We’ve been talking a lot about our trek Into the Winds and I’ve had a few people ask about logistics, so here we go!!
We are so so excited about this. Andrew has been pouring over maps for 15 years, planning this trip to hike the whole Wind River Range of Wyoming. We’ve talked about it every year that we’ve been together but it never seemed like the right time. Well the time is NOW! We are doing this and we are stoked.
The trek is 96 miles and most people surprisingly do this in 8 days. I know a lot of my family and friends think we’re real hardcore, but trust me, we’re not. We like to challenge ourselves, but in the whole hiking hierarchy, we’re pretty middle of the road on how intense we are. So, we’ve decided to do Into the Winds in 12 days so we can take our time and enjoy the trek. We’ll be doing max, 10 miles per day. On our last trek, we were averaging 12 miles per day and it felt awesome. Challenging but awesome. So technically, we’re not even going to be pushing that hardcore on Into the Winds, which gives us the confidence for what’s ahead.
We’ve planned rest days along our route where we set up a base camp, take off our heavy packs for the day and day hike. We feel a lot more freedom when we don’t have to carry our packs and it makes it easier to explore the area. We’ll also use rest days to clean our kitchen gear, wash our clothes and wash our nasty bodies. We found this biodegradable soap that is made just for backpacking, where you can use it in the mountain lakes and it doesn’t contaminate the water. A dip in a freezing glacial lake is proven to be beneficial for your health, so we now do this every time we’re backpacking. I have found it is one of the purest forms of energy, and it’s quite addicting.
In my previous years of backpacking a big issue for me was food. Before, I was famished the whole time and being hungry when you’re climbing mountains is not a good combination. It causes me to be grumpy and fatigued, and I have found that if I am not eating well, it can damage the whole experience for me. You are hyper aware of every ounce you carry on your back, and food can be very heavy, so I’ve put together a criteria for each food item. It has to be, first and foremost, light weight. It also has to pack a heavy punch where you get a lot of energy from a little amount of food. Well, this year I got the whole food thing figured out.
We do a protein packed oatmeal in the morning. Clif Bar for lunch, which when you’re on the trail, is JUST what you are craving. A ton of snacks throughout the day which include, a slice of good, hearty bread, trail mix, dried apricots, cherry tomatoes and my favorite backpacking snack: red grapes and pretzels. Simple food comes alive in the mountains. I’ve never appreciated a little grape so much in my life then when I’m 20 miles deep in the backcountry and burning a ton a calories. We finish the day with a calorie packed instant pasta meal. Usually Annie’s Mac & Cheese or some marinara pasta.
Another big issue we tackled this year was gear. Gracious, if you don’t have the right gear it can greatly impact your whole experience. I had the wrong shoes and I was having to deal with intense blisters the whole time. Which, when you’re hiking can actually be very dangerous if your feet are all torn up and you have to hike out 12 miles to your car. We’ve ditched our super heavy, clunky hiking boots for lightweight, breathable trail runners. It’s a miracle, I don’t get blisters anymore. With breathable trail runners you don’t have to go through all the mess of taking your shoes off when you’re crossing a river or stream. You can just walk right through them with your shoes on an they dry in 45 minutes. Miraculous! The right shoes make all the difference.
We also finally got the right, top of the line packs. Our Osprey packs just hover on our hips, which is where you want all the weight when you’re backpacking, not on our shoulders which can cause some major issues. My old pack, which was crappy, did not fit me well and sagged off my hips. Besides the shoulder and neck pain, this caused me to get a sharp, shooting pain on the outside of my hip all the way down my leg. It was very painful but now, with the right pack, that’s all gone! So, right shoes, right pack, and we’re golden.
Now for our sweet Islay Blue update. The short version: she’s doing absolutely amazing. The growth in her hip seems to be stalled with the medicine we have her on, and with all our exercise, she’s gained muscle again in her leg. We honestly believe her active lifestyle is what is keeping her so healthy. She runs, I mean runs, up mountains. Goes for multiple swims in lakes (which is the absolute best, no impact exercise for her), crashes happily at camp for the evening (always sitting next to me, sweet girl), cuddles with us in our warm tent at night, and wakes up just to do it all over again. She comes alive in the mountains. It truly is her happy place.
All that to say, we were completely prepared to ditch the whole trek if she wasn’t going to be able to do it. That is a main reason why we went on so many backpacking trips this summer: to gauge where we are physically, and to more importantly, observe Islay. We had a specific prayer request that we would know with complete confidence, yay or nay regarding our sweet girl. This last trip was a true test because it was 46 miles with 2 mountain passes. We watched her closely the whole time and it didn’t even phase her. She did not slow down once on the trail, frolicked and explored, and did awesome.
We’re bringing extra pain meds for her just in case. We’ve brought extra on our previous treks and never had to use it. So all that to say, Islay is doing awesome and we are thrilled and ready for this. Skye, of course, is a little ruddy stud who amazes us with her skills. This particular breed of dogs are absolutely made for the mountains. They were originally bred in the Rockies, so what we’re doing with them is just what they are created for. Again, they come alive in the backcountry, and it is so fun to watch.
A personal issue for me at the beginning of the summer was I was a little nervous heading into the mountains for 12 days. What if we get lost? What if there is an injury? I can’t say enough how thankful I am for my man. He has proven himself capable multiple times over the summer to lead our family. There were quite a few times when the trail was not marked or simply disappeared. Andrew is so familiar with the maps of our route and was every time, without fail, able to find the trail. I realized that at the beginning of the summer I didn’t quite trust him. But after a summer of backpacking with him I have complete confidence that he can lead our family safely through the mountains.
There are at least 8 bail out points along the trek, where if anything happens, we can hike out in just one day. This fact alone, immediately put me at rest. Also on our trips, Andrew has talked to me about basic trail finding skills, how to figure out where you are based on the location of the sun and what specifically to do in an emergency. I know what to do if I see a bear, or if Andrew get’s injured, I have the confidence to hike out and get help.
To be honest, I’m just amazed that Andrew and I can spend soooo much time with each other and not want to kill each other. We spend absolutely every waking moment with each other and we have fun all day long. He’s just my absolute best friend. We both feel like we’re living our best life when we’re backpacking. We’re super healthy and fit physically. And mentally, we are so at peace. We love it so much that we’re trying to figure out a way to do this almost full time and make money while doing it. We both feel that we turned a corner this summer and are finally becoming the people that we wanted to become. Does that make sense? We both had an idea of the life that we wanted, and this is it.
I think that’s pretty much it! We got the gear, figured out the food, Islay is good to go, we’re physically and mentally prepared, and we are so excited!! If any of you Mama Bears are still nervous, please reach out with any questions!
I know this will be a life changing experience and our whole family is very very thrilled and ready for this. The Nomad Dream continues!!