About TheFallGal

Pack on!! I'm thoroughly enjoying every step I take out on the trail, regardless of pain...regardless of exhaustion...regardless of difficulty. To enjoy nature and leave everything behind but what you can carry...the most freeing experience! One day I will mix hiking, backpacking, and climbing together...when that day happens, I will have lived a day like no other :)

Missing Yosemite…

It’s been a month since my first steps were taken in Yosemite and I miss being there everyday. During my first week back, I must have looked through all of the pictures that were taken at least 10 times during the day. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these pictures added up to one heck of a novel. The build up to Yosemite was a bit nerve racking as each day closer passed by. I had just gotten new shoes a week before and they were untested for this trip. Five days…an estimated 40 miles…feet and toes still mending from prior trips…I was scared and I wasn’t afraid to let it be known. The unknown is our biggest fear and if we let our minds wander too far in, we keep ourselves a slave to that fear.

First sighting of El Cap

Day one was an early morning! Up and out of the hotel…into the van…off to Yosemite. The drive seemed quick as I was silently anxious to be there already. I wanted to get the start over with and a few miles on my shoes. I figured then, I would feel less apprehensive. Upon driving in and seeing El Cap, all the fears I had were gone; vanished with the dawn as the sun was rising over the granite walls. I had in those first few moments discovered my heaven!

Waiting to start was excruciating. We had to get permits and we did a little shopping, which seemed to take way too long. After all the formalities were taken care of, we jumped back in the van and went to park. The lot was up against this beautiful “wall” of stone. My breath was taken away yet again and we had only been there a few hours and had yet to hike 100 feet. After some group pics, the packs were strapped on and it was time to get started! My pack was about 37ish pounds which is too heavy for me but I was managing fine. The day was filled with amazing views as we hiked up the Mist trail. The mist created by Vernal Falls produces lovely rainbows in the sun and provides a very welcomed cooling effect while hiking up. The stairs get slick so steps were carefully taken. I was the first of the group to get to the top of the falls…can’t help myself sometimes. The trek up to Nevada Falls was more of the same stairs yet very different scenery. The falls were still awesome to watch while hiking up. We ended up on a bit of a detour to camp but the views couldn’t be beat. No matter how tired I felt that day, the awe inspiring views, especially of Half Dome in the distance ended up being enough fuel to keep me going. All uncertainty in myself was gone. Camp was welcoming, minus all the mosquitoes, and I slept fantastic with sugar plum thoughts of day 2 ahead.

My inspiration…

Day 2 was by far the day I was looking forward to the most. Our trek up to the summit of Half Dome started early, but not as early as was planned. I believe we were going to try to see the sunrise from the top of Half Dome but the tiring day before had us sleeping in longer than expected. The trail is not hard but can be exhausting. By the time we got to where we could get a clear view of the summit, I was drained. But once I came around one bend in the trail, I could see it through the trees. I stopped, clapped my hands and yelled “yes”! I took a moment to snap a pic and then was off to the races. I made it up to a clearing before the trail up the grueling stairs begins. I had been so excited I didn’t realize I had left the rest of the group behind by about 5 minutes. I was amped to say the least and the 360 degree view of “everything” as far as the eye could see was phenomenal! Beautiful, inspiring, glorious…I took a breather and snapped some more pictures! My legs were shaky and we all needed a break before we tackled the stairs up. These were brutal! Once this part was done, a much needed break was necessary. Jittery legs and 400 feet of climbing left had gotten the best of me while sitting there gazing out and up at the cables. After everything, I was again, scared. There was about 15 minutes of debate inside me as to whether I was gonna go up. I wavered back and forth. My final decision was to go to the bottom of the cables, gloves on, look up, and go if it seemed “not so bad after all”. So that is what I did and our trek up began. It was intense and I was nervous…but through it all, I looked around quite a bit when we took breaks. I slipped a few times and my heart about stopped. The natural steps you encounter going up seem gigantic…the cables are slack in some places or feel as if they are touching the ground in others…it’s kind of a messy way to climb up I’m guessing. But once I got to the top, I knew the choice I made was the right one. If I hadn’t gone up, I would have regretted it the rest of my life…even if my life ended while up there or coming back down. I sat on the edge, took some pictures looking down of course. It was incredible. Half Dome was my favorite part of the trip hands down. Just so thrilling and I felt so alive being up there. I was in a state of numbness the whole way back to camp.

The view looking up the cascade

Day 3 would be a chill day! I won’t go into details about day 3 just yet but it was definitely a relaxing and fun one. It was peaceful, secluded, and the scenery was gorgeous as one would expect. I suggest getting off the touristy trails and finding some time to enjoy nature on its own. We ended up on a short hike to the Bunnell Cascades just outside of Little Yosemite Valley. If you ever camp in the area, a visit to the cascades is a definite must do. The day was spent relaxing, enjoying the water and the lovely views of the granite rock walls. We all were well rested after day 3 and day 4 was our hike back down to the Valley.

Day 4 was yet another early morning. I’ve learned waking up before the sun is just how it is anymore. Packing up camp was bittersweet. I didn’t want to go and wasn’t that happy we were heading back to the Valley just yet. The hike was just backtracking what we had already done. I lived up to my name on this day as I fell about 10 feet down the trail. I hurt my left ankle, right wrist, and most of all my pride. It’s not easy to stop falling once you start when you are going downhill. While the weight of my pack caused me to keep falling, the pack ended up cushioning my fall tremendously. It was quite rocky where I fell and I probably could have injured myself far worse. I got quite emotional and mad at myself. The rest of the hike back down was a slow one for me…I was lost in thought, cautious of my ankle, and sad we were ending the hiking already. I will keep day 4 details under wraps for now but it did rain that afternoon. We had luckily gotten camp set up in time to not have to do it while it was dark and rainy.

We made it and DONE!!

Day 5 was a bit silly. Our plan was to “hike’ to Lower Yosemite Falls and from there, decide if we wanted to go all the way up. We had no clue what it was like so we prepared for the worst. It was comical to say the least when we discovered it was but a short walk to get to the Lower Falls. While a sight to see for sure, it made the end of the trip veryย anticlimactic. While slightly disappointed, I was physically done even though my heart and mind wanted more more more. The trip was beyond words and I learned so much about myself while out there!! The group did a wonderful job. I was proud of everyone. There were highs and lows on the trip but so is life…we were experiencing new things, new feelings, new obstacles…to think it would be a walk in the park, would have been absolutely naive. I know I can not wait to go back. I can not wait for our next adventure. I will forever cherish my time there. I know this might sound a bit dramatic but I fell in love on that trip, with not only the land but myself.

Very nervous…

The countdown clock or ticker thingy on the front page of the blog says 23 days till Yosemite. With each counting day, the excitement builds, as well as my nervousness. I will admit it, even if nobody else will, that I am scared of not being able to make it the whole 5 days. All we have done so far are overnight trips. I will say that after the third trip I was less “beat up” than the two previous trips. Guess that is encouraging. I know a lot of preparation has been going on but to me, I am not nearly as ready as I feel I should be. My bad. Mentally I can push through it, but physically I am not quite sure. Mind doesn’t always win over matter.

I have a few last minute issues I need to address unfortunately. I wrote a review about some amazing boots I purchased and adore but have come to learn, through many miles, that they do not work the best for me. Not sure if it is par for the course, but they have torn up my feet. I’ve put about 50+ miles in them, so I’m fairly certain that I will need to find me some new footwear. I have been researching different options and will be getting me some new shoes shortly. I will be living in them until Yosemite just to break them in. Wish me luck and hopefully this will alleviate some of my nerves.

The next issue would be the sleeping pad conundrum. The rest of the group all broke down and purchased inflatables; I still have my Therma-rest. I have had no real issues as far as being more sore the next day and I do sleep quite well. My only concern is being able to not hurt as bad from sleeping on the ground by the 5th day. Haven’t had enough experience to justify the different purchase, but I might just kick myself in the end. I hope not…will be doing a lot more thinking about this.

Well…I think that about does it for my gear concerns. Everything else seems to be working quite nicely. Now…to physically psych myself up. I guess I could be blowing up how hard it might be in my mind, but I would rather error on the side of caution than be overly optimistic. One thing I can’t wait for is Half Dome!!! Bring on the edge ๐Ÿ™‚

The tale of two packs!

I’m only two trips into backpacking and have had the great fortune (insert sarcastic tone) of using a different pack for each trip. I guess in a sense that has given me a bit more “wisdom” in regards to how much the right pack can make a world of difference…and I know now, it is like night and day!!

Slimms’ research led me to two options…the “best bang for my buck” choices. The Gregory Deva and the Osprey Ariel 65. It was love at first sight with the Ariel. Beautiful pack…and IN RED!! My mind was set…like a first love, no one was gonna make me change my mind whether or not the pack was “right” for me!! That being said, I did go to REI and try on both packs. The Deva felt clunky to me…bulky is a word that fits better. It is packed full of features, lots of pockets for storage…don’t get me wrong…a great pack I’m sure. Just felt awkward to me. I wanted something a bit more streamlined.

Now the Osprey Ariel..the girl in me took over and I didn’t care…I like how it fit but I will say, the padding was lacking and I should have known then that I might have an issue. I never thought it would be the way it turned out to be. The pack is rather minimalistic compared to the Deva, but I didn’t mind. It had a huge front entrance that I loved. The sleeping bag compartment was quite ample compared to what I have seen with a Gregory. Lots of straps for compression. I did like the trekking pole storage location. They are stowed under the left arm for easy access. The side pockets left a lot to be desired. Hard to get my nalgene bottle in and out of. My biggest complaint (it was listed as a con on several REI reviews) was the skimpy padding of the hip belt and shoulder straps. Compared to other packs, it could be said to be non-existent. For me, they didn’t work and cause a tremendous amount of pain during the first overnight.

So with a sad heart, I went to REI to see what could possibly be the issue. First off, wrong size pack. WTH?!?!?! I purchased a medium on the recommendation of one of the guys there. When I went back, another guy measured me and I should have been in a small. I’m not even 17 inches in my torso. I’m 5’9″ though…all legs apparently. Ok..small pack it is. So I try on a small Ariel. Blah! Lack of padding still regardless of fit was forcing me to return my beloved pack and surrender my dream of the color red. The new Osprey Aura had just come out…I was excited to try it on…but no luck…still didn’t fit right. I tried on every other darn pack with the same capacity size. The closest I got to fitting right and feeling comfortable was a Deuter. I wore it around awhile and decided to no go that option as well. Apparently I am a freak of nature and all the packs do not sit properly on me or against my back. Huge gaping issue. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The guy was a trooper and stayed late for me but had to finally leave me…alone…no pack…no idea what to do. I retried on the packs I had done before. I was beyond disheartened. There I was in REI…a scrawny freak with no hope. Finally I guess my sad face lead another guy who had been helping another customer to come and give me a recommendation (he had been around while the other guy was helping). He suggested I try on a youth pack.

A youth pack??? I’m a full grown, taller than average size woman!!! Hmmmm…this just made me feel even more annoyed. The word “freak” kept running through my mind. I know I said it to the guy a few times…perturbed at the whole situation. But I took his advice…I had nothing else left to try. They had one pack…the REI Passage 65. All the other youth packs are smaller in capacity and I did not want to sacrifice that. So..I put it on. HELLO WORLD! You have got to be kidding me.

It fit amazingly well against me. It has extra padding in the back compared to the adult packs…and with 30 pounds in it, did not hurt my contact spots. Since it’s made for 11-17 year old children (le sigh), it is almost fully adjustable…and easily done so. It’s minimalistic, not bulky..pluses for sure. It does not have a front loading option but the side panel entrance is large enough to allow easy access to the pack. Large sleeping bag compartment.The padding on the hip belt is just right and caused me ZERO issues. It also comes with little storage pouches on the belt that the Ariel lacked. Unfortunately there is no real suspension system like the adult packs have. I noticed the difference with that feature, but not enough right now to make me rethink this choice. It is green…blah…but I decided to sacrifice fashion for comfort. I honestly could not be any happier with the pack. Plus, I saved $120 bucks ๐Ÿ™‚ Win, win all around.

I continue to learn with each trip, which makes each trip that much more exciting. I am now a happy “backpacker” as far as my pack is concerned. The difference was incredible and my trip, after the first few sickly hours of puking (do not drink and backpack 8 hours later), was better for the change ๐Ÿ™‚

I “GoGirl”ed, and I liked it!

This post is going where only one post has gone before…Yes…the pee post! ๐Ÿ™‚

Again, I will start with a disclaimer to my post…if you are easily squeamish or offended, please stop reading right now. That being said…let’s press forward ๐Ÿ™‚

As I mentioned in a previous post about the GoGirl, I had yet to try it out on the trail. This first overnight was the perfect time to do such a thing. We were out away from anyone really, and essentially I had no choice but to “GoGirl” for it finally. I must say…initially…it was a bit awkward. I was scared I would make a mess of myself…then what would I do. Walk around silly for sure…which I did anyways the last day because I ripped the seat of my pants somehow but that’s a totally different embarrassment. ๐Ÿ™‚

First things first, I am thankful my pants had lots of pockets. ๐Ÿ™‚ The GoGirl comes in a cylindrical plastic tube with a cap. It also has a plastic storage bag with it. You need a place to put both of these items while you are using the GoGirl because you do need both of your hands. I guess I could have always put them on the ground, but that seemed gross to me…go figure. And I also recommend bringing your water bottle with to use a bit of water to rinse it out after. First time I used it, my Nalgene had drink mix in it, so upon suggestion from Slimms, I put some water from my pack in my mouth and held it there. I wanted to laugh at the whole experience before I even tried using it.

Ok…I take it out of the package and get all set up…I am laughing so hard inside and doing my best to keep from spitting my water everywhere. Just seemed so foreign to be standing while peeing next to a “tree”…it was more so a bush though. But it worked like it did at home…no messes except I think I splattered a bit on my boots. Gross I know…but I didn’t know what to expect or what I was doing for that matter. Once done, I used the water to rinse it out a bit…there really wasn’t much to rinse out. It stays fairly clean ๐Ÿ™‚ I shook it a little bit as well to get as much of the remaining moisture off it. I put it all back in it’s package, zipped up, and was done ๐Ÿ™‚ I walked back to the group, big smile on my face, and exclaimed “That was the greatest thing EVER” ๐Ÿ™‚ The act of peeing is now known as “GoGirling”.

The whole process of using it may seem a bit much compared to just dropping and squatting but as I said before, I have always had an issue with that and hate it more than anything. I used the GoGirl about 5 times during the trip and it got easier to manage with each use. Obviously, practice makes almost perfect.ย Once we got home I cleaned it with soap and water and let it air dry. I will be replacing the plastic bag that came with it and just use a regular ziploc. I will use a new bag after each trip. It still folds up easily into the original tube. There is a trick to folding it up though.

I believe I will continue to be the only girl in the group that will be using this contraption and that is fine by me. It made my trip just a little more convenient. There are other options out there but for now, I’m gonna stick with the GoGirl.

First trip: Blistered and bruised (recovery)

The trip was amazing yet amazingly brutal. The desert appears the same but there is always something different…guess backpacking is a contradiction in a sense. We have all the comforts and amenities we could want at home… yet we stuff as much as we can carry on our backs, escape convenience and leave our worlds behind. We walk to nowhere really, find a place to camp, and lay on the ground. We try to become as close to one with nature as we are comfortable being. I learned a lot during this experience. The scenery and landscape is exceptional. Dirt brown with drops of green sprouting from as far as the eye can see. I’m inspired by the rocks and want to climb each and every rock face…the boulders are precariously placed on each other like a kid stacks dominoes. I’m fascinated beyond…I have more pictures of rocks than anything…except for pics of myself.

Food…and more food! That’s about all I cared about. I do not eat a lot usually but I couldn’t eat enough. Lesson learned. I’m still eating like crazy 4 days later.ย  And my pack….I sigh as I write this…was the worst part of the trip. Not quite sure what the problem was at first cuz once I think I figured it out, it was too late. I was in horrible pain…bruised. I kept having to push the pack up off my butt to sit higher in order for it not to hurt so much, but no matter how tight I make the hip belt, it would slide back down. The guy at REI says I’m scrawny, so I wonder if I will always have this issue. Although it hurt to carry, I trekked on through the pain…kept going and going. I love my pack but think the size is too long for me. My hips I guess did their job because they took the brunt of the abuse but i feel what I went through was beyond “normal”. I have read other people with similar issues, so I know there are ways to deal with my problem fairly easily. Will be reviewing my pack in another post to come.

Camp was welcoming to say the least. My sleeping pad, insanely comfortable. The shots of whiskey, warmed me. The food…what can I say…yum! Just 12 hours out and I cherished things I would complain about before. Doesn’t take long to realize what we take for granted.

The next day was tough but I loved every minute of it. Slimms took about 10 lbs of my weight to help with my hip issues. It worked. I was in some discomfort but not stabbing pain anymore. By the end though, my feet were done for. I wasn’t quite sure the extent of my issues but the toes on my right foot were a problem. My big toe on my right foot has some kind of blister underneath the nail that is still oozing. Swollen and a lot of pressure still but not a lot of pain. I love my TrekStas so I’m hoping a change of socks will alleviate this issue.

My muscles were worked but never got sore. The contact points between body and pack where my main issues but besides the mark I still have on my left hip, they do not hurt at all….can’t say they wouldn’t if I stuck a pack on right now though ๐Ÿ˜‰ Feet feel ok besides the swollen stupid toe ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Just would have never imagined how hard an overnight trip could be on my body. I think we pushed passed our limits the first day so that could be the cause to a few of my sore spots.

5 days in Yosemite…I’m gonna be an animal ๐Ÿ™‚

My “prep” for our first overnight!

Excitement is building with Slimms. The steaks are marinated and frozen. The dehydrators are full and drying fruit; kiwis, pineapples, strawberries, pears…YUMMY! Got granola and nuts for trail mix. Think some chocolate is in order in the form of M&M’s. Little toiletries were purchased today as well. I did my part right there ๐Ÿ™‚

I’d like to imagine that my bag is packed…hmmmm…I will need to step out of my daydream and actually do that. Slimms has been nice enough and more than eager to help practice pack though. Just the water and sleeping bag is heavy enough already. Gonna be in for a shock I think when it’s fully loaded and this is only a one nighter…but a huge distance hike. I think I am mentally prepared but not quite sure about the physical part yet. Been slacking on my exercise. I also have to drive 4 hours the night before and 4 hours the night we get back. Waaaa…poor me! Moving on…

Mental list here we go…My pretty salsa red Osprey Ariel 65 pack, check! Kelty Cosmic Down +20 sleeping bag and Therm-a-rest RidgeRest SOlite sleeping mat thingy, check! ย Water and bladder, check! Purple (meh) Nalgene bottle, check! Black Diamond Trail Shock trekking poles (grrrrr…I do not like those though), check! Multi-tool and knife, check! BO stopper (deodorant cuz BO is not fun), toothpaste, and toothbrush (top secret secret), check!! GoGirl (yup, field test time), ย check! Food, check! Other stuff I am not sure of yet, check!! Whatever Slimms is mental listing, check! Check check!! Am I missing something?????

I will do a review on the pack after this trip is done. I am the only one in the group with it, so we shall see how it goes. Most of the other stuff is all the same among the group…few different odds and ends. I will also probably do an update on the shoes because I will be carrying a load with them for the first time. I’m not as prepared as I should be I’m sure but this is a learning experience…can’t be perfect just yet.

I’m excited ๐Ÿ™‚ Pack on, let’s go!!ย 

My mountain goat boots

Oh how I love a good pair of shoes. What woman doesn’t! But an uncomfortable shoe, is a miserable shoe…which leads to miserable feet…which leads to a miserable day!!! I do not wanna go hiking let alone 5 days of backpacking in just any shoe or boot. I have heard and read that some people swear by just a good pair of plain old running shoes. Yes..I love my Mizuno Wave x10’s dearly and have cherished every step, trail, and spin of a bike pedal I have had with them….but they have seen better days and provide little traction for me. And believe me (other group members will back me up), I need all the help staying on two feet that I can get ๐Ÿ™‚

So when research to find a good pair of hiking boots started, Slimms (he found these amazing boots) suggested to me the TrekSta Women’s Evolution Mid GTX. These boots won the 2011 Backpacker Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award. Oooo…sounds all spiffy…but I’m not a “hype” follower as much as I am a “fallover” kinda gal. So I read the information and specs and thought they seemed “cool” . Light weight, weighing in at 12.9 oz per shoe so they seemed like they wouldn’t be too bulky and cumbersome. I’ve never owned a pair of hiking boots before but they always seem heavy and look like weights on someone’s feet…I needed something though. And buying them from Altrec.com, they come with 100% satisfaction guarantee so I figured why not…sweet little incentive right there. If I don’t like em, ship em back ๐Ÿ™‚

So I ordered them…online…without trying on. I know, I know…possible bad idea but there is that little business of a “guarantee”…I’m only a sorta, kinda risk taker ๐Ÿ˜‰ They shipped to me super quick and I was uber excited when they showed. I opened the box…took em out…and yeay!!! I ordered the brown because they will get dirty…would have rather had the other color but I am happy with the choice. So…these boots definitely do not look like your normal hiking boot. They look and feel almost like my running shoes. The sole is a bit more rigid than a running shoe but that has kept me from hurting the bottoms of my feet on several occasions. The toe area has a foot shape to it…made to fit to your toesies I would guess.ย 

So I got my liners and socks, and put those bad boys on. The fit was good…maybe a little big up towards the toes but I figured my feet would swell when hiking so a little room wouldn’t be a bad thing. I haven’t had any issues when wearing them, so I think I made the right decision there. They are super light weight which I love. They clean up well. Took me a bit to get used to the rigidness of the soles but the more I wear them, the more I get accustomed to them obviously. The grip they have is amazing!!!! I am truly astonished on how much easier it has been for me to do some of the hikes we normally do. Coming down Camelback was a breeze in comparison to before the boots ๐Ÿ™‚ ย I used to slide around a lot on loose dirt and gravel. Having that extra grip has made me more sure of my footing. This “fall gal” needed it. Slimms informed me they have glass in these little triangle shaped pads on the bottom…supposed to help with grip on ice????? We do not have much of that around here but good to know, just in case.ย 

My only issue with the shoe is the seam on the inside back…more so on my left foot than my right. It leaves a hot spot but I’m not exactly sure why just yet. It’s not so much of a rubbing against that is causing some friction so hopefully with some more mileage, it will get better. I used a thicker sock the last outing and it helped…didn’t need any moleskin. I had read in one review of someone with a similar issue. They returned their boots and went with another brand. I intend to put a bit more wear on them before I give up on these guys.ย 

I will call these my “mountain goat” boots because I felt I could bounce around on the boulders of Camelback with the greatest of ease. I am truly impressed so far. Good job TrekSta ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks Slimms for the suggestion.ย