340m Elevation Gain | 7km Hiked
I have always hesitated to mention PMS in any of my writing because it’s a bit of a polarizing topic. Some doctors don’t believe in it. Men don’t get it. Some women have it, some claim they don’t have it, and well, there isn’t another category there. I land in the category of women who get it – and get it in an exceptionally bad way.
You know that list of symptoms that you might get from PMS? I have them all – and then some. I get everything from weight gain to nightmares, depression to joint pain, and exhaustion to digestive issues. Overnight I will gain five pounds, lose all interest in my regular activities, and spiral into a deep depression. No matter how healthy I feel physically and mentally the rest of the time, this will cut me off at the knees. It feels a lot like a tiny alien has taken control of my body; a tiny drunk asshole alien.
The experience varies from month to month, but I usually spend roughly a week struggling to survive as opposed to truly living. And that’s complete balls – or is it a lack of them? Either way, this was the reality that I woke up to last Tuesday morning and that was how I was feeling when we started to hike the very exposed, Al Habrich’s Trail at noon. I wish I was about to tell you a victory story, but really, it’s more of a cautionary tale about hiking with hormones.
Al Habrich’s trail starts at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola and climbs steadily up through short wooded areas and longer rock slabs to offer a number of gorgeous vistas and different perspectives of Howe Sound and downtown Squamish. At the highest viewpoint, you are treated to a 270-degree view that looks back down toward the Summit Lodge where the hike begins.
As Stu likes to say, "Moleskin is the biggest scam perpetrated on the outdoor community." Instead, his magical combination of non-stick gauze cut to size with white medical tape to secure it has saved me time and time again. If you are prone to blisters like I am, I highly recommend you keep some of this stuff in your first aid kit!
We, unfortunately, were forced to start our hike at the hottest time of the day during a heat wave. It was so hot that when our gondola up temporarily halted and turned quickly into a sweltering sauna, I was genuinely concerned for the two elderly couples in it with us. Within minutes they were planning a mutiny and discussing how to pry open the doors. Luckily, we started moving again before things got too desperate. Just a few steps onto the trail and it felt like a neighborhood bully was holding his giant magnifying over our little ant bodies. The trail was dusty and loose, I was sweaty and sticky. And I was having a hard time battling through my existing exhaustion just to get one foot in front of the other. I complained frequently but refused to turn around. As I’m sure you can imagine, this was a great experience for Stu.
We stopped often to drink water in the slightly less hot shade of the single skinny trees we could find on the rock slabs and tried to make light of the situation. No matter how deep I am in the self pitty pool (and that thing is as bottomless as a happy hour pitcher of margaritas), I can still laugh at myself. It's not fun having your personality, your happiness, and your health all tugged out from under you - especially when you have worked hard for them. But I also have immense compassion for Stu who still finds just the right time to poke fun at me and remind me that the sky isn't actually falling.
The fog of my bad mood hadn’t lifted at all and although I tried to will myself into a better headspace, the reality was that I needed to concentrate simply on moving forward. Eventually, my stubbornness paid off and, even through blisters from my packed out old hiking boots, we got to the top of this not-actually-that-challenging-not-actually-that-long-felt-like-death hike. While looking out from the rock bluff we were standing on I realized that I was looking down on The Chief and therefore this was the highest vantage point that I’d seen Squamish from. It briefly occurred to me that there was a message here in that idea of changing perspectives but then my hormones were like ‘screw that hippy shit.’ Instead, I used the little energy I had left to make the trek back down. The heat had completely zapped us by the time we crossed back onto the gravel road would take us to the gondola and we dragged our melted selves into the lodge for overpriced cold drinks like common tourists.
I have given up a quarter of my life to these hormone fluctuations for almost three decades. And even though I came home that afternoon and cried from sheer exhaustion in front of our fan and even though I was miserable for most of our hike, I didn’t simply pull the sheets over my head that morning and will the day away. Instead, I made a memory. It’s a memory of a shitty, dirty, struggle hike – but there’s something in there that feels a little like a win. It feels a little like I gave the hormones that were wearing me like a skin suit the middle finger. And it also feels like maybe next month around this time I might be doing solo hikes. . .
CHOCOLATE CHUNK BANANA BREAD
- 4 bananas 2 1/2 cups mashed
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil melted (it's been so hot that my coconut oil is already melted)
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
- 6 oz. dark chocolate chopped (I used unsweetened)
Grease one 9x5 loaf pan (or 8"x8" square pan, which is what I used) and preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl or mixer, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract and nut butter until fully combined.
Add the coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt to the wet ingredients and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes if using a square pan, and 50-60 if using a loaf pan. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, and when you press down lightly on the loaf, it should spring back, not stay indented. If a toothpick comes out clean but the loaf isn't springing back, keep it in the oven until it does to ensure it's baked through.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 1/2 hour. Flip out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
I found this recipe here and only made a couple small changes. Not only is it packed with healthy fats and natural sugars that made it a great snack on the hike, but the chocolate in it helped satisfy my cravings. I love banana bread and was so happy to find a sugar-free and sweetener-free recipe.