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A Hike in the Mountains at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 12:46:27 PM PDT

The name Cuyamaca is taken from a Kumeyaay word meaning Rainy Place. I'm assuming that they named the Cuyamaca mountains long before the Spanish arrived and the Spanish just adopted the term. Relatively speaking - for San Diego - the Cuyamacas ARE a rainy place. Of course, since it's San Diego and it's April, it was perfectly sunny when I visited yesterday.

Yesterday I decided to try out the Dyar Spring/Juaquapin Loop trail in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. It was supposed to be 5.9 miles with 800 feet elevation gain, running water, deer, coyotes, and tons of wildflowers. What more could one ask for?

Continue below for pictures and details.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1344 words in story)

More Spring Wildflowers, and Some Critters

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Apr 12, 2014 at 21:07:43 PM PDT

Today I did a 5 mi hike with a photography group on Palomar Mountain. We parked at 5200 feet, hiked down to a pond, and then back up to the car.

We saw some nice flowers, and even a few critters for a nice change.

Mountain Pink Currant
Mountain Pink Currant

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 763 words in story)

This is California in a Crappy Wildflower Year...

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 21:14:42 PM PDT

I don't know if I've shared this here yet, but this is my last year (for a while) in San Diego. In August, I'm moving back to Madison, WI to attend grad school at UW. So that means that I've gotta make this wildflower season count since I won't have another chance any year soon.

It doesn't help that we're in a historic drought. I was honestly so bummed I felt like Christmas had been canceled. But honestly, the wildflowers, well, you can see for yourself...

All I have to say is: THIS is why I love living in California. One of the many reasons, anyway.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 1642 words in story)

Book Review: Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 21:31:49 PM PDT

I recently got a copy of the book Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants by Christopher Nyerges. It's the second edition, which I assume means there was a first edition out some time ago and this one has newly revised content.

As you'll read below, I've got a few critiques of this book but I like it overall. My satisfaction with it is, in part, because there are just so few books I've found AT ALL on wild edibles that are local to me. Most of what I've learned about using plants comes either from Native Americans or from books on herbal medicine. I love herbal medicine, but it's a different topic from foraging for food, which is the main focus of this book. Therefore, I think this book fills a niche that really needed to be filled.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 921 words in story)

Yosemite and Tendinitis

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 17:01:26 PM PST

Well, shucks. I've got tendinitis in both ankles. My doctor sentenced me to 2 weeks without hiking. Even though it's raining, I'm still longing to get out into the mountains. The John Muir quote, "The mountains are calling, and I must go!" comes to mind. Then I wonder if John Muir ever got tendinitis.

The only good news is that it's raining for several days, and after that I'm going to Wisconsin to check out the grad school there. (I'll probably be going there in the fall.) Some I'm not missing much hiking anyway. By the time I get back, I'll be allowed to go hiking again. And I won't miss any backpacking trips, although I'll have to sign up for a really easy, gentle one this time around.

Since I'm definitely leaving the state at the end of the summer, I've made a bit of a California bucket list.  The top item on the list is: Go to Yosemite. And I just signed up for a 4th of July Yosemite trip. I need to get in shape for it. Tendinitis would be a real bummer.

Right now, I'm stuck resting and icing my feet. But before I head back out on the trail, I want to do more to prevent this from happening again. The key seems to be in doing stretches and exercises such as those found here, here, here, and here. Of course, I can't even do any of that right now. It's driving me absolutely crazy.  

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Wildflower Season Begins...

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 22:26:58 PM PST

California's wildflower season is like Christmas to me. It hits its peak in March and April near the coast (a bit earlier in the desert), but it's already beginning. And I am just giddy. Here are some of the photos from my backpacking trip to Noble Canyon.

Noble Canyon Trail

The hike is a 10 mile hike near Pine Valley, CA in the Laguna Mountains. It's a popular spot for mountain bikers, which is a major downside for it for me, because I despise having to repeatedly dodge bikes as they speed toward me on the trail. We did not do the entire 10 miles, but we did do about 7 miles of it. It's a very interesting hike from a plant point of view because the vegetation changes several times. I do not know the elevation where we started, but we camped at just below 4000 feet, and we hiked up to about 5000 feet.  

There's More... :: (5 Comments, 1597 words in story)

Backpacking Food, Take One

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 21:04:33 PM PST

This weekend was my first backpacking trip. It was truly just a learning trip. We went on a marked trail, not too far out of town, in a place called Noble Canyon. We hiked 4.5 miles with our packs on and then set up camp under the shade of oaks and near a stream. Then we did another 4.5 mi as a day hike. The next day, we packed up and hiked back to our cars.

Regina and Ashley, Chilling

The beautiful thing about the stream? It meant we did not have to carry all of our water.

Filtering Water

Less beautiful about it? I got a few mosquito bites. I bet you no one else in the group did - just me. It's always like that. I'm delicious. At night, the bugs came out and so did the bats (who ate the bugs). I've seen bats before, but I've never seen so many, swooping around all over. It made me glad to be vaccinated for rabies.

I did plenty of things wrong when I packed for this trip, but I got the food part RIGHT! Details below...

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 940 words in story)

Suicide Rock, Idyllwild, CA

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 15:52:30 PM PST

Yesterday I hiked the Deer Springs Trail to Suicide Rock in Idyllwild, CA. It's a dramatically different ecosystem from most of southern California, because it's at a high altitude. The forest is host to more species of pine trees than I've seen anywhere else around here and some have edible nuts. The Cahuilla Indians lived there, subsisting on rabbits, deer, pine nuts, acorns, manzanita, and strawberries.

Strawberries
Wild strawberries

Prints for Sale: I'm trying something new. I'm offering prints of my best photos for sale. Below, you'll find the best pics from this hike. They are gorgeous, if I do say so myself. I'll add a Paypal button on the right column of the site. I'll keep the prices reasonable - I want to earn a bit of extra money but not gouge people.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 231 words in story)

My New E-Book

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 15:58:57 PM PST

If you look to the top left side of this blog, you'll notice a new Paypal button. I've got a problem with the backpacking course I'm taking... namely, that I can't afford it. Or the gear. Especially the gear. So I decided to put together a little cookbook to see if anyone wanted to help support me by buying it. It's just $5 - although I set up options for people to give more if they feel like it. But $5 is a fair price.

Here's what you get: The 23 recipes that constitute the majority of my diet. The ones I make over and over so that they are burned on my brain. Most of them are really easy. They are all vegetarian, and most are vegan and gluten free too.

What you don't get: Recipes for junk food. As much as I love a good chocolate chip cookie (or, let's be honest, the entire batch of cookies... I'll eat them all), I stuck to healthy stuff only.

Also, please note that I'm not a stickler for quantities when cooking, so often I write recipes with ingredients specified like "a few carrots" or "salt, to taste." If that is going to bother you a lot, don't get the book. Most of the time, it does not matter whether you put 2 or 3 carrots into the soup, or whether you put in 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp thyme. I usually don't measure. I tried to put estimated or exact amounts where I could so that you aren't totally clueless, but usually I just add a little, taste it, and add a little more if I need to, until it tastes right.

Thank you so, SO much.  

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Kumeyaay Indians' Home in the Desert

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 21:43:55 PM PST

My camping trip over the weekend took us to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. It accounts for one-fifth of the land in San Diego county and it's the largest park in the Lower 48. Anza Borrego includes part of the Pacific Crest trail. The name comes from an explorer (Anza) who came overland to visit the region, and the Spanish word for bighorn sheep (Borrego). But good luck actually seeing a borrego inside the park - they are very shy.

I've found that my knowledge of plants helps in a few unexpected ways. First, I can use plants as landmarks to keep from getting lost. And second, I can instinctively find water if there's any to be found. You know, in case I am forced to be a tribute in the Hunger Games. Besides, I've always got a pharmacy at my fingertips - not to mention a food source.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 1442 words in story)

Desert Car Camping, Food Fail

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 20:55:35 PM PST

This past weekend was my first camping trip for my backpacking course. It was just car camping. Some of the mishaps happened because the trip leader told us we were hiking 11 miles and in fact we hiked three. The rest was my fault.

The group was 7 people, including one vegan and myself (a mostly vegetarian). We needed to pack one dinner, one breakfast, two lunches, and snacks. This included an hors d'oeuvre to share with the group. And we weren't planning to have a campfire.

I got over being ticked about the lack of a campfire when the trip leader suggested people bring wine. OK, I can get on board with that. Since it sounded like several people were bringing wine, I considered bringing cheese. But I felt that, as the lone vegetarian, I needed to be nice to the vegan.

I settled upon Thai peanut collard wraps, a recipe of my own creation:

My Collard Wraps

The collard wraps were a HUGE hit, but I should've kept them in a cooler. They were starting to rot, although it seemed no one else noticed. They weren't past edibility, so we still ate them. I didn't put them in a cooler because I wanted to kind of test them out to see if they'd work on a backpack trip when there wasn't a cooler to put them in. (Answer: no.)

The recipe is simple. Spread a bit of Thai peanut sauce on a collard leaf, add cooked brown rice, shredded carrots, and mint leaves, and wrap it up. For the peanut sauce, I just mixed up peanut butter, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, and ginger to taste. Great for car camping - if you keep them in a cooler.

Our Camp at Dos Cabezas
Our campsite

Since I was a bundle of anxiety, I packed WAY too much food. That included: 6 savory herbed acorn muffins, 4 apples, 2 oranges, 1 big bag trail mix, 1 chocolate bar (85% cacao), hummus, celery, and a few energy bars just in case. Plus 2 gallons of water. Then I accidentally left my Kleen Kanteen at home. Oops.

And that might have worked, if it weren't for the pancakes. The trip was billed as two days of hiking. Saturday was a 5 mile hike, followed by a 6 mile hike on Sunday. I can do these hikes easily, but I didn't want to find myself hungry and stuck without food. I also didn't trust my fellow campers to bring potluck food that I wanted to eat - aside from the wine. And I wanted to be at my best on the hikes so that I wasn't slow and lagging behind the group.

The night before the campout, I made a big batch of pancakes. The next morning, I started chowing down. I ended up bringing a plate (sticky with maple syrup) with a few pancakes in the car since I could not cram them down my throat before leaving. It was just too much food - and all carbs. I also ate a hunk of cheddar cheese to add some protein and fat to the mix.

Then we got to the campsite and went on our "5 mi" hike. It was less than 2 mi, with about 200 feet elevation gain. I'd eaten a ton of food and had a LOT of energy that was not used up on our wussy little "hike." I was hardly hungry at dinner and did not eat much. After dinner I decided I was gonna get my 5 miles out of the day, dammit. So I took off and walked about 3 more miles in the dark, enjoying the gorgeous display of stars as I went.

I woke up the next morning, still not very hungry. Some wonderful person in the group made enough coffee to share (bless him) and I had some. As I did get a bit hungry, I ate my muffins, trail mix, and apples. Then we started on our "big" hike, which the leader promised would take 4 hours. Given that I can do a 6 mile trail in 2 1/2 hours even with a lot of elevation gain - and I'm slow - it sounded like we were going on a great hike.

End result? We got to our destination - a fan palm oasis - in an hour, after walking a half mile with 200 feet elevation gain.

In other words, I ate like a pig only to follow it up with minimal exercise. And I carried home almost as much food as I brought with me. I ate a tiny bit of trail mix, none of the oranges, very little hummus, less than half the celery, none of the chocolate, and all but one of the muffins. Whoops.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Camp Food Product Review: The GoodOnYa Bar, Superhero Flavor

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 21:14:44 PM PST

I'm not a fan of energy bars for nutrition or (most of the time) for flavor. But sometimes they are a necessary evil. If you want to stow a snack in your bag for emergencies, they are perfect. And they are a nice quick source of energy on long hikes as well, although of course you could get your energy elsewhere almost as easily.

My backpacking class recommends energy bars that are no more than 8 to 10g protein and no more than 4g fat per 230 calories. It also recommends 5g or fewer of fiber - and says to drink lots of water with your bar. The upshot of all of this is that your body isn't doing much in the way of digestion while you exercise, so you want to give it an easy job (i.e. carbs).

So if you're going to do the energy bar thing, which one should you buy? For a start, NOT THIS ONE:

  • Product: The GoodOnYa Bar
  • Flavor: Superhero flavor
  • Price per bar: $3.65
  • Selling Points: Raw, gluten free, organic, soy free, non-GMO, grain free
  • Weight: 57g
  • Calories: 283
  • Protein: 5.5g (good)
  • Fat: 17g (way too much)
  • Fiber: 5.5g (a tad high)
  • Overall Grade: D

A few weeks ago, I noticed a great sale on one brand of energy bars. After checking out all the options, I decided to load up on them because - among other things - they were cheap. But the GoodOnYa Bar had caught my attention. It looked so... healthy! OK, so it was super expensive. Maybe I'd buy just one and try it. I decided on Superhero flavor.

Organic Raw Cashew Butter, Organic Raw Ethically Sourced Honey, Organic Unsweetened Coconut Flakes, Organic Ground Chia Seeds, Organic Goji Berries, Organic Raw Lucuma, Organic Fair Trade Raw Cacao, Organic Raw Coconut Butter, Organic Ground Vanilla Pods, Celtic Sea Salt and Sol Raiz Organic Maca.

In theory, this bar sounded great. I love the flavor of cashew, honey, coconut, cacao, vanilla, sea salt, and chia. I hate goji berries plain (dried or fresh) but I don't mind them when they are covered in chocolate. And I've had products with lucuma and maca in them before and liked them.

Today, I waited until I was nearly to the halfway point on my hike and I decided to break out the bar. After hiking three and a quarter miles, I was starving.

First of all, the bar was really hard to chew. It was - thankfully - easy enough to swallow. But then it sat in my stomach like a rock. Probably because I did not chew it well enough. That said, I wasn't hungry for the rest of my hike (2 hrs 30 min, 6.8 mi, 800 foot elevation gain/loss).

Aside from that, the taste was disgusting. It tasted kind of like soap. I hadn't read the ingredients since I bought it at the store, so I knew that it only contained ingredients that I would willingly eat, not chemical additives. So as I walked and attempted to chew, I thought, "Dear god, what the hell is in this that makes it taste so bad?" The only thing I could come up with was goji, although there was only really just a hint of goji taste. It might have been the maca, or perhaps the lucuma.

If the bar wasn't so hard to chew or if the bar wasn't so expensive, I'd definitely consider getting the other flavors. After all, the ingredients in the Peanut Butter Chocolate flavor sound downright delicious. But for the price, and given the bad experience this time, I'll probably skip it.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Camp Cooking: Getting Your Gear

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 22:27:16 PM PST

My first camping trip approaches, and I'm a bit less clueless about what to eat than before.  For my first trip (this upcoming weekend), I've got fewer constraints than one would on a backpacking trip. I'm car camping, and I'm carpooling with someone who has all of the necessary gear and promised to share. In the future - who knows. I'm hoping to avoid buying any of this stuff, but in the meantime, I've dreamed up a wish list and found what I would buy, or will buy when I've got more money some day.

Since I will do some car camping and some backpacking in the coming months, it's best to get things once, not twice. It would suck to buy some big honking cast iron dutch oven for car camping only to then have to buy some lightweight titanium gizmo later for the backpacking trips.

If you want an intro to the world of Backpacking Cooking Gear, join me below...

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 833 words in story)

Resolutions, A New Fitness Regime, and Backpacking

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 23:04:27 PM PST

Hi folks. As you might know, I'm a big fan of New Years' Resolutions. And I'm the sort who actually keeps them - some of them, anyway. My junior year in high school, I resolved to not eat French fries for a year, and I did it. And I basically gave up fries ever since then, although I have eaten them on occasion after the year was up.

I've also made various attempts to get off of chocolate and sugar. That didn't work. But for the past few months, I've had a goal of limiting my sugar consumption to about 6 teaspoons a day, which is what the American Heart Association recommends for women (men get 9). It's not a lot of sugar compared to what we think is normal. But I've mostly done well, with the exception of a few times I've completely fallen off the wagon. (I find 85% cacao chocolate bars very helpful.)

The truth is, I've gained about 50 lbs since I moved to San Diego and I've gone up several clothing sizes. I was really thin then - the skinniest I've ever been since high school - so I could easily gain about 20 lbs and remain in my normal range. But I just kept on going after that. And it all has a lot to do with a sedentary lifestyle and cupcakes, I'm afraid.

So New Years came around this time, and I began what I've been calling "Operation Fit in My Pants."  

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 730 words in story)

Camp Cooking

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 23:50:00 PM PST

Put me in a normal kitchen and I know what to do. Put me on a campout and I'm completely stupid. Left to my own devices, I can come up with the following meals:

  1. Trail mix
  2. Fresh fruit
  3. These awesome pizzas we had in Girl Scouts made using these gizmos
  4. Pies, made identically to the pizzas but with pie filling instead of pizza sauce and cheese
  5. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches
  6. Eggs (especially hard boiled)
  7. Ants on a log (another Girl Scout specialty)
  8. S'mores
  9. Energy bars???

I guess nobody can say I learned nothing in Girl Scouts but it certainly leaves me a bit clueless about eating while camping. That's where my resources run out. And given that I'm trying to stay off sugar, there go the pies and the s'mores. Plus I'm not willing to eat nasty preservatives and artificial stuff just because I'm camping. Any campers in here who want to help me out? Below, I'll share what I've found so far - plus my Girl Scout pizza recipe.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 528 words in story)
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