important to double check that the box is UNSCENTED and heavy duty before leaving home. 

Ditch the Waterproof Shoes

While this seems counter productive, I promise there's good advice here.  Imagine you're wearing shorts and a Gortex hiking boot during a summer hike when a rainstorm breaks out.  You've got your pack covered and your poncho or rain gear on.  The rain will then run down your poncho or down your legs and directly inside of your boot.  Even if the rain stops and you get a chance at camp to dry out your shoes, shoes that are waterproof will not only keep water from streams from getting inside, but it will also stop the condensation or water that got inside your boots from drying out.  Consider going with a lightweight, breathable boot or, better yet, go ahead and make the switch to a pair of trail runners.  Even if your feet get wet during the day, you can easily dry a pair of trail runners in dry conditions or even just from your own body heat.  

Test Your Gear 

If you haven't taken your gear out in the rain in a while, I highly recommend you check your gear at home first.  That tent that hasn't been out in a year may not be as waterproofed as you remember.  Set up your gear outdoors and spray it down with a garden hose.  Inspect your gear for any seams that aren't sealed or any holes/leaks.  Avoiding a surprise during that late-night thunderstorm could make all the difference in your trip. 

Have The Right Equipment

While this one seems like a no-brainer, there are still things you can do to protect your gear inside your pack.  Invest in some waterproof stuff sacks for your sleeping bag and your clothes.  If you know your trip is expecting rain, make sure to bring an extra dry set of clothes to help avoid hypothermic conditions (because, yes, people can get hypothermia any time of year!).  By lining your pack you're definitely helping keep clothes and sleeping equipment dry, but by adding protection and using a waterproof bag in addition to your pack cover you can be sure your camp clothes will be dry and keep you warm. Remember - hikers always say there is no such thing as bad weather, just gear that can't handle the weather!

Learn Lightning Safety

Thunderstorms are definitely a natural part of the weather system in many parts of the country and being prepared for lightning can not only be informative, it can help you stay safe.  Know the warning signs of an impeding afternoon storm and limit your time above tree line in the summer months. Consider taking a Wilderness First Aid or First Responder course and learn the Lightening Ready protocols.  Learning Lightening Ready Stance can greatly reduce your risk of being struck by lightening in the backcountry. 

Lightning Ready Stance can be taught by many different courses - learn the proper techniques!

Lightning Ready Stance can be taught by many different courses - learn the proper techniques!


While walking for miles in a downpour doesn't always sound like fun, it can definitely be fun.  Play in the puddles, sing a song, or just power through the miles with a smile on your face.  A positive attitude can make all the difference, especially if you're hiking with a group. 

Have you ever had to hike or backpack in the rain? How did you keep your trip enjoyable despite the weather? 

Ultimate Coffee Date - June 2017

It's the first Saturday in June (June, seriously?!) and that means it is time to play catch up with all of you guys.  Check out all the happenings behind the scenes over here at Sprinkles Hikes.  Grab your favorite coffee or tea and let's catch up on everything I've been doing over here. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: My season is really starting to pick up! I spent the month of May out on a few glamping (front country camping) trips as a camp host instead of as a hiking guide and I have absolutely been loving it.  Honestly, I spent so much time out in the backcountry last season that I don't mind spending a few hours out in the front country this year.  

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: With that being said, I am really looking forward to my first backpacking trip of the season (with clients) in two weeks!  I am leading an AT Shakedown hike for a repeat client and her friend, plus a woman who wants to go hiking out in the Rockies.  As much as I love backpacking, I did so much of it last season that I'm really enjoying the fact that I'm not out all the time this season. 

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you:  I've been seeing a chiropractor now for six weeks and I finally have gone more than a full day without any hip/shin/knee pain!  This marathon season I had been complaining of tight hips that never loosened up despite miles of warm ups and cool downs and stretch sessions.  With this most recent session, my doctor used a device called The Activator.  While it was initially uncomfortable, I've actually been hip pain/tightness free in 36 hours!  I've also stepped it back on running once again and I'm opting for low-impact cardio options at the gym and doing strength training at home.  Strengthening my hips will be a priority for my winter running season!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you:  how fast this season is going!  We have booked everything for our Tahoe Rim Trail hike and now I really need to get on top of the food thing.  Thankfully, this trip is only 10 days in the backcountry and not a few weeks or months, but I've found that planning a menu for only 10 days can be just as stressful!  I want to make sure we'll enjoy our meals without getting bored.  We will also need to mail ourselves our food and fuel for our trip, so I do need to set up a hotel in Reno for that purpose.  July will be here before I know it!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you:  I'm doing a giveaway this month!  I have one Believe Logbook signed by Lauren Fleshman and I think it would be perfect for those of you with fall marathon or half marathon goal races!  Check out my Rafflecopter giveaway below!


Add to the bottom of every post: This post is a link-up with Coco @ Got 2 Run 4 Me, Lynda @ Fitness Mom Wine Country, & Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner!

The Ultimate Coffee Date

So You Want to Be a Trail Guide?

When people find out I'm a trail guide I not only get a few questions, I also get to hear "Wow, that's the best job in the world! I'd love to do that!" followed by attempts to ask about getting hired at the company I work with or how they can start a hiking company on their own.  While working as a trail guide is a wonderful and enjoyable job, I always try to stress to people that working as a guide and hiking in general are not the same thing.  If you've ever thought about getting into the world of guiding, here's some practical advice to help you decide if you'd like to get into the guiding industry. 


My normal comfortable walking/hiking speed is between 3 and 3.5 miles per hour.  As a guide, however, my hiking speed is approximately 1 mile per hour.  Why the difference?  People hiring a guide are doing so to get out and enjoy nature - many of them for the first time ever.  When a mountain mile is approximately equivalent to walking 3 miles in a city on sidewalks, you can imagine people are DEFINITELY not going to be able to walk 3-3.5 miles per hour.  Not only will you be hiking slow, you'll be taking plenty of rest breaks and be reading the cues on your client's faces to make sure they're not exerting too much.  While it's enjoyable to work outdoors all the time, your comfort and abilities don't matter when you're a guide.  If you're a fast hiker, be prepared to slow it down considerably and be prepared to hurt A LOT when you do. 

You Are Responsible For Everyone's Safety

When you're out hiking with your friends, especially if they're adults, they're all responsible for their own decisions and safety.  When you're out with paying clients chances are you're the only one in the group with any first aid training and any first aid items in your pack.  While going out with friends it's a lot of fun to hop up on that giant rock and take photos, with clients it's important to watch their steps and check for rattlesnakes that could be under or around those rocks.  Keeping people safe not only keeps your hikes enjoyable, it also keeps your insurance rates low and your company's reputation high as well.  

You Will Carry a TON of Extra Gear

I don't know about you guys, but I don't carry ANYTHING extra in my pack I won't need on a backpacking trip.  When I'm out with clients though, this level of thinking goes right out the window.  On trips where I have a group of 8, I often am carrying two stoves (Jetboils) and extra fuel canisters, two water filters (Platypus Gravity with two 4-liter bags a piece), a tarp for rainy conditions, extra string, more first aid items, and even homemade baked goods (when you're working for tips, extra touches help!).  I can easily add an extra 10 pounds of stuff I'd never dream of carrying to my pack.  This doesn't include gear that your clients are unable to carry.  It doesn't always, but sometimes will, happen that a client is physically unable to walk with a pack on, but when it does be prepared to carry some of their gear as well.  

You are Working 24/7

If I'm on a trip and during the middle of the night a client needs me, I am on call.  If we are sitting around camp and an emergency arises, I am on call.  I am never not working on a trip.  While I do get some down time to relax with clients around a small campfire at the end of the day, I still need to make sure I'm doing my job and keeping people safe.  "Did she just take food into her tent? Did he just pour grey water into the creek?  Where is that guy's food bag now?" You are continuously monitoring camp and the people around you to make sure your group will be safe and enjoy their camping experience.  Working 24/7 on a trip can definitely be exhausting. 

You Will Meet Incredibly Inspiring People

Just like when you're hiking on your own, even with all the above-mentioned things you'll be doing, you're going to meet incredible people with incredible stories to tell.  I have met inspiring hopeful thru hikers, women leaving abusive relationships, men trying to reconnect with their kids, people celebrating their victory over cancer, and been a part of some incredible celebrations. On a trip I am their guide and afterward I am here to answer their questions if they're ready to get back out and try another trip.  Knowing that I helped people enjoy their trip into the backcountry, no matter their ability level or the trail conditions, is incredibly rewarding. 

While being a trail guide is a physical demanding and mentally exhausting job, it definitely has wonderful moments.  I work incredibly hard on everything I do, be it an hour-long walk or a week-long hike.  Teaching people the right way to get out and enjoy nature and showing them how accessible it can be is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. 

Have you ever been on a guided hike or trip?  Do you think you'd enjoy being a hiking guide? 

Backpacking 101

If you've been thinking about jumping into the sport of backpacking chances are you've done quite a bit of research on gear to buy or rent; however, this isn't always the case.  As someone who works as a guide and has done a number of distance hikes I can tell you while many people are doing the research there are still huge numbers of people who do absolutely no research at all.  Don't let your first trip take you by surprise!  Here are some common beginner mistakes a lot of people make on their first few backpacking trips and some tips for how to avoid making them. 

Carrying the Wrong Gear

We have all seen people out on the trail for the weekend carrying that backpack their dad bought back in 1979.  While the gear manufactured back then was truly built to last, sitting in the basement unused since the 80's means that your gear has a tendency to fall apart the minute you try to put it through the rigors of a backpacking trip.  As a guide, I've repaired numerous pieces of "durable and built to last" backpacking gear out on a trip.  Avoid this happening to you by heading to an outfitter and buying a new pack, getting fitted properly and learning how to use it.  Can't afford a new pack for the once-a-year trip you're about to take? There are plenty of gear rental companies out there to help you out!  Try looking online for a local place where you're headed into the woods, or check out a website like Get Out Backpacking for ultralight gear rental you can do online.  

Carrying Too Much Gear

Just because you bought it doesn't mean it needs to come out on the trip with you!  While many outdoors aisles have lots of fun and cool-looking outdoor tools you don't necessarily need to bring them on a trip!  Carry a small Swiss Army knife instead of that Leatherman multitool.  Leave the hatchet and saw at home.  A solar charger is useless under most tree canopies.  Cosmetics and deodorants will melt.  A full camp kitchen isn't necessary.  And last, but not least, you aren't going to need a different set of hiking clothes every single day.  By going through your pack and eliminating extra items you'll be able to shave a few pounds off your pack's overall weight.  By carrying less weight you'll decrease your chance for injury and have a more enjoyable trip.  Remember - a pack should never be more than 20% of your total body weight!

Carrying Outdated Gear

Now, I'm not saying that the gear you bought in the late 90's isn't any good any more.  I'm sure it's great!  But, what I am saying is that it might be time to retire that heavy gear to your front country camping stash instead.  Over the last several years backpacking gear has become significantly lighter and more advanced.  While it was common for thru hikers to carry 30-40 pound packs back in the 90's it is no longer necessary for hikers to carry that kind of weight.  By updating your gear piece by piece you'll save yourself quite a few pounds.  One of my favorite switches is a water filtration system.  Commonly weighing a pound or more, the old-fashioned water pumps are no longer necessary with options out on the market today.  Consider switching to a Sawyer Mini or Squeeze system and ditch that Nalgene bottle for a Smartwater bottle and you've saved yourself nearly two pounds and only spent about $20.  

Take More Breaks

As a guide, I teach people not only how to update, replace, or even buy gear properly, I also teach people how to hike properly.  Just because you did a 15-mile hike the last time you went into the woods doesn't necessarily mean you can still do 15 miles without any training time again!  By taking a slower pace and taking a few snack and stretch breaks along the way you'll not only get to camp in one piece, you'll also wake up the next morning with fewer aches and pains.  I recommend taking a 5-minute break every hour to take off your pack and roll out your neck (because looking down at the ground for an hour can really do a number on you) and stretch out your legs.  Snack breaks, even if you're not hungry, can help your body recover before you can even tell that you need to.  Taking small sips of water throughout the day will also go a long way against preventing dehydration.  

These are just a few of many tips I could offer to help make your first (or first in a while) backpacking trip go successfully.  What are some mistakes you made when you first became a backpacker?  What advice would you give someone who wants to try to go out on their own for the first time? 

How to Plan a Thru Hike

Taking on a thru hike can be a daunting task, especially if you're new to distance hiking. Getting ready to head out for a few weeks or months can take a lot of planning, but doesn't have to be stressful.  Check out my tips for planning your thru hike and keep the stress to a minimum!

Decide if You Want to Mail Resupply

Not every trail requires you to plan out and mail yourself a resupply.  If you're looking at doing a trail that is fairly well-established, like the PCT or the AT, and don't require a special diet, you can definitely get away with resupplying in towns.  If you are doing a lesser-known trail or have special dietary needs, you'll want to look more in depth into mailing yourself resupply boxes.  Keep in mind when you're planning your resupply that you might like one meal quite a bit at the beginning of a hike, but after a month or so you might not be so excited to eat it again.  Keep a variety of meals for your resupply and try not to eat the same meal more than once a week if you're going to mail out your own foods.   After you've decided to mail your boxes or resupply on the trail, you can move on to the next step to plan out your drops. 

Look at Your Daily Mileage

The first thing you'll need to do, once deciding on a trail, is checking out the terrain and your daily mileage.  If you're new to backpacking you'll definitely want to keep your mileage below 10 miles per day for the first few days or even first two weeks.  After you've looked at what your abilities will let you hike on the trail, you'll not only have a rough outline of your trip to leave with your friends and family, you'll be able to set up resupplies based on this plan.  Keep in mind that mileage can vary dramatically depending on the season - you never know how many early spring snow storms you'll run into in high elevations!  Keep a buffer zone in there.  

Check Your Bank Account

While a lot of people who aren't yet distance hikers look at a thru hike as a cheap extended vacation, many of us who have been not only distance hikers but also worked in the hostel and hospitality industry can tell you that distance hiking can get expensive!  If you're doing a section hike or traveling far from home for your trail, you'll need to set aside money for shuttles, hostels, hotels, and emergency services (like doctor's visits).  Not only should you have more money set aside than you think you should, it also helps to carry cash and tip your drivers.  Many people who work in the hiking industry are doing it while they're operating at a loss.  Tipping your drivers and hostel owners is always good practice.  

Make Your Reservations and Get Your Permits

Some places you're going to be hiking will require permits or camping reservations.  Hopefully you've done your research before heading out and you know exactly what you need to do to get to your trailhead.  Make sure you call ahead and check with campgrounds and hostels about availability and pricing.  Pricing can vary during the hiking season and by calling ahead and getting a rate and reservation you'll guarantee your pricing.  No one likes a surprise at the beginning or end of their trip.  Some trails require you to get a campfire permit (which are usually free) even if you're using a camping stove, so make sure you've got this as well.  Check and see if bear canister restrictions are in place and always carry the gear required.  By avoiding fines and following trail rules you're helping keep hikers in good standing with rangers and park officials.  

BREATHE and Relax

Know that not everything will always go according to your plan (which is why the emergency funds are so important!)  If you've got a plane to catch you'll have to work harder to stick to a schedule, but it's always a good idea to build in a few buffer days into your trip just in case.  Once you've got all your planning done and you've accepted things won't always go according to your plan, you can relax and count down the days to your trip. 

Planning a thru hike can be a daunting task at the beginning, but once you've got the major details squared away all that's left is to relax and get excited about your trip.  Do you have any tips for planning a major hike or vacation?  Have you ever had a trip not go according to plan? I'd love to hear about it!


Black Toenails - A Rite of Passage... or is it?!

When I first got into hiking seriously back in 2008 I joined a Meetup Group.  Before becoming a backpacker, I spent a lot of time on front country camping trips doing day hikes.  On one such trip, I remember sitting around a campfire with some veteran hikers and I found myself in a conversation that was borderline horrifying to me.  In fact, many of you who are hiking have probably heard a conversation very similar to this one: "You don't want to see my feet! I've lost so many toenails I can't even count them all!" "Oh yeah, I have two black ones right now - both big ones!" "My first backpacking trip I lost seven nails!" "I get so many blisters I'm pretty sure my trail name should be bubble wrap!" "Yeah, I don't think I've had a solid set of nails in 10 years!"  As I listened to this in slight horror I realized that yes, indeed, I was not a real hiker yet.  And thanks to this conversation, I wasn't looking forward to being a hiker either! 

A few years down the line I did join the real hiker club.  Thanks to a long day of hiking in boots that were too heavy, I got to camp and immediately shed the footwear to walk barefoot in a cold mountain stream.  The stream was in fact so cold that when I banged my toe on a rock I didn't feel a thing.  Later that night, however, a small purple lump showed up directly in the middle of my toenail.  Six months later, that nail had to be surgically removed thanks to the fact that the bruise never healed, nor caused me to lose that nail.  Finally, I had become a real hiker.  Honestly though, does losing or bruising nails REALLY make us a real hiker?  I'm here to tell you guys that NO, LOSING TOENAILS ISN'T NORMAL OR A RITE OF PASSAGE!  This post will deal with some footwear myths and facts to help you avoid the most ridiculous Rite of Passage hikers hear about.  

MYTH: You should Always Buy Your Boots a Full Size Bigger Than Your Shoes

If you need to buy your boots a full size bigger than your normal shoes, this tells me you're not wearing the proper size shoe in the first place!  In fact, most Americans are not wearing the correct shoe size for their foot.  A proper hiking, trail running, or backpacking shoe should not only be long enough, it should also be wide enough to accomodate your feet in both their swollen and normal conditions.  To get properly fitted for a hiking, trail running, or backpacking shoe I HIGHLY recommend going to a running store and not an outdoor retailer first.  Running store employees are properly trained to watch your gait, measure your feet (both width and length) and look for wear patterns on your shoes to recommend a corrective insole if you need it.  They'll ask you your daily/weekly mileage, terrain you plan on traveling, and even what your long-term goals are.  THEN, they'll go in the back and find the brands and styles that will work best for you.  

MYTH: A Heavy Boot Will Solve All Your Foot Problems

Which of these sounds better for a foot in normal conditions: A heavy, inflexible, non-breathable shoe; or a lightweight, breathable, flexible shoe?  Now, add in the rocky, muddy, wet conditions of a mountain trail.  While hiking boots definitely have a place in the hiking world, a lightweight and breathable boot or shoe will do you much better in most conditions.  In the past several years, many running shoe companies have expanded into a line of trail shoes and some even offer a high topped shoe to rival many hiking boots.  Other outdoor companies make heavy duty, breathable shoes with moderate ankle support.  Whether you decide on a boot or a shoe, light and breathable with some flexibility, not heavy and solid, will keep your feet happy.  

MYTH: Always Wear A Sock Liner And You'll Never Get Blisters

Just like one shoe doesn't fit all, one sock solution doesn't work for everyone either!  Sock liners do help prevent friction in high pressure areas of the feet.  Injinji toe socks also make liners to help separate your toes and prevent between-the-toe blisters; however, sock liners aren't your "quick" fix for blisters or black toenails.  Getting a properly fitted, properly breathing, properly weighted shoe is the first line of defense.  Secondly, making sure you're wearing a wicking sock, like a wool or bamboo variety, will also help pull moisture away from your feet.  Third, determining if your blisters are caused by pressure on your foot or debris in your shoe also helps! Some people can solve their blister problems by wearing a gaiter to cover the tops of their shoes or boots and prevent debris from rubbing their feet.  

MYTH: Buy A Pair of Insoles And Never Have Foot Problems Again

Are you guys noticing a pattern yet?  Hikers often have a "one size fits all" solution for foot problems, but just like the other myths we've covered, an insole will not help all hikers solve their problems.  Many insole brands you can buy off the shelf in a store will tell you that being uncomfortable is all a part of the break-in process because your body doesn't know how to walk on it's own (I'm paraphrasing here).  Not every hiker needs an insole to help solve their blister or toenail problems.  In fact, many hikers can avoid the insole by getting a properly fitted, properly cushioned shoe or boot in the first place.  

Have you ever lost toenails or gotten severe blisters on a hike?  What did you do to help remedy the situation? 

Ultimate Coffee Date - May 2017

The month of April is finally over and I'm back at it writing again.  It's time to play catch up with all of you and share what has been going on over here behind the blog.  It's time for our Ultimate Coffee Date - May edition!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I'm starting to feel a little better than I was when I last posted.  It's still taking a lot of energy on my part to sit down behind the computer and write posts, but I've been working on a few different ideas and I'm going to start getting more active by posting archival posts on Facebook and Twitter in the coming months.  Look for the "Best of Sprinkles Hikes" coming to social media near you soon!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: It seems like the Tahoe Rim Trail thru hike is sneaking up on me!  I'm going to have to get on the ball and purchase plane tickets (they say 55-65 days from the trip you'll get the best deal), maps, apps, and finalize our food for the trip.  I'm definitely planning on doing a lot of our own home-dehydrated meals again.  Logistics, like getting to the trailhead from the airport and stopping by an outfitter for fuel on the way to the trailhead, are definitely near the top of the list.  I'm going to have to work on this soon!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I've started seeing a chiropractor for the aches and pains I've been dealing with since finishing up my marathon training this year.  Post-marathon blues really hit me hard and I've been having major FOMO following the ultras my friends are doing.  This training season really wrecked my body and I worked so hard (running a 20+ minute PR in my marathon) to improve my times and stamina.  I'm hoping to feel some improvement soon!  I've gotten back into running again and I did nearly 15 miles this week.  I'm hoping to run three days a week (one long run on my day off) and possibly get in a day of strength training.  Since my FedEx days I've definitely lost quite a bit of arm strength!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: I recently went on a campsite scouting trip for the company I work for.  We are expanding into other areas to offer more trips for REI Adventures.  This meant I got to go out without clients and take a hike at my own pace and camp where I wanted to!  Granted, I chose a poor campsite (due to bear canister restrictions) and ended up doing my first ever night hike at 1:15 a.m. to sleep in the backseat of my car, but I was able to hike 30  miles and find some great places for a trip!

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you: NoKey and I recently celebrated our 5th anniversary.  It's hard to believe it's been five years since I was out on the AT.  I cannot believe how much I've learned about myself and changed in those five years.  It seems like every single year brings a new adventure and a whole lot of self-discovery!

What would you tell me if we were sitting down for a cup of coffee today?  I'd love to catch up with my readers!

This post is a link-up with Coco @ Got 2 Run 4 Me, Lynda @ Fitness Mom Wine Country, & Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner!


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