Less than two months ago Tony & I rescued Winslow, a Jack Russel Terrier/ Basset Hound mix from Fallbrook Animal Sanctuary, our local animal rescue (they are real life angels). He has been settling in great and seriously loves hiking with us and our ten year old rescued Black & Tan Coonhound mix, Phurba, the hiking king. It has been so fun to see him gain confidence and learn new things with every mile we hike.
Having a furry hiking buddy (or two) is such a privilege and joy. It is also a great responsibility for us to make sure they are comfortable and stay safe on the trail. We have a lot of experience with Phurba, hiking thousands of miles together over the past ten years he has been part of our family, so I thought I would share my top tips for hiking with dogs. But really I just wanted an excuse to share photos of Winslow with all of you.
With that said, meet Winslow!
I was in Napa, CA over the weekend for my bestie's wedding (congratulations Sue!) and was super excited to explore Napa Valley's wine region. I had made reservations for wine tasting at a few places and hoped I would be able to find a couple local trails to hike before the wineries opened in the morning. I found a cool little spot near our hotel called Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa, CA.
Skyline park has 25 miles of multi-use trails that wind through dense manzanita and black oak forests, chaparral, creeks, and even a small lake. Expansive views of surrounding vineyards are absolutely stunning. The trails are shared by hikers, horses, and mountain bikers, but I only saw hikers the morning I hiked it. Other activities in the park include an archery range, disk golf, picnicking, and a campground. The park's website says the park is home to many species of native plants and wildlife, including deer, foxes, turkeys, bobcats, and mountain lions. The park also hosts many flying creatures such as bats, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers.
The highest point in the park, Mt. Sugarloaf, at 1,630 feet has beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay, Mt. Diablo, and Mt. Tamalpais on clear days. There is also a 2.5 acre native garden site dedicated to the late Martha Walker, a local gardener who hosted a radio talk show about gardening among many other garden and native plant related activities.
I highly recommend visiting Skyline Wilderness Park if visiting Napa! It is a gorgeous trail system that is perfect for a morning hike before heading out to partake in the valley's most popular activity, wine tasting.
For more information about Skyline Wilderness Park check out the website here:
CEO and Editor of Hike It Off
From shortest to longest, these six thru hiking trails are all bucket list worthy! It takes a lot of planning and training to finish any of these trails. They are definitely for the most adventurous hikers, but don’t let that scare you away.
Never even been backpacking before but want to try it? Make sure to stay tuned as we will be gearing up for summer and posting our top tips for getting into backpacking. Our next issue, which comes out on May 1st, 2020, will also include a beginner backpacking article written by the backpacking pro, Emily Pennington, AKA Brazen Backpacker!
1. Lost Coast Trail (LCT) 24.6 Miles (California)
Located on the beach in Northern California, the Lost Coast Trail is the shortest hike on the list. It is a great beginner thru hike as the terrain is relatively flat and local shuttles for transport between the start and end can be easily arranged. It is unique in that is one of the few wilderness coastal thru hikes in the US. For more information visit:
2. High Sierra Trail (HST) 72 Miles (California)
The HST starts in Crescent Meadows in Sequoia National Park. It heads up through canyon of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, crosses the Great Western Divide, over the Kaweah Gap at 10,700 feet. It winds down to the Big Arroyo, and into the Kern River Canyon to the junction with the John Muir Trail. Next you will follow the John Muir Trail to the summit of Mount Whitney! For more information visit:
3. John Muir Trail (JMT) 215 Miles (California)
Starting in Yosemite, the John Muir Trail travels 215 miles through some of the most beautiful areas of the Sierra. Some of the areas you will see are the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King's Canyon National Park, and ending on top of Mount Whitney at 14,496 ft. For more information visit:
4. Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) 310 Miles (Minnesota)
A thru hike in Minnesota? This 310-mile hike explores the trailline above Lake Superior from the south of Duluth, Minnesota to the Canadian border area. The trail winds through the unique features of Lake Superior’s North Shore including accents to rock outcroppings and cliffs, views of sweeping vistas of the region, many prominent rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls, and ponds and through diverse forest settings. For more information visit:
5. Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) 362 Miles (Oregon)
The Oregon Coast is magical to say the least. Iconic expansive ocean views lined with towering pines and large ornate rocks that dot the horizon are what we think of. The OCT’s 362 miles consist of this plus sandy beaches, forest-shaded corridors, headlands and pass through 28 coastal towns.
For more information visit:
6. Colorado Trail (CT) 567 Miles (Colorado)
This trail covers 567 miles between Denver and Durango and consists of some of the most beautiful scenery in the Rockies. Hikers that complete the trail experience high mountain lakes and tall peaks in six wilderness areas while climbing 90,000 feet in gain. This is a high-altitude trail, with the average elevation at 10,300 feet, and topping out at 13,271 feet. For more information visit: https://coloradotrail.org/
One of the most asked questions we get about hiking is how to get in shape for hiking. While we are not trainers or athletic coaches, we do know what works for us. Here are our top five tips on how you can get in shape for hiking:
1. Start hiking! Just start small. Go on short, flat hikes and increase mileage and elevation gain slowly. Really the best way to get in shape for hiking is to hike.
2. Start weight training 3x a week. Focus on leg strength, back strength, and core strength since those are the three muscle groups you use to propel yourself up a trail.
3. Add intense cardio 3-5x a week. Stair stepper, elliptical, stationary bike, and the treadmill with an incline will all help get your cardiovascular system ready for hiking. Switch it up so you don’t get bored and will work your body multiple ways.
4. Use food as fuel. Once we changed our mindset on food from eating just to eat and eating to fuel our bodies, our hiking game went to the next level. Clean eating is a huge part of this, but also learning what our bodies need in terms of carbs vs. protein and when to eat them was just as huge. Figure out what works best for your body and stick to it. It will change the way you feel not only when you’re climbing a mountain but all the time.
5. Be patient. All of this takes time so stick with it. The payoff is huge and you will feel better all of the time, not just when you’re standing on top of a mountain.
Consider starting a yoga practice to help improve balance, gain core strength, and help with recovery after hikes. It is a great practice to add to improve your hiking.
Keep in mind, hiking can be as much mental as physical. Your mind can give up way before your body does so a determined mindset can help you get further on the trail.
"If you crave adventure, love the outdoors and welcome a challenge, then this is the experience for you! Through the Trailblaze Challenge, you will challenge yourself, meet new friends and make a difference in the lives of children battling critical illnesses."
We are proud to announce we are a community partner for Make a Wish’s Trailblaze Challenge San Diego! Not only are they raising money for a worth cause, they are changing the participants lives through the power of hiking! This is something we can definitely stand behind.
WHAT IS THE TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE?
Designed as a one-day endurance event, the Trailblaze Challenge gives participants the opportunity to hike 28 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in picturesque Big Bear, California. In addition to hiking, participants raise much needed funds to grant the wishes of children in San Diego. This is a hike, not a race, and caters to all levels from novice to advanced outdoor enthusiasts.
2020 Hike Weekends: May 15–17 (Hike Day Saturday, May 16) and May 29–May 31 (Hike Day Saturday, May 30).
ABOUT THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a treasured pathway through some of the most outstanding scenic terrain in the United States. The famous hiking trail spans 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, travels deep forests, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. Wildlife sightings can be common, and hikers will love the challenge of this beautiful trail.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE HIKE EXPERIENCE?
•Specialized training program including a workout calendar and weekly group hikes
•Training Clinics – topics include hiking boots, socks & other trail essentials, hydration, nutrition & cross training
•Support and coaching from experienced Trailblaze Hike Leaders and Make-A-Wish staff
•Hotel Accommodations on Hike Weekend at The Lodge at Big Bear Lake, a Holiday Inn Resort (3-days/2-nights)
•Trailblaze Challenge duo-dry shirt for Hike Weekend
•Transportation to and from the trail on Hike Day
•Friday night Pasta Party to carbo-load before the big day
•Trail support at multiple locations throughout your journey, including hydration, snacks, first aid and encouragement
•Saturday evening post-hike celebration to share trail stories
•Sunday post-hike Victory Recognition Breakfast before heading home
IS THERE A FEE TO PARTICIPATE?
Each Trailblazer will be asked to raise a minimum amount of funds to cover their expenses and to help Make-A-Wish
continue its mission to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. A non-refundable $100 donation is required at the time of registration and will be credited toward your fundraising goal.
HOW WILL I REACH MY GOALS?
Make-A-Wish will support hike participants each step of the way by providing each participant with a personalized fundraising webpage, as well as sponsorship and fundraising materials, tips and advice. Each Trailblazer will be provided with a specialized training program and will be invited to attend weekly group training sessions and informal meet-ups.
JOIN THE CHALLENGE
If you’re ever in the Las Vegas, NV area and have a full day to explore, we highly recommend checking out Valley of Fire State Park. A short 60-minute drive from the strip, Valley of Fire State Park is a perfect day hiking trip while in Vegas. Most of the trails are fairly short, so you are able to hike multiple trails in one day and see most of what the park has to offer. We recommend hiking this area October-April as it is really hot in the summer months.
The park has a host of unique attractions including the fire wave, a brightly colored Aztec sandstone formation, ancient petrified trees, 2,000-year-old petroglyphs, and unique rock formations. There are also campsites in the park so if you want to spend more than a day, that is an option as well. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset and there is a $10 entrance fee. Camping is $20.00 per night + $10.00 for sites with utility hook ups and are available only on a first-come, first-served basis. The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
On our last trip to the park, we spent the day hiking the Fire Wave Trail, Mouse’s Tank Trail, Pinnacles Loop Trail, Rainbow Vista Trail, and Elephant Rock Loop. We also made stops at the Petrified Logs, Atlatl Rock, Clark Memorial, and the cabins. Although it was a packed day, we had plenty of time to enjoy all of it!
Fire Wave Trail
Our favorite trail in the park was the Fire Wave Trail, although short and easy (1.5 miles round-trip with 175 feet of gain) it ends at a spectacular bright red sandstone formation. The beauty of it took our breath away.
Mouse's Tank Trail
After starting the day with the Fire Wave we though there would be no way the other trails in the park would be as spectacular. We were not disappointed. The Mouse's Tank Trail to Petroglyph Canyon is also a short .75 round trip hike with very little elevation gain that ends at a natural water tank. There are also petrogyphs. Thousands of them. We literally spent over an hour looking at the amazing 2,000 year old carvings that have been well preserved on the steep walls of the canyon. Suns and bighorn sheep and native dancers carved into the wall tell a story of the people long past. It was beautiful and moving to see such an amazing piece of history.
Pinnacles Loop Trail & Atlatl Rock
We had an inside tip to hike the Pinnacles Loop Trail because of the solitude we would find being it is a longer hike and not very popular. We took a chance and found a real gem of a trail. We didn’t see one other person the entire time. The trail starts on the opposite side of the road from Atlatl Rock and heads up a wash. At the end of the wash, you’ll end at a beautiful rock formation, the pinnacles, and looking back, a great view of the park. If you hike and out and back, it’s 4 miles round trip. If you do the whole loop, it’s 7 miles.
Rainbow Vista Trail
A short 1.5 mile round trip trail that meanders through colorful rocks and ends at an overlook. It is a stunning view with stunning colors of pink, red, crimson, salmon, set against sage green brush.
Elephant Rock Loop
Probably one of the most photographed rock formations in the park (mostly because of its proximity next to the main road), elephant rock really looks like an elephant. It is a short 1.5 mile loop hike that takes you to the backside of elephant rock. If you’re looking to grab a photo of it, this is the trail to take to get it.
We also made our stops at the Clark Memorial, the Petrified Log, and the Cabins- and had to get our photo at the Welcome sign! All in all, this is a beautiful park to visit.
Visit the state park website here for more information:
I am so lucky to have a network of beautiful trails I can walk to from my home. They are my “go to” trails when I need to stay close or don’t have a ton of time. As beautiful as they are, I sometimes find myself a little bored of seeing the same sights over and over since I have hiked the trails hundreds of times. So I invented a few ways to keep my hikes interesting.
1. Go for a sunrise hike.
Sunrise for me is by far the best tome of day. It is so magical, the air is so fresh, and I love watching nature wake up. This is also the time I see the most wild animals as there is usually nobody else on the trail.
2. Notice the changes of the different seasons.
The scenery changes with the seasons. I try to be conscious and acknowledge the changes. I admire the golden leaves of the Fall, the stark ruggedness of winter, the softness and colors of spring, and the warm sunshine of summer.
3. Take different routes.
Although I can access the trails from my home, I will sometimes drive to other trailheads and take a different route than my “normal” hike. It allows me to see the trail from a different perspective and I usually find something I haven’t noticed before.
4. Invite someone who hasn’t hiked your trail yet.
I love showing off my favorite trail to friends that haven’t hiked it before. I feel so blessed to have it so close and want to share it. I love talking about the history and the different plants and trees. It revives my love for it.
5. Hike when it’s raining!
of course this will only work on a trail that can be hiked in the rain without causing trail damage but it’s so much fun! I actually look forward to the rain so I can get to my trail. It’s invigorating and feels primal to me. Plus it s great way to test any gear that you need to test on a trail you know.
Hallelujah! We received our first snow storm of the season and we can’t be happier. But before we even were able to slide our snow shoes into the fresh white powder, we were already seeing posts online of hikers that are ill prepared and under skilled to be attempting to hike in the snow. We get it, snow in SoCal is exciting, and we all want to experience it, especially when we see all the posts of others doing it with huge smiles on their faces. It took us many years and tons of experience (including climbing mountains like Mount Shasta to gain mountaineering experience) to be able to say we have the skills and knowledge to be able to hike in the snow safely. While we think it is one of the best things one can do in life, we also are saddened every winter by the amount of people that do not take it seriously and are injured or killed in the mountains.
Snow Hiking ≠ Hiking
Snow hiking does not equal hiking. Hiking in the snow presents lots of additional challenges and dangers that regular hiking does not. It is a skill that must be learned and sharpened with experience and extensive knowledge. Do you have the right equipment and know what to bring for the current conditions? Have you been trained in how to use that equipment? Do you know how to read a detailed weather forecast that includes the different elevations you will be hiking to? Do you have extensive off trail navigation skills with a compass and a map? Are you carrying enough gear and are prepared to spend the night in below freezing conditions if something goes awry? Can you physically sit/lay in the snow and stay warm/dry with the gear you have with you until help arrives if you get hurt? Do you know where it is safe to hike and how to avoid avalanche areas? Do you have the physical stamina to get you back to your car as hiking in the snow requires more physical effort?
These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before heading out into the white wilderness. We put together a list of some of the very basics to think about in addition to the questions above. We want you to have that same magical experience we do every time we hit the snow, but also want you to get back safe so you can share all your photos with us!
There is so much more on this subject than we could ever cover in a blog post but hope this will get you started to at least think about what is truly needed to venture out into the snow. As always, let someone you trust know where you are going and when to expect you back and most of all have fun!
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just six weeks away! If you’re anything like us, we have not even started our Christmas shopping yet. But when we do, we definitely intend to purchase gifts that are conscious of the planet and the people that live on it. We put together a list of eight of our favorite conscious gift ideas for the hiker in your life.
1. Kula Cloth
We talk a lot about the Kula Cloth, the first intentionally designed pee cloth, here at Hike It Off. It’s such a genius piece of gear that is the best solution we have found for reducing toilet paper on the trails, we can’t help but want to share it with everyone. And at $20, it is a perfect and inexpensive gift for the eco conscious hiker in your life! Get yours here:
Patagonia’s mission statement says it all- “We’re in business to save our home planet”. This is something they definitely live up to it. They have many ways they are contributing to a better earth including their Worn Wear program, using renewable and recycled materials, fair trade certified, using 100% organic cotton, providing a living wage to employees, and so much more. They also donate part of their profits to support activism groups they feel are doing good for the planet. When you purchase a gift from Patagonia, you are directly supporting them to help save the planet.
Mariveles 32L Duffel Bag $40 - Del Día is made from 100% remnant materials that could have gone to a landfill. Instead these materials are made into one of a kind packs that are simple to use and work well for quick trips.
4. Hydro Flask
We love everything about Hydro Flask. We love all the different types of vessels they make-, water, beer, wine, food, coffee and all the fun colors you can get in each style. Most of all, we love that by using a Hydro Flask you are helping to minimize using disposable plastic bottles that end up in our oceans and landfills. Since 2017, Hydro Flask also has donated $838,000 to 63 different nonprofits including Appalachian Trail Conservancy & Latino Outdoors through their “For the Love of Parks” grant program.
Prana’s sustainability movement respects the planet and its people. “From the fields where our organic cotton and hemp are grown, to the beaches where plastic bottles are harvested, to the chemicals that need to be managed upstream, to the safety and well-being of the people assembling our clothing, there is a rich and inspiring story built into each and every piece we create.” Not only was Prana the first North American apparel brand to produce Fair Trade Certified™ clothing, they have given back $400,000+ to 33,000+ workers worldwide. By buying a gift from Prana, not only are you supporting sustainability, but the fair treatment of workers around the globe.
6. All Good
Just like the name of the company, the products are all good for you and the planet. The company is ran on solar, makes reef friendly sunscreens, use organic ingredients, are cruelty free, oppose the use of GMO products, use recycled packaging, and donate to 1% for the planet. Plus, their products are just really amazing! They offer amazing gift sets, like the All Good All Starts set which includes their first picks.
We received our first Nomadix towel in our Cairn box over the summer. Since then we have used it backpacking, at the beach, and on day hikes. It is a multi-functional towel that works well. The best part is it is made from certified post-consumer bottles! Nomadix also donates to 1% for the planet and wants their customers to purchase only long-lasting, environmentally-friendly products that they can use for more than one activity.
8. Donation to Their Favorite Non-Profit
Maybe you’re shopping for someone who already has everything? Or someone who feels giving is important? You can make a donation in their name to one of the many non-profits dedicated to preserving our earth. Some ideas would be:
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Sierra Club Foundation
The Nature Conservancy