“To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity”
-William Arthur Ward
2018 was definitely my year for adventure. I had so many incredible opportunities and had the chance to adventure with some amazing (and not so amazing people). Although I definitely had some bumps and bruises along the way (literally and figuratively), I am truly blessed to have so many incredible memories that I can look back on and truly laugh about. From dodging oncoming traffic going 80-mph in Oregon, busting out the Macarena on top of Wayna Picchu in Peru, getting left behind in a lightning storm on Mt. Whitney, singing Justin Bieber while blurting out F-bombs to the CEO of Make-A-Wish on the PCT to “special” chocolates, meeting my trail Jesus on the JMT, “butting it down”, having my face peel off while glamping in Big Sur, sleeping under an emergency blanket, jam packing 6 people and 6 backpacks into my 5 seat sedan, encountering the most challenging hiker on the trail aka “problem child” and of course, falling into a ditch in Tanzania; 2018 was a year for the books. With only a couple more weeks left (while currently stumbling through East Africa); I am both simultaneously excited and nervous about what else I am going to experience. Of course most of my 2018 memorable experiences can never be posted on the Internet but some of these PG rated moments are just too good not to share. I truly believe if you cannot laugh at yourself then you clearly are not going to survive in this chaotic adventure that is known as life.
The invention of the “pee pee kilt”
Are you ever so irritated and so exhausted that you cannot find the words to express what you are trying to say, so you invent a new term that sticks? Inventing trail lingo (I have an entire blog post dedicated to “trail lingo”) tends to happen in the most ridiculous situations, right? We were approximately one mile from reaching the summit of South Sister in Bend, Oregon and let me tell you… we were getting our butts kicked, big time. One of our dear friends, Shuping alerted our hiking group that she was going to venture off trail to use the bathroom. We thought nothing of it and hiked ahead to give her some privacy to only look back and see our friend literally draping her bottom half in a “privacy skirt”. We about fell off down the mountain laughing. I mean, coming from someone who will literally pees on a dirt road in Africa in the middle of the night, I thought this was totally ridiculous.
In reality, it is actually a rain skirt that keeps you dry from a downpour, but if you know Shuping, everything she owns is multi-purpose. So why not, use a rain skirt as way to hide your back door? Of course we could no longer refer to this as a “privacy skirt” or “rain skirt” so my quick-witted partner in crime, Shannon, coined the new revolutionary trail term, “pee pee kilt”.
The infamous “pee kilt” became our most used trail lingo term for the rest of our Oregon adventure.
“Hey I have to use the bathroom”
“Okay don’t forget your pee pee kilt”
Yep, this is now a thing! Seriously, no wonder Shuping takes forever to use the bathroom on the trail!
For those of you who are too nervous to bare what your mamma gave you on the trail, you can purchase a “pee pee kilt” at the nearest REI.
For a summary of our Oregon adventure, here is the link.
Women who walk and wine: Channels Islands
One of my favorite trips of 2018 was our kayaking and hiking adventure to Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands. 13 of my girlfriends and I piled onto a boat and hiked a quick one mile into camp with all of our belongings including multiple liters of boxed wine. We carried our wine everywhere we went: on a ranger-led sunset hike, onto the boat, to the beach, and to a movie night under the stars; to the point that everyone who worked on the island started to take notice. Of course we offered a glass of wine to whomever we passed (including the guy’s kayak we hijacked for a drunken wine photo-shoot) and made lots of new friends including Ranger Bethany and the kayaking instructors. It eventually caught on around the island that we were a hiking group and of course we take pride in our hiking abilities (and our wine drinking abilities) so when we arrived for a full day of sea kayaking and the guide asked us if we were the “walking group” we all busted out laughing because obviously hiking is WAY more bad ass than “walking”. After the weekend we were known as the “women who walk and wine” and were invited back for even more adventures next summer!
Mountain goat Maggie
Somehow I roped two of my girlfriends into backpacking to Charlotte Lake in freezing cold October temperatures. The forecast called for rain and snow and I was so delighted because I knew this would be my only chance for a winter wonderland as I was soon taking off for Africa for an undisclosed amount of time (side-note: my three month stint here is quickly turning into a six month stint). So why not make it an even more epic adventure and attempt to summit Mt. Langley (a local California 14er) in addition to our three-day backpacking trip? Both of these gals have never met each other before, have never camped in freezing temperatures nor have ever attempted a 14er but I know how to make a shitty experience look enticing (I personally love freezing weather and a good challenge, so this was right up my alley). After all who wouldn’t want to hike 22 miles in a day after a three-day backpacking trip in freezing rain and snow?
Although this trip had it’s entire chapter of bumps and bruises along the way, it was overall an incredible bonding experience and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything however the most memorable moment was watching Maggie take on a Class 3 scramble by herself, to summit Mt. Langley.
After three-days in the backcountry experiencing below freezing temperatures, lightning storms, gorgeous snow covered alpine lakes, and meeting some of the best PCT thru-hikers, we made our way to Cottonwood Lakes campground where we quickly set up our camp for the night. Our plan was to go into Lone Pine to re-supply, stuff our faces with burritos and sleep for a few hours so we can begin our Mt. Langley adventure at the strike of midnight. Of course, when a group of females walk into a camp, it always sparks a conversation, or sometimes an interrogation. This time, we got both. We met a super friendly (and extremely attractive) firefighter who was leading a group of boy scouts and wanted to chat with us about our recent adventure. We also met a wine drinking, judgmental dude who seemed skeptical of anything that came out of my mouth.
Dear male hikers,
Women literally have the same capabilities as your gender in the outdoors. We can pitch a tent, carry our gear, filter our water, dig a cathole to take care of business, and hike hundreds of miles. Please stop assuming we do not know anything when you come across a group of women in the wild.
Every woman on the trail
After refueling our bodies and stuffing our faces in Lone Pine, we headed back to camp, packed our bags for the morning and crashed for a few hours. At the strike of midnight we were headed out on another adventure. It a beautiful night to start our ascent, as the Milky Way was in full view and we were the only hikers on the trail. We ascended to the top of New Army Pass while watching the sky turn from pale pink to blood orange as the sunrise left us completely in awe. We all felt pretty great, considering the circumstances. It was not until the last mile or two from the summit that our sleep deprived bodies and worn out legs began to slow us down. About a half a mile from the summit, Caitlin and I were just too exhausted to climb over piles and piles of rocks and boulders to reach the top of Mt Langley. We quickly explained to Maggie that we were going to look for an alternate route to the summit where we did not have to scramble, however Maggie was clearly tired of us dragging her in 13 different directions (rightfully so) and she told us she would meet us at the summit. Before I could open my mouth, Maggie was scrambling up boulders faster than a mountain goat. After realizing there was no easy way to this summit, Caitlin and I finally made the decision that we were not going to summit (even though we were only a couple of hundred feet from the top). Maggie was well on her way to the top, and completely out of our sight, so we needed to send a message to Maggie that we were not going to summit and would patiently wait for her. We quickly put our heads together, alerted every hiker that passed us and waited for someone to give us an update on Maggie, on their way back down from the summit. After about 45 minutes, Caitlin and I began to assume the worst, as it seemed that none of the hikers we chatted with were coming back down from the summit. “What if she got stuck?” “What if she fell?” “What if she got lost?” After my ridiculous experience on Mt. Whitney, I was not going to leave my friend behind. The temperature was quickly dropping, there was an afternoon storm off in the distance and Caitlin and I had a difficult time keeping our fingers and toes warm. We knew we could not stay idle for much longer. We waited for another hour and saw a group of trail runners we recognized descending the summit. They were your typical trail runners who thought they were setting a world record. They barely had time to stop and give us an update but after spraying them with a million questions they finally informed us that Maggie was sitting on the summit, taking selfies and was having the time of her life…waiting for us. We quickly laughed and could not believe she summited but shortly after we were like, “shit”, she is actually waiting for us to summit!
Within minutes I was frantically running (thanks to a short burst of adrenaline) up to a couple of other hikers (who were much more aware and compassionate than the world record setting trail runners) and explained to them our dilemma. I basically blurted out “ I need you to go up and get her and if we are not here when you return we need to agree on a warmer meeting place”. We quickly devised a plan that we were all comfortable with and off they went. Another 45 minutes passed and Caitlin and I agreed we needed to head down to a lower elevation to seek warmth. As we were turning around, tears started to stream down my face because there she was… Maggie was hiking down the mountain with the fellow hikers, grinning from ear to ear and on cloud 9 because she summited her first 14er. Of course we were SO happy for her, but also we could not wait to get down that mountain! We ended up taking Old Army pass down which contrary to every belief and every online review, is totally dicey when it is covered in patches of ice. We ended up running into the super attractive firefighter and his group of scouts after descending the pass, gave him the quick and dirty about our summit attempt, wished them a successful journey and continued on our way! We had burritos on our mind and there was no stopping us!
“One for the road, one for the ditch, together we stand, alone you go”
I can’t end 2018 without ridiculous stories from my adventures in Africa. Although I truly do love Tanzania, sometimes I feel like this country chews me up and spits me out on a weekly basis. A couple of weeks ago, I somehow ended up on a 12-hour road trip from Arusha to Mwanza, I am still not sure how Erick talked me into this (I know I secretly have always wanted to visit Lake Victoria) but hey, road trips are fun right? I am beginning to learn after road tripping to Mwanza, and most recently, Kenya that road trips in Africa with Erick ensue high speeds on terrible dirt roads, flying over horribly constructed speed bumps to the point I am sure I can feel my kidneys, driving past hyenas and giraffes in the pitch dark, eating fully cooked African meals with our fingers while trying not spill rice and beans on my lap, and going through more police checkpoints than I can count. I now bring a blanket, a pillow, an eye mask and pop a few sleeping pills while reclining back in my seat because if I am going to die in Africa on a road trip, I may as well die while I am already half conscious and under the influence.
We just finished up dinner one night in Mwanza and decided to grab one more drink, “one for the road”, right? As I was getting out of the car, I somehow lost my balance and fell straight into a ditch. Let me tell you about the ditches in Africa: they are deep, usually full of trash or sharp spikey bushes and are often crossed via a 2x4 wooden plank. I still had my purse draped over my shoulder, but I was literally stuck, covered in thorny bushes in a deep, muddy ditch. Erick was waiting for me on the other side of his car but after hearing my loud-pitched pathetic screams; he ran around to my side of the truck and there I was, butt first with my legs up, in a ditch. Of course the security guard rushed over to make sure I was okay, and at that point, I was SO embarrassed and half laughing, half-crying begged him to leave me alone so I can get out of this ditch without any witnesses. I mean I am sure a tipsy white girl at the bottom of a ditch in Tanzania made his night, but I was secretly mortified. Erick quickly pulled me out; I wiped myself off, and realized I had a pretty nasty abrasion on my elbow. As we walked into the bar to order a couple of beers, I told Erick, “Africa is trying to kill me”. I literally say this phrase a couple of times of week, and I half-heartedly believe it is true. The next day, the abrasion on my elbow was even more painful and it began to show signs of an infection so I purchased topical antibiotics from the pharmacy and spent multiple days washing my elbow and applying medication. I ended up telling Erick’s friends that he pushed me into a ditch one night in Mwanza and I had the battle wounds to prove it. Since Erick’s friends are actually, “team Kristen”, he got a LOT of backlash from them, which I still think to this day is hilarious. I finally told the real story to his friends in person over a couple of bottles wine and that night I realized I not only “had one for the road”, but also “had one for the ditch”
There is a common saying his friends always say to each other that goes, “One for the road, one for the ditch, together we stand, alone you go”. So here’s to staying out ditches for the rest of my time here in Africa.
I’m coming for you, 2019
As much as I LOVED 2018, I have a feeling 2019 is not going to be too shabby. I plan on ringing in the New Year in Moshi and have quite a few adventures up my sleeve:
Trekking Mt. Meru
Scuba diving in Zanzibar
A few more African safaris
Exploring Uganda (because I have to leave Tanzania every 90 days for visa purposes)
Big Pine Lakes with my pup and trail girlfriends
Leading an “Intro to Backpacking” trip to El Moro campground in SoCal
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah
Channel Islands round 3: Santa Rosa camping and Anacapa kayaking
Thru hiking the John Muir Trail NOBO
Everest Base Camp
And maybe a quick trip to Europe in June
Cheers to ending a fabulous 2018 and to experiencing much more success and adventure in 2019.
My adventures in Africa continue, you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram for more of my ridiculous moments abroad. I usually post my life’s moments in my “stories”. <3
See you on the trails,