Real Training Should Be Challenging

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Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

If you are interested in surviving or enjoying a  backpacking adventure this season  you better be ready to embrace some suffering.     At our house, I am constantly buffering my workout plans so that I don’t get into a disagreement with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame. She is encouraging me to behave like a normal 68 year old guy and chill more often.

For example, I was falling behind in mileage regarding my goal of hiking 1,000 miles this year and outside the rain was falling.   Skipping today’s 75 minute hike in favor of better weather would be what normal people would do.

Well, if you are a backpacker, then  you will someday walk in the rain.  Better get used to it . Also, most of us have purchased rain gear but you won’t know how it works unless you wear it in the rain, drizzle, sleet, or snow.  Doesn’t it make sense to get out when you are close to home and you can warm up and dry out after the outing?

I am reading more and more about Stoic philosophy and mental/ physical training.

Check out this brief, but excellent email that I received from a Stoic website I subscribe to.  It’s perfect!   If ancient Stoics can practice in the rain or snow, why shouldn’t we ?

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Henry Flagler, a top lieutenant for John D. Rockefeller and one of the pioneering developers of Florida:
“I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.”
Like Cato, Flagler trained himself in doing without. He wore only a thin coat, he carried his own lunch, he economized. He did this so he could get used to feeling the sting of the cold, the laugh of his peers. He didn’t want these things to have power over him, and he never wanted to feel fear—the fear of what if something bad happens.
As a result of this training, he became stronger, he became invincible to fate and misfortune and as he said, tyranny. No one could be harder on Flagler than he was on himself, and while that might seem like hard living it was also free living. And that’s the point. It’s not easy to be a Cato or a Flagler, but when things get hard, real hard, you’ll regret being anything but a Cato.

(Want to discuss today’s meditation in more depth? Join Daily Stoic Life.)

Humbling Heart Rate ?

I’m concerned that I’m pushing my heart rate too high on the bike. I’m 68 years old. Two weeks ago I rode my typical Sunday ride up and around Ragged Mountain, where I averaged 155 beats per minute for over two hours with a maximum reading of 173.  For a full 30 minutes of the ride my heart pushed  out 161-171  beats per minute.  My normal resting pulse ranges from 47-55 bpm .   I record data wearing  a Garmin chest strap that is linked to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS unit.  From there I send it to Strava for saving o my profile.

Here’s a Veloviewer 3D elevation rendering of the ups, downs and all-arounds of the same 8 miles ride that I took this past Sunday:

Here’s the traditional view of the ride.  It ain’t easy! These  two images are not aligned correctly, but I bet you can rotate them  in your mind’s eye.

I talked to my doctor about it last week while he was trimming away at a plugged sweat gland that was causing me pain on the side of my foot.  He thought my heart/arteries were OK, but also said that he had at least a handful of apparently healthy patients who were athletes in their early 70’s that dropped dead from unexpected heart attacks.

So he’s getting me a referral for a consultation with an electro-cardiologist who has a exercise specialty.  That’s all I want, a chance to talk to someone who has knowledge and background to address concerns.  My own father died at 72 of heart disease, and my paternal grandfather died from what might have been heart disease when my father was a baby.

In the meantime, I’ll keep pushing it on the bike, rest up adequately between my two-wheeled adventures, keep up the meditation, and start ramping up the relatively short summer/fall veggie consumption season.

Here was my lunch today:

Spring onions, fiddlehead ferns, my own kimchi, tempeh, rice noodle oup.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me

I boss myself and set my own work schedule so I celebrate my birthday with a solo hike or ride. With all the snow around and the temperatures below freezing at dawn, I chose to ride Camden Hills State Park this year. Refrozen snow is good. Thawing snow isn’t, for biking that is.

Whenever I go out on a hike or ride, I hope to notice something interesting. Today it was connecting shade and north slope conditions with good solid track to ride upon.

The Camden Hill State Park is a 10 minute drive away.

Heading Up

I started up the mile long climb on fairly packed surface- many folks walk this section, some with their dogs, and it shows.

Eventually I reached the left tun for Bald Rock Mountain, a 1,000 prominence that overlooks the Atlantic.

It has been deep enough with snow that snowmobiles have gone to the top yesterday. None up there today. I am trying to make the full 5 miles on this Multipurpose Trail and then turn around and come back. I am racing sunshine, which has the capacity to soften the surface of the trail and cause my 5” tires to sink in and wallow.

In the next mile, the Multipurpose Road flattens out and is bordered by hemlocks and spruce trees that not only shade the surface from the sun, but hold the cold overnight. Grip is better here.

Soon I encounter the right tun for the Summer Bypass Trail, left untouched all winter. You can see that entrance right above the top of my front tire.

At the 2.5 mile mark I reach the Ski Shelter, empty this morning.

I will enter on my way back and drink water and eat a snack.

Still pushing to preserve firm snow.

From this point to the Route 1 side of the Park, there is much less foot traffic , with a clean snowmobile track from a rider who probably came through here last night or early this AM.

I stopped just at the water tower, turned around, and came back, deciding to take a left up the Cameron Mountain Trail, a decision which was aided by fresh snowmobile tracks and two sets of foot prints going that way.

Cameron Mountain is at the very edge of the State Park. The snowmobile track swoops around the summit and then twists and descends through private property when it eventually crosses Youngstown Road and heads for Lincolnville Center. The down hill is steep and fast, but my Ice Cream Truck embraces the wobble and delivers.

I decide to continue on the snowmobile trail rather than ride the pavement of Youngtown Road back to the car. I discover a huge hay field where I thought that I had lost the trail, but then I saw a tiny red trail sign far across the center of the field.

Winding my way down toward the village, I encountered an active logging operation that I was able to ride through with little difficulty.

After more than two hours of pedaling, I decided to get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Drake’s corner store where I took this distorted selfie in the window.

My car was still three miles away. I do not like riding on Rt. 173, due to the narrow road and inattentive drivers, so I decided to gamble on the abandoned section of Thurlow Road being tracked in.

After dodging thinly iced-over water at the start, I encountered unbroken soft snow as far as I could see. I decided to walk the bike through. I was tiring, with my heart rate spiking to 155 beats per minute through the snow. Soon I encountered a little maple sugaring operation half way through service via a couple of ATV ruts that assisted me getting back to better track.

A sort while later I was back on pavement, where I took a left on Youngtown Rd. and had a leisurely couple of miles on pavement back to my car and home. Today was a great start to my next season of exploring my local trails.

Georges River Land Trust’s new SnowDog clears the way for groomed trails !

SnowDog Brent

–>> Georges River Land Trust’s new SnowDog clears the way for groomed trails | PenBay Pilot

Great news announced today for our local community recreation area.  Before now, it was down to snowshoeing in a large group of walkers doing this in order to ride bikes in the snow.  Or we’d line up to ride our fat tire bikes and pound the snow down with breaking trail and multiple passes of those wide 5″ tires.

This is the brightest thing that may come my way this snowed-in day!

Snowdog!

Snowdog!

Another Crash

I had hit my chest, ribs, and shoulder hard as I ever did before. The sudden pain that I felt lying face down on the single track caused me to scream wordlessly several times. Blaine had been riding his bike just fifty feet ahead of me on Chris McKearney’s Trail in the Rockland Bog. Blaine backtracked to assist me as I laid face down moaning, and  encouraged me to collect myself and take time getting up. Everything had happened so fast. I recall two immediate thoughts: I didn’t hit my head and no bones seemed broken.

Mudded up Ice Cream Truck

I was apart from my Surly Ice Cream Truck so my winter boot cleats must of released upon impact.  Blaine remarked that the rubber o-ring on my Bluto fork indicated that it had compressed to maximum travel. I was a hurting unit.

The crash happened at the end of a Saturday morning ride, which was not my usual weekend mountain biking schedule. Normally, I ride at 9:30 every Sunday morning with The Bubbas-a tight group of bike nuts that have banded together to ride three times a week, year round, for the past couple decades or more.

I decided to ride with Blaine and Monica because a snowstorm was predicted for Saturday night into Sunday, with a range of 4-8 inches forecasted for the area. Even though I have five-inch-wide lugged Flowbeist/Dunderbeist tires on my bike, I’ve put in enough winter riding to know that 5 inches or more of fresh power might not be very pleasant to move through. Clear ground on Saturday was my choice.

Except that winter Midcoast Maine trails  can suck.

Landowner might be pissed

Most of the leaves that had fallen off the hardwood trees had been blown off the path. Wet (and slippery) bare roots were running across the ground, as were the rocks, ledges, the moss, slimy lichens, and the sticks and branches that fly up and can get jammed into the drive train. The usual stuff for this time of year.

I need to listen to the quiet tiny voice in my head that knows better than me when to back off. I ignored three quiet warnings yesterday.The first message came in the form of my Saturday morning heart rate variability (HRV) measurement. HRV is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. My iPhone holds the app, which links to a heart rate chest strap for a three minute collection of HRV data.

HRV screen

HRV is becoming a useful tool for not only tracking the training adaptation of athletes, but for gauging the body’s readiness for pushing or backing off the intensity of training sessions. Mine was down some 20 points from my usual status, indicating that it was sub-optimal, suggesting that I engage in a more moderate level of physical intensity for the day.

The second message that I ignored was contained in my morning iChing reading.

According to Bill Scheffel, ”The I Ching, arguably humanity’s oldest book, conveys a wisdom that requires no belief, is not part of any organized system or religion and comes to us as a kind of DNA of how we experience time and its events and ourselves as a unique matrix of energy.” My hexagram suggested that, “We are not meant to memorize a path then slavishly follow it.” Which leads to the last message I ignored.

Monica, Blaine, and I were resting a bit at the entrance to McKearney’s Loop on the way back to my car. I was sipping water from my Camelback when Monica said, “ I think I am going to pass. You guys can go and I’ll wait right here for you. I’m beat.” I was also fatigued at that point, at the end of a decent ride where my heart rate was at or above 145 beats per minute for 53% of the 7.7 mile ride.

So, a couple days after the crash  I’m here packing ice on my shoulder and ribs and intermittently dosing with ibuprofen. I’m hoping the throbbing will settle down for the holidays so that I can get back on the bike and share the local trails with my two sons, Lincoln and Arlo, who will be in from Montana and San Francisco for a bit.

It’s so hard for me to listen to inner counsel, but with 500 combined hours of biking and hiking in 2017 so far, and just one serious bike and one bad backing fall this calendar year I think I am not going to beat myself up too much about it. Even so, I am presently acutely aware that so much can happen in just one second.

I already have my New Year’s resolution ready to go. For insurance I plan to tell my hiking and biking buddies to remind about it.

Why is backing off so difficult ?

Goodbye, Golf Clubs. Hello, Hiking Boots…..

William Widmer for The New York Times

 

Today, I ate my usual eggs and toast Sunday morning breakfast that precedes my regular “Bubba Church” mountain bike ride with my aging off-road posse. On early morning Sundays, I read the digital version of the NY Times and catch up on the news, fake or not. I didn’t find much of interest today, so instead I clicked on my Instagram feed where I download media to read later at my leisure. Instapaper is my own custom newspaper.

I don’t ever listen to podcasts when I eat breakfast, but today I am pleased that I did. I listened to Texas Parks and Wildlife Podcast’s Epidode 13: Hiking Across Texas.  It is short, only 12 minutes long, but it spoke deeply to me today.   It’s a refreshing interview with Dave Roberts, 72 years old. Dave is currently on a 3,000-mile “ramble” across Texas, weaving through at least 40 national parks.

I  remember reading about Dave a year and a half ago, and dug up the following article about Dave, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who has found his unique retirement groove- long distance walking, biking, and kayaking.  Dave’s on a $20-a-day budget for this Texas adventure, but more importantly appears to have exactly the right attitude to keep on doing what he enjoys best- being outdoors and having varied experiences.

As Dave puts it, ” If everything does according to plans, you are not having an adventure yet.”

Do listen via the podcast link above, and if you like what you hear, read the Jan. 2016 Times feature below, to learn more about Dave and other retirees who have stood up to leave the couch for later.

My own dream is to walk across the US, someday.

A Most Pleasant First Trail Ride on Mount Pleasant (2017 version)

The first 2017 group ride with The Bubba to the top of Mount Pleasant in the Warren/West Rockport area had it all- mud, ice, stream riding, and even more snow than expected.  The approach from Route 90 departed from the old parking lot at East Coast Rover’s now defunct location, newly recycled as another car/truck repair facility.  Thanks to Bubba management for gaining permission for us to park there after work hours.

I was very pleased with my ride today- the most successful technical excursion up and down Pleasant ever for me.

Very pleasant on top today.

Atlantic Ocean overlook

Not only did I clear the challenge of ascending Baby Head Hill, I was finally able to loft the front end of my Surly Ice Cream Truck up a pesky little ledge on the section from the Three Way op to the power line after the screaming descent off the summit.

Here is a video of the crew maintaining a controlled skid on the steep, rock-strewn line off the summit itself. 

Today, it might have even helped to have stable ice and refrozen snow smoothing out the trail a bit.  The Bubbas take climbing in stride- in fact if you can’t tolerate climbing forest trails in this part of Maine, you’ll stay home.  S

See?

Veloviewer/Strava connection of this ride

Most of the Bubbas carry folding saws in our packs.  We clear trails as we go, especially this time of year.

Craig Nelson and Nate sawing up fallen tree while John Anders supervises.

Later, we transitioned to riding up the stream that put us on the backside of the mountain just below the blueberry field that set us up for the finish of the ride.

This last wet climb set up a relatively long decent that was a fitting ending to a spring day blissfully absent of the impending blackflies, mosquitoes, and heat.

A most Pleasant morning was spent at my personal Sunday Church of Two Wheels.

Winter Bikepacking in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument- Part 2/2

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Despite being the only guest in the Mount Chase Lodge last night I was served a most excellent breakfast at 7:30, the time of my choice. Sky prepared pancakes, fruit slices, and bacon from a pig that had secured full employment here, on table scrap  duty this past season.  Fresh coffee, home made muffins and a fresh fruit bowl rounded out the meal.

Smilin’ Sky’s the guy
I was more than willing to take up Sky’s offer of leftover bacon and last night’s brisket.  At two degrees outside, I was not concerned about food spoilage.

I’ve waited for this winter bike camping trip for a long time. My last bike packing trip was in 2012 on the Sunrise Trail when I joined my neighbor and biking pal Andy Hazen on a stretch from Ellsworth toward  Cobscook Bay. You can check out that most interesting bikepacking trip  here.

I have that same Surly Pugsley now. It was the perfect choice for these two pristine winter biking days.

Rollins Trails/ Ragged/Snow Bowl
It’s a fat tire bike, with 4 inch wide tires, inflated to 7 pounds of pressure, enabling the wide footprint to track easily over this packed groomed snow.

It is a 15 mile ride directly west over a roller coaster of a tarred road from Mt. Chase Lodge to the parking lot for the Monument.

Ask the staff at the Lodge about the signage that marks the left turn after the bridge over the Penobscot River just before the end of the pavement.  A short drive down a plowed gravel road leads to a small parking lot where the winter trail begins.

I parked right next to Guthook’s VW, as we were the only visitors here for these two days.

The map on the KWWNM website is detailed enough to be all you’ll need.  One caution-print your own copy in color.  Mine was in gray scale. I would have been easier  to navigate if my map was color coordinated with the  red, orange, yellow, and blue triangles marking intersections and trails.

With my parking pass visible on the dashboard, I unloaded the bike from inside my Honda Element and took off, smiling from ear to ear at the superb condition of the surface beneath my wheels.   Access to trails and these huts is free of charge, however, overnight use requires reservations.

Hard to tell if smiling !
There hasn’t been any fresh snow here for more than a week.  KWWNM’s snowmobiles tow dedicated groomers that have packed the trail!   There were two faint cross country ski grooves that I stayed out of, preferring to ride to the side of the fresh snowmobile track.

The surface was not at all icy, but composed of groomed snow that refroze into a decent grip of a track.

This screen shot of my Strava feed summarizes my mileage, speed, and moving time.   It was a relatively quick 10 mile ride into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.

Here’s the elevation profile.

There were three parts  to this ride.

The first was four miles over relatively flat terrain on the Messer Pond-Orrin Falls Road, an old logging path eventually passing through a summer gate leading to Haskell Hut on the shore of the expansive Haskell Deadwater.

Overflowed stream beside winter trail
Haskell Lodge is only a tenth of a mile off the trail and is worth a rest stop.

It is the smaller of the two cabins that are options for your over night in The Monument.   The doors are unlocked, but day users are asked to refrain from using the propane cook burners, lights, and firewood.

These are community huts, where everyone is welcome up to the maximum number of sleeping platforms and reservations are required.

Next, I rode along the edge of the Deadwater where I made a brief stop at the spectacular view at Haskell Rock Pitch.  I heard it well before I saw it.      Impressive!

From there the trail enters thicker, older forest for almost a mile when you reach a fork.   With the spring melt down, extra caution is advised with regards to deep meltdown holes on the bridges and sections of deep animal tracks on the trail.

This is dangerous:

The riding is fast and the setting is isolated.


The last segent  starts with a right on the blue diamond trail for three more miles or so out past Little Messer Pond where the path ascends to a high point on 900 feet.

  You will know a turn is coming when you pass over a flowing stream up high and then see the signage pointing left for the 0.3 mile descent into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.

Big Spring Brook Hut
It took me two hours to cover the 10 mile distance, which included stops for photos, and my snack break at Haskell Hut.   Guthook skied in earlier, pulling a plastic sled that was loaded with 5 days worth of food and gear.  It took him 5 hours.   Fat bikes shine under these travel  conditions.

Big Spring Brook Brook Hut is appointed with basic pots and pans, and is heated with a wood stove with drying racks above for hanging wet clothing.

Water in drawn from the stream in front, with an outhouse out back. There is a large sleeping loft as well and half dozen wooden sleeping platforms on the first floor. The capacity of his hut is listed as sixteen.

Guthook and I combined forces to come up with a superb one pot supper.  I added  Mt. Chase Lodge’s bacon and brisket to his tortellini, cheese, and tomato sauce.

This trip was brief but rewarding. I spent one night sharing the Lodge with Guthook, who was bushwhacking round the area on several long day hikes.

The snow was solid enough that you could walk anywhere, and with no leaves on the trees your line of sight is immeasurably better in the winter than in the summer when the green word covers all.    It was a most satisfying and unique experience for us to warm ourselves by the glowing embers of the stove as we pondered the vast wilderness surrounding us.

I joked with Guthook that we finally made  time to do nothing.

We were the only people spending our time within this  87,000 acre  National Monument. God bless America!

And I thank you, Roxanne and Lucas, for allowing me to have this unique place to explore for the rest of my life !

MONUMENT RESERVATION INFORMATION:

Mark and Susan Adams
Elliotsville Plantation INC.
Recreation Managers
881 Shin Pond Road
PO Box 662 Patten Me. 04765
Susan,  207-852-1291
Mark,  207-670-8418
Lunksoos@gmail.com
katahdinwoods.org
Facebook: Katahdin Woods & Waters
Maps and info to KWWNM  at www.nps.gov/kaww

The staff at Mt. Chase Lodge are knowledgeable about current trail conditions and travel within The Monument.  They are ready to serve as a launch point for your own adventure.  Information and Reservations: (207) 528-2183

Step up ! Mileage Challenge for 2017 !

It’s now 2017. After reviewing all the end of the year” bests” lists and the sun ever so slowly extending itself into the far northeast corner of the USA , I’m ready and hopeful about what’s to come.

For one, I’m still able to embrace health and happiness. My body weight has remained around 200 pounds since I lost 27 pounds on my 2013 CDT thru hike. On prior hikes, I’ve gained it all back , but this time, I’ve been able to remain 15 pounds lighter.

Setting goals is my personal  life raft. Without them, I would be a diminished individual. My spanking new goal for 2017 is to hike, walk, backpack, or bike a cumulative 2017 miles.  It will be a figure that is easy to remember!  With that number in place, I am generally out the door every day to put in at least an hour to an hour and a half on moderate to more activity.
I dumped my decades old gym membership in 2013 after I came back from the CDT.  I went back to working out indoors but it didn’t feel right to drive a vehicle a half hour to change clothes and spend an hour inside a sweat factory where I did more talking than walking.

With this plan, I sometimes play catch-up.  I had a work week last week that cut into my recreational daylight hours. Saturday morning brought me to a three hour hike in nearby Camden Hills State Park.  We have not had much snow here.  The ground is practically bare, however,  there are ample stretches of compressed, hard, grey ice covering some of the hiking trails and single track that I travel on.  Half of Saturdays hike was done on Stabilicers.
Fitbit helps.

Strava  helps more.

2017 so far. Its a start!
2017 so far. Its a start!

If you are considering getting in ready shape for the upcoming hiking season then I’d suggest you also make your own grand plan with a mileage goal thrown in to keep you honest.  I’d like to thank Carey Kish for getting me started on upping my Maine-based mileage.  His 2015 Maineac Outdoors column inspired me.  I’d recommend that you review my own blog post that conveys my start.

I  boosted the whole shabang up a notch for 2016, aiming for 1,000 miles of walking as well as also a separate 1,000 mile biking. I was in for a nasty surprise this past Thanksgiving when I realized that I still had over 250 miles to cover on the bike before Dec. 31.  Early snowfalls and some brutal single digit temps led me to sufferer through a few  slushy bone chilling rides, but I made it.

Road rode yesterday
Road rode yesterday

I plan to amassing at least 100 bike miles a month from now until my birthday on March 27.

What about you?   Ready for a mileage goal of 1,000 miles to invite you outside more?      Who is in for a belated New year’s revolution or two?

You might not have to ride ice to get there.

Rollins Trails/ Ragged/Snow Bowl
Rollins Trails/ Ragged/Snow Bowl
Riding ON Hosmer Pond !
Riding ON Hosmer Pond !

Riding Inside vs. Outside

I’ve biked indoors on rollers when that was all we had, back in the 1970’s.  Since then turbo trainers came out.  I haven’t used mine for at least a decade. I  don’t want any part of riding indoors.  The sweat dripping off one’s body rusts the painted surfaces of a bike frame, and collects on the floor.  When I rode indoors, I was in the habit of draping absorbent towels over the surfaces of the bike that caught the stream of sweat running down my chin and brows. It’s also boring to bike indoors. That’s why people watch TV,  read, or watch their computer screens while they crank the pedals round and round.

Yesterday, I took an actual 10 mile ride in the middle of a rainy day, when there was a 1 hour break in the precipitation. Normally every ride I take from my house is a loop. We get locked into old patterns.

My Diamondback Apex is my road bike
My Diamondback Apex is my road bike

I live on High Street on the edge of Lincolnville, bordering the town of Hope, Maine., where there are some very large parcels of land held by relatively few folks . The last mile or so of the road toward Hope doesn’t have any telephone poles nor overhead (or underground) wires. There stands one old farmhouse smack dab in the middle of 1,100 acres around Moody Pond. Without any need to trim foliar entanglements, oak and maple limbs reach from both sides of the street to entwine, creating a tunnel effect that is most spectacular in autumn, when the landscape lights up with spectacular waxy hues of red, orange, and yellow.

People enjoy walking High Street.  This year, increasing numbers of people parked at either end of my street to walk for the joy of it. It’s not busy, except for late afternoon.  Most of the time, walkers never encounter us residents. It is also one of the few stretches around where you are not going up or down some 400 plus feet in elevation on a bike ride or walk.

These last two days, I took a short one-hour spin on High Street.  I didn’t travel more than 1.3 miles in any direction from my house, and felt guilty at how much fun I had riding a double route on this recently resurfaced asphalt road.

It took me 32 years of riding right here to take this most simple ride: out the door to the street, then ride right to Levensellar Pond for 1 mile, then head backpast the house in the opposite direction to Moody Pond, where I turned around and headed back 1.3 miles to my house, where I repeated the exact same route, snagging 10 miles in just under an hour.

Levensellar Pond
Levensellar Pond

Moving over the landscape on foot or two wheels is my daily practice.  There is bigger purpose in my 10 mile triumphs.  I’m needing just 48 more miles to reach my goal for 2016- one thousand miles on the bike.  I met two other 2016 goals already: 1,000 miles of walking/backpacking and reading 25 book, one every two weeks.