Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pat's Backcountry Beverage

Just finished setting up camp after an exhilarating hike under a gorgeous blue sky weather and a beautiful lake in plain view. Sprawled out by our camp and enjoying the fruits of our day's labor. Now if only my left hand (or right) is raising a nice bubbling beer to my tired-of-drinking-just-plain-water mouth. Life at the moment would be perfect.

But the beer had to be left behind. A weight sacrifice that had to be made in exchange for a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, food, blah, blah, blah and blah.

I first stumbled on Pat's Backcountry Beverage researching for ways to carry beer in my backpack. Cause I'll be honest, much as I love enjoying a good Pinot in the wilderness carried by my trusty Platypus or good ol' whiskey, rum or what-not liquor repackaged into a lighter flask, a good tasting beer is my comfort food in liquid form.

My failed tries of searching for
"pack-able" sodas
Carrying bottles was not an option. Even the thought of carrying the weight of those bottles after I have enjoyed their contents did not give reassuring joy. Plus the fact that they'd occupy so much space in a bear canister! I've considered cans, thrash-wise they were a better option. But with weight still in the factor, I'm only willing to carry 1 or 2 and they'd still take up too much in the canister! Plus, one would have to share that precious can with other beer-less hiking buds who'd be eyeing you vehemently lest you'd share a few sips of that brown ale you're enjoying. It is a long way down that cliff and then there's that deep, deep lake in front of you...

All my researching, I finally landed on Pat's Backcountry Beverage website (it looked different than how it beautifully looks now). And enjoyed much of their back story of how they ended up with their current product. It pretty much echoed all of my beer sentiments in backpacking. But on their story, they ended hiking back and heeding the call of the after-hike beers stored in their car!

After much deliberation, I took the plunge and purchased the carbonator kit from Amazon. The kit included the 1 Carbonator Bottle, 5 Activator packets and 1 foil packet of each flavor to make your own soda. They were still in the middle of getting their liquor license approved at that time, so beer sale was still on hold. That didn't deter me. I figured I'd have this carbonating thing cinched down by the time beer sales get approved.

Out of all the soda flavors included in the kit, Terra Cola, Ginger Trail, Rootbeer, Lemon Clime and PomaGranite, the Lemon Clime was an instant favorite.

It took a few tries and watching Pat's (original) video on how to use it and took it for a spin on a quick backpacking trip with the soda flavors,  before I got it down and I was ready for some beer! It was a bit of a wait that time, but made it in time for me to purchase a few for our High Sierra Trail trip.

They've got 2 different brews, the Pail Rail (a pale ale) and Black Hops (an IPA). Haven't got a chance to try the Black Hops, but the Pail Rail gets a thumbs up. After a few days and slogging in a few miles, a cold beer in the middle of the woods was nice to have.

Unlike the soda flavors, the beer concentrates are not available to purchase on their website nor at your local REI store. You'd be redirected to liquor stores in your area that carry them and can sell them retail directly to you, customers. Stopped on our way home from a camping trip in San Jacinto State Park at a Liquorama store in Upland, CA (the closest in my L.A. radius!). I had to ask for them though, since they don't put it out on the shelves. The guy who helped me out mentioned it was rare or I may be the first to ask for it, as they mostly fill up online orders of it.

I love how the sodas and beer concentrates come in little foil packets shaped like a bottle. They can perfectly fit to squish into available spaces inside the bear canister. Big plus! They're also small enough to secretly stash in you buddy's backpack and have it completely undetected! Another plus to be able to bring more!

Pat's Backcountry Beverage definitely earned its weight and space in my backpack!

Note: Please don't get into a drunken stupor in the back country. Dehydration is your big enemy!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Taking care of swollen feet.

So there was this epic hike. Miles and miles were covered. Walked endlessly for days and days. Everyday. All. Day. Long.

And now I'm in the comfort of my home, engorged with food, bathed & just want to savor the comfort of a ready to sit/lie on cushion (no more blowing of an air mattress before I can sink in it!). And then I look down.. Gah! My legs remind me of Lilo and her sister Nani.. or maybe Stitch? It wasn't in any pain nor did I have trouble walking. They were just.. swollen.

Swollen feet and legs after a long hike was a first for me! But then so was walking everyday, all day for 8 days straight and never had a zero day incurred. So what do I do?! I need to fit in the shoes I'll be wearing the following day I get back to work!

Hello, Epsom Salt, soother of every muscle and pill-popping-less pain reliever!

Feet soak wilderness style in Kern Hot Springs.
Before flicking the TV and catch up on the next season of The Killing, that Kari has been dying to start but can't, since I was in the wilderness for a little more than a week, she grabbed a basin full of warm water and dissolved a cup full of Epsom Salt to soak both my feet in. Though she said it was warm water, I say it was hot! But I gritted my teeth and plunged to soak my feet - will not argue with anyone holding a basin full of hot water. LOL. After a few tentative dip of my toes, my feet eventually got submerged in the basin and after a couple of minutes, cheerful little feet were adjusted to the temperature and soaking comfortably for one full episode of the series.

After drying them completely, both of my feet almost never felt floor, they've been propped up and elevated to be higher than my heart, all night even when we went to sleep, it was propped up. By morning, there was not a trace of any swollen legs nor feet! They had gone back to their usual weird looking selves.

It was a good thing, as I was not ready to go for another endless walking around, this time in a shoe store and purchase a few larger sized pairs of shoes!

Ingredients to take take care of swollen feet after a long hike:

  • A basin full of warm water (not lukewarm, but not boiling hot either!)
  • a cup of Epsom Salt
  • Towel to dry your feet
  • Pillows - in every size, so you can stack 'em up!
  • A cold beer (optional) - to imbibe as you wait for your feet to soak.. or a fave book.. or watch TV. Anything to keep you from staring blankly at your submerged feet.

Note: I am no doctor. Just sharing experience! Please consult your doctor if you suspect more than just tired feet with your swelling.

A Weekend with Moms in Montecito Lodge, Sequoia National Forest

We couldn't wait for Mother's Day to appease our desire to whisk away our mothers and spend a weekend with them. So a quick check on our budgets and a few clicks here and there we were booked and headed out to Sequoia National Park for a weekend in the mountains and a night in Montecito Lodge.

The Montecito Lodge is an all inclusive, open all year round resort. We loved the idea that we need not have to worry about anything else once we've checked in, except to look for stuff to do. The meals are included in our stay. Since we only stayed for a night, it included our dinner and breakfast, but lunch is available for those staying longer and I believe they can even pack a lunch for you if given a heads up, if you're going out for a hike. Lodging and worry-free meals for 4 adults for a weekend in the mountains for $200 including tax? Why not! They even have wi-fi, too! Which I felt weird using. Not used to being connected while I'm in park!

It's the almost the end of February, in which normally most of the mountains in California would still be blanketed with snow. It is expected to be completely snow country in January till early March, unless it's an epic snow season, then of course it extends. But this season, it was not. It's not even a normal winter in California standards. We drove up to the Big Stump entrance after gloriously missing the turn off to 180E from 99N freeway. Kari got mesmerized driving and me, sightseeing to nothingness on the 99. We toyed with the idea to change plans to Yosemite instead since we were getting close to its exit! It got quickly brushed off with the closest exit and turned on the opposite freeway to get back on track.

It was a slow day at the entrance when we arrived. My mom excitedly fished out her Senior Annual Pass, a lifetime pass for senior citizens all for $10. She's been eager to use it again since she got it on our last visit to Yosemite years ago. I just tucked away our own annual pass, hers supersedes it anyways! It was nice to see her face get excited, even giving the ranger her ID without being asked 'cause the instructions said so, she said. Made me smile.

(** For more information on the America The Beautiful Inter Agency Annual Pass click here to get redirected to the National Park Service - Support the parks!)

At the "Y" from the Big Stump Entrance in SEKI via 180
Driving into the park, we already weren't expecting much snow. But we were taken aback at the complete absence of it around us..  in February. At this point, I was already not regretting leaving the snowshoes behind.

Making a right turn at the "Y", we found the Montecito Lodge sign on our right, with three carved wooden bears (I think it was missing Goldilocks!), not long after and made for the turn off. We were now leaving the park boundaries and entering the National Forest area where the resort is located. The sight of the lake welcomed us as we drove up to the lodge to check in. I can see the lake to be abuzz with guests swimming, paddling and all during the summer. Kari and her mom have been her during that season when they picked me up from a backpacking trip before and they both said it had been a busy lake and it was all they could do to just lounge by the beach and watch kids and families have some water fun.

Check in was quick and easy. The check-in desk can be found right by the lodge's main entrance as you enter it, and opens up to large space of long wooden tables, that was to become the mess hall during meals, and the space extends further more to a sitting area filled with several couches by a big fireplace.

We decided to locate our rooms and dump our belongings first then explore the grounds before dinner. Finding the right staircase closest to our room was a bit tricky for me, there were several small staircases leading off of the main hall that leads upstairs to the rooms. But Kari quickly figured it out.
Our room was not very big but adequate enough to accommodate sleeping 4 ladies. We won't be staying cooped up in there anyways! It had a queen bed in the middle of the room and a bunk bed by the door. The bathroom looks recently redone, small but clean. And it has an ample closet space. Though I don't know how it would fare for a week-long stay for a family in winter, outerwear and all.
Exploring the grounds, the swimming pool, slightly off of the lodge's entrance, was closed for the season. However the hot tub next to it was bubbling and steaming with a few folks enjoying it.

We walked in the direction passing the pool and found a small climbing wall behind the lodge and beneath the outdoor deck. It was empty and appearing to be only offered during their summer season for the kids. After all, winter season is for snowshoeing, cross country skiing and they even have down-hill skiing and snowboarding! Found a non-functioning lift on the opposite side of the lodge. But due to lack of snow for the season, these were not being offered that time. Too bad, would have been nice for a ski-in/out shindig with half the price on big winter resorts!

After walking around the grounds and goofing off for photos on the outdoor deck, it got too chilly already and we all decided to check out the indoor amenities.

From the outdoor deck, doors lead inside to a recreational room with a couple of ping pong tables, couches by a fireplace, table and benches for endless board and card games and a bar! With a decent selection of beers and wine.. score! Beer on hand, challenged Kari to a game of ping pong while the mothers got comfy by the fireplace with their respective books on hand. Then dinner was served.

Meal is served buffet style and have options for every picky eater. We picked a table next to a big family who were all there celebrating their "Abuela's" birthday. They even brought their own cake for the occasion! Their joyous celebration was contagious, couldn't help smiling at them!

After dinner, kids and wanna-be kids were gathered around the fireplace and a resort employee facilitated some marshmallow roasting for some S-mores to end the night. We stayed longer on the lounge area, reading and talking before we all retreated for the night and get ourselves ready for a day of exploring the park.

The following morning, after a yum buffet of breakfast (my favorite way of having breakfast.. ever!), we cheked out, perused the small gift shop across the check-in desk and a routine my sister & I do when we travel, mailed out a postcard to her. The car loaded up, we were ready to explore Sequoia National Park!

Some tree hugging commenced. Some awestruck moment staring at fallen giant Sequoia trees. And since it was not the peak season of summer, the road looping around to get to Moro Rock, Auto Log and Tunnel Log by the Giant Forest Museum was open for private vehicles. We drove and stopped at each landmark and even went to climb the 400 steps up to the top of Moro Rock. My mom, who is not a 'hiking gal' per se, but grew up playing outside when she was young, was happily climbing those steps and really determined to finish it. Slowly but surely she made it!

Some more pictures below!