Hike #1 | 1200m Elevation Gain | 12+km Hiked
Monday wasn’t an auspicious day or an anniversary of any kind – it was just the day I decided that I would complete 40 hikes over the next 16 months. For the last nearly five years I have struggled with my health; experiencing depression, exhaustion, and digestive issues that left me feeling powerless over my body. I have been poked and prodded and have given so much blood that I was starting to know the clinicians by name. Temporary diagnoses have ranged from Chronic Fatigue to PTSD (with many in between), but the biggest problem always remained; without a definitive cause there's no cure. I have tried medications; anti-depressants designed to give me more energy, monthly shots that cost as much as my rent, and so many supplements that I probably could have paid off my student loan. I have seen doctors, specialists, psychiatrists, psychologists, naturopaths, massage therapists, Chinese Medicine Doctors, and more. And while they are all incredible people who do incredible things – I still don’t have much in the way of answers. As a result, I decided to make a goal that allowed me to have some control over my physical wellbeing (and as a by-product, my mental wellbeing also).
The hike to Wedgemount Lake - arbitrarily chosen as my first of forty - is unrelentingly steep as you reach nearly 1200 meters in elevation over only 6 kilometers. Stu came off of a night shift and we immediately packed up and set out. I truly admire that he can work for 36 hours and still be motivated to get outside – as well as calmly deal with black flies while bandaging my blisters. Hiking straight up in the trees, it was hard to feel like we were making progress, but when we caught views of stunningly tall waterfalls or walked out of the forest into massive talus fields it was easy to feel the success of our (slow) efforts. The trail did flatten out for a small section – and if it wasn’t for Stu moving me along (both on the up and the down), I might still be pacing back and forth there now.
pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Since we were hiking up on a Monday we passed a lot of weekend traffic that had been camping overnight. Any time we passed someone on the trails before about roughly the ¾ mark they smiled and said hi – and that was all. But as we got closer to the top people were generous in their encouragement, telling us that we were anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes from the lake. One group of guys told Stu that we were only 10 minutes from the top, then looked at my exhausted and dirty face and amended it to “well, depending on how fast you’re moving.”
Cresting the final section and catching the first glimpse of the almost unnatural blue of the glacier-fed lake took away all the pain in my legs. Attaining that goal at the top is not unlike the flashing light they used on Men in Black – or those wild hormones that make women forget the horror of childbirth. Hiking, like childbirth, is definitely Type 2 fun. It’s not fun while you’re doing it, but you’re (mostly) happy you did it in the end. As soon as we stood out on the exposed rock and looked around at the mountain tops, my memory of the last three-and-a-half hours was gone. I had just finished swearing off the stupid goal of doing 40 hikes in the next 16 months – but there I was, in love with the idea all over again.
We found a spot to picnic by the lake. In June, I was diagnosed with SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). The treatment - which has nearly ended all of my digestive issues - includes a very restricted diet. One of the challenges is that much of what I can’t eat – garlic, onions, gluten, sugar, dairy, etc. – are all present in prepackaged freeze-dried backpacking meals. Since I have a few multi-day trips coming up this summer and fall, I’ve started experimenting with making my own meals and we used our day hike as a test for a Pad Thai recipe I've adapted (details below). You can’t test these meal in your own kitchen, because no matter how good they are, they always need to be garnished with a side of exhaustion and mild starvation to really bring out the subtle flavour blends.
4 oz Flat Rice Noodles
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/2 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 Tsp Ginger Powder
2 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Tamari
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter Powder
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
4 oz Dehydrated Tofu
1/2 Cup Shredded Carrots Dehydrated
1 Tbsp Dried Cilantro
1/4 Cup Chopped Roasted Unsalted Peanuts
I adapted this recipe from here. Since we were just doing a day hike I mixed up the sauce before we left and put them in reusable silicone containers that we have for camping condiments. I also found some single-use packets of coconut oil at Trader Joe's and used those for convenience. I dehydrated my own carrots, cilantro, and tofu in my oven (more info here).
We added boiling water directly to the Ziploc freezer bags that had our food in them and let them sit for about five minutes (until the noodles were soft), then drained off any excess water and added the sauce and chopped peanuts.
The tofu was the only not so great variable of the meal - it came out really chewy. I think adding it directly to the boiling water would have been a better option for rehydrating it.
After a little time enjoying the ambiance of our lunch spot, we headed out – aware that it was late in the day and we wanted to be back to the truck before dark. As we hiked down the first section I was excited to tell the few people we passed that they were near the top. But when we passed a couple over half way down who had full packs and were intending to camp overnight I only smiled as I quickly realized that there simply was nothing encouraging to say. “The trial is exactly like this for the next two hours,” just doesn’t cut it. They were deep in the Type 2 fun.
Days later my legs still hurt. They are so stiff and painful that I tend to just speed while driving now because moving my foot to the brake really requires effort – and I have seriously considered purchasing one of those adaptors that elderly people use to make their toilets taller. But after living with a body full of problems that don’t seem to have causes or solutions, this kind of earned pain feels like success (except for when I have to step off a curb). This hike was about remembering that not all pain in my body needs my attention. The rub on my heal that created a blister needed my attention because it was something we could fix. But the ache in my legs on the hike down was just something that I had to get through to complete my goal. So much of hiking and being outdoors is about making peace with being uncomfortable. A lesson that may eliviate some stress in my day-to-day life as well.