Sangre de Cristo Traverse Overview & Trip Report

In August of 2023, I hiked the ridgeline of the Sangre de Cristo mountains from Blanca Peak to Methodist Mountain. This is referred to as the Sangre de Cristo Traverse.

Though there are variations on the route, the primary Sangres Traverse runs along the central spine of the Northern Sangre de Cristo range, a subrange of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The main ridgeline traverses over 77 peaks, including five fourteeners and two thirteener centennials. It contains sections of extended class 3 hiking as well as class 4 and low fifth class scrambling. Depending on various factors, such as the weather or one’s comfort on technical terrain, alterations to the primary route can be made. 

This post provides an overview of the route as well as highlights from each day and the trip as a whole. It’s intended to be informative rather than instructional. Linked below are my gear list and food planning spreadsheet. If you don’t like reading, scroll to the bottom for 21 of my favorite photos from the trip.

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Overview

The route I completed covered 115 miles and 55,000 feet of vertical gain. These numbers include dropping off the primary ridge into basins for camp, water, and weather/technical detours. I was joined by Troy Klaassen and it took us 8 days to complete the route. We carried all of our food and gear from the start.

From Blanca Peak to Methodist Mountain, we followed less than 10 miles of established trail/road; instead hiking cross country and utilizing elk and sheep trails when we were lucky enough to find them. The majority of the travel occurred above treeline (~12,000’) where we were exposed to howling winds, intense sun, and rocky scrambles. Due to being on top of a ridge, there were no “on route” water sources and few opportunities to take cover if/when weather suddenly rolled in.

My goals going into this trip were to:

> Explore the Sangres on foot with the intention of developing a more intimate knowledge of and connection to the place I live

> Stretch and enhance my physical and mental capabilities (e.g. daily vertical accumulation, off-trail navigation and route finding, adaptability to rapidly changing circumstances, etc.)

> Connect a line on foot from the Highway 150/Lake Como Road intersection to Highway 50/CR 107 in Salida while staying true to the range’s central ridge as much as feasible

In preparation for completing this route, there were several resources that I found helpful and/or inspiring. These include Justin Simoni’s 2019 (south to north) and 2023 (north to south) trips, Hannah Green’s 2022 FKT, Nick Clark and Cam Cross’s 2018 FKT, and Brendon Leonard and Jim Harris’s 2013 backpack from Methodist to California. Additionally, a couple of long distance hikers I know, Cam “Swami” Honan and Alex “Pepperflake” McNaughton, have completed high route/traverses (separately) between Blanca and Methodist. From my understanding, the first attempt to traverse the range was by Bill Arnold, and Lester and Jim Michel in 1961 when they hiked from Poncha Pass to Music Pass.

Highlights & Takeaways

The entire trip was a highlight and as with any adventure, there were takeaways to be gleaned, but as I reflected on the trip in the weeks afterwards, there were a few themes that stood out.

The value of relationship to place. In researching and walking this route, I became infinitely more familiar with this range that I’ve lived by and recreated in for years. It felt special to connect many of my favorite local spots in one trip and to see from a new vantage point the peaks that I literally look at every day on my morning walk. That said, more than leaving me with a feeling of “been there, done that,” this trip revealed to me how much more there is to explore: so many subsidiary ridges, treed valleys, and alpine lakes.

The diversity of the terrain and the natural beauty. Following one ridgeline probably sounds boring to a lot of people, but I found it endlessly enjoyable. I was surprised by the diversity in terrain from the technical class 4-5 sections of the Blanca and Crestone massifs to the many steep class 3 thirteeners that pepper the ridge, to the rolling tundra found farther north. The unique positioning of this range with the massive San Luis Valley (SLV) to the west and the Wet Mountain Valley to the east, and the ability to stare down the ridgeline to our farthest objective was awesome. The remote alpine basins and hidden tarns, the colorful sunrises, and the dramatic clouds that flowed over the ridge never got old.

The importance of a good partner. These types of trips (off-trail, remote, demanding, multi-day) are physically and mentally taxing, to put it lightly. You need to be out there with someone you trust, whose risk tolerance is similar to yours, whose fitness is on par with yours, and with whom you can communicate openly. Ideally, you’ve already been on many shorter outings with that person, you’ve vetted each other, and you know it works. When you’re out with a trusted partner, that can make the trip all the much better. The opposite is also true. This is a tenet I was already well aware of from my Great Basin hike and Grand Canyon Traverse with Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva. This trip reinforced the value of a good partner to me and spurred self reflection in both what I seek in a hiking partner as well as the ways I can be a better one to others. Our team work wasn’t perfect, but I’m appreciative to Troy for the ways he showed up as a solid partner during this trip and in the debrief afterwards.

Gear List

Find my complete gear list here.

Nutrition & Food Planning

Read about my food planning and nutrition here.

Day by Day

Day Zero

Around 1pm, we leave Troy’s truck at the dirt lot that marks the junction of Lake Como Road and Highway 150. It’s finally time to start this thing. 

I’m a bundle of nerves and excitement. 

I’ve been considering walking this range for years. It’s hard not to when you drive highway 17 through the San Luis Valley. The picturesque north-south ridgeline begs the question: could I traverse that whole thing on foot from end to end?

This range inhabits a special place in my heart and mind. I’ve lived on the north and south ends of the range, fallen in love on its flanks, had my heart broken here, buried my late cat under a Pinyon here, built lifelong friendships here, completed my 14ers here, and driven around these peaks more times than I can count. If there’s any place that’s felt like home in my adult life, it’s these mountains.

It’s 85 degrees on the hot, exposed, dusty 4wd road that we must walk up to access the main spine of the ridge. Our packs are heavy with 8 days of food and a few liters of water. We’re both feeling a little nauseous from the heat and exertion. I also drank too much coffee this morning which isn’t helping matters. We rest in the shade of Pinyons, slowly making our way up the 4400 vertical feet towards our camp near the base of Blanca.

Golden aspen leaves on the trail tell me that the transition to fall has already begun in the high country. We hike past Lake Como and find a higher camp near Blue Lakes at 12,200’. The day’s heat subsides as we gather water, cook dinner, and discuss tomorrow’s plan. The basin’s three 14,000’ peaks (Little Bear, Blanca, and Ellingwood Point) loom above, tinged with alpenglow.

I go to sleep grateful to be out here after years of dreaming and months of planning. As with the start of any real adventure, I know challenging times are in store, but I don’t know exactly when they’ll arise and what form they’ll take.

Tomorrow the real work begins.

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 1

At 5:03 my alarm sounds and by 5:11,  I’m drinking coffee in the dark, watching the stars fade as dawn lights up the edges of the sky. 

By 6, we’re slogging up towards the Blanca-Ellingwood ridgeline To the west, the shadow of the Sangres is taking form on the floor of the expansive SLV. At the top of Blanca, we high five, “one down, seventy plus to go” I say. 

Being that it’s a Saturday, there are several other parties on the mountain, but after departing Ellingwood Point on the class 3 and 4 ridgeline over to California Peak, we don’t see another person until the end of the following day when we drop into the Great Sand Dunes Preserve for water. The weight of the full backpack makes the ridgeline scramble feel much more challenging than it did on a scouting mission 2 months ago.

We drop north off California and the whole range – the entire following week’s work – is laid out in front of us. The crest drops away to the SLV in the west and the Wet Mountain Valley to the east. We walk rolling tundra for the remainder of the day and make camp in a protected area ~12,200’  behind a knoll south of Carbonate Mountain. 

I walk up to the ridge to pee before getting into my tent and I’m astounded by the beauty of the scene that greets me on the other side of the ridge: rain showers over the Sand Dunes and valley to the north tinted pink, orange, and yellow by the sunset. I call Troy up and we enjoy the scene before a chilly wind sends us for our sleeping bags.

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 2

The morning is an easy, uneventful four miles down the ridgeline to Mosca Pass, the low point of the route at 9,700’. The spring right off the ridge that we were hoping for is dry and we walk the mile down into the Preserve for water. We go to a spot I’ve stopped at with guided trips in the past. As will become our practice, we fill up for the entire day and head back up to the ridge. 

The next 10 miles of walking up and over Mount Zwischen is long, dry, and hot. It’s also littered with blowdowns. The view out over the Dunes from the summit is pretty spectacular though. The descent is steep through dense forest on tired feet. 

The most joy I find all day is when I pick up bits of elk trail here and there and we can cruise until the path disappears as suddenly as it appeared. At Medano Pass, we descend 500’ into the Preserve to fill up on water behind an established camp from which dogs are barking at us. We hike the 4wd road out of the Preseve and north from the pass until we find a suitable camp underneath the shadow of Herard.

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 3

Shortly before 6am, we begin our daily migration back to the ridge. The higher we climb, the windier it gets. As we crest the ridge, the full force of the gales hit, carrying icy wind up from the shadowed valley to the west. We lean sideways into the 40-50 mph eastward winds as we push north over rolling tundra, summiting one small peak after another.

I need more layers, a snack, a break from the wind. I drop off the ridge to the east where it’s nearly windless and it’s 15 degrees warmer. I wipe the snot from the right lens of my sunglasses. We snack, layer up, regain composure and head back into it. We see weather over Blanca to the south as well as the Crestones to the north. Being almost exclusively above treeline, it’s incredible how far we can see around us – all the way back to where we started, and all the way to where we’ll sleep tonight.

By noon, we’re at Music Pass and we trace out the remainder of our route for the day: Marble Mountain, Milwaukee Peak, and the Crestones, beneath which we plan to camp. A steep 1300’ and we’ve regained the ridge. We skirt through the notch by Milwaukee, enjoying an oddly placed mile or so of nice trail that disappears as suddenly as it appeared. 

With 8000’ of vertical on our legs already and daylight waning, we opt to take the Cresolita saddle rather than the ridge directly over Broken Hand Peak. I’m disappointed, but it’s the right call. As we descend into South Colony Lakes at dusk, the pikas’ chirping echoes around the basin. At the outlet of the lake, I achily bend over and wash the grime from my face and legs. We find a protected spot in the willows to settle in for the night. 

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 4

Morning comes too soon and sleep was insufficient as I spent part of the night defending my food bag pillow from the mini bear that was scratching around at the edge of my shelter. That’s soon forgotten, however, as we begin our ascent and I’m entranced by the red glow reflected off the Needle. Soon we’ve regained the primary ridge via a fun class 3 connecting ridge from Humboldt. 

Clouds roll up and over a saddle from the west, blotting out the sun as we climb Obstruction. From the summit, through breaks in the clouds, we look down to Willow Lake, a longtime favorite haven, and across the bumpy ridgeline of 13ers that connects to Adams. In a flat below Adams is Mo Lake, a cat-shaped tarn I christened last August the weekend after I said goodbye to my 17-year old cat.

We descend a steep, loose gully skirting below the first two major obstacles of the ridge, which would’ve required hours of technical scrambling, and reascend at the saddle south of Peak 13517. A series of steep, scree-covered slabs and class 4 moves takes us along the remainder of the ridge to Adams. From there, we follow the chunky class 3 ridge to Fluted. The end of the technical difficulties! I’m both relieved (we might actually do this thing!) and sad. The technical parts, while slow, are an engaging puzzle to solve.  

The remainder of the day is rolling block field until we pick up a mile or so of trail in a saddle near Comanche and drop down to Venable for camp. The basin is home to dozens of marmots which whistle at me as I pass through their domains on the way to the small lake. Three deer study me as I gather water. A gentle rain starts to fall and I scurry back to my tent. Cooking dinner from the safety and warmth of my tent, a rainbow appears over Westcliffe to the east. I fall asleep listening to Annie Dillard wax poetic about the glory of nature.

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 5

After a night mostly spent listening to the flapping of my tent in the wind, I open my eyes and notice it’s lighter than it should be at 5:03am. I’ve slept through my watch alarm and scramble to pack up as Troy is already almost ready to go. 

The day is gloriously repetitive, consisting of going up and over several peaks  >13,000’. Up 1000’, down 1000’, up 500’, down 500’, up 1300’, down 1300’. Eureka, Hermit, Rito Alto, Peak of the Clouds, Silver Peak, and on and on. The peaks were a nice break from the slower, technical terrain of the previous day, and more steep and engaging than the rolling tundra I expected. It felt wonderful to walk along the ridges I’ve seen so many times from the lakes below. Occasionally we stop on summit to snack and I just sit and stare contently at where we’ve been and where we’re going.

We make camp early at a small lake below Electric Peak. I take my time setting up my shelter and then walk the half mile to gather water. I’m nearly done when I notice movement in the otherwise still tarn. I think it’s insects at first, but the frequency picks up, and I realize it’s rain drops. Covering the water slowly at first, and then more quickly. I rinse my face and legs and scamper to my tent. I hop in just as the squall picks up. I bury myself in my quilt and eat spoonfuls of almond butter and drink lemon chamomile tea while I watch the rainfall outside. I’m warm, dry, and clean in my tent at a remote lake at 12,400’  in my favorite range. It’s hard to imagine any better feeling in this moment.

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 6

I awoke to a lone pika call at 4:30am, feeling rested and grateful for a full night’s sleep. We climb out of our basin camp and as we regain the ridgeline to Electric Peak, a red sun lights up the Wet Mountain Valley. The surrounding peaks emit a golden glow. The shadow of the range begins to take shape in the valley to the west. There’s the outline of Electric and our microscopic figures crawling up it. 

At the summit, I look north and spot the Chalk Cliffs. HOME! We’re actually almost there. In a way, it feels kind of unbelievable. 

There’s an icy wind, which I’ve come to expect each morning when we regain the ridge. I walk with my hands in my pockets and think about hiking this route again, solo, pushing myself as hard as I can. And then I wonder about that desire to run myself ragged, to walk until there’s nothing left, to find transcendence by searching for the limits of the physical.

Today’s terrain is a continuation of the previous day, and as I hike up another steep rocky ridge, I send a genuine prayer to the universe for endless talus covered 13ers. This feeling is like nothing else: heart pounding, breath rhythmic, in out in out, step step step step, thinking like the sheep, allowing my body to take the most obvious line, connecting bits of worn terrain. Some trampled tundra here, flattened scuffed rocks there, a slight opening in the grass.

At Cottonwood Peak, our main route drops below 13,000’ for the first time in 40 miles. The afternoon is hot and humid as we wind down through blowdown hell (though not as hellish as Zwischen) to Hayden Pass. A quarter mile from the pass my pole breaks. For 25 minutes, we search a small piece of ground for the missing spring. No luck, but I’m grateful for Troy’s help in the search as it’s already been a long day and we’re both ready to find water. We hike out to the pass and descend 500’ before we find a trickle big enough to fill our bottles, and then reascend to make camp.

I watch the cumulonimbus build behind the ridge to the south and darken the valley to the east as my dinner cooks. Flash. 1…2…3…BOOM! It’s close. Dinner is done and the show begins. I watch the storm mingle with sunset light as it passes overhead. 

I love this outside life.

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 7

I wake up excited for our last full day. We follow old trail up Galena in the twilight. Clouds are rolling in over the pass and the entire sky is pink, orange, amber, and yellow as the sunrise light reflects off the clouds. The beauty is unbelievable.

All day, we hike up and down “bumps” on the ridge inside of a cloud. I feel like I’m in a dream, hiking the same 100′ of talus on repeat. Time is standing still. My watch says we’ve been hiking for 4 hours, but I can’t ascertain any progress.

The clouds begin to break a little after noon and we’re above one of my very favorite alpine swimming spots. On a subsidiary ridge, I spot two sheep descending steep talus. It feels so meaningful to connect all these places I love and these peaks I literally look at every morning on my walk, addressing them by name, “good morning Simmons, Hunts, Twin Sisters…

My body feels strong, even after 50,000’ of vertical gain in a week. Stronger perhaps than when I started. I feel gratitude for my body’s strength and resilience. I know it’s not a given.

I watch the sky vigilantly all day as storms build in every direction around us. Around noon we drop 700’ steeply off the ridge to get water. This is our original planned campsite, but it’s early and we think the weather will hold a bit longer. So we test our luck, fill up, and push on. And the weather (and our luck) does hold for another few hours; long enough for us to get up and over Hunts Peak. At the summit, we’re greeted with a cold wind and a loud clap of thunder. It’s raining in the valley directly to our east and up north over Salida. Time to get down!

I inhale a few spoonfuls of almond butter, nearly clogging my airway, and then we haul down the steep scree slope as the wind picks up and thunder continues to echo nearby. We bail into a basin on the east side of the ridge, where 500’ down we see some trees and a potential flat(ish) spot large enough to fit our tents. Hail starts to fall as we make our way down the slippery wet tundra and scree slope. We configure a couple of clever camp spots and as soon as we’re set up, it begins to rain in earnest.

I sit in my tent drinking warm emergenc, eating the last few ounce of almond butter, listening to the pikas, and watching the clouds swirl around the basin. Salida is 15 miles and 3k’ of vertical away. 

Sangre de Cristo Traverse Day 8

When I awake, the predawn air feels damp and chilly. The sun tries to light up the sky, but we remain inside of a dense cloud for much of the morning. We hike northward, only a few minor peaks and two named peaks before our descent into Salida. After a few hours, the sun begins to burn off the top layer of clouds, revealing the most incredible inversion in the valleys on both the east and west side. The ridgeline is an island of land in a sea of clouds. 

Through the dense fog, I walk north, feeling the magnetic pull of home so strongly I can’t slow down. I periodically stop and wait until I see Troy’s figure emerge from the fog and then I turn and keep walking. The terrain has mellowed into tundra and block field. We reconvene beneath Simmons Peak, remove some layers, and then ascend together. The clouds have burned off even more now. The sky is blue. Salida is 6200′ below under a blanket of clouds. Methodist, our final peak, is one connecting ridgeline away. 

We gingerly crawl down the wet, slippery, lichen-covered rocks and into the blowdown forest that covers the remaining section of ridgeline. The Decker fire came through here in 2019. Amongst the burned out skeleton trees, fireweed and yarrow add splashes of color to the bare ground.

I’m laser focused as I weave in and out of downed trees and baby aspen groves finding elk trails to link together. I round the side of a knoll and spot five elk as they disappear off the other side of the ridge. Thank you for the trails! I stop to snack on raspberries along the way, but never for long. I’ve got places to go. 

After what felt like much longer than it should’ve taken, I’m on the final push up up up the steep southwest ridge of Methodist. There was trail we could’ve taken at the last saddle to bypass this climb, but I forgot, and now I’m here and I’m climbing and panting and soaked from pushing through wet brush, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing in this moment than doing exactly this.

And suddenly, I’m standing on a road. It’s the service road that connects to the communications towers on the summit. And shortly thereafter, Troy is there too. We have 9 miles of road walking and 4600′ of descent to Highway 50.  We tap poles and commend each other on a well executed trip.

I look at my watch, “we should be to the burger place by 1.”

“Sounds amazing,” he responds and we begin our descent off the ridge that has been our home for the last 8 days. We walk out of the sun, down through a layer of fog, and eventually Salida comes into view. 

“I’ve walked out of the mountains into a lot of different towns, but never into the one I live in. It feels pretty great,” I say.

Photo Essay

I intended to pick out 5 or 6 of my favorite photos to share, but here we are with 21.

Photo credit for many of these is Troy Klaassen.

How to Get the Best Results from Your Diet


Are you focusing your health efforts on the activities that will make the biggest impact?

I see a lot of people spending way too much time on the things that aren’t moving the needle.

Things like:

Looking for the best protein powder.

Downloading new workout apps.

Researching supplements for weight loss.

Trying to decide if you should be intermittent fasting.

I get it. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae. You can do all of these things until the cows come home, but without the foundations in place, progress will be slow at best. 

If you’re putting in effort and not seeing results, check in on the following:

  1. Focus on 80% whole foods.

Whole foods are ideal to ensure that you get the micronutrients to keep your body functioning optimally. The water content and fiber of real food will keep you satisfied longer. By choosing whole foods over processed foods, you’ll avoid inflammatory compounds like food dyes, preservatives, trans fats, and more.

  1. Pay attention to your protein and fiber intake.

Protein is the most satiating macro nutrient. It’s also essential for immunity, blood sugar balance, and muscle repair. The right amount for you depends on your weight, activity level, and goals.

Fiber is also satiating. Furthermore, it’s essential for a healthy microbiome, which affects everything from your cravings to mental clarity, immune health, body weight, and more.

  1. Balance blood sugar.

No matter what diet you eat, balancing blood sugar is so important in reducing cravings, balancing hormones, having the energy for a full day outside, and so much more. I have several posts about this on my blog. Essentially, you want to include fat, protein, and fiber at each meal or snack.

  1. Sleep 7-9 hours per night.

Sleep deprivation affects several hormones which impact appetite and hunger. Ever notice how you crave all the carbs when you’re sleep deprived? Not only can sleep disturbances affect your waistline and put you at higher risk for metabolic syndrome, lack of proper rest prevents you from putting in full effort during training sessions.

  1. Manage your stress.

The stress hormone cortisol wreaks havoc on your health in so many ways. Regardless of what style of eating you follow and no matter how healthy you eat, if you’re not managing your stress, you’re not going to see the results you want. Your body holds onto weight, muscle gain is stalled, recovery is slower, and fatigue increases. Stress management can be as simple as a few deep breaths to shift from a sympathetic dominant state back into parasympathetic. Check in with yourself often.

Focus on Foundations for Faster Results

Nailing these foundations support you in feeling better in the day to day by reducing brain fog, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. On your adventures, it means the ability to hike longer days, recover faster, keep up with your adventure partners, and have a body that’s capable of doing what you love until your last breath.

I write about how important it is to personalize your approach and learn exactly what works for your unique body. I absolutely believe that and it’s why I work closely with clients to support them through that process. That said, a personalized approach goes hand in hand with focusing on the foundations.

You deserve a long lived, healthy, adventurous life. If you’re not feeling great, check on your foundations before searching for the latest “hack.”

Ready to take the next step in your journey? Find more free resources here.

How to Keep Your Body Adventure Ready


Does the following sentiment resonate with you? 

“I want to be capable of doing what I love until my last day on Earth.”

I was recently having a conversation with a friend in the long distance hiking community about the concept of being a lifelong adventurer.

This is someone for whom adventure is an essential component of your identity. The adventure itself may take different forms throughout different times in your life, but the underlying spirit remains the same. For the lifelong adventurer, your excursions aren’t a “once in a lifetime” thing. They’re necessary for you to feel fully expressed and self-actualized.  

You do your best to get out there summer after summer. Living out of your car. Going days without showering. Well, maybe not living out of your car anymore. Or maybe you are. Either way, no shame in that. You do what you need to do to live a life that is meaningful to you.

While the adventures may look slightly different than they did a decade or two ago, you have no intention of stopping until your last breath. And having the health to do what you love, whether that’s hiking, biking, climbing, or just feeling good running around the yard with your labradoodle, is essential.

This hiking friend was telling me about how after he turned 40, he started noticing that he didn’t have quite the stamina he used to have and that he felt more stiff in the mornings. He’d started taking some supplements we discussed (more on that in a moment) and he shared how it helped him continue to crank out 30-40 mile days and recover faster after back to back to back hard days in the mountains.

Similarly, I worked with a woman who pushed her body running ultras in her early 30s and was now struggling with low motivation and lack of energy during runs and hikes. We developed a protocol to support her adrenals so that she has the energy to keep getting after it for years to come.

It got me thinking about the best ways to care for the body, that precious vessel, so that it’s capable of accessing wild places for decades to come. 

Here are 5 keys to keeping your body fit for adventure: 

Eat for longevity.

I talk about this topic ad nauseam, so I’ll keep it brief. Focus on whole foods. Include loads of antioxidant rich foods (think fruits & veggies). Keep blood sugar balanced by including fat, protein, and fiber at each meal. Remember, you don’t need to be perfect. Just shoot for 80/20 and know that what you put in your body 3 times per day makes a HUGE difference in how you feel and what you’re capable of in pretty much every area of life.

Manage stress.

Chronically high stress creates chronically elevated cortisol, which wreaks havoc on the mind & body, including weight gain, memory impairment, heart disease, digestive issues, depression, anxiety, and more. Life is wild. One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to set aside 10-20 minutes per day for intentional stress relief. Whether that’s a walk in nature, meditation, journaling, or a snuggle with your cat, find what works for you and make space for it. 

Supplement wisely.

Nutritionally speaking, we know that the body requires certain levels of nutrients to function optimally. We also know that due to the abundance of nutritionally poor foods available today, many of us do not get the daily requirements of several key nutrients. Furthermore, chronic illness, gut dysbiosis, exposure to toxins, stress, and heavy physical demands on the body all deplete nutrient stores more quickly.

As discussed above in regards to my friends, finding the right supplements to support your body can make a big difference. Getting blood work done is the best way to know where your current levels are and to determine what you may need. However, there are some supplements that can benefit nearly everyone.

I created a whole free guide about this which you can download here. It’s important to note that I’m not a doctor and you should educate yourself and make your own decisions. Side note: I wrote about the supplements I took on the CDT here

Train in seasons & learn to listen to your body.

I used to run 7-10 miles every single day. That eventually burnt out my adrenals and led to overuse injuries. Looking back, my body was sending me countless signals that it was not happy with what I was doing.

Have different ‘seasons’ for how you train. In the summer you might go harder because the days are longer and the weather is conducive to getting out more. In the winters, you may slow down and give your body time to rest and rebuild. Tune in and honor your body so it will keep going for years to come.

Personalize your approach.

An important component to remaining active and healthy in the long run is learning about your unique body. What foods does your body do best with? What types of exercise? What types of living environments? What supplements? How much social time do you need? 

When we’re not doing what’s best for our unique bodies in any of these areas, it can lead to inflammation, which has a cascade of negative effects on the body and is at the root of nearly every chronic disease. Take the time to learn what your body thrives on and honor that. 

Aging doesn’t have to be a slow decline into a sedentary life where the highlight of your day is watching the Price is Right (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the point is that if you want to live an adventurous life, you can!). With a bit of attention and self care, you can absolutely keep doing what you love for the rest of your life.

Your body is incredibly resilient and powerful!

Ready to take the next step on your journey? Let’s connect.

Finding Weight Balance & Preparing for Adventure

Three key changes this client made to return to his high school weight, increase energy, and live a life that’s “off the charts.”  

I always find other peoples’ stories inspiring, so this week I want to offer a case study of one of my clients who’s been crushing his health goals in preparation for a challenging autumn hike in Colorado. 

Joe is a well educated, high achieving executive in his late 40s with a history of success in many areas of life. He was already in a relatively good place in his health, but wanted to break through a weight loss plateau and reach the next level of what his body could achieve. He was tired of looking in the mirror and feeling disappointed. He was tired of restricting, dieting, and overexercising but not seeing the results. He had adventure plans and was ready to collapse the timeline and finally start feeling good.

Here are the changes we worked on together:  

>>Dial in a unique nutrition plan.

There is no one size fits all diet. Finding a sustainable way of eating for you involves finding which foods support health for your body and which don’t. It also involves learning how different macronutrients affect your body.

Joe increased his protein intake to an appropriate level for his age and fitness level. He shifted away from processed foods and into eating more whole foods, which kept him full between meals and balanced his blood sugar and hormones. He got off the restrict and binge cycle and developed a healthier relationship with food and his body (more below on how he did that). He stopped focusing on the weight as much and learned to trust his body.

>>Incorporate lifestyle changes beyond diet.

We evaluated all areas of Joe’s life, including his fitness, sleep, and stress levels. He made changes which reduced how much cortisol he was producing, which was responsible for fatigue, weight gain, and anxiety. Joe began a regular meditation practice and stopped running hard every day. He prioritized sleep and made time to relax, often in nature.  

>>Shift mindset + underlying patterns.

Long term results hinge on shifting not just diet and lifestyle habits, but on looking at how you make decisions for your health and why you choose to treat your body the way you do. Joe had a history of disordered eating behaviors. I’ve been there and I know how frustrating it is to know the decisions you want to make for yourself but to not follow through.

Once he was on a whole food nutrition plan that satiated him and supported his physiology, we could address the mindset and triggers that were keeping him from hitting his goals. Restriction, skipping meals, and stress are common scenarios that lead to binges. He learned other forms of emotional coping. He learned to slow down so that he could hear the feedback from his body. He learned to tune into what his body needed and to trust it. 

All of this was incorporated in a way that fit Joe’s life and supported the creation of new habits. 

In summary, cookie cutter strategies don’t work.

Joe was able to achieve the health he was after by customizing his diet for his unique needs, adjusting his macronutrient ratios, tuning into his body, reducing cortisol through lifestyle changes, and by removing the beliefs and triggers that were keeping him in a cycle of self sabotage. 

Hopefully this inspires you to know that you can have the health, the body, and the adventurous life you desire at any stage and age of life. It takes strategy + mindset shifts, but it’s absolutely possible!

Ready to take the next step towards a healthier you? Schedule a complimentary Health Made Simple Strategy Call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.

We’ll discuss your health aspirations and a potential plan for how to move you closer to those goals. We’ll see if we’re a good client-coach fit and you’ll come away with clarity on next steps, whether or not we decide to work together. Why wait another day to have a healthy body so you can have more energy to go on that dream trip?

Related Posts:

How to Optimize Sports Recovery

 Hit Your Health Goals Faster: 6 Mistake to Avoid

How to Hike More Miles in a Day

How to Choose a Protein Bar That’s Actually Healthy


You’re strolling down the ‘bar aisle’ at the grocery store. The one with all the ‘energy bars’ and the ‘protein bars’ and the ‘meal replacement bars’ and ‘snack bars’, and… 

Perhaps, like me, this aisle overwhelms you a bit. But you need to stock your pantry for those mornings when you have to run out the door without breakfast, or maybe you need to refill your stash for your next backpacking trip. So you start scanning the shelves. 

“Holy cow,” you think, “are there even more options than the last time I was here??”

New bar brands are hitting the shelves every day, and while this is great for adding variety when you inevitably get sick of your current favorite, it’s also overwhelming when you’re looking for one that’s going to power you up the mountains or through a long day of work. 

How do you choose one that’s healthy? How do you find one that’s not just a candy bar in sheep’s clothing? (If you’re going for a candy bar, that’s your call – just don’t pay protein bar prices for what’s essentially a well-marketed candy bar – e.g. those “nutrition” bars with more sugar than a Snickers. #healthwashing.)

Why Protein + How Much?

First, what’s the big deal with protein? In short, it’s essential for every living being. You need it for proper immune function, and for muscle repair and recovery. It helps stabilize your blood sugar (and therefore, your energy levels) and keeps you full longer. It also carries electrolytes into and out of cells, and is a building block for muscles, skin, bones, and blood. 

How much do you need? There are a lot of opinions on this question. Protein needs vary based on gender, activity level, and your goals (weight loss, muscle gain, maintenance). The Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.8 grams per kilogram (1kg = 2.2 lbs, so that’s 0.36 grams per pound) of bodyweight. Personally, I feel best when I eat in the range of 0.7-0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. It’s generally recommended that more active individuals eat more protein.

How do I choose one?

Here are 3 steps I use for bar selection + tips on when to use different bars based on your goals (recovery, muscle building, weight loss, etc.).

  1. Look at Ingredients

At a very basic level, look for whole, real foods; things you can readily identify, such as almonds, dates, oats, prunes, hemp seeds, cocoa powder, and so on. The ingredients should be simple and as close to the form found in nature as possible. 

  1. Consider Your Goals

What are your needs? Are you looking for a snack bar to tide you over until dinner? Or for a meal replacement? Do you plan to eat it while you’re being active, like on a long run or a hike? It’s helpful to know how and when you intend to use the bar because it can influence what you’re looking at in step 3.

  1. Scan the Nutrition Label

Look at the protein. To me, a protein bar should have, at minimum, 5 grams of protein. If you’re looking for a meal replacement bar or one to use when you’re exercising strenuously or during heavy lifting, look for 20+ grams of protein. If you’re on a specialty diet (e.g. vegan), look at the source of the protein and choose accordingly (e.g. avoid whey if vegan).

Look at the fiber. I generally prefer bars with 6+ grams of fiber. This keeps you full until your next meal, stabilizes blood sugar, and promotes a healthy gut microbiome. Fruit and nut-based bars generally have more fiber than others.

Consider calorie ranges. When searching for a snack bar in my day to day life, I’ll look for bars in the 200-calorie range. If it’s a meal replacement bar, 300-400 calories is a better choice, assuming I want it to keep me full until my next meal. If I’m backpacking, I look for the highest calorie per ounce bar I can get.

Evaluate the Protein to Carbohydrate Ratio

Okay, just a little simple math required on this one. If you’re interested in losing weight, a bar with a 1:1 or 2:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio would be a good choice. If you want to build muscle, or improve workout recovery, or get a burst of quick energy, anywhere between a 1:2 to a 1:4 protein to carbohydrate ratio is what I’d look for. 

What to Avoid

There are a few things to avoid, if possible. One is sugar alcohols, like xylitol, sorbitol and maltitol, as these can cause bloating and cramps. I’d also steer clear of trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors.

Final pro tip, find a handful of brands that suit your criteria and stock up on multiple flavors, because you will inevitably get sick of them. Having a rotation at least slows that process. Knowing some go-to brands makes future shopping trips faster and less overwhelming. Having a criteria for selection, as outlined above, makes the process quicker if you’re in a new store and you can’t find your go-to brands. 

I believe in meeting our nutritional needs through food first, but when you need an on-the-go meal or snack option, thoughtfully chosen protein bars can be a healthy choice. You just have to know what to look for 🙂

You can find some of my go-to options in the free Healthy Hiker Grocery Guide on this page!

To join our free Healthy Ultralight Meal Planning eCourse, CLICK HERE.

5 Steps to Stay Ready for Adventure


This post is about the 5 things I’m doing to stay ready for outdoor adventure, once the coast is clear. If you like this, stay in touch over on my Facebook community, Holistic Health for the Avid Adventurer, where I do free trainings on topics like this one. You can also follow me on Instagram @katiegerber_wellness and DM me anytime to say hi! If you’re interested in strategic 1-1 support, schedule a free call and we’ll see if we’re a good fit. I would love to work with you now or in the future! ~ Katie

Are you pretty much always dreaming of where you’ll go and what you’ll do when you can get into the outdoors again?

There’s nothing quite like the freedom of hiking through the wilderness, with the sun on your skin, the breeze in your hair, and open trail ahead.

Hiking around my local reservoir today, I got caught in a thunderstorm. I felt the temperature drop, the winds pick up, the goosebumps on my skin, and then the first few drops of rain pelting my face. It was fantastic. I felt alive. I felt the sense of OK-ness that I get when I’m in nature.

And it reminded me that I may not know when my next big outdoor adventure will be, but I have no doubt that it will happen again at some point. And when it does, I want to be ready to get out with confidence and enthusiasm. What about you?

Here are 5 steps I’m taking to stay prepared for adventure.

Gear Inventory

This includes:

  • cleaning up gear that’s been shoved to the back of the closet after my last trip
  • repairing gear
  • giving away or selling anything I no longer need or will use
  • testing gear that I want more practice with before I take it into the field
  • repairing gear, giving away or selling anything you don’t need, and testing gear you want more practice with.  

Research + Inspiration

I have a running document of hikes or trips that I would love to do at some point. A bucket list of sorts. When I’m thinking of planning a trip, like I am for this fall, I’ll look over this document, and I’ll highlight the ones that would be appropriate for the season and the length of time I have available. From there, I decide what my soul feels most called to, and then I dive into research. This keeps me motivated and inspired. Additionally, having a general plan in place allows me to be ready to execute on it and get out there if/when that’s possible. 

Food Inventory

This involves:

  • cleaning out expired backpacking food
  • taking an inventory of what’s left (I like spreadsheets for this!)
  • bulk cooking and dehydrating meals (I’m not the kind of person who enjoys this, but it’s a great activity to be doing if you are!)
  • potentially planning a resupply strategy if I have a specific trail in mind
  • creating a menu and determining what I still need to purchase for said resupply plan (Here’s a free ecourse on how to do all of this!)

Stay Connected to the Trail Community

Taking time away from the trail and my normal adventure buddies doesn’t have to mean being completely disconnected. Making an effort to connect virtually with trail friends keeps us inspired and reminds us that we’re not alone in our longings to get back outdoors. To me, this is essential for not falling into a hole of despair due to canceled plans and future uncertainty. There are a myraid of options, including subscribing to the newsletters of your favorite trail orgs or joining one of the hundreds of outdoors-related Facebook groups. Webinar meetings are a great way to see like-minded humans ‘face to face’ and nearly every organization is offering this new style of connecting and learning.

Get My Body in Tip Top Shape

I know from experience that I feel SO MUCH better when I hit the trail with my body already tuned in to good nutrition and regular movement. I have more energy, I can hike more miles more easily, and I’m less prone to overuse injuries. It makes my adventure more fun and increases the likelihood that I’ll be successful.

Having the structure, support, and accountability of a coach can massively accelerate progress towards health goals. Furthermore, focusing on your adventure as your motivation for training and eating helps you stick to it when you face (inevitable) challenges.

What else keeps your spirits up and your motivation high between adventures? Let me know in the comments!

CLICK HERE to access more free resources to help you get outside feeling strong and healthy for your next adventure!

Cusa Cold Brew Coffee Review


Outdoor physical activity and good organic coffee. These two ingredients have been cornerstones in my life for as long as I can recall. Unfortunately, when I’m out for a full day of play in the outdoors, good coffee usually isn’t readily available. If it is, the options tend to leave much to be desired. At least that was the case until recently. Enter Cusa coffee’s new instant cold brew.

I have thousands of backpacking miles under my belt fueled by Cusa’s instant premium teas, so I’m familiar with their quality standards. And while I genuinely enjoy the taste and health benefits of premium tea, there are times when only a good cup of coffee will do. However, the instant coffee market is limited, and the options I was familiar with left much to be desired in terms of flavor and quality.

Why Quality Coffee Matters

After years of working as a barista at many different coffee shops, and being fortunate enough to drink coffee that’s in the top 1% worldwide in terms of quality, my standards are high. Unfortunately, this means gas station coffee and cheap instant packets no longer cut it.

I realize my coffee snobbery level probably sounds off the charts right now, so let me explain. When it comes to coffee (and tea), quality really does matter. Aside from organic being better for the environment, it’s also better for you. Conventional coffee is one of the most heavily chemically treated crops in the world, being sprayed with a myriad of chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides, all with questionable safety profiles. Due to the known ability of agricultural chemicals to cause a large number of negative health effects, I like to avoid them when I can. 

Furthermore, mold toxicity (via mycotoxins) is a real concern for coffee drinkers. You know that jittery, anxious feeling that you sometimes feel after you drink coffee? It may be an issue of quantity (too much), but often it’s due to the mold and chemical contamination. For these reasons, drinking a quality source is important to me. In that regard, Cusa’s new cold brew fits my needs.

Coffee Review

I had the opportunity to sample several of Cusa’s new instant coffee varieties, including the Dark Roast, Medium Roast, Vanilla Dark Roast, and Lemon Dark Roast. When evaluating an instant coffee, there are a few key factors I’m examining. These include taste, dissolvability in hot and cold water, quality (organic), and convenience (single serving packets).

With Cusa’s instant cold brew coffees, all are 100% organic, arabica coffee, satisfying my need for quality. They come in single serving packets that are intended to be mixed with 8-10 ounces of water, according to the instructions. I like my coffee pretty strong, so using ~6 ounces of water or multiple packets in a larger amount of water, depending on my caffeine needs, was the way to go.

I tested some of the varieties in cold water and some in hot water and each dissolved completely, either instantly or with a small bit of agitation (e.g. stirring or shaking in a jar/bottle). That part is crucial for my needs on trail since I want the ease of simply dumping a packet into my water bottle, shaking and caffeinating. Sometimes I carry a stove, but often I don’t, so cold water dissolvability is key for me. 

I tested the Medium Roast in 6 ounces of cold almond milk. It dissolved well and the taste was strong and paired perfectly with the nut milk. The Dark Roast I tested in 8 ounces of hot water and found it to be full bodied with a balanced flavor. That one was probably my favorite. For the Vanilla Dark Roast, I used 8 ounces of hot water. The vanilla flavor was well balanced, but the brew was not full bodied enough for my taste, and I’ll reduce the volume of liquid next time. I prepared the Lemon Dark Roast in 8 ounces of cold water. The lemon is quite apparent and while I personally did not care for this flavor combination, I can see how one might find it quite refreshing on a hot afternoon.

I will always love the ritual of making a hot cup of french press or stove top espresso at home, but there are myriad ways Cusa’s coffee makes my on-the-go caffeine needs more convenient. I can stash a few packets in my day pack for a day in the mountains or on the river. I also keep a few packets in my glove box ICCE (in case of caffeine emergency). And Cusa’s tea and/or coffee packets are the ideal choice to send myself in resupply boxes for my multi-month thru-hikes. I also envision these being great for long travel days when I’m not interested in paying $6 for a cup of crappy airport coffee (which is always).

In addition to Cusa’s new caffeine free herbal line of teas (which are also excellent), I’m genuinely excited for the recent addition of premium cold brew coffee to the Cusa family. 

In full disclosure, this product was sent to me free of charge. However, I have no ongoing relationship with Cusa. In addition to a few other organic instant coffees, it continues to be one of my favorites.

If you enjoyed this review and plan to order, please consider using this link, from which I can earn a small percentage of the sale with no additional expense to you.

Resupply 101: Options & Tips for Food Drops on Your Long Distance Hike

ODT resupply

A portion of this content was created as part of a collaborative effort by the executive board of the American Long Distance Hiking Association – West for a presentation at one of their spring Rucks.

What am I going to eat?!? 

This is a big concern for hikers heading out on a long trail. What, when, and where you’re going to pick up your next food drop on a hike is something that you’ll want to consider, at least briefly, before hitting the trail.

This article will cover how to start planning your food resupply for the trail. We’ll review your options, including the pros and cons of each, and wrap up with some tips for execution.

Resupply Planning Overview

Begin by identifying where you absolutely must send a box. There will almost certainly be at least a couple of towns like this on each trail. These towns have extremely limited or non existent resupply options. You’ll need to look at what resupply options are available in a town and determine if that’s adequate for how you like to fuel your hike.

In that regard, it’s helpful to know ahead of time what type of food makes you feel best when you hike. I encourage you to experiment before you get on the trail! For instance, I (as you might imagine) like to eat pretty healthy, so five days of snickers, pop-tarts, and pastries wouldn’t cut it for me. Others might be ‘fine’ with this. The point is that it’s important to know thyself. 

You don’t have to find resupply information from scratch! Nearly every trail has an associated trail organization that will provide some information on resupply options available in each town. Use that guide to determine where you will need to send a box. Additionally, you can find other hikers’ resupply strategies for a particular trail by reading trail journals. You can also consult survey results from each year’s previous class of hikers


How to Send a Box When One is Needed

Once you determine where you need to send a resupply box, you have a couple of options on how to do that. You can 1) purchase your food ahead of time, box it up, and solicit a point person to send it out for you, or 2) you can purchase food on trail at a town that’s 100-200 miles ahead of the town where you’ll need the box sent. Plan for mail to take at least five days. 

Food boxes can be sent General Delivery via the United States Post Office (USPS). Alternatively, they can be mailed to a store, motel, or restaurant in that town that accepts hiker food boxes to be sent to them. Either way, call ahead to inquire about the correct address and hours. Additionally, if it’s not a PO, ask whether the place accepts boxes and if there’s a fee associated. Also ask if it’s best to send USPS, FedEx,  or UPS.

To find the Post Office that handles General Delivery in any area, call 1-800-ASK-USPS or check Rates are found on the website and currently, they range from $13-19 for medium to large flat rate boxes.

How to address your USPS box for general delivery:

It’s recommended to write “PLEASE HOLD FOR HIKER (name), ETA: (date)” somewhere on the box. Furthermore, it’s recommended that you use priority mailing via USPS because, if for some reason, you cannot pick up your box, you can “bounce” that food box to another post office up/down the trail or request it be returned to sender.  On that note, always include a return address.

Options for Your Resupply Strategy

Now that we’ve covered how to handle your resupply when you absolutely need to send a box to a location, let’s look at your overall strategy.

Essentially, you have three options: 1) Prepare boxes in advance to send to each location you want a box. 2) Buy as you go, sending boxes ahead to each location you want a box. 3) A mix of the above strategies. Read on as to why you might choose one strategy or another. 

Buy Ahead Resupply Box Approach 

This option entails preparing and packaging food at home to send to towns on trail where you determined you need or want a box. You buy groceries in towns where you don’t send a box.

This approach requires that you purchase all of your food in advance, (possibly) repackage it, and box it up before you hit the trail. It also requires that you have a responsible point person to send your box out in a timely fashion. If boxes aren’t picked up at the PO within two weeks of arrival, they’re sent back to the return address. As a footnote, if you think you won’t make it to the PO for your box on time, try calling them, explaining the situation, and asking them to hold it a bit longer. Be kind and they’ll likely say yes. 

For best success with this option, pack your box ahead of time, address it, and have it ready to go, but do not tape it shut. It may be necessary to have your point person add or subtract items that you discover you need or don’t need in the box. Additionally, you might consider numbering your boxes, so when instructing your point person to send a box you can email, phone, or text and say, “please send box #3 out by this date.” This ensures no thinking or second guessing on behalf of the point person. Make it easy for them!

  • You can guarantee your nutritional needs, wants, and desires. Organic and options for restricted diets can be limited. A good option for those who need prescription medications.
  • You can budget your food.
  • No need to spend time in town purchasing food for the next stretch. Less chores in town frees up more time for relaxing. Alternatively, you may choose to just pick up your box and leave town. In that sense, this option is great if you’re in a hurry.
  • You can send hard to find items like gas for your stove (IF YOU SEND VIA GROUND ONLY). Basically, if there’s a need you discover while on trail, you can ask your point person to send it.
  • You can add your maps for your food box to avoid mailing them separately.
  • You’re stuck eating what’s in your box. Of course, you could send it back and purchase in town if needed, or you could throw it in the hiker box. But typically, the cost of not eating what you’ve already purchased, packed, and mailed outweighs the cost, time, and energy of sending it back home and buying in town.
  • Requires more planning time before you hit the trail.
  • Post office hours vary and sometimes you may get into town after the PO is closed or on a Saturday whereby you will have to wait until Monday morning to get your food. PO’s can close down seasonally.
  • The box gets sent back because it wasn’t picked up in time.
  • The delivery gets mixed up by your point person or just fails to get to the PO.

Buy As You Go Resupply Approach

If you don’t have dietary restrictions and you want to ease the pre-planning time before you embark on your adventure, the buy as you go option is ideal. 

Most towns have grocery stores, both large and small, where you can purchase food. Others, however, have only a gas station/convenience store, which is basically the “bottom of the barrel” when it comes to nutrition.

  • You can support local businesses.
  • You can purchase the food you are craving and change up your menu as you hike.
  • If you have food left over when getting into town, you don’t need to buy those items in town.
  • You’re not tethered to the open and close times of the PO.
  • If you have to leave the trail due to illness, injury, homesickness, etc… you don’t have a ton of un-eaten trail food boxed up at home. (If you do, you could donate and send it to hikers in need).
  • Prices can be slighter higher than average in a remote grocery store.
  • Organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc… foods and specialty items are typically not available in small towns.
  • Hikers ahead of you may wipe out staple items like tuna packets, ramen, coffee, etc. before you arrive.

Combined Approach

You could use a combination of both strategies. This entails sending some resupply boxes ahead of time, from home, and mailing some ahead while on trail. For some, this is the best of both worlds. To determine which towns need a box sent and how to do that, consult the first section of this post. 

For the boxes you send from home, send those to places where you want to send prescriptions medications or where you want to send food items you can’t get in most towns. This may include dehydrated foods you’ve made ahead of time or specific brand name or specialty items. For sending boxes from on trail, the idea is to ensure freshness, satisfy new cravings, and adds variety to your trail diet. 

tiny town healthy resupply

General Resupply Tips

  • Create a resupply spreadsheet. Having a spreadsheet with your resupply locations, whether you’ll send or buy from that location, how much food will be needed for the next stretch, and any other pertinent information is helpful for staying organized and reducing stress once on trail. Be sure you can access this spreadsheet from your phone and leave a copy with your point person, if you have one. Here’s a sample from my Oregon Desert Trail hike. Feel free to use this as a template!
  • Collect tiny condiment packages throughout the year. These little packets of ketchup, mustard, honey, hot sauce, relish, salt/pepper, etc. are perfect for tossing into your resupply boxes you send from home. They can really spice up a trail meal 😉
  • Add flair to your resupply box. There will be hundreds of boxes JUST LIKE YOURS sent by hikers JUST LIKE YOU to these post offices. Adding a giant sticker of a walrus, unicorn, yeti, etc. to the side of the box helps identify your box from others. When you arrive to pick up your box, give them your name and say, “it’s the one with the giant pink squid on the side.” 
  • Add extra ziplocks into your resupply box. You may decide to throw some of your food into the hiker box and/or purchase some food that needs to be re-packaged. 
  • Consider tossing in travel size soap, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, razor, etc. for resupply boxes to towns where you plan to take a zero day. 

For a deep dive into performance nutrition and meal planning for backpackers, check out our online course on the topic.

Related Posts

How to Create a Healthy Resupply from a Convenience Store

Sample Lightweight Healthy 5-day Meal Plan 

The Thru-hiker Calorie Myth: What your diet is missing and how to eat for optimal energy and endurance instead

Want to prepare your body for optimal endurance, energy, and recovery on your next hike? Watch our free Adventure Ready Masterclass on creating your unique nutrition plan!

How to Prepare for Big Physical Goals

by Guest Contributor Heather “Anish” Anderson

An ACE certified personal trainer with over 30,000 backpacking miles, Heather became the first female triple triple crowner and the first female calendar year triple crowner when she hiked the AT, the PCT, and the CDT in one March-November season in 2018. She holds the overall self supported FKT on the PCT and the female FKT on the AT and AZT. She is also an ultra marathoner, peak bagger, and mountaineer working on several ascent lists in the US and abroad. Heather is a speaker, and is author of the book Thirst, which chronicles her PCT record.

It’s that time of year again…where we start reflecting on the past 365 days and making resolutions for the next 365 days. So many of our determinations revolve around health and exercise; including those who plan to do a long-distance backpacking trip as their New Year’s Resolution.  But why do we spend so much time resolving to do better in the arena of wellness and often times not end up following through?

I think so often our goals are unreasonable. We want to attain perfection without the work. Or, don’t fully understand the commitment to lifestyle and mindset change that is not temporary. These, along with our deep-seated dissatisfactions with our own selves, are fuel for the “failure fire.” I could write volumes about this, but for this blog I’m going to focus on a few points especially with regard to preparation for a big, physical goal (like a race or long-distance hike) since that’s my specialty as a personal trainer.

First of all, I’ll start with the essential (and shockingly, often not obvious) truth that you need to know and accept: You are capable.

You are capable of achieving your goals. It might take you a longer time or more work than someone else, but you are capable of effecting great change, massive health improvements and finding yourself able to complete things you couldn’t previously. The key is to believe in your ability to improve.

Secondly: Set stepping stone goals.

I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years and the number one reason people drop out of a program is because they’re not seeing the results they expected right away. The truth is you won’t see the end result without long-term work. It’s great to have a big, audacious goal. But once you have it, break down the steps you’ll need to get from where you are to that goal and focus on building from one sub-goal to the next. You’ll stay motivated in your training when you’re seeing the results you expect as you reach each subsidiary benchmark.

Take a cue from long distance hiking: when you start the Appalachian Trail, you’re going to get demoralized thinking about walking 2,193 miles. Or even across 14 states. Think instead about hiking to your campsite each day, or to the next town. These short term, attainable goals feed that sense of accomplishment you need to keep going. One by one, all these mini-goals stack up to make a whole thru-hike. In the same way, looking at your long term goal through the lens of all the mini-goals that make it up and you’ll find a string of successes that builds upon itself.

Third: Realize this is a commitment to life-change, not just means to an end.

It’s fine to make a dietary or physical activity change for short term goals, if that’s what you want. But realize that if you’re serious about becoming healthier, preparing your body to age well, or prepping for a long-term physical goal it will require life change. You’ll be undoing ingrained habits and replacing them with new ones. Chances are you’ll have to start with concreting foundational changes that may seem imperceptible into your routine before moving on. That’s why the first two steps I listed are so crucial. If you set unrealistic goals, or go too hard too soon you’ll burn out. Think of the changes you’re aiming for as a journey, not a destination. Just like you can’t get from Springer Mountain, Georgia (the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail) to Mount Katahdin, Maine (the northern terminus) in 10 days on foot, you can’t completely overhaul your wellness and exercise habits in a day either.

If you’re looking to make the changes necessary to really prepare you for long term success remember to take it one piece at a time.  Set your intention not just for the New Year, but for your life. Begin making changes and focus on cementing one solidly in your foundation before moving on to the next. Start with the goal of 20 minutes of exercise every day. Once you’re successfully doing that without missing days you’re ready to take the next step…toward whatever your long-term goals are. If they include preparing to complete a thru-hike you might consider the Adventure Ready online course that Katie Gerber and I have collaborated on.

To stay in the loop for the next enrollment period for Adventure Ready, and to get on the VIP list for early bird promotions, join the email list here (plus get a free winter wellness guide!).

Supplements on the CDT for Energy, Immunity, and Endurance

supplements on trail

In addition to the steps I took to prepare my body for this hike (which I detail here), I credit this supplement protocol with keeping me strong, healthy, and energized for 3 months of 30+ mile days.  Here’s the exact stack of supplements I used for my sub-100 day CDT hike.

Why I Use Supplements

Generally speaking, I prefer to meet nutritional needs through a diet centered around whole foods. However, due to our depleted soils, our compromised food system, and our chronically stressed lives, whole foods are not always enough. Furthermore, strenuous exercise, like backpacking all day, increases the body’s needs for high quality nutrients. The lack of access to fresh food on trail adds another challenge. even when not on trail.

For these reasons, carrying a few thoughtfully chosen supplements on my backpacking trips is worth the extra weight and expense to me. Supplementing gives me more energy, improves my stamina, and boosts my immune system (which keeps illness and injury at bay). I go much deeper into the how and why of supplementing on trail in this post.

Supplements I Carried on my CDT Hike

I’m stubbornly minimalist on trail. To a fault, I’d say. But it is what it is. The point is that this list is significantly pared down from what I might take at home.

Additionally, what I carry may not be what you carry, if you choose to take supplements at all. Because our bodies are all different and have different needs. 

This list is not intended to be a recommendation. It’s provided for informational purposes only. It’s also important to note that I didn’t take these every single day. I took them probably about 80% of the time. 

The Method

Because I like to eat what I like to eat on trail (which I’ve explained extensively here, here, and here), I like to send resupply boxes. The way I handle supplements is that first I choose shelf-stable ones (most are, but pay attention with probiotics and fish oil). Then I look at my resupply sheet (like this one) and I divvy them up into small plastic baggies with the number of pills per baggie corresponding to the number of days of food in that box. For example, if I’m creating a bag for a 4-day stretch of trail, I put 4 of each pill into the baggie. Then I drop the bag into the box. It’s that simple.

I don’t worry about supplements in the resupply stops where I don’t have a resupply box. The idea is to get them into my body often enough to boost my health significantly, but not to be overly strict about it.

I generally took my supplements with a morning meal or snack, except where otherwise noted.

These supplements went into every box: 


Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, is an adaptogen herb. That means it helps regulate the body’s stress response. The root and berry of this plant are used to make tinctures and capsules. It’s anti inflammatory, immune boosting, balances blood sugar, reduces cortisol, regulates the HPA axis, and may reduce stress/anxiety/depression. I find it most effective when taken daily for months at a time. 


Astaxanthin is a reddish pigment that belongs to a group of chemicals called carotenoids. It occurs naturally in certain algae and causes the pink or red color in salmon, trout, lobster, shrimp, and other seafood. In addition to improving heart health, preventing diabetes, and decreasing the risk of brain damage from stroke, it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. 

Those are all great benefits, but the real reason I carry it on a long hike is that it serves as ‘internal sunscreen’ by protecting the skin from damage caused by UV (ultra-violet) exposure. On my entire CDT hike, I wore sunscreen less than a dozen times, and only on my face. I never got burnt anywhere besides my nose all summer. 

Spore-based Probiotics

Probiotics have a host of benefits, including boosting the immune system, supporting brain function, and enhancing mineral absorption. These healthy gut bacteria can even contribute to hormone balance and the production of certain neurotransmitters. There are many types of probiotic supplements to choose from. When I’m backpacking, I choose a spore-based probiotic because it’s more shelf-stable than other varieties.

Additionally, certain spore-based probiotics have been shown to heal leaky gut by closing tight junctions between colonocytes, increasing the thickness of intestinal mucosa, and up-regulating secretory IgA levels that support the body’s natural defense against infections. This is important for hikers who are likely consuming little to no probiotic-rich foods, and are eating a less-than-ideal diet.


Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a root from the ginger family which is known for its bright orange color and it’s role in Indian cuisine.

It’s also one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herbs available. It aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. It may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and performance in active people. It’s a must have in my book, on trail and off.

Adenosyl/Hydroxy B12

Adenosyl/Hydroxy B12 is a vitamin B12 blend formulated for nerve and mitochondrial support. Adenosyl/Hydroxy B12 helps support carbohydrate metabolism for the enzyme methylmalonyl-CoA as well as the synthesis of neuronal myelin.

I carried this one because pre-trail blood work indicated that I was low. Speaking of which, having blood work done is a good idea before you start guzzling supplements willy-nilly. You can order your own online, but it’s a good idea to work with a practitioner. These are real compounds with real effects in the body.

Multi Vitamin

A high quality multi serves as nutritional insurance for me. This is particularly important because of the lack of fresh foods in my diet (which is where we get many of our vitamins and minerals).

The micronutrients found in a good multivitamin play an important role in energy production, hemoglobin synthesis, maintenance of bone health, adequate immune function, and protection of body against oxidative damage. Additionally, they assist with synthesis and repair of muscle tissue. Exercise tends to deplete our vitamin stores more quickly. Therefore, I like to cover my bases with a high quality supplement. 


Colostrum is the first form of milk produced by mammals immediately after giving birth. It’s rich in antibodies and helps the body build a strong immune system. It also rebuilds gut health and can aid in recovery.

My favorite brand is Surthrival. It’s a powder that you dissolve in your mouth. I didn’t take it daily, but I included it in at least ⅔ of my resupply boxes. I’ve found it crucial in keeping my gut healthy and my autoimmune symptoms at bay. It’s best taken on an empty stomach.


I often took a magnesium powder dissolved in a small amount of liquid before bed. The purpose was to relax my muscles, aid in muscle recovery, and to promote sound sleep. I use this off trail as well. This is the powder I use. 

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

In addition to the above protocol, I also hid extra nutrition and superfoods into my resupply box where I could. This was particularly true in my smoothie, which I had almost every single morning on trail. 

Trail Smoothie

It includes a greens powder, coconut milk powder, collagen peptides, chia seeds, cordyceps mushroom powder, ground cinnamon powder, ground ginger powder, and sea salt. For the full recipe and why this is such a powerful, blood-sugar balancing way to start the day, read more here

There you have it. This is exactly how I complimented my healthy eating plan for more energy, immunity, and endurance on my sub-100 day CDT hike. For more resources on how to build strength, health, and resilience before your next adventure, see our online course Adventure Ready.

For a deep dive into performance nutrition and meal planning for backpackers, check out our online course on the topic.


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