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The Best Way to Hike Mt. Whitney

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 15:53:33 PM PDT

This past week, I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney. Depending on who you talk to, it is either 14,496 ft, 14,497 ft, 14,505 ft, or 14,508 ft. No matter what, it's the highest peak in the lower 48 states. And it requires no technical climbing or mountaineering skills to get to the top. Which is why people come from all over the world to hike it.

I think that's the wrong reason to do the trail. Don't hike it because it's the tallest; hike it because it is GORGEOUS. It's an incredibly pleasant, relatively easy trail (with the exception of a part near the top), and it's a really worthwhile hike even if you don't plan to go to the top.

Read on to find out why most people hike Whitney the wrong way (in my opinion) and how to do it right.

Mt. Whitney
Whitney's summit is smack in the middle of this pic.

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Yosemite Wildflowers

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 15:28:24 PM PDT

I'm told that this was a lousy year for wildflowers thanks to the drought. It was certainly a lousy year for waterfalls. On the flipside, there were fewer mosquitoes than usual (don't worry, there were still plenty and they ate well this weekend).

Lousy or not, the wildflower display was spectacular. Here are my photos. They are mostly taken at altitudes ranging between 7000-8000 feet, although a few come from lower altitudes as I descended the Yosemite Falls Trail. We backpacked from Porcupine Flats at Tioga Rd, past Yosemite Falls toward Eagle Peak, and then backtracked to the Yosemite Falls Trail, taking that down to Yosemite Lodge in the valley. I also did a day hike to North Dome and hiked along Indian Ridge and on the trail toward Eagle Peak.

Trip 2 Group Photo
Here we all are, ready to go!

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Putting It All Together: Backpacking Meal Planning

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:23:38 AM PDT

As always, attempting to eat real food while backpacking is an uphill battle. To date, I've only done overnight backpacks, never multi-day trips. I've also never ventured into bear country. But I am about to do both.

There are some things that work in hiking and backpacking, until they don't. My old hiking boots and insoles were fine, until I began doing longer hikes and carrying a 20 lb pack on my back. Then I got tendinitis. Bringing fresh fruit and peanut butter sandwiches works on an overnight trip. For a longer trip, you can bring them for the first day - but after that you need a different plan. And don't even get me started on bathroom strategies that work for the very short term but prove catastrophic if attempted on longer hikes.

Thus, my overnight trips prepare me to a certain extent for my upcoming trip to Yosemite, but I'm basically wading into unfamiliar territory. And I'm almost guaranteed to be the only one in the group who doesn't simply pull out a plastic bag of freeze-dried god knows what, pour boiling water in, eat it, and then pack away the bag as trash. At the end of the meal, I'm the only one with dirty dishes. So here's my plan.

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Camp Food Product Review: Larabar, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Flavor

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 14:35:48 PM PDT

Prior to a long hike, I ran to the store for energy bars and went with the brand that was cheapest, thanks to a sale. In this case, it was the Larabar. I got two flavors, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and a chocolate coconut flavor. The latter did not taste good. The former was delicious. I went back and bought about 10 of them.

But how does it stack up nutritionally?

The following nutritional recommendations are made assuming one is doing strenuous exercise for several hours. In fact, if you are sitting on your tush at home, then following this advice would be very bad for you.

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. refined carbs).

  • Product: Larabar
  • Flavor: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
  • Price per bar: $.99 on sale
  • Selling Points: Gluten free, non-GMO, kosher, with fair trade chocolate. NOT organic.
  • Weight: 45g
  • Calories: 220
  • Protein: 6g (good)
  • Fat: 11g (way too high)
  • Fiber: 3g (good)
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Trail Eats

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 18:04:49 PM PDT

I don't know about you, but my entire mindset as an adult and even before that has been about limiting my calorie intake, limiting the calorie dense foods I consume, and limiting the amount of refined carbs I eat. And throw in limiting salt and NOT drinking my calories. I don't always succeed at this, and I have several pounds of fat on my body to prove it, but I try.

With that kind of a mindset, it's a bit disconcerting to switch gears and plan what to eat on a long hike or an overnight backpack trip.

All of a sudden, you're burning 1000 or 2000 calories per day by hiking (or more even) and you NEED to eat a lot of calories. In fact, it's dangerous not to. You're losing salt through your sweat. And you might even feel nauseated or not very hungry while you are exerting yourself. Digesting protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates isn't easy, so refined carbs and sugars are the way to go. And, for a backpack, whole foods like fruit can be heavy - not to mention perishable if it's a longer trip - so now you're really limited to the stuff that you normally try to avoid eating. In fact, suddenly drinking your calories sounds like a downright great idea!

I'm interested what others eat in such a situation.

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San Jacinto, Sort Of

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 23:59:18 PM PDT

Yesterday I hiked up most of Mt. San Jacinto. It's the second tallest mountain in southern California, located in between Idyllwild and Palm Springs, and it stands at 10,843 ft. From the peak, you can see all the way to the Salton Sea. Or, I should say, from near the peak, because I did not get to the peak.

Yesterday I learned a very important lesson. There are times when you are aiming to hit the summit and, at a certain point, you need to realize that you aren't going to the summit and your new goal is to save your own behind and get off the mountain while you can. Which I did. I was 0.3 mi from the summit when I turned around.

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Weight Loss, Diet, Exercise, and a Thank You

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 22:50:57 PM PDT

Since I moved to San Diego, I've gained 50 lbs. That's five-oh. And I'm 5'3". I came here weighing less than I usually do, but then I got a job at a bakery, gained it all back, and then kept going.

This year, I've started losing it again. I don't know what I weigh. I don't own a scale. But I do know that I now fit into a dress I haven't worn since 2007. And a male acquaintance I ran into this week was totally checking me out all of a sudden. One person I had met once before and ran into again said she didn't even recognize me. And I know that my body feels GREAT all the time, and I'm suddenly capable of doing amazing things I couldn't do before, like going on 11 mile hikes up steep mountains while carrying a heavy pack on my back.

So this blog post is about what happened. And it's also a thank you to someone who deserves a lot of credit for helping me find my passion and believing in myself.

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Two Kickass Southern California Hikes

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 12:50:33 PM PDT

In the past week, I've done two extremely strenuous hikes. Not the hardest hikes around in absolute terms (Google "Cactus to Clouds") but strenuous in terms of long mileage and very steep terrain combined with hot weather and little shade.

The first was El Cajon Mountain at El Capitan Open Space Preserve in Lakeside, CA. This hike is notorious for its difficulty and some say it's the hardest hike in San Diego county. Around here, we often call it El Capitan, since we have a city called El Cajon, and calling it that might be confusing. I realize that, for non-San Diegans, El Capitan might refer to the place of the same name at Yosemite. So, FYI, that's not what I'm talking about.

The second was Mt San Antonio, more commonly referred to as Mt Baldy. It's located in the Angeles National Forest, in the town of Mt Baldy, more commonly known as "Baldy Village." Details and photos below.

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A Personal Update

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 00:51:07 AM PDT

If you're a reader of this blog, you know that I've long since abandoned the agriculture and food policy mission of the blog that it was founded to fulfill. That's not because I stopped caring about the subject. It's because I used to work full-time in software for my income and I wrote for fun. Now I write for my living and can't afford to do it here for free. And I don't generally re-post my articles here because it feels too much like bragging and self-promotion to me. So what I put on the blog is just for fun, for me. Stuff I can't get paid to write elsewhere. If others find it enjoyable, great. But if you don't, I'm not offended. (That said, this blog is set up in a way that allows anyone to post on it, and I pay quite a bit of money each year for the blog platform to allow that. If you've got something to share about food, agriculture, or anything else related - PLEASE post on it!)

I've got an upcoming change in my life. I'm entering a PhD program in sociology at UW-Madison. That means moving to Wisconsin.  

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Redwoods and Tendinitis

by: Jill Richardson

Tue May 20, 2014 at 13:41:15 PM PDT

I'm just back from a trip up the coast to Monterey, and I took advantage of the opportunity to do a bit of hiking in Big Sur. About Big Sur, I must say: I now get what all the hype is about. Yes, it's amazing. Go there.

Central California Coast

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Sustainable Food From Celebrity Chefs

by: Jill Richardson

Sun May 18, 2014 at 17:17:33 PM PDT

I'm not exactly into the cult of celebrity chefs, but after eating their food at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions event, I must say: I'm a believer.

All I can compare the experience to is Katniss going to the Capital on her victors tour and being so overloaded with the most amazing food she's ever eaten that she could only eat one bite of each food and she still got full before she tasted most of it. THAT is what happened, when I had the opportunity to eat sustainable food prepared by the likes of Hugh Acheson and other apparently famous chefs I'd mostly never heard of before because I live in a bubble.

I found it utterly inspiring that celebrity chefs, as drivers of our food culture, have embraced sustainability and are imparting it to Americans on the TV machine and in their restaurants. This is particularly so for seafood, since we eat the vast majority of seafood at restaurants, not at home. If you want Americans to eat sustainable seafood, then you need to look at restaurant cuisine. And these chefs are making it happen in a delicious way.

Food pornography below. Viewer discretion advised.

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Another Hike, A Few More Wildflowers

by: Jill Richardson

Sun May 11, 2014 at 00:43:58 AM PDT

A friend and I hiked about 4 mi of Noble Canyon today. It's up on Mt. Laguna in Cleveland National Forest. We're now in the last phase of wildflower season, which is both sad and great, because this is when some of my very favorite flowers appear. Noble Canyon is a 10 mi trail that people often hike or bike one way. That involves 2 cars, one parked at either end. As you go, you go through many different altitudes and ecosystems, which makes it a beautiful and interesting hike.

To avoid the need for 2 cars, we just did a 4 mi out and back (a total of 8 mi) starting from the top. The bottom of the trail begins with chaparral before going into oak woodland, and finally up to pines, bay laurels, and black oaks. By starting at the top, we skipped right to the pines. In my view, we were richly rewarded for it, because the flowers were stunning. See below...

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You Might Be Staying Classy in San Diego If...

by: Jill Richardson

Mon May 05, 2014 at 21:07:10 PM PDT

As I prepare to (very sadly) leave San Diego, I made a list in honor of my eight blissful years here. A few items were contributed by friends, as noted. Here are some ways you know you're from San Diego (and even if you weren't originally, you are now):

  1. You've seen the green flash.
  2. Your Christmas decorations consist of lights wrapped around your palm tree and a light up snowman and you don't see any irony in this.
  3. You know never to park under a jacaranda tree when it's blooming.
  4. You can find the 5, the 8, the 52, the 15, the 125, the 94, and the 163.
  5. You dread Santa Anas.
  6. You feel entitled to blue skies and sunshine every day, unless it's one of the few, blissful days of rain. But May Gray and June Gloom feel nothing short of unfair. Either shit or get off the pot, clouds!
  7. You bitch about the weather any time it goes below 65 or above 80.
  8. You like your beer hoppy.
  9. You know how to do the stingray shuffle.
  10. You know at least one person who smudges to get the bad energy out of his or her house (and it might be you).
  11. You know about all those places in San Diego where the tourists go (like Gaslamp), but you never go there.
  12. Your bucket list involves going to Burning Man, hiking Half Dome, climbing Mt Whitney, or hiking the PCT or John Muir Trail.
  13. Your friends all surf, hike, rock climb, mountain bike, or all of the above.
  14. You sometimes find it hard to keep track of which season it is.
  15. You get really excited about rain, and even more excited for thunder and lightning, but actually driving in the rain makes you nervous.
  16. Sometimes, it's fun to drive to the snow and play for a few hours.
  17. You know that Julian is the place to get apples... and pie.
  18. You can pronounce "jamacha" correctly, but not the word "Cowles."
  19. You've eaten fruits that most people have never heard of, like cherimoyas, sapotes, and loquats.
  20. You've got a favorite hole in the wall taco shop.
  21. You've got several rattlesnake stories.
  22. When you hear the words "South Park," your first thought isn't about the TV show.
  23. About once a year, you have to look all over your house to find your umbrella, because you have one but haven't used it in at least six months.
  24. You ask people you meet where they are from, and you are surprised if they say they grew up here.
  25. You love jamaica and horchata, and you might even think an horchata latte is a good idea.
  26. You think flip flops are formal wear. (contributed by Carly)
  27. You can ask for "un orden de tacos de pescado para llevar." (contributed by Knikki)
  28. You keep a light sweater in your car year round. (contributed by Christina)
  29. You think going to Mexico to go to the dentist is a normal thing to do.
  30. You resent Northern Californians' arrogance that they live in the better part of California - because obviously, they are wrong.
  31. You use avocados as a condiment like people from the rest of the country use mayonnaise.
  32. When you want a lemon or orange, you go outside and pick one. (contributed by Carly)
  33. Comic Con is a major annual event for you.
  34. You know all about grunion runs, and you might have even caught and eaten them. (contributed by Knikki, who promises to take me grunion hunting)
  35. You've got strong opinions about the seals at the Children's Pool.
  36. You're buddies with Slomo. (contributed by Joann, who had to explain it to me because I never go to PB)
  37. You know that leopard sharks don't eat people.
Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Southern California Nature & Wildflower Prints for Sale

by: Jill Richardson

Sun May 04, 2014 at 17:12:10 PM PDT

I've been taking photos around SoCal for several months, and I've got quite a few that are pretty nice. The one below is from a hike yesterday to Tahquitz Peak in Idyllwild, and I plan to get a poster size print of it for my new apartment in Madison after I move.

The View
Name:Tahquitzviewfullsize2

How it works: If you'd like any of these photos as prints, you can order them using the Paypal button on the left. Please specify the name of the photo you want. Some of the names specify specific sizes. "Full size" means you can ask for any size you want. Others only work with specific dimensions or will require cropping in smaller sizes, and might become grainy in larger sizes. When you order, specify a Walgreens near where you live, and you can pick the prints up there - and pay no shipping.

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Book Review: The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 14:44:16 PM PDT

Readers of this blog might remember my trip to Cuba in 2010. I experienced and shared a one-sided view of the country, the side officially presented to tourists. Julia Cooke recently published a book called The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba in which she captured the reality of life in Cuba that I could not access. I just read it, and a review follows below.
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