We’ll Be Back!

Hi, everyone!

Autumn’s arrival heralds many spectacular gifts: crisp breezes, the scent of pumpkin spice, and the satisfying crunch of dried leaves beneath our boots. It is also the time of the year where we, as students, dive headfirst into our textbooks and practically live in the secluded cubicles on our library’s designated “quiet floor.” This year is no exception. As always, both Colin and I will be chasing after some exciting goals of our own. But this time, we will be continents apart.

Colin will be embarking upon the adventure of a lifetime by studying abroad for three months in Kenya and Tanzania with The School for Field Studies. He’ll be going on awesome backpacking expeditions, aiding local villages through his research, and gaining valuable insight and experience that will ultimately make him an awesome wildlife conservation biologist. I’ll remain in the United States to continue pursuing my own research interests and projects, achieve my Level 1 Kingian Nonviolence Trainer certification, and fully immerse myself in our university’s Peer Advocacy program, amongst a thousand other things. Needless to say, we’re both very excited!

With us being on two different continents and being busy as ever, our hiking trips will unfortunately be put on hold, but only for a few months! We will post intermittently about our own experiences during this time, but as of now, the regular schedule won’t be back in place until the semester ends. When life starts back up again in the spring, you can find our new adventures right here on Mud, Sweat & Mountaineers!

Infinite love, hugs, and successful adventures,

Katie and Colin

An Open Letter to Camelbak: The Camelbak L.U.X.E 100 oz. Hydration Pack (For the Ladies)

Dear Lovely People at Camelbak,

Judging by your company’s name, it’s obvious you have a fabulous relationship with the Camel Gods, but I had no idea you were besties with the Hydration Gods, too. For my 21st birthday, my boyfriend bought me the Camelbak L.U.X.E 100 oz. Hydration Pack, and to be honest, both of them are now competing for my love. There are so many things I love about this product that this might be quite a lengthy letter. Sorry about that.

For starters, this thing is versatile. I’ve taken it on a few day hikes (my primary reason for wanting this pack), but I’ve also taken it to the beach, Block Island, and even considered wearing it to spin class. Not only does it hold a glorious 3 liters of water, but its storage space is much greater than I anticipated—even when the reservoir is full (by the way, people should probably stop calling the reservoir a “bladder.” It makes me feel dirty when I use it). This lightweight pack easily fits all my essentials, like my wallet, phone, and car keys. With its 732 cubic inch cargo capacity, it also can hold everything I need for a day hike. I’ve stuffed this thing with bug spray, a bajillion power bars, sandwiches, maps and guidebooks, a camera, Captain Feathersword (of course, because he’s too lazy to hike on his own), a full roll of toilet paper, and sunglasses for when I’m feeling sassy. And I still had room for more.

I think the woman-specific fit is genius, and I’m generally wishy-washy when it comes to the idea of gendered products. Let’s get real for a second–I was concerned that the top front straps of the pack would awkwardly constrict my boobs, since Colin’s pack’s straps go straight across his pecs. However, once I strapped the pack on for the first time, I found that the straps linked comfortably just a little below my collarbone. With its adjustable straps on both the top and waist, I would imagine this pack would fit most body shapes if customized to the individual’s proportions. Also, the light blue color is pretty. Bravo, Camelbak.

As much as I love mostly everything about this pack, there were a few things that made me sad. First, I ran out of water before I was done with my hike! This could be explained by the fact that I’m a water-fiend when I’m climbing mountains, but my reservoir was dry on the last two miles of our hike on the Osceolas. The product description states that I should be good for “3+ hours of trail riding action,” but in reality, I was good for maybe 5 hours. And although the L.U.X.E does a good job of keeping the water cold in the reservoir, the first few sips of every drink are mostly warm and kind of gross because of the hose sitting in the sun and against my shoulder. I’m not sure if there’s a solution to this, but I know it’s a common criticism at least amongst me and some other hiker friends.

Final consensus: Highly recommended, especially for a first pack. This is a great, lightweight, and durable pack that is fantastic for day hikes, among many other uses (going to the beach, bike riding, etc.). It’s functional and spacious, allowing tons of room for everything a hiker could need. The woman-specific fit is a huge advantage for those with slimmer torsos (for both men and women), or those who don’t feel like having their boobs squished by the strap. Even with the warm first sips and small-ish reservoir size for heavy drinkers (WATER drinkers, kids) I love the L.U.X.E to death, and I will continue to use the crap out of it for the remainder of my 4,000 footer adventures.

Love,
Katie

P.S. Say hi to the camels for me!

P.P.S. A disclaimer: I am not being compensated by Camelbak for this blog post. All opinions are my own. Although if Camelbak ever wants to send us stuff, I totally wouldn’t be opposed.

10 Reasons Why I’m Pumped to Hike the 4,000 Footers:

  1. The views. One of the best parts of ascending a mountain is looking out from the summit and realizing that you climbed so high that the smaller details of the world below have blurred into each other. It’s a sublime feeling. Better yet, we’ll be experiencing New Hampshire views. Anyone who has been knows well that New Hampshire’s beauty transforms with the seasons, but it never wanes.
  2. Saying “farewell” to the Freshman 15: On a completely superficial level, I have high hopes of getting in better shape. I’ve eaten an inexcusable amount of brownies, lemon squares, and cupcakes in the past year (only because the place I live during the school year has such an awesome chef). Strenuous hiking almost every weekend is bound to lead me to a stronger body, and a healthy-ish lifestyle change.
  3. Actually doing something productive with my summer. While I work and take summer classes after the school year has ended, I often find myself glued to a screen during my downtime (Internet, I’m looking at you). However, climbing mountains and being outside is way more fun, comes with a sense of accomplishment, and sounds cooler when you’re explaining how so-not-lame your summer was when you get back to school.
  4. Hiking makes you happy! Think about it. You’re physically exerting yourself in the sunshine (vitamin D!), inhaling fresh mountain air, and all the while, your brain’s increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, which, very simply put, can cause a mood-boost!
  5. Spending time with Colin. (cue collective gushing and “awws.”) Seriously though, he’s my favorite person to be with, and if I’m going to be spending hours and energy hauling ass up a mountain, there’s no one else’s I’d rather do it with. We understand each other’s limits, the conversation’s ongoing, and I kind of like him, which is always a plus.
  6. The adventure. When going on these hikes, we never know what we’ll discover. We’ve found old pump houses, small monument markers and plaques with cool historical info, and grafittied cabins. My adrenaline is usually pumping non-stop when we power to the summit. I can attribute this to half excitement, half physiological preparedness in the event we encounter a bear. Either way, not knowing what will happen is awesome.
  7. Splurging on new hiking gear. I’m more excited about this than I am dreading the expense. Colin and I recently acquired a new tent, and I’m in the market for some solid boots and a small CamelBak. I love the thrill that accompanies an important purchase because it gets me pumped about the occasion(s) I’ll be using it for.
  8. CAMPING! I haven’t gone camping in four years, which sucks because I love almost everything about it. I love starting fires from scratch, campfire cooking, stargazing, and appreciating the soft serenity of the woods at twilight.
  9. The journeys up. Journeys meaning two things. One: the long drives during sunrise to our destination. I always anticipate them, even if I wanted to personally strangle every living thing when I first woke up. And of course, the climb to the summit can be just as rewarding as reaching it. But if you’re someone who enjoys hiking, which you probably are (unless you’re here mistakenly because you Google searched “sexy hiker”), then you know. If you haven’t hiked, find out before you die.
  10. I don’t really have a number ten, I’M JUST REALLY EXCITED, OKAY?

Mt. Greylock: A Noob’s Perspective

4:00 AM: Try to suppress early morning heathen demeanor. Scaring Colin is bad, so I’ll just bounce out of bed and feign cheerfulness as if my only joy in life is beating the sun to breakfast.

4:30 AM: Coffee cravings. Double layers of everything: double socks, double sweatshirts, double pants. Pre-hike worry sets in. What if I contract hypothermia? What are the chances of being mauled by a bear in Massachusetts? What if I have to poop in the woods?

5:00 AM: We watch the sunrise from the car windows, spot a truck full of goat semen, and listen to The Decemberists. Things are really serene, and suddenly I don’t regret setting that 4 AM alarm.

8:30 AM: We approach the Berkshires after passing little log buildings and an abundance of gun shops. I come this close to making redneck jokes, but then I realize that the people who live here reside in one of the most beautiful places in New England. Jealousy sets in. Excitement, too.

9:00 AM: HOLY COW! COWS! The first sight we see when we park the car at Haley Farm is a pack of cows mulling about, doing cow things (except for this rambunctious baby calf, who tries to engage the other cows with playful nudges, but to no avail). I want to steal him (her?), but decide against it because there’s no way a breathing, pooping calf will fit in the trunk.

9:15 AM: After gathering our supplies (sandwiches, a surplus of power bars, cameras, hand warmers, etc.), and saying goodbye to the cows, we embark on our hike. We head to the trailhead, which is directly past the farm. I’m thrilled to find that we’re walking on level ground, and forget mountains aren’t flat.

9:30 AM: As we ascend, the terrain grows steeper, and we begin hiking up at an incline. Any delusions of my overwhelming physical strength or stamina dissolve instantly. I consider surrender.

10:00 AM: THIGHS. BURNING. CAN’T. TAKE. ANOTHER. STEP.

10:30 AM: Level ground, civilization, and a waterfall! Colin makes me pose for pictures, and I humor him because he’s cute. I look ridiculous. 

11:30 AM: Along the way to the summit, we stumble upon a real life Kinkade scene: an old snow-capped pump house and a glistening lake circled by pine trees. Disappointment sets in when Colin notes that the lake is completely artificial. Oh well, still pretty.

12:00 PM: HOLY FREAKING ICE, BATMAN! I come close to falling a few times (not surprising), but Colin saves me. He nearly falls a few times as well, and I get to return the favor.  God forbid I fall, break my leg on the ice, become completely defenseless, and get eaten by a passing bear.

12:30 PM: After what feels like forever, we catch sight of the World War II Memorial Tower at the summit. AND SNOW! I had romanticized about us sitting by a roaring fire and sipping hot chocolate with other exhausted, but high-spirited hikers, so it is a relief to see Bascom Lodge. Of course, since it’s the off-season, the doors are locked and the windows boarded. Fantasy shattered. It is painfully windy and cold, but at least we have sandwiches. Some really nice people take our picture. The view is absolutely stunning. I don’t want to be cliché by saying that what I saw was indescribable, but I guess I’ll just have to be cliché. Oopsie-poops! Worth every wheeze, complaint, and muscle cramp.

2:00 PM: I have to pee. Colin has the biological luxury of peeing wherever he pleases (and he does). We find a log building that seems out of view from the rest of the hikers. Mid-pee, I notice a group of campers huddled around their fire who can probably see me without pants…AWESOME. After experiencing the humiliation and an odd sense of accomplishment, we continue on our way.

2:10 PM: The cruelest joke ever: two port-a-potties standing on the side of the road. Eff you, Nature.

3:00 PM: We reach Stony Ledge, which makes me feel really small. From here, we see the memorial tower from the top of Greylock. It looks like a toothpick. We come to the surreal realization that we climbed over 2,000 feet up.

4:00 PM: WORTH IT. The cows went home, and so did we.

Katie

While I enjoy and appreciate nature, I am far from accustomed to rigorous hiking and getting my shoes muddy. Most of the time, I’d rather curl up with a book and read other people waxing poetic about sunsets and mountains. I am far from athletic, I manage to whack my head on things daily, and “roughing it” entails drinking my coffee without sugar. Bears scare the crap out of me. Basically, I am the antithesis of a rugged hiker.

So why would someone like me agree to climb forty-eight 4,000 ft. mountains? I am easily enticed by a challenge. I love everything about ascending a mountain, even if I’m not very good at it–powering past the timberline, discovering hidden gems like waterfalls and old pump houses, and admiring the view from the summit. However, the best part is accomplishing these feats with someone you care about. The high that I got from ascending Mt. Greylock with Colin this past November was indescribable, and I’m all for experiencing it 48-fold.

By resolving to conquer at least 48 mountains, I ultimately hope to develop a stronger passion for hiking, get super ripped, and experience some amazing feats that will enrich my and Colin’s relationship. And to not sob when I see a bear. That would be cool, too.