It’s All About the Bars

I’ve done something new while training for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I’m trying out lots and lots of bars. Food bars that is. Nutrition is one of the most challenging parts of a long-distance backpacking trip. I struggled finding healthy, easy to pack and yummy food during my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Thank goodness for the proliferation of  protein bars, breakfast bars, or whatever bars. Simple to pack and easy to eat. By the end of my hike, there were a lot more bars in my life than when I started. And that turned out to be a good thing. Then I came home and discovered Thunderbird bars, which are made right here in Texas. Seriously?! I could have had them all along? Aargh.

You can’t imagine how long I would stand around in stores wishing I had better options. Even stuff I liked to eat became loathsome when faced with the same items at every store for months on end. Trail towns are usually quite small and always one of three particular chain stores determined your selection choices. Add in factors like portability, no refrigeration, little prep needed, etc. and your choices became a pathetic array of the same old stuff. Every time I walked into a store to resupply, I searched the shelves trying to find something new. I tried pudding cups and they were okay, but too heavy, and the containers didn’t squish down well once empty. I bought hard cheeses and those lasted a couple days before all the oil separated out. Even trail mix often came in large, heavy bags, or the same four mixes in snack bags.

All that time I could have enjoyed a dozen DIFFERENT flavors of Thunderbird bars, if only I had known about them and sent them in my resupply box.

Somehow I missed discovering them last year. Then my wonderful husband put a few in my Easter basket this year and I tried them. Pretty good. Made of real food, too. This summer our local grocery ran a special on them and I tried some more. Yum! I went to their website. Oh my goodness there were lots of different varieties and flavors. Right then I decided to pack a bunch into each of my mail drops for the Pacific Crest Trail next year.

While looking through their website, I found they offered an Ambassador Program and decided to apply. Ambassadors promote the brand and receive discounts and perks for doing so. I thought my experience reaching big outdoor goals as well as motivating others to reach theirs would make me a good candidate for their program. And guess what?! They agreed. So here I am, a newly minted Thunderbird Real Food Bars ambassador. I think it will be a good fit.

Next week, I kick off this ambassador role by hosting a giveaway. Thunderbird bars sent me a mixed box of bars and told me how to set up an Instagram giveaway. Hosting it will be another first for me. So if you are on Instagram, look for the giveaway posted by @lorriegirltx. You might find yourself liking a new kind of bar, too!

Ten Month Countdown

Me and Mom Hiking


There are three major thru-hikes in the United States which make up the Triple Crown of Hiking. The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail.

I’ve already done the shortest one… so, guess what I have planned for the end of next April? If all goes as planned I’ll start the PCT at the end of April and finish sometime in September. People shake their heads when I describe the miseries of thru-hiking and then announce I can’t wait to go on another trail. I keep thinking this time will be more fun. Gosh I hope it is!

Pacific Crest Trail

If you want to follow along, I hope to post stories and photos more often than I did on the AT. It depends on cell service and whether or not I can still function after hiking all day. Regardless, you will have fun joining me without worrying about lack of water in the desert, rockslides across steep mountain slopes, or 40 mph wind and snow in the High Sierras. You can always wonder what’s wrong with my head as you read along. I’ll never know.

You may remember I decided to never, ever hike the AT again. This is still true. However, I didn’t pound out my love of hiking on that trail. It was completely worth every bit of frustration and all the rain and mud. I learned a lot and was given much, both by the trail itself and especially by so many of the people I met. Hiking the AT strongly affirmed how good people really are, how folks are willing to help a stranger when they can, and of how encouraging the smallest acts of kindness can be. The people I met will always define the AT experience for me.

There were lots of other lessons as well, and some things I didn’t learn as well or as easily as I had hoped. Maybe the PCT will let me learn some of those lessons better. I want to not only learn, but adapt, to not just know something, but live it. People ask what I will leave behind when I go on the PCT. They mean gear, food, water and the like, but what I immediately think of is fear. I want to take less fear with me this time. There are plenty of new dangers, different ones with new strategies to match, …but I want to plan for them without being worried about what terrible fate might await me. I want to hike without worrying I will make a crucial mistake or literal wrong step. I want to hike feeling I have what it takes to adapt and persevere.

I’m looking forward to other new experiences as well, like open vistas rather than being under tree cover most of the time. Fellow hikers on the PCT right now say you can see your destination for days before you reach it. So open views will be a disadvantage, too. I wonder how well I’ll do on a lower grade, and if I can really finish a month earlier than it took me for the AT. Most hikers who have done both finish the PCT much earlier, even though it’s at least 450 miles longer. This is because the incline is less steep and path smoother much of the time – or so I’m told. There are plenty of challenges on the PCT to make up for an easier grade and smoother path. Long stretches without water sources, terrible weather in the higher elevations, snowmelt flooded rivers ready to sweep you away and long distances between roads and towns along the trail will make it hard. It sounds exciting!

I’ll tell you a bit more about the PCT between now and April. In the meantime, I have some training to do.

Day 199 – Better Late Than Never

The finish for northbound (NOBO) AT thru-hikers: Mt Katahdin

I did it! On October 5, I finished backpacking 2,190.9 miles over 6.5 months – 199 days to be exact – through 14 states and lots and lots of rain. The Appalachian Trail thru-hike dream became my life for many months and now it’s done. A success. I am delighted to once again go to sleep each night without having to crawl on the ground and carefully pull off muddy boots as I ease into bed.

Fall in Maine on the AT

The last two weeks were fantastic. The trees in Maine were beautiful, plus we had mostly warm temperatures. Mrs. Santiago picked us up each night it was possible to reach a road crossing, and pampered us with drinks and treats as we headed into town for showers and yummy restaurant dinners. We grew soft from slack packing most of the last six weeks, so when we did carry full packs and camped out, we were quickly reminded how much tougher it is to backpack and camp. However the few nights we camped during those last days were gorgeous, with lakes and fall color everywhere. I enjoyed camping, even though I took advantage of every chance to be picked up and taken to a hotel with shower and warm meals.

Many people ask if I plan to hike the AT again. Nope. Not ever. I’m glad I hiked it and reached my goal, but I thought the AT was all about hiking when it turned out to be all about the kindness of others. Lots of people went out of their way to help me be successful and those are my best memories. Future posts will reveal some of the wonderful lessons and insight gained by stubbornly sticking with the challenge, but it was the generosity of strangers and friends that stand out the most.

Very happy NOBO thru-hikers celebrating on top of Mt Katahdin

Well…, okay I would hike part of it again, just not the entire trail. More than two months after finishing, I can say I am in love with hiking and have made time for many day hikes since finishing the AT. I have plans to hike the Chisos Mountains in early February, and part of The Lone Star Trail at the end of February. The year 2021 is my target for starting and finishing a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, which is 2,650 miles and purported to have an easier grade and fantastic views… plus hardly any rain. I research trails almost every day. Yep, the hiking bug is still with me.

In the meantime, lots and lots of people seem to want to hear me speak about adventures from the trail. I plan to use my stories to entertain and motivate people to go out and reach their own goals, whatever they may be. There are plenty of life lessons from the trail which can be applied to any other goal and I have both the skill to weave those stories into presentations people want to hear, and to help people reach their own goals through life coaching. I plan to keep hiking while encouraging other people to move from dream to life, too. When I’m a part of helping others reach their life goals, I’m a happy camper – and after 199 days of mostly camping along the trail, I definitely know how to be a happy camper.

Day 187 – Slacking

Ahhhh, it’s a wonderful feeling to carry six pounds on your back when you usually carry thirty plus pounds. I’ve been the lucky hiker who has been able to “slack pack” over three hundred miles at the end of my trek thanks to two Trail Angels – my husband, Marc, and Santiago’s wife, Laura. We are a couple days from beginning the 100-mile wilderness, and even in that desolate stretch Laura has found a way to meet up with us every few days so we can light-pack at around twenty-some pounds.

Marc started our stretch of slack packing at the end of August, and after he went home a couple weeks later, we found kind shuttle drivers who took some of our stuff up north so we could light pack the days between his visit and Laura arriving. Not only does a light pack make the days lots better – easier footing on steep slippery rocks and less wear on my knees, but it usually means we stay in a hostel, hotel, or off-trail campground that night. Showers, electricity, and restaurants are greatly enjoyed when you’ve been living in the woods for six months! We still camp out a night or two every week, because we hike through such remote areas. Slack packing has made the camping out in between fun again. Even when it’s raining or dips down close to the freezing point, we aren’t too glum because we know in a day or so we will be warm and dry.

Friends and followers, we are only about twelve hiking days from finishing our 2,190.9 mile trek! I have been enjoying the journey far more these last weeks than we were in the middle, thanks to Marc and Laura. It’s been tough and challenging, beautiful and humbling, …and ever so much better since our favorite Trail Angels came to help lighten our load.