What I learned backpacking for 10 days

If you read my post from two weeks ago you know I recently backpacked for 10 days here in Central Oregon. If you missed it and want to catch it, here it is. I’m still reflecting on my time spent on the trail both alone and with my friend. In some ways it seems surreal that I was even out there. I came home and jumped back into normal everyday life.

I thought I’d share the things that did pop up for me while I was out there. Some of it may even be practical for every day non-backpacking life.

Susan Grace Carroll, Life coach, Bend, OR

1- Training makes all the difference- I did prepare my body for about 6 weeks before the trip. I slowly worked up to 14 miles with a 28 pound-plus pack on my back. My body felt great the whole time, unless you count the end of some days when I was just tired in general. Overall, I was physically ready. I’m sure I could have done it without the training but I’m not sure how my body would have liked it. Take Home- If you prepare, you an do almost anything.

2- Saving cell phone battery- While I was out there, I sometimes had cell service and sometimes didn’t. And I never knew when I would or wouldn’t. The most helpful thing was to put my phone on airplane mode when I didn’t need it. That saved my battery, which made my phone last waaaaaay longer. So much easier to take pictures when you have battery. Take Home- Do you really need to be available 24-7? You can turn off that phone anytime and messages can come through when you’re ready for them.

3-I learned to read maps better- If you read a few posts ago, you know how stellar I am at reading maps. NOT. The map has all sorts of trails, creeks, and lakes, but it also has little topographic lines that when closer together mean it’s going to be steep. It took me quite a while to understand how that all worked. I will say most of the time I didn’t look at that part because I didn’t want to know if I had a hard climb coming up ahead of me. Better for my brain to not know ahead of time. Take Home- Find out what you need to know, let the rest be a fun mystery.

4- Having more than one source of place is really helpful- I did have a real honest-to-goodness paper map, but I also had an app on my phone that had GPS and could show me where I actually was on the map in real time. I could keep my phone on airplane mode then take it off to briefly check where I was before turning it back on again. That saved me a couple of times. I would think I was one place and found out I was either behind where I thought I was or ahead. It gave me comfort to know I hadn’t missed a trail junction or that I was almost upon one. Take Home- It’s not often we are ever totally lost and don’t know where we are. But there’s nothing wrong with stopping to find out if you think you might be. The peace of mind you gain is worth it.

5- Food as fuel gained a whole new meaning- In this country we have access to refrigerators and cabinets filled with food (as well a grocery stores down the road) anytime we want. I had to carry all my food with me. Trying to figure out exactly how much you need is quite a task. The practice backpacking helped but after several days out there I noticed a general increase in my overall hunger. I really did need to eat something every couple of hours to keep up my energy. There is no way to really configure how many calories you’re burning hiking uphill with 30 pounds on your back. You just know you are burning a lot. My friend started calling my droopy drawers on the trail because I’d lost a little weight and I kept having to pull up my hiking pants. I was most definitely eating to live and not the other way around. I finished with two small snack bags of food left. I did have enough and I wasn’t hungry at the end, but what was leftover wasn’t much. Take Home- We all know that we eat more than we really need. We have a lot of wonderful and amazing food that is both healthy and not so healthy. Eating only when you’re body is truly hungry (not when your mind thinks it’s hungry) is a huge shift.

6- It’s okay to bring more toilet paper- Let’s just say I used my last square of toilet paper on my very last day. It’s incredibly lightweight and one of those items that if you have some left over at the end, it’s not a problem in the least. Take Home- I think you get it. ;)

7- Deodorant is completely under-rated- I’ve gone for a short time without deodorant. Like maybe just over 24 hours. It’s extra weight to carry. Not a lot, but still, those not a lots add up. But here’s the thing. When after a certain amount of time you can’t stand your own body odor (even if you’re alone) that’s a sign. I went 6 days without using deodorant. That was 5 days too many. I would never have realized this if I hadn’t experienced it. Now I know. Honestly, I don’t know what people did before deodorant. I’m convinced that if deodorant hadn’t been invented, the population of the world today would be about 20 people tops. Good God, I wouldn’t have pro-created with myself much less someone else. Take Home- Thank GOD someone invented deodorant.

8- Some needs are needs and some wants are needs- Every backpacker will tell you there are some things you just need. Like rain gear, a water filter, dry socks. And then there are the things that you’ve found you don’t really truly NEED but want them bad enough (like deodorant for me). You know that a want is a need when you are willing to carry the weight of it on your back. I took a little journal. I didn’t write all that much but it was worth having it for when I did write. Take Home- We all know shelter, food, water, and oxygen are basic needs. But we each have certain needs that are very personal and help make our lives that much better. Make sure you surround yourself with those things.

9- Flexibility is super important- I was supposed to hike 101 miles with my friend on the AT. I had it in my head that when I headed out to hike here I needed to do that number. And I was already in the low 60’s by the time day 6 finished. But then something happened. I realized that my goal of getting those miles in was trumping my goal of enjoying my backpacking trip. Plus, a lot of those miles were miles that needed to be hiked in the upward direction. Let me tell you that a 6 mile uphill day can be WAY harder than an 11 mile flatfish day. Plus I started to get a little more fatigued. Which is why I did my best to not pack in the miles at the end.                      Take Home- There’s that saying that the only constant is change. And it’s not only unexpected change that comes along. You can be the one to make the change anytime. And not feel bad about it.

10- I gained tremendous confidence- When my plans abruptly changed and I was not going to be hiking with my friend who had our entire trip mapped out because of her past experience, I was put in the driver seat of my own experience. I was the one who had to decide where to go. I was the one who had to decide how many miles to hike on a given day. I was the one making all those decisions for a new, quickly created adventure. For some reason I never wavered. I just knew I was going to do it and that was that. For whatever reason fear didn’t even enter the picture. Doubt never entered the picture either. I just knew I could do it. Maybe because all that preparation and planning got me to that mental space. Take Home- It’s truly amazing what you can do when you put your mind to something. I look back on my life and realize I have done A LOT. I bet you have too. Who knows what I’ll do next with my increased confidence. That remains to be seen.

What do I know to be true right now?

When they say, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”, it’s dead on. We (our minds specifically) are the only thing that stops us.

So if you want to go try something new and different, why not I say?

Leave a comment on the blog below if you’d like.

If you think, “I know one friend who would really like this”, please forward it to them.

If you found this helpful, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

~ Susan

Get Outside and Nurture Your Life

A different kind of adventure

There’s that Woody Allen quote that goes “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”. And yes, I did have plans. Pretty big ones. Like to hike 100 miles of the AT with my good friend. And then I got a call. Less than 24 hours before my flight left, my friend called to say she had flown to be with her father as he was at the end of his life. And boom, just like that, all those plans vanished.

I of course completely understood and supported her in being with him. The timing of it was really quite wonderful. At least we weren’t in the middle of the trail when the call came. THAT would have been much worse.

But of course I was in shock and denial for a bit. All that planning and preparation, all those hours and miles hiking with a pack, ALL that backpacking food I had organized. I was deeply sad for my friend and deeply disappointed about the loss of our trip. I liken it to training for a marathon. You’ve spent so much time getting ready for the big day, then the morning of, you wake up with the stomach flu, vomiting out one end and diarrhea out the other. I sat with that disappointment for several hours. I felt it. Just like I tell my friends and clients. You have to feel what you’re going through. Not push it away. It must get it’s due.

But I had other options. My husband said, “the weather is supposed to be gorgeous here and we have a trillion trails you haven’t been on. You can still go”. Well of course I could.

So I spent the day I would have been flying back east coming up with a plan that would allow me to backpack for 10 days, with stops at my car to resupply as needed, and taking one night at home to shower and sleep in my bed.

And that’s what I did. I spent two nights out on my own, then a fabulous friend joined me. We had amazing weather with only a couple of chilly nights where hats and gloves were needed. We hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as well as several trails that would weave in and out of it. We stayed at a different lake every night. We had amazing views of lava, and glaciers, and rainforest, and burnt forest, creeks and waterfalls, and bouts of strong wind. We saw some very cool frogs and interesting mushrooms and fungi. We only had to hike a short distance and the terrain would constantly change.

Susan Grace Carroll, Life Coach, Bend, OR

Susan Grace Carroll, Life Coach, Bend, OR

Susan Grace Carroll, Life Coach, Bend, OR

Other than a few sprinkles one day we never had rain. And as luck would have it, the one night we got off the trail it rained hard in the mountains with snow falling at the higher elevations. We missed the experience of being soggy.

When you’re out there you have a limited focus. Getting from point A to point B, making sure you eat enough food, finding water to filter and drink, and not getting lost. You don’t think about the war on terror, the drought, or whose running for president. It’s you, the trail, and everything you have on your back.

I could have easily scrubbed the whole thing and decided not to do anything, but that just didn’t seem like a good option. I would have let myself down. Instead I thought about my friend every day. I tried to honor the time we would have spent together.

In the end, I was laughing. Those initial plans got thwarted but I came up with plan B.

What do I know to be true right now?

Not all of our plans work out the way we’d like. That doesn’t mean there’s a problem. In fact I think the universe orchestrates everything beautifully and perfectly, even if we can’t see it or understand why. My friend needed to be with her dad and I needed to be here. I don’t know why and it doesn’t even matter.

We’re making a plan to hike the AT in the spring. Let’s see if the universe allows that one to go through. ;)

Next week I’ll share what I learned backpacking for 10 days. Maybe some of the things that surprised me will surprise you too.

Leave a comment on the blog below if you’d like.

If you think, “I know one friend who would really like this”, please forward it to them.

If you found this helpful, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

~ Susan

Get Outside and Nurture Your Life

Saying YES to adventure

Happy Fall everyone! I hope wherever you live you are either enjoying cooler temperatures, the changing color of the leaves, or both. About 3 months ago, a good friend of mine asked if I wanted to hike part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) with her this October. As my brain often does with a new idea, the roadblocks popped up. I can’t do that. I can’t get that time off from work. I can’t leave my husband. That would be so unfair of me to leave on a really fun trip and he’d be stuck at home.

But you know what, the idea actually intrigued me. I did want to go. I talked with my husband about it and he said point blank, if the shoe were on the other foot (his foot), I’d totally go. Well, why the hell not I decided.

So for the past 6 weeks I have been preparing, planning, and practicing (the three P’s) for a 101 mile journey that will last 10 days. Starting midway through MA we’ll hike south through CT, and end up in northern NY. Part of my 3 P’s has been putting a 24-28 pound pack on my back, slowly working up to 14 miles per day hiking, figuring out what items truly are essential to carry (because that pack gets heavy let me tell you), and figuring out how much food I really need. When I said yes to this adventure, I took it seriously. I wanted to be as prepared for this trip, physically, mentally, and emotionally as I could.

Susan Grace Carroll, Life Coach, Bend, OR

My husband has a hip injury right now and can’t go out with me on the longer hikes. I decided a few weeks ago to go on an overnight with a friend but she couldn’t make it either. The very next idea that popped into my head was, I’ll go by myself. I’ve NEVER solo-backpacked anywhere overnight. My mind said, if Sheryl Strayed can hike the PCT solo for 3 months, I can swing one whole night.

So I set out on my first adventure alone. One 24 hour period, just me (and my pack). Now there’s something you’ve got to know about me that’s super important. I’m not very good with maps. Take that in for a moment. Me, heading out for a solo outing, I’m not so hot at reading maps, and I’m going to hike about 20 miles roundtrip to a campsite that isn't on the map, that I’m just going to create when I get there. Let me just say, my husband was a teeny bit worried. I secretly think he was more worried than he let on, but…

Let me say this about being on a trail on your own. EVERY sound in the forest is magnified by 20. Every branch breaking, bird chirping, squirrel running from tree to tree, is quite obvious to your ears. I wasn’t scared really. No scared isn’t the right word. Highly alert is what I was. More aware than usual for sure.

I followed my map like a hawk. Every time I got to a trail junction, a creek, or a lake, I whipped it out just to make sure I knew where I was at all times. I made great time and asked the universe for the perfect campsite by the lake. It delivered.

Lest you think I have some big lead up here to a crazy mishap, I don’t. That would certainly make a great story though. Everything went great. I had no problems setting up and breaking down my tent, cooking, all the things you do when you’re backpacking alone and don’t have someone with which to share those duties.

What I learned was that I could do it. I gained confidence. I gained courage. I gained independence. I gained gratitude.

I know I’m not the only woman to do this but I’ve done it. I think I might be more amazed than proud. Amazed at what my body can do when properly prepared. Amazed at how quiet the world is when you take out man made sounds. Amazed at the awesome lightweight gear technology allows when taking everything you need to survive out in the woods. Amazed that if I really pay attention to the map, I do know where I am.

And you know what? I had such a good time I did it again the next weekend!

On Sunday October 4th I fly east to meet my friend and begin our AT adventure. I’m excited. She’s super fun. I’m a little nervous, but not sure about what. If you’ve been reading my newsletter you know I’ve been in physical therapy since May to help with an out of balance body that has caused neck, shoulder, hip, and foot pain for the last few years. I’m still going but less frequently. I’m happy to report my body is 95% better. I’m fully grateful for my physical Therapist and to myself for putting in the time to do a gazillion home exercises to get me back to a body that feels so good now. So maybe I’m just a tad nervous my body will have problems out there. It might. But I’m armed with tools to help.

So what do I know to be true right now?

Planning, preparing, and practice (those 3 P’s) are what have enabled me to confidently say yes to this adventure. I’m not just winging it like Bill Bryson’s sidekick Katz in his book, A Walk in the Woods. I wouldn't have the confidence and might not even have as much fun.

I had to let my mind have its say ay the beginning when it wasn’t sure of the whole idea, but then I listened to what I really wanted to do, and that was to say yes, go, and do it.

I’ll get back to you in a few weeks and let you know how it all went. If you could send some sunny sky vibes east I’d sure appreciate it.

Leave a comment on the blog below if you’d like.

If you think, “I know one friend who would really like this”, please forward it to them.

If you found this helpful, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

~ Susan

Get Outside and Nurture Your Life

Are you Woo-Woo?

I know that asking you if you’re woo-woo may be a little bit of a strange question. Most people who know me think I’m pretty practical. And I am. But I am also quite woo-woo too. But what is woo-woo really? Susan Grace Carroll, Life Coach, Bend, OR

Well, if you look it up online, most of the dictionaries will give you something like this:

woo-woo   [‘wu:,wu:]: -adjective

derogatory, slang based on or involving irrational superstition

Basically, you believe in something that is crap.

What’s fascinating is that woo-woo is just another term for spirituality. It’s something you can’t touch, taste, see, or hear. It’s irrational to the intellectual mind. It can’t wrap itself around it. Back in the day, you would be burned at the stake for talking about anything in the spiritual realm. It scared the bejeebees out of the powers that be. So they reacted from a place of fear. If you can’t see it, touch it, smell it, or taste it, it might hurt you. You must be very afraid.

But we’ve come a loooooong way since those days. Look at all of the spiritual sages of our time who are sharing amazing ideas as well as scientific evidence of exactly what they are talking about. Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Abraham, Byron Katie, Martha Beck, Mike Dooley, Pema Chodren, and so many more.

We’re talking about God here, the divine, the universe, consciousness, the force, you pick the term that feels right for you.

Good golly I think I’ve been on this spiritual woo-woo path almost my entire life. Being in church and following a specific religion just never felt right to me. I know it feels right to others and that is perfectly fine. You have to follow your own path and know what feels true for you.

So why do I even bring this up?

Because I’ve been meeting quite a few people recently who have been interested in woo-woo and spirituality. They are curious and asking questions. From my end, it is SO fun. With both friends and clients I can talk about how we are all connected and all one. That there is no separation from me and the bird at my birdfeeder, or the neighbor across the street, or the fisherman who lives in a village in Asia, or from God. We are all part of the vastness called life, connected to it, and intertwined. When you live your life from that place and space versus your thinking mind, your entire life opens up in the most amazing way.

Sometimes I’ll be sitting on my deck taking in the trees and just know I need to call someone. And in calling them I find out they needed my help with something, just at that moment. There is no way my brain can honestly come up with just knowing that. There has to be another force that inspires that thought. This is not a coincidence. It’s often not rational. It won’t make sense to your intellectual mind. You can’t really explain it to anyone else either. But it’s okay because in your heart it feels right.

How do you know if you’re on the spiritual path or woo-woo? Even a little? Because you recognize that certain belief systems you’ve had in place don’t feel right to you anymore, maybe even stifling. You might be more interested in exploring and experiencing divine consciousness without all the rules.

So I’m definitely about as practical as they come. And I’m woo-woo too. Do I believe in unforeseen forces? Absolutely. Honestly, those forces are so full of love and peace and feel so true, I’ve got all the proof I need that woo-woo isn’t crap or superstitious, for my life, my friend’s lives, as well as for my clients.

When I let the woo-woo part of me lead the practical, things in my life sail pretty darn smoothly. It’s magic really.

There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I can promise you, if you’re on the woo-woo spiritual path, and are open to what can be revealed for your life, you will be so amazed, blown away, and grateful. Your heart will be so very full. And what more can you ask for in life?

Do you consider yourself woo-woo? Let's chat. Leave a comment on the blog below, or email me,

If this struck you and you think, “I know one friend who would really like this”. Please forward it to them.

If you found this helpful, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

susan small sig 05:14

Get Outside and Nurture Your Life

Nurturing Your Adventuresome Side

On some level, we all like, and want, a little adventure in our lives. Doing the same thing day to day can get monotonous. So how do you spice things up? What I’m going for here is adventure. Something you’ve never done before. Maybe it’s going to a wine tasting, listening to a band that plays a different kind of music you’ve not heard before, or seeking out something just because you’ve just never done it and would like to try.

Last weekend my husband and I sought out a new skiing trail we’ve never been on before. We’ve had limited snowfall and didn’t know what the conditions would be like so we took our hiking boots, snowshoes, and cross country skies with us. We really had no idea what to expect.

We got out to the trail and found a fair amount of snow. We chose to use our skis. The snow conditions weren’t great. It was slow going. We didn’t know what would be around the next corner.

It felt like an adventure. It was so very quiet out there. We saw only a couple of other people. The sun peeked in and out of the clouds. Then the sky completely clouded over with big dark gray puffs as a backdrop, making the white snow against it look so dramatic and beautiful. Almost like a painting, except it was real. white snow gray clouds

I had such a good time. Just being out in the woods, getting some exercise, enjoying the quiet, and out on a trail that wasn’t really groomed.

I’d never been there before.

That’s what makes up an adventure I think. An element of newness, of surprise, of not knowing what will come next.

An adventure doesn’t have to be grand. Or it could be.

But we need adventures. They helps us feel more alive.

And in this day of busyness and always something to do-ness, maybe an adventure is just what you need.

What’s calling you?

Leave a comment on the blog below, or email me,

If this struck you and you think, “I know one friend who would really like this”. Please forward it to them.

If you found this helpful, let me know. I’d love to  hear from you.

susan small sig 05:14

Get Outside and Nurture Your Life