5 Women-Specific Gear Hiking Choices

5 Women-Specific Gear Hiking Choices

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I loved being a woman thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail last year. Yes, I was with my husband, and that was epic, but I didn’t let that take away from the pride I had for myself as a woman. When I was young, and I first heard of the Appalachian Trail, it was only associated with guys hiking it. But here I was – a girl, a women, a chica – doing it along with the guys, and other women as well! There are more and more female thru-hikers each year, currently about 30%, and I love that it’s on the rise. Who knows, maybe some day we’ll take over the trail? Girl power! (more…)

Life Outside the Cubicle + GIVEAWAY!

Life Outside the Cubicle + GIVEAWAY!

UPDATE: This GIVEAWAY is now closed.  Winners are:  Stephanie and Melissa, you will be contacted by email for your signed copy of “Life Outside the Cubicle!”

Did we really thru-hike the Appalachian Trail? It seems like all a dream now – a really, really good dream. But we have our memories, experiences, pictures, videos, friends and overall feeling of badass-ery to show for it. Oh, and slightly larger feet (yes, really – my feet have flattened out a bit, I guess with all that walking I did on them, they really took a pounding). The AT was certainly an adventure, but it wasn’t our first foray into the great unknown. Our strategy of valuing experiences over stuff began in 2012, over 5 years ago, when we first started talking about quitting our corporate jobs in Dallas. In June of 2013, we did just that, sold virtually everything we owned, and moved to Costa Rica with just 9 suitcases to our name. It’s ok, you can call us crazy, we certainly felt it and we knew we were taking a risk. But you know what? It turned out to be the best decision! It was so freeing to sell off our unnecessary “stuff.” We felt so light, not being tied down (or mortaged) to anything. Moving to Costa Rica was a way of starting over, trying to live more simply than we had before in Dallas. We were pretty sure that would have been hard to do staying in Dallas. Why Costa Rica? Well, you can read my book to find out more details, but here is the short answer: –It was a close plane ride to the States, for us to visit our families, –The language is Spanish which we knew a tiny bit of (having lived in Texas), –We heard Costa Ricans were kind to foreigners, –Costa Rica has no army, –Even though the whole country is about the size of West Virginia, it has various different climates to choose from. We settled down in a small coffee farming town in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, and made lots of friends right away (some even before we landed). I started doing yoga, and Sunsets and I both started hiking in the high elevations and mountains surrounding our home. I started baking and cooking a lot more, experimenting with the local produce. I actually ran a small bakery – “Jen’s Bake Shop” – out of my home for a while; baking breads, pastries, and cookies, before I found out it was too much work for too little profit (but it was still fun to actually DO something I’d always thought about!). And eventually, wrote Costa Rica Chica Cookbook. Sunsets got into photography, we were really in the best place to photograph stunning birds, wildlife, sunsets (ahem) and valleys. He also wrote and spoke for International Living. I started making my arm candy (jewelry) 3 months after we had landed there, which grew into a nice little part-time income.

Coffee fields (see the pickers?) in our small town of Grecia.

And we wrote. A LOT. By the time we left Costa Rica 4 years later, we had 6 books published between us, 4 of which are/have been Amazon best sellers!

Us with our 6 published books!

Most people know me as an author for my first book Costa Rica Chica, but really the book I’m most proud of is Life Outside the Cubicle. Because, this is my life now! Ever since I had gotten out of the cubicle, my life has exploded with new and exciting possibilities. I now have time to explore myself. Through my blog (Costa Rica Chica), I met many other like-minded people in different walks of life, all doing different (and out of the box) things. In fact, in the book Life Outside the Cubicle, I interview 8 different people who are living outside the “normal” framework of a 9-5 job and how this change has impacted their lives. This book can be a motivating factor for those looking for an outside the box lifestyle that allows for freedom to do things (like thru-hike the Appalachian Trail for 6 months).

So, to help with this, I’m doing a GIVEAWAY for a signed “Life Outside the Cubicle” book for TWO (2) lucky winners!

To enter, do the following:

  1. Comment on this blog post and tell me something you have done or would like to do that is outside the box (it can be ANYTHING)!
  2. Share this post on your Facebook page (click here to see our FB post to share easily).
  3. Subscribe to our Blog or YouTube channel or like our Facebook Page (if you’re already subscribed or liked to one of these, thanks!).

That’s it! Cut off is midnight CST on Tuesday, Feb. 6th, USA shipping only. Two (2) winners will be picked and announced on Wednesday, Feb. 7th!

5 Reasons To Hike As A  Couple

5 Reasons To Hike As A Couple

Before we left on our AT journey, several people asked us if we were sure we sure we wanted to hike as a couple, to be together day and night, in the woods, with no regular showers … for 6 months!??  Were we crazy?

Not in the least. When Sunsets and I quit our Dallas jobs and moved to Costa Rica, we went from being apart from each other all day during the work week, to being together all the time, all week long! Yes, it was an adjustment, but now we’re so used to it that it actually feels weird if we are not together. Also, we’ve been married for 23 years and Sunsets is my best friend. A better question might be why would I thru-hike without my partner? (more…)

Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Holder

Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Holder

This post was initially a contest where we gave away a backpack strap water bottle holder. That giveaway has ended. Still, this is an incredible, useful product, please continue reading. 

All along our thru-hike we received oohs, ahhs, and questions about the water bottle holders we used that attached to the shoulder straps of our backpacks. Like all great products, this one solves a problem. Many hikers find it difficult, to near impossible, to reach their water bottles stored in the side pockets of the backpack. We heard this over and over on our long hike. Once, we even helped a hiker retrieve her water bottle because she couldn’t reach it; she had been reduced to taking her pack off every time she needed a sip.

Feet – the Achilles Heel of Thru-Hiking, how we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail without getting ANY blisters

Feet – the Achilles Heel of Thru-Hiking, how we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail without getting ANY blisters

You know what’s crazy? I hiked 2,189.8 miles without EVER getting a blister. Not even one! You know what’s even more crazy? Neither did my hiking partner, my husband – Sunsets. We were on the trail for 179 days, taking 21 zero days, and did not change our system the whole way through. Sunsets’ shoe/sock system is slightly different than mine, so he’ll add a note at the bottom of this post, but otherwise we did everything else the same. (more…)

Post Trail Life

Post Trail Life

Hello friends!

Sunsets and I have been home for 2 1/2 weeks now, since summiting Mt. Katahdin. It’s still weird to say those words – WE SUMMITED MT. KATAHDIN!

Here’s a few initial thoughts we have on being back in “real life:”

  • Sleeping in a real bed feels AMAZING, and we have been sleeping like babies every night!
  • A shower every day almost seems wasteful. Also, it’s weird not to have to spend a lot of time scrubbing mud off our legs and feet, or washing my hair TWICE just to get to a normal cleanliness level.
  • When we meet someone, it’s hard to remember to shake hands instead of fist-bump (on the trail when we met someone we always fist-bumped as a way to not “touch” each other in order try to stay healthy).
  • I have to dry my hair and wear makeup now?  NO THANKS (have only done twice since being home).
  • Our knees and feet still ache, mostly when we get up from a sitting/laying down position – we hobble around like old people (heard this takes a month or more to get over). Getting out of bed in the morning is seriously hilarious.
  • It’s awesome to have real chairs to sit in! Even if they are hard. The cushy ones are a dream.
  • When someone says “go west,” we immediately turn left (in our guidebook, west was always left, and east was always right).
  • Coffee every morning is a wonderful thing. Also ice water!!

A lot of people have asked us about post trail depression (PTD). It’s interesting, because PTD is a very real thing. In fact, all of the past thru-hikers that we have either followed or read their books have seemed to experience this on some level; and we have already seen it in some of our hiker friends from this year. There is for sure a feeling of let down after it is all over. We lived on the trail and in the woods for half a year(!) and worked hard and long to achieve our goal of thru-hiking the whole Appalachian Trail (2,189.8 miles).  We went days without showering (7 was our max) and got dirty or muddy almost every day.  We slept in our tent almost every night, and spent time with fellow hikers eating Knorr rice sides or instant mashed potatoes for dinner over our stoves. We saw beautiful flowers in their natural habitat. We saw snakes, newts, bears, and moose. We fell in love with the quiet and peacefulness (no cars or loud noises or huge groups of people). We hiked in the heat, humidity, cold rain and snow; we hiked over roots, rocks, mud and climbed LOTS of boulders. We trained our bodies to walk over 20 miles a day. And we did this ALL with like-minded fellow hikers we met along the way – of all ages. We were all in the same boat, doing the same thing every day, and this was how we all immediately bonded.  I can understand how some hikers have a hard time going back to “real life.”

So now that our AT thru-hike is over, Sunsets and I have been settling into a quiet but nice life in central Wisconsin. We are doing great and have had no issues with depression, at least so far.

Why no post trail depression?

First of all, we are not “spring chickens” — we are in our mid-40’s, have been married for 22 years, like to think we are mature, and we were already happy with our lives before we did the AT. We didn’t do the AT to “find ourselves” or work through any past issues. We did the AT for the challenge and because we like hiking together.

Second of all, we are not going back to “that same old depressing cubicle or corporate job.” Sunsets and I made the decision back in 2013 to quit our stressful jobs and live a more simple life style (you can read about our story here and here).

We know what we want to do next, it is exciting for us, and a lot of our plans revolve around hiking or the AT (writing books, business development and living by the AT in the future). We talk in more detail about our plans in our current Q&A video #2).

We used the whole time we were on the trail to think about what was next, so we were already thinking about the future and looking forward to it after our hike. The trail was definitely a HUGE thing for us, and we are so proud of ourselves that we did it! Never once did we talk about quitting (though we had several days of pain, blood and tears). It was the adventure and challenge of a lifetime, and we did it! We will for sure remember our hike with great fondness, nostalgia and joy.

So, what have we been doing since we got home?

Enjoying our favorite Costa Rican coffee (1820), compliments of our friends Christina & Rod:

Drinking fine wine and celebratory champagne, from our friends on the west coast, Sarah & Matt (also note my cute “JB” hat  from my pal Greg Pekas!):

Visiting my brother and his family in northern Wisconsin (this is my niece, Ashley):

HIKING!  We started walking/hiking after taking a week off, trying to get in between 4-6 miles a day.  Pictured here with long-time friend of my mom’s (and my grade school friend Michelle’s mom), Connie. You may also notice the white blaze (not sure how that got here, in Wisconsin!).

Starting my Costa Rica Chica Arm Candy business back up — I make bracelets, bookmarks (pictured here top right), anklets, necklaces and more!
Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 8.33.25 AM

Getting some wheels!  Mom has been SO kind to share her car with us before and after the AT, but it was time to get our own car (found a great deal on this cute little ‘15 Prius, you can’t beat 50 miles to the gallon!):

We were interviewed for a podcast by Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail, you can listen to us talking about our journey here.

Stay tuned! We will be doing future videos and blog posts on all things hiking and AT – gear reviews, more question & answer videos, and hopefully some interviews with fellow thru-hikers!

Cheers! — Chica & Sunsets



Day 179 – Summit Day!

Day 179 – Summit Day!

You guys… we did it!! KatahDONE!!
2,189.8 miles

179 days, just shy of 6 months

March 22 – September 16

Georgia to Maine

Wow – what a beautiful, breathtaking, hard, courageous adventure. Thank you ALL for following and supporting us with your positive comments and vibes – you helped us more than you know!!
– Chica & Sunsets

See videos of our Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike: here!