Six people and a dog: Backpacking the Dinkeys

My partner got me into preparing for the zombie apocalypse backpacking a few years ago.  So far I have rocked some hardcore mountains stumbled around some very big rocks 5 times now, the most recent excursion ending just this past Sunday.

We started at Huntington Lake (east of Fresno, CA in the Sierras) and hiked the Dinkey Lakes, camping at both First Dinkey and Rock Lake.

This trip was pretty awesome.  More awesome than usual, actually.  First of all, my partner put a lot of work into planning this big trip with as many of our friends as possible.  Six people and a dog ended up making the trek, and we couldn’t have had a finer, more hilarious group (think of incredibly nerdy people randomly breaking out into choruses of show tunes, discussions of the tragic K-Stew/Rpatz breakup, and whistling Call Me Maybe).

This was also the longest backpacking trip I had ever been on.  We spent one night at a friend’s cabin and then three nights out backpacking.  That’s four whole nights without showering.  Yummy.

To be clear, I am an amateur draped and strapped to really expensive and pretty gear.  I like to think I look like a badass when I am not tripping over my own two feet or running away from a bee trying to land on my lunchmeat.

Don’t let the fancy stuff fool you.

When I tell people about backpacking and my trips, I often get asked, “Why do you put yourself through all that?”  And, you know, when I am carrying a pack weighing roughly the same as a year’s worth of frappuccinos (and believe me, I wish that was actually what I was carrying) up a mountain for thousands of feet of elevation gain, I often ask myself the same damn question.

The thing is, I have a love/hate relationship with backpacking.  It’s fucking torture.  But it’s also fucking glorious.  Often those two things are hard to separate.

1. Mosquitoes

The torture:  Mosquitoes  seem to find me delicious.  I’d rather find them squashed to death on the bottom of my shoe.  Usually they are attacking in swarms since backpacking means needing to be near a water source.

The glory:  On this entire trip, I got a grand total of only three bites.  I must have done something amazing to deserve such a reprieve.

2. Migraines

The torture:  Usually, the dry mountain air and high elevations make head-pounding, suicide-inducing migraines inevitable.

The glory:  On this trip I decided to put up my best fight and just take drugs (‘mkay).  No regrets.

3.  Pooping in the woods

We *just* pooped. Together.

The torture:  Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Digging the hole, squatting, balancing each butt cheek on a rock like you’re performing a circus trick.  There’s mosquitoes.  There’s flies.  The process brings a whole new meaning to “falling in.”

The glory:  Never have I had such a peaceful crap in my entire life.  The view was unbeatable.  No wonder pregnant ladies go through labor with a picture of some soothing scene in front of them; I had the real thing, live and in color.

4.  Freeze-dried backpacking meals

The torture:  Anyone eaten these food sacks for several nights in a row?  The molten bags of sodium-infused goo escape the body in the form of putrid gaseous evil, that when released inside an enclosed tent has been known to kill a full grown horse.  I am lucky that all my nose hairs haven’t been completely singed off.

The glory:  Anyone who has been backpacking knows that the food you eat after climbing a mountain tastes fucking amazing, no matter what it is.  This hot, salty bag of carbs and almost-meat tastes better than if I was on death row.

5.  Climbing a mountain and everything that goes with it

The dog has the right idea

The torture:  While you’re doing it, the hiking sucks.  The out-of-breathness, the physical exertion, the soreness and pain for days afterwards.  You have flashbacks from watching 127 Hours and wish you had never, ever seen a guy be forced to cut his own arm off from underneath a fallen boulder.  You wonder if you’d be able to do that if you had to.  And then, paralyzed by fear and pain, you find yourself wishing for death.  Just leave me here, you say.  Pick up my body on the way back.  Tell my mom I love her.

The glory:  When you get to the top, limbs and all, it’s completely worth it.  I DID THIS!  The view, the clean air, the oxygen-deprivation-induced-euphoria, being one with nature, and the bragging rights.  I absolutely love the feeling of accomplishment I get from being forced to hike voluntarily setting out like Louis and Clark to go conquer the world.  It’s pretty amazing, and it sure does help to put the rest of my life in perspective sometimes.  Indeed, when I asked Brian in a sweaty huff somewhere far, far away from air conditioning and frappuccinos, exactly why we were doing this, his response was simple: perspective.

These trips are why I have seriously considered combining therapy with the outdoors as part of my career – simply because they go hand in hand anyway; nature is so therapeutic.  I absolutely love the quietness, the stillness.  Oftentimes I just sit and count how many sounds I hear, and the number of sources rarely exceed two or three in the wild.  This stillness strips away all other distractions from ourselves that we’re trying to strip away in a therapy session anyway.

Who likes to backpack?  Who hates it?  Has anyone out there ever done therapeutic wilderness trips, either as a counselor or as a client?

I leave you with this (you won’t be disappointed):


Revolutionary Flight

I have so much to say about my trip to Puerto Rico.  Seriously.  I just don’t have the time and it kills me, for I am about to embark on an epic 4 day backpacking trip with 7 people and a dog.  And I am also currently very sleep deprived because I’ve had no time to pack, work, blog, sleep and watch the Olympics at the same time.  This time, I’ve chosen to forgo work and sleep and see what happens.

First things first re: this trip.  You see, I’ve learned a valuable secret.  A conspiracy, even.  I shouldn’t even be here talking to you about this, but I love you and so I’m going out on a limb here.  That’s right, this just got real and has absolutely nothing to do with my Olympics-and-sleep-deprivation-induced-euphoric-paranoia.

The TSA and the airline companies don’t want us to know our real histories, our true abilities, or our amazing destinies.

They do their best to hold us back and keep us in check.  Make em take off their shoes so they can’t run.  Put em through this poly-laser turbo machine so we can see their naked weaknesses.  Buckle your seatbelt and SIT DOWN while the seatbelt sign is lit OR ELSE!
But, while they thought they had us complacent, throwing up into tiny paper bags and breathing oxygen laced with meth through plastic bags hanging from the ceiling, I know their secret.

Hidden in the seatback pocket in front of each one of you is a laminated, vomit-proof illustrated safety card that holds the key to your destiny.

Before flying with my pilot partner, I only glanced at it on my way to the SkyMall (which is not a magazine, it’s a street term for getting high on meth at 30,000 feet) and never really realized what it was.  But Brian actually reads this thing, this rebel pamphlet, and he was the one who enlightened me, and now I pass on the secret to all of you:

We all were born with super powers beyond our wildest dreams.

That’s right, my friends.  Observe:

Please levitate out the door. And don’t take your cardboard squares.


Use your laser vision to open the door and fly to safety.

You’d never think this mom-jeans wearing simpleton could blast through metal with one cold stare…that is, unless you were her partner.



Levitate down the slide. Don’t hide your true super powers. X-men Unite!

And now you know the truth.

You can thank me later, as long as I am not mauled by a bear this weekend.  In that case, you can thank me at my embarrassingly expensive and public memorial service.

Apocalypse 2012: I’ll bring the marshmallows

I happen to love disaster and post-apocalyptic themed media. I dunno, something about them make me feel alive at the thought of having to defend my life; my body prepares to fight for its life as I watch. Of course, I always know better than those dumbass characters on the screen. (how the hell do they end up surviving, anyway?) At least Zombieland got it right with all his rules at the beginning. To this day I always check the backseat of my car when I get in. That, and cardio.

I watch these programs with my partner, and we discuss how we’d do it differently, how we’d do it right. We have a meeting place in case all hell breaks loose and our cell network is jammed (cuz of course it would be). I already have his permission to wake him up in the middle of the night so he can watch my back when I need to go pee…but only after the Zompocalypse breaks, he reminded me angrily/groggily.

The past few years, Brian has encouraged me to go backpacking with him, and I have slowly started accumulating all the necessary gear: pack, boots, socks, freeze-dried food, super-light sleeping bag. A few days ago while catching up on season 1 of Walking Dead (I joined that party a little late), I got it.

“So, all those backpacking trips…all the gear I now have…you’ve been testing me, TRAINING me…for the coming apocalypse! It all makes sense now!

He just smiled and nodded. Well done, young grasshopper.

My first backpacking trip in 2009. I look fierce!

So, all this leads me to a critical piece of planning that, so far, I have neglected: what are my skillz? What would my post-apocalyptic job description be, realistically, for my survival group to want to keep me around? I need to be able to bring some serious ass-kicking skills to the table. I need to start developing my portfolio!

Skill #1 – I am highly trained in crisis intervention

I know how to keep people calm and rational in a crisis! What a deal you’d get with me!

“Whoa…whoa. Calm down, everyone. I know we’re faced with almost certain death, but let’s remember to breathe…and let’s stay focused, okay? We are bigger than this fear, stronger than this fear, and we have each other. Let’s hold hands and meditate before taking a vote on what to do next.” And that’s me just getting started.

What about the crazies who carry guns and are loud and can’t be reasoned with, you say? Simple, I say. To intervene on this particular crisis, I would quickly assess who be cray-cray and who be rational human beings with a will to survive as a group. Then, we find the largest, strongest normie, give that person a bat, and have the normie take out the crazie(s) and we’ll be on our merry way. If that won’t work, we can go the classic passive-aggressive route and leave in the dead of night when all the crazies are passed out after drinking all the booze we ‘accidentally’ combined with windex. Done and done.

Skill #2 – I can keep people sane for the long haul

You don’t want people in your group growing weary and suicidal after months and months of chronic chaos and trauma! Remember the pilot of Falling Skies where the lady was having the kids draw out their feelings? I can do that, and with a master’s degree to boot! We want the human race to prevail, right? In order for that to happen, we need healthy, happy kids to turn into healthy, happy, baby-producing adults. Art therapy to the rescue!

Skill #3 – I am very good at being quiet

I’ve noticed that people supposedly trying to survive on the teevee/movie screen make a lot of noise and don’t always pay the price for it. (“The price” being living flesh ripped from bodies or your group gets robbed by another more ruthless band of outlaws.) Worse example evar: we’re bored in this zompocalypse. I know, let’s go to an amusement park and turn everything on! Not dangerous enough? Let’s strap ourselves into the rides and let our slowly-moving, hungry enemies surround us from below…

You don’t want that to happen to you, do you? Sure, one last roller coaster ride might be nice, but is it worth getting your intestines ripped out of your abdomen and worn as a candy necklace to save for later? And I know what you’re thinking – you may be quiet yourself, but your group is only as safe and quiet as your loudest white trash idiot. Might I suggest you choose me as a safe, quiet addition to your survival group. As evidenced by this post, I am very comfortable with silence (and common sense, for that matter) and I am rather good at at. Especially when silence sits between me and the undead.

Skill #4 – I know how to pack for the apocalypse

Remember in Space Balls when Lone Starr told Princess Vespa to bring only what she needed to survive? I am actually capable of following those directions, unlike spoiled fake princesses with naturally unruly hair. I am actually prepared for survival on a regular basis and I ain’t even a mom yet. At any given moment my bag contains: paper, a pen, dental floss, gum, mints, a book, kleenex, phone, wallet, keys, water, granola bar and those are just the basics. Hell, I have my backpacking pack already partially packed just in case. And you know I wouldn’t be unpacking my shit all around camp with that false sense of security. No sir. Packed and ready, sleeping-with-my-shoes-on kind of ready. And my hair is naturally gorgeous, thankyouverymuch.

Skill #5 – I can pop a squat like a champ

I was in Girl Scouts for 11 years growing up. Being a Girl Scout taught me many things, for example: to be courteous, to be prepared, and to be of service to others. The most important skill I learned from being a Girl Scout wasn’t about tying knots or how to sell the most cookies – it was how to pee in the woods in record time without soaking my socks. Ladies and gentlemen, my thighs are mighty, my squats are steady, and my stream is swift and precise. You don’t want any female member of your group being a liability every time she needs to take a leak. Choose me for your group and you won’t even notice that I have an unusually small bladder. Choose me and choose safety.

In closing, I may not be a good cook, a great warrior, super strong or super fast, but I sure gots the skills needed to survive the zompocalypse and have fun while doing it.

So. Do you have what it takes to survive? What is your zompocalypse skill set?