Wild – The Movie

by Beth Whitman (December 19th, 2014)

WILD MovieIn case you haven’t been swept up in this girl-power phenom of a book, and now movie, by Cheryl Strayed…Wild is the story of a woman who takes on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (the PCT). The trail runs from Mexico to Canada and is approximately 2,650 miles long. To rid herself of her demons, Cheryl walks a portion of it, about 1,100 miles, from the Mojave Desert in California to Oregon’s border with Washington.

You can imagine how interested I was to see the movie (starring Reese Witherspoon) after having done the Snowman Trek. While my hike was “only” 25 days, Cheryl’s was three months. Though I didn’t start out in the depths of darkness that she did, I could certainly relate to the fortitude it takes to accomplish such a demanding trek.

Though I think Cheryl knows how demanding it will be, she’s still quite unprepared to hike the PCT. But not being prepared is what true (mis)adventures are made of, right? So we get to ride along with her.

The pre-PCT Cheryl is a mess. I have to admit I shook my head a lot throughout the book and movie as to how someone could screw up so much. I mean, she’s a seemingly level-headed woman who keeps falling into some terrible traps and making really dumb decisions.

But I suppose we are all prone to that now and again (hopefully not to the extent of shooting up heroin!). So the path to self-discovery and accomplishment is something we can all relate to. We just may not take on an 1,100 mile journey to get there.

I couldn’t help but be drawn in by her daily ups and downs (literally and figuratively) and her ultimate accomplishment of walking for three months in sometimes quite harsh conditions.

I saw the movie with Jon and remarked to him that this was Reese as a real person. You know. No glitzy makeup, no sparkly clothes. Like one of us. And it was fun to see her that way.

Also…This was the best I’ve seen of Laura Dern whose role as Cheryl’s mother isn’t a huge part of the story but she plays it well.

Overall the movie translates well from the book. It had to be difficult to produce a film where your main character is alone most of the time (a la Cast Away). But there are enough other characters, flashbacks and voice-overs in Cheryl’s words, that it all comes together.

Whether you’ve read the book or not, this is a great flick to catch. It’s playing in select theaters now (including a few in Seattle).

Be Bold,

Beth

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Disclaimer: Fox Searchlight Pictures sponsored this post but all views are my own.

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Eagle Creek No Matter What Flashpoint Duffel ~ WanderGear Wednesday

by Beth Whitman (December 17th, 2014)

Eagle Creek No Matter What DuffelThere are a lot of things that make trekking in Bhutan quite different than trekking in other countries such as nearby Nepal.

In Nepal, for example, your gear is carried by porters which means you need a pack that can be carried on your (well, your Sherpa’s) back. In Bhutan, your gear gets packed up on horses, ponies and/or yaks. Rather than a large backpack, instead you need a strong water resistant duffel bag for your clothes, gear and personal items.

After checking out a number of options at REI, I decided to take the Eagle Creek No Matter What Flashpoint Duffel with me on the Snowman Trek (see photos of the Snowman Trek here). Not only is this bag the perfect size for trekking but it has a lot of features that I required.

First and foremost it’s water resistant. I knew that we’d be encountering rain during the trek but I wasn’t sure how much. It turns out, A LOT. While the horsemen did a good job of putting our gear into plastic bags and then putting those plastic bags into large wicker baskets which then got strapped to the animals, I did not want to risk having any of my things wet in the cold and at altitude. Even in the harshest of rainstorms, no water leaked into the duffel.Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel

The bag itself is made of Bi-Tech, a proprietary extra-durable material from Eagle Creek. Even with all the tossing around throughout the 25-day trek, the bag never ripped or accidentally got cut as the material was just too heavy.

I was equally as confident about the zipper. I stuffed the bag full each day, sometimes having to hold the bag shut in order to get the zipper closed, and I never had a doubt about it staying shut.

There are other features to the No Matter What Flashpoint Duffel that were nice but not as important to me:

  • Removable shoulder strap in addition to handles on the top of the bag
  • Front exterior pocket for easier access to items inside
  • Reusable stuff pouch

This duffel comes in three sizes, small (30L), medium (59L) and large (110L). I used the medium bag but I also had a second very small bag for some other items. Next time (and yes, I’m returning to do the Snowman Trek in 2016!), I’ll definitely use this same medium-sized bag but may leave a few things behind to save on space. :-)

Available on Amazon starting at about $60.

Be Bold,

Beth

Related links:
Success on the Snowman Trek

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What We Ate During the Snowman Trek

by Beth Whitman (December 16th, 2014)

Snowman Trek Dining TentI’ve been getting asked a lot about what we ate during the Snowman Trek.

Before we left for Bhutan, we talked to a lot of people and read many articles about how to best stay nourished during a 25-day trek at altitude. Trekking aside, the Bhutanese don’t exactly have access to a wide array of food. It’s expensive to import and and they are able to subsist just fine off of the food they grow themselves.

That might be great for the Bhutanese but I knew I’d need something more.

I had been training for the trek for a year and had gotten used to eating a large quantity of vegetarian protein each day (120 grams). I knew it would be difficult for my body to adjust to something completely different, particularly while pushing myself so hard, and I really wanted to be at my best every day.

Therefore, I arranged with our tour operator in Bhutan to make sure we had plenty of food items (particularly ones high in protein) that would appeal to a Western taste – oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, potatoes, rice and fresh veggies (when possible).

But we also carried a lot of supplemental food to make sure we were not only getting enough protein but also enough calories to sustain what, on some days, would be us burning as many Snowman Trek Food ProBarsas 4,000 calories.

Each day we were led by our guide, Tobgay, and two helpers, both named Sherub Dorji. The Sherubs would carry our lunch and tea for us. While Tobgay led the way, one Sherub would stay in the middle of the group and another would always stay in the back, which meant behind me because I was always the slowest!

So, what was a typical day of eating like?

Breakfast – Tobgay and our cook, Tippy, would check in with us the night before to find out our preferences for breakfast. Given where we were, we actually had more variety than you might think. For me, breakfast usually consisted of meusli or porridge (which I quickly got tired of eating because this porridge was NOT like my slow cooked oats at home) and toast with peanut butter or Justin’s Almond Butter (which I brought with me).

Eggs, either scrambled or as an omelette, were always available. But being a vegan-leaning vegetarian, I also got tired of scrambled eggs after a week or so. But, more than half way through the trek, we discovered the cooks had been holding out on us and we were given a Snowman Trek Coco PuffsCoco Puff-equivalent cereal. I sometimes ate these and usually had them without milk because I appreciated having something to crunch on.

Snacks – Before leaving camp, usually around 8 or 8:30, I would eat a package of either CLIF Shot Bloks or Probar Bolt energy chews. These 200 calorie snacks gave me a carb/sugar rush so I could start the day on high energy.

A couple of hours later, we would stop for either a juice break and have a sugary juicebox drink or we would have hot tea and crackers or cookies. I would usually skip the cookies so that I wasn’t consuming so much sugar and have a protein bar instead. I brought Probar Base bars, Premier Protein bars and CLIF Builder bars. I actually left my favorite protein bars, Pure Protein, at home because I suspected that I would get sick of them after 25 days and I didn’t want that to happen.

Lunch – We would stop for lunch sometime between 12:30 and 1:30 unless we were so close to camp that we could push on and have lunch there. Usually we would have reached a pass, Snowman Trek Lunchspent a bit of time taking photos and then descended until we found a flat spot with no wind where we could set up our picnic.

Lunch always included rice and then a variety of cooked vegetables such as cauliflower, greens and canned mushrooms. Always canned mushrooms! We would usually also have Bhutan’s national dish, ema datse (spicy chili and cheese).

Snack – Once we arrived at camp, tea and more snacks were awaiting us. This was usually cookies or crackers. Toward the end of the trek we were delighted to have popcorn (my fave!), roasted peanuts or cashews and Choco Pies. Those Choco Pies? If no one was around, I’m sure I could have eaten four of them in one sitting. But I restrained myself.

Once we had a chance to rest in our tent and regroup a bit, we’d head to the dining tent for dinner. Often we would meet early and have our own version of Happy Hour consisting of tea, hot chocolate or, for the guys, K5, the local whiskey. We’d play cards or Bananagrams to pass the time before dinner was served around 7pm.

Dinner – Each night we’d be served soup. This was always welcomed because by late afternoon, temps would start dropping and we’d be freezing. The main course was often more of the same as lunch – rice and veggies. Sometimes there would be a meat served. Dessert was fruit cocktail, jalebi (a VERY sweet Indian dessert) or a fresh fruit such as apples, if they were available in the area.

Sometimes one of us would surprise the group with chocolate that we had purchased in Thimphu before the trek. Or sometimes we’d go back to the tent and enjoy our chocolate in private. :-)

There were also times when I’d need protein and would snack on my bars in the late afternoon or after dinner.

While I never had a scale to weigh myself before or after the trek, I would guess that I lost six or seven pounds. That’s actually less than I had expected given how much daily exercise we got, but I wasn’t there to lose weight. Plus, I gained it all right back once we hit Bangkok and we discovered a great pizza place!

Even though it was 25 days, it was not a bad food experience at all, particularly because we had some of our own snacks to supplement those canned mushrooms. :-)

Be Bold,

Beth

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