A week ago my friend and I hiked the first 23 miles of the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. We hiked for 9 hours from Will Rogers to Piuma Road as part of our goal to hike the entire 68 mile trail over 3 consecutive Sundays. In my first post, Backbone Trail Part 1, I wrote about all the type-A ways I prepared for the first 9 hour hike. This week, I'm discussing getting my body back to 'normal' and getting ready for Part 2 - Rinse, Recover, Repeat!
While hiking 68 miles over 3 days is my idea of a party, I realize I may be in the minority. Only a few of my very active friends would consider such madness, and only one actually said yes.
If you're reading this post, it's possible you are considering a similar extreme hike and if that's you I say, "Yes, yes yes, go for it! It's amazing and awful and you'll learn so much about yourself and what you are capable of". If that's not you though, maybe you are here for a different reason.
Either way, I hope this post will offer something for everyone and I am so glad you're here to read it.
The trails are gloriously dirty places with dust, plant spores, pollen, animal droppings, and bugs. Add a layer of sweat, the unprecise nature of peeing in the woods (especially for women), and a thick coat of sunblock, and the result is a post-hike grime EVERYWHERE!!
After our first 23 miler, putting my shoes and socks into a plastic bag and changing into flip flops before getting in the car felt delicious and cleansing. As did the baby wipes "bath" on my feet and legs.
At home, a shower for my body was the obvious first thing as I walked in the door, but all my gear got one too. The hiking poles were wiped down. The shoes and insoles (removed), hat, hydration pack, clothing were all laundered on a cool setting right away so they didn't stink and hung to dry (no dryer).
My gear pack was emptied and all the trash thrown out - no need to repeat finding a rotten tangerine left in my pack due to laziness. Uneaten food was stored. The water bladder was rinsed out, any remaining water blown out of the drinking tube, the mouth piece cleaned, and then it was hung to dry upside down with a wad of clean paper towel inside to keep it open so it could air out. Some people keep their hydration bladders in the freezer but I find just hanging it with a towel inside works fine.
The next day, I went through and refilled the first aid and skin protection that were used. Then everything went into a dedicated basket so I didn't need to reinvent the wheel for the next hike.
Whether recovering from exercise, stress, or an IBD flare, the approach has a lot of similarities. For someone who follows the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, much of the healing process for muscles and the gut is found in food and other natural approaches.
The recovery process started well before I finished part one of the hike. It started with what I chose to eat and drink DURING those miles because eating well and hydrating are important for muscle function and gut balance. That's why I paid so much attention to what I carried on the trail and how much I drank - making spreadsheets and analyzing my caloric intake. It's why I made sure to have a range of proteins, carbs, fats, and salty foods. It's also why I packed food and water for the drive home.
Recovery was on my mind when I pre-cooked a hearty, protein-rich meal of soup with lots of veggies to keep in the fridge - I could heat and eat when I get home! Eating protein post exercise helps rebuild muscles; cooked vegetables are easier for an imbalanced gut to digest compared to raw so that's how I chose my menu. I didn't watch my portion size, I ate until I feel satiated.
I also drank a cup of Bubbies pickle juice (sometimes I use sauerkraut juice) to ward off leg cramps - it's crazy but it works! Straight pickle juice can make the stomach gurgle so I built up my tolerance for this slowly with a tablespoon to start.
Over the next few days I ate foods that heal and stayed away from foods that I can be sensitive to. I ate homemade SCD yogurt that has natural probiotics, lots of vegetables, eggs, ripe bananas. I also made ginger root tea with honey by simmering pieces of fresh ginger in a few cups of water for 20-30 minutes then adding some honey and letting it steep. The whole time I was hydrating!
I stretched, but only gently immediately after the hike. Over-stretching muscles that have been pushed very hard can lead to strains and tears so I limited myself to mild stretches for the key areas - hips, back, and hamstrings. Then the next day I added in deeper stretches and foam roller. For my feet, that get really tight, I rolled out my arches with a ball for a minute, a couple of times a day. It's amazing how much this helps especially since I'm prone to plantar fasciitis in my left foot that has a worsening bunion (ugh, just that word makes me cringe!).
I went for a walk with my dog the morning after my hike to get the blood flowing and the joints loosened. By Wednesday I was ready to add in some restorative yoga and longer walks and even a jog. I'm guessing an epsom salt bath would work wonders but I'm too restless to take baths so I'll just leave that here in the suggestion box.
REPEAT - PART 2 OF THE BACKBONE TRAIL HIKE
After 6 days of recovery, I was ready for part 2 of the 68 mile Backbone Trail. We started right where we left off at Piuma Road (mile 23) to Encinal Canyon (mile 43) where there is a nice big parking lot and pit toilets. We could have started at Piuma Trail Head that was 2 miles further along the trail, which admittedly had better parking than Piuma Road, but being purists we wanted to pick up exactly where we stopped last week.
The original plan was to hike 25 miles to Yerba Buena. However, the logistics of parking our cars at either end of the course would have involved significantly more pre-hike commuting and getting up earlier. Since it was going to be a sunny, warm day, the trail has minimal shade, the days are shorter in November, and there is NO water along this section, we opted to hike the shorter distance and I'm REALLY glad we did.
This section of the Backbone Trail started off with a significant climb beginning at mile 2 of almost 2,000 feet in 4 miles that I was glad to get out of the way early when my legs were still fresh. I'd done this trail before but in the opposite direction when we hiked the Bulldog Trail that kicked off my 2,021 mile adventure so knew to expect absolutely stunning views of the Pacific Ocean at the top.
Just as with last week's hike, the course crosses several main canyon roads (Corral Canyon, Latigo, Kanan) that all offer great options to park and enjoy a shorter out and back hike. I think Corral Canyon is the most spectacular with it's huge boulders and views that are easy to access from the small parking lot. None of these lots have water fountains but several have picnic tables.
After the big climb to Corral Canyon (mile 8), the trail rolled with smaller ups and downs to Latigo Canyon along the Castro Trail and from Latigo to Kanan (mile 14), along the Newton Canyon Trail. There was minimal shade throughout so by 10am it was HOT and it made me feel nauseated. I also felt like a 3 year old wanting to throw down my hiking poles and whine. But that's not bad ass so I journeyed on.
At Kanan, we found a bench and had lunch which was rejuvenating. There's a pit toilet bathroom and trash cans there but again, no running water. From Kanan, the trail had more shade and fewer steep climbs - there was even a sweet water crossing.
Encinal Canyon Road came into view at mile 19.5 as did a off-shoot trail with signage that proclaims it as AGONY! A suitable name indeed and one intriguing enough to go back to.
FOOD AND DRINK!
I ate a LOT of calories the night before our hike so I wasn't very hungry in the morning. I only ate one hard boiled egg and a banana with my coffee. I took the additional egg with me in my pack and ate it as a morning snack. Other than the addition on the egg, my spread was very similar to last week's and had 1650 calories. I found myself less hungry for proteins and craving more sugar this time - for me it's easier to stomach sugar when a little queasy from heat. I was glad to have a variety of foods so that I could listen to what my body was craving. That said, even though I didn't have an appetite for the tuna this time, I ate the salty jerky and pumpkin seeds along with my apple and dates. I consumed about 850 calories along the trail.
SO THIS WAS AN AWESOME ADDITION - last week I found myself daydreaming about a cup of coffee mid hike. My friend always brings a small coca-cola, with it's sugar and caffeine, for lunch. I can't have soda but I wanted coffee. So this week I brought a honey-sweetened espresso. I brewed it the night before and froze it before vacuum sealing it in my food saver (to make it as small as possible). Then at lunch, I tore into that pouch and drank my luke-warm coffee. It was fabulous and it gave me a boost of energy for the last few miles! That's going on my list as a new packing essential!
There was NO WATER ALONG THIS 20 MILE SECTION OF THE TRAIL AT ALL!! I knew that going in, but hoped there would be some hidden faucet or bathroom sink that the guide book neglected to mention. Nope. Not a drop. I carried 2 liters of water mixed with electrolyte drops in my pack and sucked down every single ounce (thankfully the last ounce was at the end)!! In retrospect, I was slightly dehydrated for the last few miles - I didn't have to pee the last 2 hours and my mouth and lips were dry. If it had been cooler, 2 liters would have been fine, but the summer sun made me sweat and drench my long sleeve. Another reason I was glad we opted for the shorter version of the hike AND that I had a fresh bottle of water in my post-hike bag in the car. It tasted like nectar.
The entire hike took 8 hours with a few stops for lunch, snack, and photos. We covered 19.6 miles and climbed over 4000 ft.
Part 3 is the final 25 miles that end at the beach. I've already rinsed, I'm currently recovering, next week I repeat!!
About the Gutsy Runner!
Lucie is a runner, hiker, and fitness coach who follows the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) for her ulcerative colitis. She is currently on a year long birthday celebration that includes covering 2021 miles on foot and exploring some of the areas most iconic and beautiful trails. Read more