One Year Anniversary

**We had planned to post this yesterday but due to technical difficulties were unable to do so. But now, it’s ready!**

We find it hard to believe that a year ago today we set out on an adventure of a lifetime. And what an adventure it was.

We use many adjectives when describing our experience on the Pacific Crest Trail – exhilarating, majestic, challenging, incredible, humbling.

It was a time in our lives we will look back upon and feel no regret. We chose adventure over creature comforts and the ‘same ole, same ole’.

We chose to live our dreams rather than do what we are ‘supposed’ to do. Looking back we deeply feel we made the right decision. We will be forever grateful for having walked across the Pacific Crest of the United States, from Mexico to Canada.

To celebrate our one year anniversary we created a movie so we can relive the adventure. We hope you enjoy it.

https://goo.gl/photos/THJhJnBQi7gZPETr7

 

Hiking as a couple

“Aren’t you tired of one another yet?”

This is a question we got all the time.

Luckily, our answer every time was “No.”

Spending 6 months together felt like a privilege. Prior to the trail with differing work schedules, the most consecutive time we had spent together was a 3 week vacation in Nepal.

Sure, there were moments, hours and miles of irritation and frustration but the difficulties felt few and far between compared to the perks of sharing this experience together.

The success of our hike together was a result of good planning, open communication, a willingness to adapt and cheese!! ūüôā

Researching success and failures of other couples

In preparation for the hike Andy did a lot of research. One of the common suggestions for hiking as a couple was to have separate food. Despite our desire to share, we followed this advice and it really helped.

Happy couple at Eagle rock

Happy couple at Eagle rock

Thru hiking makes one hungrier than imaginable which creates feelings of scarcity and possessiveness. Knowing we each had enough food fostered feelings of abundance which led to sharing with one another and other hikers.

Clear communication

Communication is one of the strongest aspects of our relationship. We have worked hard to create a strong foundation where it is okay to have needs and wants, and to express those feelings. It felt safe to say “I am tired” or “my foot hurts.” We tended¬†to each of these issues¬†as they arose¬†and came up with¬†solutions.

Still smiling at Vasquez Rocks

Still smiling at Vasquez Rocks

We knew we wanted to hike together. There were only a few moments of “agh, Andy is so slow” or “Jeez Laurie, get out of the sleeping bag – it is time to get going.” Neither of us felt like the other was holding us back. I believe this stemmed from clear expectations from the beginning and¬†helped prevent feelings of resentment.

Making decisions together 

At each resupply point we devised a strategy for the coming section. We decided when we wanted to get to the next town, how many miles we wanted to walk on that last day and divided the remaining miles by number of days.  This became our rough itinerary.

still smiling at Crater Lake

still smiling at Crater Lake

As the miles wore on, we became more fluid in our planning. We always had a rough idea but in the last 500 miles instead of having an exact mileage goal we would identify 3 potential campsites over a 5 mile range and around 6 o’clock ¬†decide on our destination. We were lucky that our comfort zones expanded and our bodies adapted at a similar pace so¬†we could push when we wanted or needed to.

We seamlessly fell into a routine

We recognized our individual habits and comforts and worked together to share camp and town chores. Laurie hikes faster so she usually led. (Until we encountered a rattlesnake, at which time Andy would take the lead.)  This was never a discussion, it just felt natural.

Andy was the one to hike down the steep use trails to get water. We both wanted to spare Laurie’s knees and it was a blessing. Laurie often blogged while Andy disappeared into the brush. This way both of us felt we were contributing to the team.

Back in the Sierras - still smiling

Back in the Sierras – still smiling

When we got to¬†camp, Laurie craved coziness and would quickly jump in the tent, clean off and¬†change into her sleeping clothes. Andy recognized Laurie’s desire to be cozy and cooked¬†while Laurie unpacked the backpacks, inflated the pads and fluffed the sleeping bags.

Benefits of hiking as a couple

Some couples hiked just as fast as solo hikers, but this wasn’t the case for us. We took more breaks, took longer to get going and often didn’t hike as late into the evening, mostly because we didn’t feel pressure to keep up with others.

It was nice to always have someone to share the highs and lows with. It felt like the highs were higher and the lows more bearable having someone to commiserate with. We made decisions¬†together and it was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. I can only imagine how easy it would be to create negative stories in one’s head while hiking alone and in silence all day.

Maybe it's the apple & cheese, but we're still smiling

Maybe it’s the apple & cheese, but we’re still smiling

Hiking as a couple afforded us the opportunity for conversation and silence. 80% of our days we hiked within 20 feet of one another but would go miles without sharing a word. It was comforting knowing Andy was right behind me and allowed my mind to wander in ease.

One of the major benefits of hiking with someone is that you can share the weight of gear. We divided the tent (although after 100 miles Andy carried 90% of it), first aid kit, water purification and cooking supplies.

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges for us was that our bodies responded differently to the trail. We felt strong at different times and on different days and had to compromise to meet the needs of the other. Laurie became a slug around 2pm or whenever it was hot but experienced a second wind as we got closer to camp (probably because she would eat candy around 4pm).

We started to converse during these hours as a way to motivate one another to continue. Laurie would often turn to podcasts during these afternoon hours but as we got closer to camp Andy wanted to discuss camping options. He found himself getting frustrated that Laurie was tuned in and plodding along rather than mutually discussing where we would camp that night. We talked about it and decided Laurie would unplug around 6pm (an hour before we usually made it to camp).

Final thoughts

The trail, like life, was about learning what worked and didn’t work, both individually and as a couple, making adjustments and moving on. In many ways it seemed easier to adapt and work together on the trail. Maybe it was out of necessity or fewer distractions that¬†made it¬†easier to feel grateful for whatever each of us brought to the table.

hiking couple

Five months have passed since stepped off the trail; we continue to rely on our open communication as we navigate through life as a couple Рstill learning, still adapting, still leaning upon the other when in need of support.

PCT Food Review Part 5 – Bars, Bars and More Bars!

Bars in the morning, bars in the evening, bars at every mile….

There were days when all we ate were bars until dinner. That‚Äôs because it was either raining or we were swarmed by mosquitoes and didn‚Äôt want to stop. Bars were an essential food source during our thru hike. And for this reason we made sure we took along what we liked – or so we thought…

Laurie with bars

We ate so many bars we were able to identify what bar the other person was eating by the smell of the bar or the sound of its wrapper! We estimate that Laurie ate about 800 – 1000 bars and Andy consumed about 1000 – 1200 bars in 171 days.

As a reminder, we actively sought out sponsors for our hike to help offset the higher cost of quality foods. Every company below with an * next to their name either gave us free bars or a discount. While we remain grateful to these companies, their generosity has not influenced our comments.

Bars We Loved

2017-01-29-15-20-17¬†18 Rabbits* – We absolutely love their granola and their granola bars. These bars are made with wholesome ingredients and aren‚Äôt too sweet. We always looked forward to (and celebrated) when we reached into our food bags and pulled out an 18 Rabbits bar. The 18 Rabbits bars were hands down Laurie‚Äôs favorite bars. Andy loved them too. They do not become rock hard when it’s cold out and maintain their freshness very well. Our¬†favorite flavors are:

Unlike other granola bars out there, 18 Rabbits does a stellar job of making each flavor distinct and unique from their other flavors. We highly encourage you try 18 Rabbits granola bars!

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-21-37-pm¬†Rise Bar* makes protein bars that actually taste good! This is because the protein comes from nuts (like almonds) instead of powdered isolates. Some Rise bars are¬†dense but we¬†don’t mind that because they are really good.

We both really like their lineup of flavors, and if we had to pick our favorites Laurie’s would be the¬†Blueberry Coconut¬†because it is moist and has real blueberries (not the artificial blueberry flavor that you find in lesser quality bars).

Andy’s favorite flavor is Snickerdoodle. It’s tasty, filling and made with quality ingredients. What more do you want in a bar?¬†Rise Bar has recently released 2 new flavors – Chocolatey Coconut and Mint Chip, both of which are delicious.

Because these bars are minimally processed, don’t contain fillers or hydrogenated oils and¬†have nuts as their base, the¬†oils tend to separate¬†in warmer weather. We found we needed to place the used wrappers in a ziplock so as to not put food stains on our pants (we were more concerned about the animals they would attract rather than the looks of our clothes).

Overall, Rise Bar makes quality bars that we love and will continue to take on all adventures. Andy recommends trying their variety pack to sample many of their delicious offerings.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-23-00-pm Greens Plus Bars* were a surprising favorite. We were attracted to the idea of getting extra greens in our bars since bars comprised the majority of our daily calories, but neither of us had tried them.

We really liked the Chia Chocolate and Chocolate Energy flavors. The Chia Chocolate bar¬†had more of a “green‚ÄĚ taste and was a welcomed change to our palates¬†after hundreds of¬†date and nut based bars. As an added bonus, we¬†continued to enjoy the Chia Chocolate bars long after we ate them as we picked¬†chia seeds out of our teeth¬†ūüôā

Our favorite Greens+ bar was, and still is,¬†the Coffee Almond Crisp. If you love coffee flavored bars, you’ll love these bars! Another flavor we enjoyed¬†was the Blueberry Crisp. ¬†Although they¬†have an¬†artificial blueberry smell, they taste really good because they contain¬†real dried blueberries!¬†We recommend contacting the company directly if you work in the healthcare or fitness industries. You may be able to get a pro deal and purchase their line of products at 40% off.

Bars We Both Liked

raw-revo-glo-protein-bars¬†Raw Rev Glo¬†Bars ‚Äď We both enjoyed these bars very much. They contain lots of fiber and only a handful of quality ingredients. And they manage to do this in a very small package. The bars are on the smaller side (only 1.6 oz each) but no matter.

The Dark Chocolate, Cashew & Mint flavor was surprisingly refreshing, the Caramel, Chocolate &¬†Sea Salt bar was a bit too sweet but still tasty and the Dark Chocolate Espresso Crunch was…crunchy, but not in a very pleasurable way. They tasted good but the whole¬†espresso beans were hard to chew and sometimes hurt our teeth. These bars would be better if they had crushed bits of coffee beans in them rather than whole beans. Other than that, the coffee flavor was quite nice.¬†¬†We especially enjoyed them because we got them later on in our hike – so they were new and exciting.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-25-20-pm Epic Bars provided a nice change of pace from the sweet bars we ate most of each day. Our favorite flavors were:

Some were too salty (such as the Venison and Pulled Pork), while others had too much added sweetness (Beef Habenero Cherry).

In general, we enjoyed these bars and were glad to have them in our resupply boxes. Epic is a good company that greatly cares about the sourcing and quality of their products. For these reasons we will continue to support them and enjoy their creations. Also, check out their Beef Liver jerky if you like the taste of liver. It’s¬†super good!

kind-healthy-grains-granola-bars-oats-and-hone-jpg¬†Kind Healthy Grains Granola Bars ‚Äď these Kind bars are sweeter and crunchier than 18 Rabbits granola bars. We liked the crunch and their flavor, but unfortunately they tended to break apart into little pieces which made them hard to eat while walking.

Often times more of the bar ended up on the trail than in our mouths. But Kind Bar has since changed the formula for these bars so this doesn’t happen any longer.

Bars Only One of Us Liked

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-28-34-pm¬†Kit’s Organic Bars – Andy LOVED these bars. Even though they have dates as their base, they taste really, really good – so much better than Larabars! Andy especially enjoyed the following flavors:

Andy refers to Kit’s Organic bars as grown up versions of Clif bars – which are just candy bars. Kit’s Organic bars are part of the Clif Bar family, contain only a handful of quality ingredients and are reasonably priced. Check em out!

2017-01-29-15-29-57 Nii Foods Bars* РAndy enjoyed these bars very much. He liked the tartness of the Cherry Coconut bars, savored the chocolate chips in the Peanut Butter bars, looked forward to the Berry Cashew ones and could easily eat multiple Almond Chocolate Chip bars in one sitting.

Unlike other healthy, minimally processed bars with few ingredients, all the flavors of these bars are quite unique. And they have a good crunch that comes from sunflower seeds and other ingredients, not rice crisps. For a more detailed review of Nii Foods Bars, click here.

kind_strong_thaisweetchili_602652170645 Strong and Kind bars РWe ordered about 120 of these Kind bars in Thai Sweet Chili flavor thinking the salt and spices would offer a nice savory twist to our sweet bars, but within the first 100 miles Laurie discovered she strongly disliked them. The sweet glaze and the spices did not agree with her taste buds.

Andy spent the next 6 months eating his bars and many of Laurie’s too, but didn‚Äôt get tired of them. In fact, he still eats them from time to time. He has tried many of the flavors in this line – including Hickory Smoked, Honey Mustard, Honey Smoked BBQ¬†and Roasted Jalape√Īo. He likes them all but prefers the Thai Sweet Chili flavor over all of them.

2017-01-29-18-52-37 Hammer Nutrition Bars* were sweet and moist. Andy liked them because they were different from most of the other bars we had. His favorite flavor was Apple Oatmeal.

It contains complimentary flavors (apples and cinnamon) and simple ingredients. He also enjoyed the Cranberry, Almond Raisin and Chocolate Chip flavors. At first he found the Almond Raisin bars to be bland, but after about a month he began to really like them. Andy will continue to purchase the Apple Oatmeal flavor Hammer Bars but probably not the others.

raw-revolution-bars¬†Raw Revolution Bars ‚Äď Andy enjoyed some of these bars throughout the hike. Before the trail we both used to eat these bars during our adventures, but we ordered too many and over the course of the hike some of the flavors¬†lost their appeal.¬†The Dark Chocolate Trail Mix bar was Laurie’s favorite because of the mixture of nuts, fruit and chocolate. ¬†Andy was drawn to the chocolate ones and his favorites were as follows:

He also liked the following flavors, but not as much as the ones above.

Raw Revolution makes a bajillion more flavors not listed above. Sadly many of them are coconut based and a lot of the ones we enjoyed pre PCT¬†tasted¬†rancid to Andy when we got them in our resupply boxes.¬†It’s hard to say what caused this – the way Amazon stores them¬†at¬†their facilities, the conditions at the¬†pick up locations where our boxes were stored or perhaps they were rancid to begin with..who knows. What mattered was the flavors we had liked – including Spirulina Dream, Golden Cashew, Coconut Delight¬†and Cranberry Coconut were hard to eat, and after a while we donated them to the hiker boxes.

lara-bars¬†Larabar – Talk about a company that makes a million flavors of bars! This is a good thing and we both used to love many of Larabar’s flavors¬†but in combination with Raw Revolution and Nii Foods bars – the frequency of bars with dates and nuts quickly led Laurie to burn out. Having said that, Blueberry Muffin, Lemon Bar, Key Lime Pie, Cherry Pie and Peanut Butter & Jelly flavors remain as our favorites.

pure-variety12bs¬†Pure Organics –¬†We bought these bars for added variety because we both used to eat them pre-PCT. But on the trail, Andy ended up eating most of them.

He continued to enjoy their Chocolate Brownie and Dark Chocolate Berry bars, but he grew tired of the Cherry Cashew flavor. The appeal of these bars were their simple, unprocessed ingredients, good taste and reasonable prices. They have other flavors too Рsuch as Wild Blueberry, Apple Cinnamon, Cranberry Orange and Banana Coconut. Andy will likely purchase these bars again from time to time.

Bars We Both Disliked

2017-01-29-15-38-40¬†Quest Nutrition¬†bars*¬†–¬†If you want high protein bars, Quest has you covered.¬†Unfortunately for us though, their range of bars are too sweet and lost their appeal quickly.¬†The sugar alcohol used in these bars didn’t gel with our taste buds.

Although the S’mores flavor actually tastes like s’mores – they were too sweet. And similar to the rest of their bars, they were too dense. We couldn’t eat these bars in the ¬†mornings, they were rock hard. Popular they may be – with over 25 different flavors – ¬†but they aren’t for us.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-41-04-pm Simple Squares* РWe used to love these bars before the hike. They are healthy, unprocessed and raw. But on the PCT we grew tired of them very quickly. One of the main reasons was all their flavors tasted the same. In blind taste tests (yes we really did this on the trail) all we tasted was coconut.

The Ginger, Rosemary, Cinna-Clove and Sage flavors are so subtle they all taste like the original Coconut flavor. The only bar that tasted different was the Coffee flavor. But even that lost its appeal after a month. In short, the coconut base in all the bars overpowers the different flavors.

2017-01-29-15-42-13¬†GoMacro* – We only had 10 of these bars the entire trail and they were ok. We didn’t eat too many of them to grow tired of them ūüôā

For Andy though, because¬†the first ingredient is brown rice syrup and they contain puffed brown rice, these bars are a turn off. He won’t be buying them anytime soon and odds are neither will Laurie. There are too many bars out there that we like more.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-43-28-pm¬†Clif Bar –¬†Secretly we both like these bars because they are like candy. They are super sweet and say all the right things on the wrapper to make you think ¬†you’re making a healthy¬†decision. In reality though, for us, this isn’t the case. Andy prefers Clif’s Kit’s Organic line of bars while Laurie LOVES Clif Shot Bloks (Cran-Razz flavor). If she’s going to eat candy it might as well be what she likes!


Going forward, we will continue to try new bars and hopefully add them to our collection of favorites in order to increase variety. Because in the end, variety truly is the key! Without it, burnout comes quickly, making the challenge of thru hiking more difficult.

In case you missed them, you can find the rest of our food reviews below:

PCT Food Review Part 1 ‚ÄstBreakfast

PCT Food Review Part 2 ‚Äď Mid Morning Snacks and¬†Lunches

PCT Food Review ‚Äď Part 3 ‚ÄstSnacks

PCT Food Review Part 4 ‚ÄstDinner