Whether you like to run marathons, hike in the backcountry or work out in the gym, nothing can stop a good workout like a bad cramp. Let’s face it: cramps can be a pain in the butt…literally… or a pain in the side, calf or abs.  They are painful, debilitating, and annoying. The biggest problem with cramps is no one really knows exactly what causes them but according to Mark Paulsen from Wilderness Athlete, everyone’s goal should be to pay attention to their body. “Cramps are somewhat a mystery but if a person who gets them regularly pays attention to their body, they may be able to figure out what causes them.  For instance, some believe dehydration causes cramps. Lack of certain minerals or vitamins or poor mechanical patterns in the way a person runs or walks can contribute to cramps. Working out hard without replacing the nutrients you need is what many believe cause cramps. For instance, when I get them the most is when I have been hunting hard all day and climb into my sleeping bag without drinking or eating enough. I often wake up in the night with a real bad cramp,” Paulsen explained.

            Some people get cramps all the time while many of us only get them occasionally. Regardless of which group you fall into, Paulsen suggests everyone pay close attention to their body and try to narrow down when they get them.  Then they should try to do a few different things to avoid getting them. “Many people who suffer from cramps are getting them in the middle or after exercising,” Paulsen said. “Staying hydrated is the first thing I suggest for everyone.  Our Hydrate and Recover drink can really help a person stay hydrated and it a great thing to take during or after exercise.”

            “Another thing everyone should do is warm up and cool down properly before and after a workout,” Paulsen said. “Most of us don’t want to take the time to stretch before a workout or before we head into the backcountry but we all should. After a long day of hunting, I like to stretch out right before I crawl into my tent.”

            Cramping is often due to overdoing it physically. This is why training properly, and taking a break when cramping is so important. Many of us respond to cramping by toughing it out and pushing harder. When the muscle is trying to tell us to slow down. If you get a bad cramp, take a break and let the muscle relax.

            Because Paulsen is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, he has seen it all. “Over the years, I have seen many fads come and go,” Paulsen said with a laugh. “Some say pickle juice can help prevent cramping. Others say the potassium in a banana can help. Others say taking in electrolytes is key. At the end of the day, any of these things might help some people. People should experiment and find the things that work well for them. Heck, my son had cramps once and his coach gave him a packet of ketchup. A variety of things may help. Regular exercise, watching what and when you eat, taking quality vitamins and staying hydrated will likely help. At the end of the day, paying attention to your body and finding what works for you will likely be what prevents you from having cramps or at least keep them at a minimum. There is no silver bullet when it comes to preventing cramps.


Many believe eating a banana can prevent or reduce cramps. According to, bananas have all kinds of benefits. Below are just a few of them.

~ Bananas help overcome depression due high levels of tryptophan which is converted into serotonin — the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter.

~ Eat two bananas before a strenuous workout to pack an energy punch and sustain your blood sugar.

~ Protect against muscle cramps during workouts and night time leg cramps by eating a banana.

~ Counteract calcium loss during urination and build strong bones by supplementing with a banana.


Mark Paulsen says give it a stretch!! “stretch while your taking a break and prior to bed. simply focus on those muscle groups which, due to overuse and fatigue , tend to cramp. In my experience the vast majority of cramps are in the hamstrings and calf area. that being the case, take literally 30 seconds to stretch these two muscle groups and stop the nuerological firing of those muscles. If you don’t they will continue to fire for hours and thats when the screaming in the middle of the night occurs.”


This entry was posted in Uncategorized.

What About Fiber?

Author: Tracey Breen

When you hear the word fiber, chances are one of the first things you think about is how Grandma and Grandpa need their fiber to stay regular. Although that might be true, the truth is we all need an adequate amount of fiber daily to stay healthy. Mark Paulsen, the Founder of Wilderness Athlete, believes many Americans aren’t getting enough fiber in their daily diets. “In many of the foods we eat today, fiber has been stripped out of it,” said Paulsen. “As a result, we aren’t eating enough fiber. Research shows that many Americans are eating about 11-15 grams of fiber a day. I believe a person should consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily.”

Sidebar- FiberAccording to Paulsen, one of the reasons so many people in today’s society are obese is because they are eating highly processed food. When it enters the system, it causes a persons’ insulin to spike because the sugars enter the system quickly in highly processed foods. “Many people have insulin problems. Many people are also hungry all the time. When sugars enter the system quickly, people don’t feel full; they feel like they need more to eat. When eating foods high in fiber, the sugar enters the system slowly. As a result, it is a slow burn which makes a person feel full faster. Fiber is a great filling agent. Many of the health problems we see today are the result of people taking in too much highly processed food and not enough fiber,” Paulsen added.

Many people believe they are getting enough fiber by eating bread and other similar but most foods, including bread, are stripped of fiber when they are processed because fiber causes food to rot faster. The good news is finding foods that contains fiber isn’t difficult.

“For starters, the Wilderness Athlete Meal Replacement shake contains nine grams of fiber. If a person has one shake a day, they are well on their way to getting enough fiber. Other things they should consider eating is dark colored vegetables including spinach, kale, green beens, carrots and celery. Sadly, many people today don’t even eat vegetables like these and it can really harm their health,” Paulsen explained.Sidebar Fiber Chart

Not eating enough fiber also causes a person to not have bowel movements as often as they should, which is also extremely unhealthy. “A bowel movement gets rid of what the body doesn’t need. The waste is basically toxic and often if a person isn’t eating enough fiber, the waste is just sitting in their body. A bowel movement gets rid of toxic material. Eating fiber helps with the process. Fiber aids in digestion and it helps the body get rid of waste,” Paulsen added.

Fiber helps regulate blood sugar, aids in digestive health, heart health and keeps a person regular. “Fiber even helps people who have cholesterol problems. Eating lots of fiber has numerous benefits. Not eating enough fiber can create a wide variety of problems. The great thing is eating enough fiber isn’t difficult. Some studies reveal that cultures with more fiber have less heart disease than those that don’t have much fiber.” Paulsen noted.

Looking for a way to increase your overall health? Take in more fiber. The health benefits are endless.

This entry was posted in Tracy Breen.

The Start of a Journey

The Start of a Journey

By: Shawn Lund


My name is Shawn Lund. I grew up in Taylorsville, Utah. I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona since 2002. I have battle weight most of my adult life.

The first part of January 2014 I went back to Utah to visit my daughter for her surgery.  While we were there I saw some picture of myself. I finally had enough. I had met Matthew Amnet through Facebook. We had been messaging back and forth about hunting, optics the typical guy things. I had noticed he was always working out and he had this link to Train to Hunt. I started looking into Train to Hunt.  I started watching more videos on the internet. Now realizing I am still 350 pounds cannot walk a 1/8 of mile without my back feeling like it is going to explode. I found a video of guy hanging on the Iron-Cross rings doing sits up! I am like Holy S&*T this guy is awesome. I have never seen this before. I have to try this Train to Hunt thing.

Shawn 2

January 24th I decided I have enough. I can’t mow the lawn with sitting down every 5-10 minutes to let my back rest. I can’t play with my grandson very long, I run out of breath. I can’t go the movies with my wife it hurts for me to walk to the theater; I don’t fit in the chairs. Last time I flew to California for a sales meeting I tucked the seat belt under my shirt so it look buckled (I was too embarrassed I could not get it buckled and was not going to ask for an extension).  I sent Matthew a message and asked would you be willing to help me? I told him I want to lose 100 pounds for my daughter’s wedding in September. I need to be able to walk her down the aisle and make her proud. Matthew never hesitated. He was on board. I made a promise that if he would stick with me I would stick this out.

Shawn 3First step I was going to need some training shoes. So off to the Nike store here in Phoenix I go. I have no idea of what I am looking for. I tell them I need a good pair of trail and street shoes. So after about 40 minutes of back and forth trying to decide what is best for this 350 pound guy to wear? Plus I normally only wear white shoes with as little blue as I can find.  Well decision time came I decide if I am making a change so are the shoes. I choose a pair of white, pink and florescent orange ones. Now I think they look awesome, everyone else not so much. Ok now, I have my weight watcher app, new shoes and just down loaded the Nike + app to help track my progress.

January 24th I walked .87 miles 1 time around the block. I got home exhausted. I knew it would get easier at some point. In January I had one 5 walks with the longest 2.75 miles. Every time I got home tired, I knew I had to keep pushing, my back hurt every night I stopped and stretched. When I got home my wife Bobbie would rub Icy Hot on lower back so I could rest. Matthew would check on me every day to make sure I was doing ok. I was amazed that someone would help a perfect stranger like this.

February came and I started loading weight into my backpack, started with 10lbs for a couple weeks. Then up to 20lbs, then 30lbs. I started to just walk with my pack trying to change my pace as I went. I also knew I was going to have to add in other forms of exercise too. So I decide to try pushups. It took everything I had to do 5. Those 5 were the hardest pushups I had ever done and didn’t even get to my chest because my stomach hit the ground first. I started to learn how to eat right, cutting out all soda. Learning to like water. Not many people I know like plain water.  The more I moved the more I fell in love with the Train to Hunt. I set a goal for April 1st. If I can make it down close to 210lbs’s I would sign up and compete in the Train to Hunt. Well the more I worked out the more I fell in love with it. February 17th came and half way through my training I sent Matthew a message and told him, “I am signing up!” Matthew: “For…” Me: “TTH Matthew Now were talking… “ From that point on I knew it was going to take a lot to get ready. I watched all the videos I could find on the event. I thought to myself. “This is going to be great. I love to shoot my bow; I have strong legs so I pack the weight on the meat pack and I will give it my all, I’ve got on the challenge course. It can’t be that bad”. I kept pushing and pushing.


Shawn 4As March came, I was dropping weight on an average of about 4 pounds per week. Really starting to feel good. Trying to change up my workouts. I saw a Train to Hunt video where the guy pulled a tire for 2 miles and did pushups, lungs and air squats all while wearing weight hunting pack. I thought I got to try this!! So off to the tire store I went to get a used tire. I found one and built my own set up. Then I loaded up my pack with 25lbs and tired my tire on to my pack and took off dragging my tire 25’ behind me for 2 miles. What a crazy work out!! The neighbors thought I was a nut case they were coming to the sidewalk looking at me like (WTH) is this guy doing. I just kept on pushing. Along the workout I had people stopping and taking pictures of me, riding up to me on their bikes giving me thumbs up! People stopping and yelling at me to keep pushing!! It felt AWESOME! My wife thought it was one of the funniest things she has ever seen. Over the next week I had two neighbors stop me and ask what I was doing. I told them I am working on losing 100lbs for my daughter’s wedding in September and getting ready for the Train to Hunt in May. They also said it’s the craziest thing they’ve ever seen, adding, “Keep up the good work and good luck!!”

Well I made it to April and it is time to start the Train to Hunt Boot camps. I showed up the first morning about 45 minutes early. I was really nervous, not knowing anyone and really not sure what I getting myself into. Well Mathew went over all the basic movements, stretching and I got started. The guys started to show up and they were all a bunch of really great guys! They are positive and very helpful. We worked our butts off that day. I got home and could hardly walk. On the way home I realized what have I got myself into!! This is way more than I ever expected. When I got home I was so tired I hit the couch and crashed for 5-6 hours. I took a couple days off and started right back at it. I had made a commitment to myself and I told Matthew if he would help me I would give all I had. Monday morning I needed something to help me feel better, so I added in BCAA to my diet on extreme workout days. Each week the boot camps got easier and the group of competitors that came out showed the true spirit of the Train to Hunt family, positive reinforcement and continuous help. Our final boot camp came a week before the official Train to Hunt. Matthew set up a course for us to do, everyone gave it all he had, and I completed the mock course! I was so proud of how far I had come. All the guys were cheering me on; I think they were just as happy as I was! It was an awesome feeling. The next week I worked out very little. I just shot my bow night after night. I must have shot over 200 arrows that week. The last night I shot I put one of arrow through a 2X4 frame on the 75 yard target. I was sick of $20 dollar arrow junk. That is when I realized I was pressing to hard and I was as ready as I could be for upcoming weekend.

Shawn 5Friday night May 2nd I was like a little kid, so excited I couldn’t sleep, up and down all night. I am sitting up reflecting back on this journey from January to today. I was 350 pounds in January and now just over 3 months of diet and training I was down 61 pounds. So proud of the changes I have made. Finally I get up at 3:30 and pack the truck. Get my cooler ready with all my food and water, protein drinks. I am dressed and off I go…….Radio blasting to some of my favorite country music! I am getting pumped up very excited and still very scared, not sure of what to expect. I am going to give it all I got. I get there before anyone and drive around like a lost pup up and down the road. Then I find Matthew driving in and follow him in. All the guys show up, everyone is excited and happy, having a great time laughing and kidding around. I check in write my number 2 on both arms. I am ready for the Men’s Masters (over 40 years old). The call comes for the competitors meeting. It is time. We get the rules on the 3D shoot and are assigned our teams of who we will shoot with. Off to the course we go. Now grant it, I have never shot a 3D course before so this should be interesting. Needless to say it was a blast. What a great time. I missed judged a couple of targets and used the wrong pin on my sight once and that cost me an arrow. Then we broke for lunch. Then at 12:30 it was time for the Meat Pack. This was going to be fun, May in Arizona temperatures are starting to reach the 100’s. We have been pounding water all day. Wilderness Athlete has supplied us with plenty of Hydration & Recovery plus Energy & Focus. They mixed it together and call it Superman. It was the ticket for sure!! I sat back and watch the teams compete and cheered them on, helping the guys get out of their packs and get them cold drinks so they could recover. Then came my turn in the chute. Three of us step to the line there sat 170lbs of sand bags. Now I just had to figure out how I am going to get as much into my pack as I can. Get my pack on my back stand up and make the ¼ trip to the drop zone. I have the best support group anyone could ask for. My Friend Ty is there you can do more than mind will think it can. You can do this Shawn!! My friends Matthew, Mike, Max, Hunter, Ty, Tim, Zac, Mark, Andy and so many others cheering me on!! You can do this walking me through the steps keeping me calm. I loaded 85lbs in my pack, got it strapped on, rolled over, stood up, cinched it up as tight as I could get it. Grabbed a 25lbs sandbag and my bow and I was off, Matthew right by my side. You can do this keep your head up keep a good pace we are here to finish! I made the first ¼ miles and unloaded my pack dropped off my bow and off to get what I left behind. I got back to the starting line loaded up the last 60lbs slid into my pack, cinched it up rolled over and stood up and off I went. Then to my amazement 2 guys I don’t know were right beside me walking with me cheering me on! Then walked the entire ¼ mile with to the finish line!! I made it just over 38 minutes. All my friends were there waiting for me tons of hugs!! What a feeling I had making it through day one. When I got home my friend Mike had posted a picture on Facebook. On the picture he had written “They say Superman wears a cape and flies around. BS! He wears glasses and hunts deer in Az. So proud to call Shawn Lund my friend. He’s an inspiration. He made a decision to live a healthier life and lose some weight. He’s lost 60lbs since 1/26/14 and is busting his ass this weekend in the Train to Hunt Challenge. You’re the Man, Shawn!”When I get home Bobbie said have you seen what Mike posted? We both sat in awe and so grateful for such kinds words.

Shawn 6Day 2 the big one was here. Up early again arriving at the Train to Hunt at 7:00 am. Waiting to find out when I will get my chance to tackle the course. Kenton posts the list and I am up in the 1st group of three. Now just stretching and waiting for 9:00 to get started. Kenton called us to the line, we grabbed our 20lbs sand bags and load them in our packs. He announces this is the start of the day 2. We are starting with the Men’s Masters and we’re ready to go. We get ready and the horn blows. I am off 10 yards to the 30” over and under. I get my 10 done. Back to the starting line and grab my pack and bow and down the line I head towards the 24” box. I have 11 step overs. I get through the 6 my legs are starting to show fatigue from Saturday, now I am using my knees then standing up and getting over, I got all 11 steps overs. Grab my bow and off I go, trying to run up the hills as quick as I can.  My legs are burning the meat pack is catching up with me. Trying to make up time as I downhill without losing my footing. I get to the first target. I range it and take a deep breath draw back and let an arrow fly. It hits it mark. I am off to the ground crawl under a 30” rope. I hit the deck working my way through the first 20 yards and then for 10 and back down for another 20 yards. Then back up off to cone and back to do it again. Grab some water and off I go headed for the next challenge. I get there range my target and another arrow hits its mark. Now to do 20 each 50lbs ground to shoulder perfect. I am off again running on fumes. I get to the next station prefect again another arrow hits its mark (thank god no burpees, missed target = 25 burpee penalty). Deep breath and grab the 70lbs sand bag off I go. Half way I have to set down the bag and trade shoulders. Back and drop off the bag. I get some water I tell the volunteer to call them at starting line and tell them I am ok! I know I am ok. I am off the next station. Only two more to go challenges. My mind is going nuts I know I can do it. My body wants to quit but I am not quitting. I get next challenge another arrow hits its mark.  Now I the get up’s I get 10 and up and around another cone and do 10 more. These are kicking my butt. But I got them all, now on my way to the last challenge and two more arrows to go. I am almost there. I get shaky, having a hard time ranging the target. I have to drop down to one knee and use my bow a steady rest perfect 42 yards. Another arrow hits its mark perfect. Now 10 burpees. I knock 8 out like they are nothing. Lay there for a few seconds and knock out the last 2.  Kenton is there. I need to rest. Kenton said come on you got this, rest as you go one more shot Shawn. He and I had a great talk. Kenton tells me “Shawn you don’t realize what is waiting for you. You have so many people pulling for you right now.” I told him as I wiped my face, it is taking everything I have to hold back the tears, “I told both you and Matthew I would give all I had.” Kenton tells me there is one more thing you are going to do. When you hit that bridge, you hit it running as hard as you can to the finish line. I said I will and I will see you soon. I arrived and target #6 I ranged it and take a couple deep breaths relaxed only one more shot to make. I drew back my bow settled the pin on the Elk and let my last arrow fly still watching through my shot as waited to hear my arrow hit the target. “THUD” What a relief all targets hit!!! Now I am on my way to the finish line I have done it a few 100 more yards to go. The closer I get I can see the pavilion roof. A little closer and I hear some yelling, the voice in the distance is my son, “come on RAW-DAWG!!” The closer I get the faster my pace gets and I have forgotten that I am tired. I can see the bridge, I can hear everyone cheering. As I round the corner I see Kenton. With my head held up high I head for the finish line. I cannot believe what I am hearing. All of this for a guy who just wanted to lose weight for his daughter’s wedding. As I am looking at the finish line I see Matthew waiting. As I crossed the finish line everyone surrounded me helped me with my pack and bow. Matthew and I gave each other the biggest hug! I had done it I completed it just as planned. All the hard work paid off.

Shawn 7

Stay tuned for the next chapter of this journey the next 60 pounds!


Shawn Lund



This entry was posted in Weight Loss.

Wilderness Athlete Photo Contest

Do you want your photo to be featured on the all-new Wilderness Athlete website coming this Summer?


Send you photo to*. Submit your photo by June 13th to be entered. Include your name and number in the email with your photograph.


Starting on June 16th, all photographs received will be posted to the Wilderness Athlete Facebook page and will be eligible for voting.

Wilderness Athlete fans will vote by “liking” your photo. You will be able to tag yourself and friends in the photo! Share your photo with friends and family to increase the number of likes on your photograph!

The winner(s) will be featured on the Wilderness Athlete home page. They will also be featured in the Wilderness Athlete blog, with a quick background story on their winning photo. Winner(s) will also receive a $250 Wilderness Athlete gift certificate!


Show us what being a Wilderness Athlete means to you!examples

We are looking for photos that allow us to place a bold caption somewhere in the background.

Check out the photos below for examples of the look and feel we are searching for. We want our new website to show what being a Wilderness Athlete is all about! Since you’re already a Wilderness Athlete, we know you have a picture that will show off what makes Wilderness Athletes different.


example set up

  • See drawing to the right for an example of a our preferred layout.
  • Look for pictures with lots of background space, and the subject off-center. This will allow us to use the background space for a caption on the home page.
  • Subject can be left, right, top or bottom of photo.
  • Do not add captions to photos.
  • Photos may not contain 3rd party’s trademarks, logos or watermarks.

* By submitting your photo to, you agree to the official rules of this contest. Click here for Official Contest Rules.

This entry was posted in Photo Contest.

Interview with WA formulator, Rich Scheckenbach

Wilderness Athlete prides itself on formulating some of the best nutritional products on the market today. To do that we work with the best nutritional experts in world today. One of our formulators is  Rich Scheckenbach of Breakthrough Nutrition. We recently interviewed Rich about our new product Nighttime Optimizer.

You have spent a long time in the nutritional field. Could you please give readers a little bit of your background?

Shortly after pursuing a bachelor’s in the biological sciences at UCLA and a doctorate in microbiology/biochemistry at Oregon State University, I got deeply involved in the field of nutritional biochemistry.  Now, some thirty six years later, I continue to be amazed at the profound effect  that good nutrition and a healthy life style can have on performance and well-being.  My involvement in the nutritional field includes the formulation of dietary supplements and functional foods and beverages for more than a hundred different companies around the world as well as the development of several proprietary ingredients used in those products.  Further, I’ve been privileged to work with scores of elite athletes in professional sports (NFL, NBA, MLB,  NHL, NASCAR) as well as Olympic and collegiate competitors to help them bring their athletic performance to the highest level.

Explain what Nighttime Optimizer does for the body?

Nighttime Optimizer provides an array of beneficial effects on the body with the improvement of body composition, through building of lean muscle mass, being one of its highlights.  With their involvement in Human Growth Hormone (HGH) physiology, the unique ingredients in Nighttime Optimizer support the repair and growth of muscle tissue during the early morning hours of the body’s circadian rhythm.  This is where the product name comes from — you optimize the results of your physical activity and it all happens at night while you’re asleep.  Beyond that, the formula provides nutrients and phytochemicals that support increased endurance and minimize the build-up of that muscle-cramping, exhaustion compound, lactic acid.  One other important aspect of Nighttime Optimizer is that it supplies the body with L-arginine, the biochemical that is used to make nitric acid.  Nitric acid helps keep blood vessels very elastic and improves circulation to muscles and organs. 

Explain why Nighttime Optimizer is a cutting edge product?

This formula is very complete and addresses the building and recovery of muscle through several different physiological mechanisms, not just one or two.  By incorporating all of the current research and knowledge in the area of muscle physiology and then combining that with the most potent and bioactive ingredients available, Nighttime Optimizer is truly a cutting-edge product.  One example is the use of L-arginine pyroglutamate rather than simple L-arginine.  This advanced form of the amino acid is able to cross the blood-brain barrier so is much more effective in supporting the release of HGH from the pituitary gland.  Another example is the inclusion of a very high quality standardized extract of the muscle-building botanical, maca.  Most formulas that contain this botanical use just a dried powder maca root rather than the highly bioavailable (and very costly) extract form. 

Working out can be extremely hard on the body. How important is it to get a good nights’ rest after a work out?

Rest and recovery, especially in the form of a good night’s sleep, may be one of the most overlooked parts of a fitness program.  Most everyone knows that a resistance exercise program and proper conditioning along with a good diet and supportive dietary supplements are necessary to achieve a strong, fit, and healthy body.  What most people overlook is the rest factor.  Without a good night’s rest proper physiological recovery is not possible and performance will definitely be impaired the following day.  Besides that, insomnia or insufficient sleep, (less than seven hours per night), can cause fatigue, lack of alertness, depressed sex drive, weight gain, poor decision-making, emotional depression, reduced HGH levels, as well as an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and heart attack.   

How can a product like this actually help with sexual function?

Very recent animal research shows that maca can improve spermatogenesis and increase testosterone levels.  Other studies have shown an increase in sexual desire in both healthy adult men and menopausal women, improved performance in men with sexual dysfunction, and increased stamina in well-trained athletes, all with the use of maca.  Beyond that, as I mentioned earlier, L-arginine is the biochemical that the body uses to make nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide is an important signaling molecule in the human body and is a potent vasodilator, a compound that opens blood vessels for better blood flow.  The many ED pharmaceuticals in the marketplace such as Cialis® and Viagra® work by increasing nitric oxide levels in the body.

Are there any other Wilderness Athlete products that people should be taking in conjunction with Nighttime Optimizer?

Of course — the foundation of good metabolism, exceptional performance, and robust health is a diet that satisfies all of our biochemical requirements.  Some nutrients simply cannot be made in the body and we must rely on our diet and, importantly, on supplements to supply them.  These include vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids (primarily omega-3s), essential amino acids (from high quality protein), and so forth.  Wilderness Athlete covers these needs with High Performance Multi-Vitamin, Omega-3 Fish Oil, and Protein Plus or Meal Replacement & Recovery Shakes.  That covers the basics.  To reach optimal levels of health and performance, each of the remaining products in the Wilderness Athlete line should be considered for their focused purpose and contribution to mental and physical output.

This entry was posted in Tracy Breen.

Fuel the Fire – Hydration Dehydration and Cramping

footer large

Don’t let improper fluid intake destroy your performance!

If you are 50 or older and participated in athletics, you probably remember salt tablets. Coaches would distribute them liberally to athletes prior to extreme heat practices or games. Well-intentioned coaches handed out a few tablets prior to practice or a game, but it wasn’t unusual for some of us to choke down ten. The thinking of the day was that salt would help us retain water, keep us hydrated, and full of the important electrolyte, sodium. To add insult to injury, water intake was often limited to “toughen up” the boys. It’s a miracle that more of us didn’t die.

The science of hydrating the body to improve performance has made significant strides. We now know that salt tablets can worsen dehydration and impair performance – they increase potassium losses, irritate the stomach, and can cause vomiting! Well, that little bit of info would have been nice to know!

In this article, I’ll attempt to simplify and convey the most recent research concerning hydration. I’ll also discuss cramping, following what I personally witnessed in my 30 years of coaching collegiate athletes. Some of this info might seem like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe what I’ve seen.


chartThe Fundamentals of Hydration

It’s important that you understand the fundamentals of hydration so that you not only improve physical performance and your enjoyment of the activity, but also limit your exposure to the negative consequences of dehydration. Hydration is critical to function properly, especially during preparation for an event. Losing just 2%-3% of bodyweight can seriously impair physical performance and make it difficult for the body to cope with continued activity.

Dehydration leads to early physical fatigue and overheating which, in turn is followed closely by emotional and mental fatigue – and then it’s game over. During exercise, heart rate and cardiac output increase as the body tries to maintain blood supply to active muscles, the skin (for heat loss), and vital organs. The decrease in blood volume caused by dehydration puts a greater strain on the heart to keep up, making it difficult to maintain performance.

We all sweat at different rates, so it’s important to learn how to monitor your own dehydration status. Also, many individuals lose more salt in their sweat than others. “Salty sweaters” often have noticeable salt stains on clothing after workouts and a higher risk of developing cramps. A couple other points that need to be made address the overweight and medicated individual: 1) Anyone with a high body-fat percentage can become significantly dehydrated and over-heat faster than athletes with lower body-fat percentages; 2) anyone taking medications is at higher risk for dehydration, since medications often mess with body temperature and fluid regulation.

You might be surprised to learn that a significant number of dehydration casualties take place in winter! Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t sweat in cold weather. As the body works or shivers, we can lose fluids rapidly. This creates a dehydrated state that, among other problems, accelerates the body’s sensitivity to cold. You should be acutely aware of the warning signs of fluid and electrolyte imbalances. These include but are not limited to: extreme thirst, fatigue, irritability, nausea, headache, mental confusion, dizziness, muscle cramping, and red or flushed face.

Unlike athletics, where bodyweight monitoring can be conveniently available, Wilderness Athletes are usually nowhere near the scales needed to assess rapid weight loss. This makes it more important to stay on top of your fluid intake.


Before, Before, During, After

Much of the research today indicates that plain water is best for staying hydrated, unless activities last longer than 30-45 minutes. That conclusion assumes blood sugar and glycogen stores are in good shape from the start – an assumption I never count on. I strongly believe in a “before, before, during and after” approach that utilizes the best hydration product ever designed and targeted specifically for outdoor athletes – Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover.

What does “before, before, during and after” mean? Well, the first “before” means to pre-hydrate the night before activity. This is critical for achieving maximal performance the next day and might keep you from cramping and experiencing what feels like a pit bull chomping on your calf or hamstring in the middle of the night. You ever have one of those? It’s the kind where you can’t shake it and two minutes into that wrestling match you starting getting spiritual. “Lord, if you make this stop, I’ll never again…” I’ve been there. For those with a history of cramping, one to two quarts of fluid is recommended before calling it a night. Will you have to get up in the middle of the night and do your business? Probably, but hey, deal with it!

The second “before” refers to comfortably hydrating immediately prior to activity. As a coach, I preached, “Always begin practice or competition in a hydrated state.” No need to over-hydrate or there is a good chance you’ll toss it. The amount you drink is individual, but for most people I recommend 8-12 oz., depending on the intensity level of the activity.

Third, well, “during” means during! Again, no need to over-hydrate, unless you’re experiencing moderate-intensity activity and may not have a chance to drink for quite a while (like making a long push in between canyons and all you have is a skimpy water bota).

Finally, there’s “after”. Try to consume enough fluid that your thirst is satisfied, but without drinking so much that it bloats you and diminishes your appetite. This can easily happen and leads to serious problems, as inadequate food intake can spell disaster for the next day’s activities.

*A side note on cramping: Take a few minutes to stretch your hamstrings and calves before bed and you’ll eliminate 50% of the cramps. Cramps generally result from: 1) a mineral deficiency not associated with sodium and potassium (take your WA Multi-Vitamin with you); 2) dehydration resulting from inadequate fluid intake and depleted stores of sodium and potassium (necessary for proper muscle firing); and 3) fatigued muscles that are still “activated” and need to be stretched to allow them to relax and begin recovery.

Donʼt kid yourself; dehydration is no joke. If you’ve ever experienced it at its worst, you can attest to the miserable feeling that comes with it. Be smart and stay hydrated for a much safer and more enjoyable outdoor experience. Go Further Stronger ~ Coach P

footer large

This entry was posted in Mark Paulsen.

Muscle Management


A common phrase when it pertains to prioritizing is, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!” I think I can make a pretty strong case that the “main thing” as it relates to health in America is unfortunately the “wrong thing.”

I recently heard on a news report that 80% of Americans are now overweight and 57 million Americans are pre-diabetic. We have become numb to the statistics that reflect a country in crisis.

It’s no secret that being overweight or obese is a catalyst for multiple health issues so the simple question is, “Why?” Why in an era of technological breakthroughs are we killing ourselves at record pace? We are keeping people alive longer with medical breakthroughs, but the quality of life is unquestionably extremely poor? I’ve always maintained that it’s not how long you live but how long you live well. Healthy aging should be everyone’s goal.

Not long ago, America was the healthiest nation in the world. Now we have dropped out of the top 30 and are headed south fast. Surely our diets and lifestyle are principle contributing factors, but I want to bring to your attention to a philosophical question at odds with current Western thought. The term “weight management” has bothered me for a long time. You see, wrong thinking leads to wrong results just as surely as right thinking leads to right results.

Case in point: Americans unquestionably gauge their daily health by worshipping at the altar of the scale. “I lost 20 pounds in 20 days” or “I gained 5 pounds this weekend” are comments we hear daily.

With all the focus on “weight management,” it is my opinion that we have lost sight of what we really should be managing which is not our weight but our muscle!  Muscle management – not muscular management mind you – but simply muscle management.  We are functioning and active human beings only as long as we possess a healthy muscle-to-fat ratio so it stands to reason that a far superior argument can be made that our focus should be on our muscle and not just our overall weight.

The central focus of most weight loss programs incorporate one strategy: caloric restriction. I am not here to name names but you see weight loss companies advertising every day where you can purchase their prepackaged foods and the pounds just “fall off.”  Guess what.  They do!  What they neglect to tell you is that a large percentage of those pounds lost were metabolically alive, calorie burning pounds of muscle.

Skinny Fat

A recent study concluded that “when energy balance is caused by lower energy intake (through diet alone), one also loses a significant amount of lean tissue, which may be as much as 50% of the total weight lost.” Dieting alone tends to cannibalize existing muscle because the body requires quality nutrition to feed the muscle and a calorie restrictive diet strategy, by itself and repeated year after year, will lead to a body that will age prematurely and function poorly.

There is a phrase for this called “skinny fat.” This condition refers to the person who, through dieting alone, focuses on reaching a target goal with absolutely no regard for proper nutrition, exercise, hydration, or high quality supplementation. For those who incorporate this strategy in an attempt, for example, to reclaim their high school weight for the upcoming reunion, the results speak volumes. Although the goal may have been attained, the sad saggy figure staring back at you in the mirror is a far cry from the firm figure of your youth. You have basically won the battle but lost the war!

Muscle loss is the enemy of long-term health and vitality. Muscle management is an approach that focuses on the right thing – in this case gaining, or at least retaining – our muscle mass, especially during weight loss, which will lead to a much healthier muscle-to-fat ratio. The ancillary benefits are astounding, and the scientific evidence is piling up in favor of muscle management and against weight management.

The average American loses 6.6 pounds of muscle per decade (calorie-restrictive dieters lose far more). Armed with this information, we should fight like hell to hang onto what muscle we have, and the human body is more than willing to help if we do our part.

No matter the age, it’s never too late. In one study at the Human Nutrition Center on Aging, 12 men between the 60 and 72 were put on regular supervised weight training sessions three times a week for three months. They were asked to train at 80% of their “one-rep max.” At the end of the experiment, the average strength of their quadriceps had more than doubled and the strength of their hamstrings had tripled!

In another study conducted on residents of a chronic care hospital, most of who were over 90, the subjects were placed on a weight training program. Did it kill them? Hardly. Eight weeks later, wasted muscle had grown stronger by 300 percent, and balance and coordination were dramatically improved.

Clearly the evidence screams out that the need to “take it easy” as we age is a myth that needs to be shattered! Manage your muscle, which simply means to exercise in some form multiple times per week, feed the muscles a healthy diet and supplement with convenient high-quality, low-calorie products that support the muscle throughout the day.

“Use it or lose it” is an incredibly truthful statement, but allow me to build off that framework. An active lifestyle supports the growth of muscle and new capillaries that reach out from the main arteries to bring highly oxygenated blood to the newly minted muscle.

Conversely, inactivity shuts down capillaries and accelerates the decline of the local tissues. Movement – any kind of physical activity – also acts as a natural means of detoxification. Through respiration, elimination, and perspiration, all which are enhanced by physical activity, the body naturally expels waste byproducts that can wreak havoc when left to accumulate in tissues and organs. I want to encourage you to incorporate any exercise regimen that you will consistently follow, such as weight training, swimming, cycling, hiking, crossfit, tennis, or basketball. Either you make time for your health now or you will have to make time for your sickness later.

Any “muscle management” exercise regimen will lead to a cascade of positive health benefits, including good aerobic capacity, lower blood pressure, healthy blood sugar tolerance, healthy muscle-to-fat ratio, healthy cholesterol levels, stronger mineral density in your bones, and better regulation of your body’s internal temperature.

The value of physical activity even extends to cognitive health. A study published in Archives of Neurology, March 2001, found that people with the highest activity levels were only half as likely as inactive people to develop Alzheimer’s disease and were also substantially less likely to suffer any other form of dementia or mental impairment. I guess we could say that muscle management supports mental management. The list of the health benefits literally goes on and on.

Does diet play a vital role in muscle management? Of course it does. If you had to pin me down to the two secrets to lifelong health, it would simply be: A diet incorporating nutritionally dense low calorie foods and an active lifestyle. That’s it!

If I could wave my magic wand, I would have everyone undertake a total body strength program two times a week minimum (focusing on the large muscle groups of chest, back, shoulders and legs) while dedicating two times per week to aerobic activity (jogging, swimming, biking, hiking, etc.) The science clearly indicates that a combination of strength training and aerobics will lead to a reduction in body fat. If time permits, strength training four days a week for 45 minutes to an hour followed by 30-45 minutes of aerobic activity (or visa versa) is optimal. This allows you to supply more intensity to the strength training since you will not be as fatigued from training the entire body. This strategy would also allow you time to add body parts including arms, low back, abs. So it might look like this: The routine on Mondays and Thursdays would include strength training, chest, back, arms and abs followed by a run while the routine on Tuesdays and Fridays would incorporate shoulders, legs and low back followed by a hike. If time is not your friend, I encourage you to take a close look at the Crossfit movement which incorporates high intensity workouts in short periods of time (10-20 minutes) thereby achieving a combination of strength and aerobic conditioning.

Just an FYI: all protein requirements necessary to support and build muscle are subject to the intensity of the activity. According to the “Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,” endurance athletes need 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight when training at a light to moderate intensity, and 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight during times of high intensity training. For example, a 140-pound marathon runner may require up to 126 grams of protein per day. Research from the 2010 edition of the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,” suggests that strength athletes who participate in intense training regimens need 0.68 to 0.91 grams per pound of body weight each day. For example, a 190-pound, strength-trained athlete needs about 129 to 173 grams of protein each day to optimize his muscle mass, strength and athletic performance. It should be noted that the body ideally digests and assimilates about 20-30 grams of protein per meal. With that in mind, you can see how it is necessary to incorporate some high protein shakes or snacks in between meals to achieve your personal requirements.

The author, Coach Mark Paulsen at a recent Cabela's event in Reno, NV.

The author, Coach Mark Paulsen at a recent Cabela’s event in Reno, NV.

There is no such thing as the “Perfect Workout.” Don’t over think it. I preach production over perfection! More than anything, I wanted to expose the myths and dangers of living a physically counterproductive life spent starving yourself or staring at your toes every morning on a scale. It appears that “the main thing is, in fact, to keep the main thing the main thing,” but hopefully you now understand that the “main thing” is not weight; it’s muscle. Manage your muscle well and I promise it will pay long-term dividends and lead to a more productive and fulfilling life.

Go Further Stronger. Coach P



This entry was posted in Mark Paulsen.

From the Hospital Bed to the Gym

There are a variety of reasons people use Wilderness Athlete® nutritional products. Hunters use Wilderness Athlete to stay in shape for hunting season. Many satisfied customers keep themselves fueled with the products while they are fishing, climbing, snowboarding, and mountain biking or training for an endurance race. Eric Smith from Reno, Nevada started using Wilderness Athlete products after a health scare and he realized he needed to lose some weight not only so he could enjoy outdoor activities like hunting but even more importantly so he could enjoy time with his young son.

“In May 2011, I was very ill and was hospitalized for a week or so. They never figured out what was wrong with me but I was extremely heavy. When I got out of the hospital, I decided I needed to lose weight. My son was only two years old at the time and I feared I wouldn’t be able to do things with him if I didn’t get into shape,” Eric Smith said.

So Smith got focused. He enrolled in the Train To Hunt program and started using Wilderness Athlete products. “I started to exercise daily and stopped drinking soda and eating poorly,” Smith said. “By exercising, eating right and using Wilderness Athlete, I started losing weight.” Smith did more than lose a few pounds, he lost eighty pounds over the last couple years and has successfully kept it off.

Smith even runs races now; something he never would have dreamed of doing before he started getting in shape. “I use Wilderness Athlete products every day and they have helped me a lot. I use almost every product they have, including the High Performance Multi-Vitamin, the Meal Replacement, and Recover Shakes. I have a shake for breakfast and I drink Hydrate & Recover all the time. I used to drink soda; now that I drink Hydrate & Recover, I have drastically reduced my overall sugar intake.”  Although Smith has had a lot of success over the last couple years, it hasn’t been without ongoing challenges. Weight loss was a true battle for Eric. “Some people lose weight quickly and easily. That wasn’t the case for me, it has been a long road,” Smith said with a laugh. “It has been as much of a mental game as a physical game for me. The good news is I have so much more muscle now than I did before. I am in better shape now than when I was twenty years old and that has made all the work well worth it.”

Since Smith is no longer drinking soda and unhealthy energy drinks that are packed with sugar. He has eliminated all the health issues that are symptomatic with being overweight. “I used to be very unhealthy but that is no longer the case. Hydrate & Recover has replaced all that, so I am proud to say I am no longer battling health challenges which has been a big boost for me.”

Healthy eating has now become a daily habit for Smith. “We now have organic fruits and vegetables delivered to our door weekly and we eat very healthy. I do cross-fit training at the local gym and use Wilderness Athlete to help me get through the intense workouts and recover. All of these things have helped me get where I am today,” Smith explained.

Eric said the one Wilderness Athlete product he couldn’t live without is Hydrate & Recover. Wilderness Athlete is The Authority on Performance Nutrition™, check out for the vast variety of nutritional products.

Eric Smith before

Before Eric started using Wilderness Athlete products.

Eric Smith after

Now Eric is running races and is in much better shape with the help of Wilderness Athlete products.

About the Author: Tracy Breen is a full-time outdoor writer and marketing consultant in the outdoor industry. He works with a variety of companies including Wilderness Athlete. Learn more about him at

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before staring any exercise

This entry was posted in Stories, Weight Loss.

Hiking the Arizona Trail Week 3

Week three of our journey: we begin it apart. Michael has retreated to Phoenix for medical treatment. Ben recuperates in Tucson, gorging himself and waiting for that call that may never come…the call to adventure! Will we turn back from the precipice or leap heedlessly beyond?

Day 15: Mile 151.3— Mile 151.3

BH: As Michael busied himself with various medical inspections, I ate a variety of lavish meals and more or less lived in the shower. Were there a way to eat a full meal while in the shower, God knows I would have done so. For your consideration, dear reader, my lunch:
1 smoked salmon salad
1 house salad
1 order of fries
½ Cuban sandwich
3 bloody Mary’s

Dinner was two breasts of chicken parmesan. We had only been on the trail for three weeks, but I had already become completely obsessed with food. And I noticed another change—while I was eating lunch with my girlfriend, I couldn’t even follow our conversation. There was sound everywhere. Other diners at other tables, limp banjo music on the restaurant PA, some fraternity event in the courtyard, a quinceañera…society was overwhelming. Fortunately, as I heard that night, I wouldn’t be staying long. We’d hit the trail tomorrow.

MT: I am ashamed to admit this whole side trip for medical aid could have been skipped if I had not forgotten the duct tape. I needed a way to keep the bandages on to allow my heel to heal. But because of that oversight we made a detour to resupply at home. I got a package of antibiotics, fresh bandages, duct tape, and a hot shower – Everything I needed to be on the trail the next day.

After Reavis Canyon

Day 16: Mile 151.3 –– Mile 167.0

We were dropped off at the trail head by Michael’s brother and niece, and we started out in mixed spirits. Both of us were feeling pretty low but trying to put a brave face on it—a symptom of the weird pride that had driven us this far. As we climbed the little rilles and ridges that led to the Santa Catalina mountains, we felt despair—augmented by the dry springs and tanks on which we were relying. Squatting glumly on an inaccessible tank, however, we were visited with a messenger from the gods, another AZT hiker, a man known to us only as “Vocal.” We bitched about the water situation for a while, and he went on ahead of us. We finally descended into Molino Basin Campground—also dry—and ate dinner with Vocal. We shared tales of misadventure, punctuated by his joyous bursts of profanity. “You’re ‘trail trash’ now!,”he told us, and we really felt as if we were. Thirsty but emboldened, we decided to press on to Gordon Hirobayashi, where we were scheduled to meet Ben’s girlfriend, our water-bearer. We hoofed it in the moonlight, arriving and setting up camp at about 1 am.

BH: In terms of the Monomyth, I think Vocal would be categorized as “The Crone.” His tales of discharging firearms while wearing snowshoes and starting each hike 30 lbs. overweight to save on food costs were succor to our weary minds.

MT: It was good to see another long distance hiker on the trail. He gave us some good tips and great stories. It was also discouraging to see another long distance hiker. He covered 25+ miles in the time it took us to cover 16 and when we finally caught up to him at camp, he was smoking like a chimney.


Day 17: Mile 167.0 –– Mile 174.0

We woke up “late” (6:30) and had a long breakfast with Sarah, after which we began the ascent into the Catalinas. It was surprisingly tough, the back route to Hutch’s Pool through Sycamore Canyon. It was dry and hot and rocky, but we made it to the pool in the mid afternoon, whereupon we rested, swam, and ate. Here, we met another traveler, a congenial adventure-bro who shared with us tales of rafting the Colorado on acid and so forth. We decided to pitch camp here and ease our way back into things.

BH: All in all, a fairly relaxing day. Hutch’s Pool is a gorgeous little place. If I were a hermit, I’d move there.

MT: I don’t think I will ever trust river guides after hearing the stories our impromptu camp friend had.


Day 18: Mile 174.0 –– Mile 187.3

We were in the Catalinas proper, and that meant hiking. We ascended about 4000 feet in the morning—the first 2000 quite gradual, the second 2000 punishingly steep, but as we rested near the top of our climb, eating Pay Days and looking out over Marana, we felt accomplished and not so exhausted. At the top, we wended our way through the wilderness of rocks, walking from cairn to cairn in a landscape that resembled, well, over sized cairns. At last, we began the descent. Filled with fear that the one restaurant in Summer haven might close before we reached it, we split up—Ben rushed ahead to warn the town’s inhabitants that two filthy hikers were in need of a beer. Happily, we arrived in time, ate delicious sandwiches, flirted hopelessly with the waitress, and padded our supplies with junk food—chili cheese Frito’s, Drumsticks, and mint fudge (which, as the journey progressed, would become a powerful totem).

BH: Fudge! Sweet fudge! I shall compose prayerful odes to you! I shall propose obscene trysts to you! I shall rub you onto every square inch of my skin!

MT: I tried Wilderness Athlete’s Energy Powder for the first time today and the effects were fantastic. It gave me the second wind I needed to make it to Summerhaven before the restaurant closed and I was alert and talkative the entire time getting there. The Mango Bango energy powder is going to have to become part of my regular routine

Formerly White Canyon

Day 19: Mile 187.3 –– Mile 202.9

Descending the Oracle Ridge, we descended out of a verdant Valhalla of ponderosa’s into a burnt-out, rocky wasteland. All that remained of the scrubby forest that must have once been here were a few bleached juniper skeletons. We attempted to siesta beneath one of these, but they offered little shade—and what shade existed had largely been claimed by stinging nettles, which epitomized the region’s “fuck off and die” attitude. Once out of the mountains, we searched for the water source that allegedly existed there, only to find that it was someone’s house, surrounded by fences and “No Trespassing” signs and guarded by a large dog, unseen but not unheard. We filled our canteens surreptitiously before its owner arrived…who then welcomed us to fill our canteens. Restored, we set out into the desert.

BH: From the journals of Ben “Mulius Caesar” Harper: “We’re getting stronger and harder to discourage. Fudge supplies holding out.”

MT: We passed mile 200 today and it felt surreal in doing so. We were moving at a much slower pace than what we set out to do, but we were still making progress. At a quarter of the way through the hike it finally feels like we have a chance at this.

Gila Monster

 Day 20: Mile 202.9 –– Mile 221.1

Ben’s foolish and haphazard packing led to a fun surprise this morning. About two liters of water burst from one of the canteens beneath the weight of all his other equipment. Maybe it was a blessing—that’s 4lbs. It was a breezy, cool morning, and we hiked the gently sloping trail in fine fettle. We walked along the AZ-71 for a while (Ah! The untamed wilderness! God’s untrammeled majesty!), finally crossed it, and began the Tiger Mine stretch of trail. We rested for siesta beneath a tree in a sandy gulch, and lying in the soft sand felt like an extreme luxury. That day we hiked about 18 miles, ending at Mountain View Tank. The spigot at the water tank had been designed to discourage trail trash, but we were undeterred, maneuvering around the obstacles to overfill our canteens. We staggered a mile or two under the weight, as we were pretty sure we were trespassing, and made camp. Tomorrow would be a resupply day!

BH: My records indicate that this day’s dinner was dehydrated lasagna. They also indicate that it was pretty good. What is there to say about the hike today but that it went well, that we felt accomplished and capable, that we overcame all that opposed us—indeed, that we were men, that we were like gods?!

MT: My records indicate that Ben might be going crazy by this point. He kept talking about his lasagna and gods. I’ll have to keep an eye on him.IMG_1349

Day 21: Mile 221.1 –– Mile 236.1

Today’s hike was fairly easy, but it was haunted throughout by a terrible specter: the jumping cholla. These are evil, evil things. Most cactus’s are beautiful plants, in life and in death. The saguaro, tall and spare, leaves elegant ribs when it dies. When the prickly pear dies, its dead pads reveal the intricate latticework skeleton which support them. The jumping cholla, while alive, is a savage son of a bitch, and when it dies its horrible limbs wither into spiny caltrops that lie in wait, in perpetuity, to ambush the innocent. Based on our experiences so far, we’ve decided (improving on Thales) that the universe is composed of three basic elements—rocks, spines, and cow shit—all of which were present at our meager siesta lodgings. But despite the harshness of our surroundings, we made great time, reaching the drop-point an hour and a half early. So we futzed around for a while, and were soon granted beer, sandwiches, and a variety of other beautiful gifts.

BH: In revenge, I pooped on a cholla.

MT:I’m starting to feel like pig pen from Peanuts. I always have a cloud of small flies hovering around me. I’m really looking forward to my next shower.



This entry was posted in Arizona Trail.

Hiking the Arizona Trail – Week 2

Fearless adventurers strike out boldly from civilization, forsaking urban comforts the blazing torch of human endeavor to even the most savage lands! Ben “Mulius Caesar” Harper and Michael “Bathtub” Tyler can barely hack it in the mountains for seven days. But they’re going back out there for a second week, God love ‘em.

Day 8: Mile52.8—Mile 61.0

After a day of feasting we left Patagonia and continued our journey. Ben had a slight muscle tear, but it had mostly healed during our rest day, and in any case, chorizo breakfast burritos had made us bold! We trekked north from Patagonia, crawling up the Temporal Gulch into the Santa Rita Mountains, and we were feeling pretty all right—it’s amazing how quickly one can forget. We made it about 9 miles into the foothills of Mt. Wrightson, leaving the bleak desert for a pretty little riparian ravine, populated with deer, cottonwoods, and honest-to-god green grass. We made camp in a little glade largely untouched by cattle waste and, for the first time in days, felt pretty good about our chances.

BH:For once, I have nothing sarcastic to say. This was a nice stretch of trail.
MT: We were many miles down this rough dirt road that which I would have thought you would need a truck to get down, when we spot a small 4-door sedan driving towards us. The car is bottoming out left and right and I’m fairly certain it left plenty of paint on the bushes it drove by. I was cringing watching it come up the road towards us, but when the driver got up along side of us he rolled down his window and said, “Don’t worry, it’s a rental” and drove off.

Day 9: Mile 61.0—Mile 78.8

Today was the first day the heat truly became worrisome. Up until this point we had been blessed with a fortuitous wind that kept the brunt of the Arizona heat off of us. When that died off, we went through nearly three gallons of water each trying to keep hydrated. It became very clear that we were in a race against summer. Of course, it wasn’t just water that we were losing when we sweat, but thankfully the Wilderness Athlete Hydrate and Recover powder helped us get back what we were loosing. Plus the berry flavor was a welcome change from all the water we had been drinking.

We crossed through the Eastern section of the Santa Ritas over a pass near the peak of Mt. Wrightson. Shortly over the pass, we rested at a large stone cistern, where Ben proceeded to complain a lot. We ended ourday in Kentucky Camp, a Park Service station built at an old mining camp. Here we met Steve, the caretaker of Kentucky Camp, and the first of many interesting people we would meet on the trail. He offered us a beer and told us stories about his life, Kentucky Camp, and people on the Arizona Trail. The beer, his company, and the ability to get pure water straight from a faucet made Kentucky Camp a great place to stop for the day.

BH:A nice stop, but I barely made it. Climbing up Mount Wrightson wasn’t nearly as hard as climbing down—it’s hell on the knees.
MT:I think park curator for the forest service would be a good job. They set you up with a trailer and you just monitor the park for a month at a time. Sounds pretty restful.

Day 10: Mile 78.8—Mile 93.9

Gulches within gulches within gulches. Ben’s journal refers to this leg of the journey as “Wasteland,” and that’s just about right—there’s nothing but desert scrub and very little water. Not one of the glamorous, day-hike sections of the trail. We were starting to get worried about our water reserves when we reached one of the sources indicated on our factsheet, only to find it empty. Lamentation and recriminations ensued. Fortunately, after fiddling with the controls for a few minutes, we found that the reservoir was filled from another tank according to a scheduled timer, not unlike a sprinkler timer. Ben tapped into the ancestral knowledge inherited from his father the sprinklerman; we filled our canteens, and crawled on.

BH:Norse tradition holds that each generation is smaller, lesser than its progenitor, as ripples in a still lake grow weaker as they spread.
MT: I’m glad Ben got the solar pump working. The only other water source we had found was dark green, stagnant and infested with bees.

Day 11: Mile 93.9 —Mile 109.5

Another dry day. We filled up our canteens to about as much as we could hold at the last tank, but it didn’t turn out to be enough. Tough on morale. We took a siesta at a cattle tank down in the valley and decided we’d try to fill up there, taking as little as we thought was possible to reduce damage to our water filter. We rested uneasily in the shade of a tree, eying a bull that wouldn’t stop eying us, but we managed to escape without being savagely gored. Of course, twenty minutes out from the filthy cattle tank, we ran into a woman jogging down the trail from her home, a mile and a half away, who invited us back for water. We were too furious to even accept. Apparently this wilderness is now the southernmost part of Vail, so we crawled, dehydrated and dispirited, past incongruous mansions. We arrived at Duck Tank, in the shadow of the AZ-83, only to find that it, too, was scummy and undrinkable. Seven miles to the next water source, and very little water between us.

BH: I don’t hate them as much as cattle, but ducks are on my list. Stupid ducks.
MT:I hit a moral low when tired, hot, and nearly out of water, I had to stop and wait for a UPS truck to pass over the trail on it’s way into the suburbs of Vail.

Day 12: Mile 109.5—Mile 125.9

We woke up with little choice but to hike and hike hard. If we made some miles before the sun got too high, we reckoned, we might yet live! A little dramatic, maybe, as we were literally 100 feet from the highway, but hell—sweeping narrative is a great motivator. And indeed, we hauled ass. We passed under the I-10, briefly considered hitching to a diner, rallied, and reached Cienega Creek around noon. The creek was clear and beautiful, tucked into a shady little canyon replete with cottonwoods and other such shady vegetation. We celebrated with a quick rest, candy bars, and the Wilderness Athlete meal replacement powder, as was our habit anytime we had water to spare. We needed the extra calories and that did the trick. Further down the trail, we stumbled upon
La Posta Quemada Ranch, a little dude ranch run as part of Colossal Cave Monument. Alas, the restaurant was closed, but we convinced the staff to part with a few turkey sandwiches, bought some candy bars, took siestas, and bandaged our feet before returning to the trail. Our newfound proximity to water had a striking effect on our surroundings—prickly pears in bloom, dark green cactus-flesh, and wildflowers all along the trail. It grew overcast that afternoon, darkening the mountains to a rich purple and bringing out the purple hues in the rich, green cactus. We camped in the lowlands of Saguaro National Park (without a permit, we wanton rebels!) and prepared to tackle the Rincon Mountains.

BH:A rare, early taste of victory! Saguaro National Park is gorgeous.
MT: This was one of the few times during the entire hike that we actually had a beautiful Arizona sunset. The sky silhouetted saguaros with deep red, pink, and orange.

Day 13: Mile 125.9—Mile 139.8

From our camp at the base of the Rincons, we began the ascent from the south side. It got hot fast. From the somewhat bleak desert base, stands of ocotillo and saguaro interrupted by rocky cataracts, we climbed into an increasingly temperate, mountainous climate. Again, we quite nearly ran out of water, but were lucky enough to find a relatively clean pool in the rocks. Noon was brutally hot, and we attempted to take a siesta beneath some scrub juniper and rock outcroppings, contorting ourselves in every possible position to avoid the sun. While resting, it became clear that Michael had developed some interesting wounds on his feet, possibly pressure sores. We began to consider that we’d have to abandon the trek for medical treatment. Still, at least we weren’t going to die of thirst. We kept moving, our morale in an interesting state—we were frustrated and in pain (Michael particularly), but we were almost giddy with the prospect that we might fail and put this ridiculous adventure behind us. After stopping at Grass Springs camp to use the latrine (a luxury!) we pressed on, going as far as we could convince ourselves and bedding down in some rocky brush, drinking scotch from the flask and arranging for a pickup northwest of the mountains.

BH:I wanted you to be seriously injured so badly. I feel as though I can say this, because we no longer live in the same city. We could have quit, and I could have blamed it on you! Would have been perfect.
MT: Yeah, I was right there with you. I just didn’t want to have the conversation on why we failed with everyone who knew we were out here.

Day 14: Mile 139.8—Mile 151.3

 Of course, just as we were ready to quit, we had a great day of hiking. From our campsite, it was only two or three hours to Manning Camp, a gorgeous, ponderosa-ensconced campsite near the peak of the Rincons, with a stream running right through it. It had a latrine, and even bathroom reading (tales of gripping Forest Service adventure)! We filled up our canteens, moved on, and took a slight detour to Mica Mountain, the highest point in the range, because—why the hell not? It was to be our last day on the trail (it wasn’t). Then we started the descent. The view from the northern part of the Rincons is staggering—a clear vista to two-hundred-some degrees of the San Pedro Valley. We spent some time simply admiring it, and had an easy descent down strange and bulbous rock formations to Michael’s brother, who careened heroically down unmaintained roads to rescue his brother and his asshole friend. We hadn’t even made it a quarter of the way, but we were feeling ready to quit.

BH:Still, nothing soothes the soul like a giant, greasy burrito.
MT: It’s amazing how a little water and some elevation can turn the Arizona landscape into a lush green forest.

Next Week: Will our heroes get off their asses and back on the trail? Will they do something right for a change? Find out here!





This entry was posted in Arizona Trail, Hiking and tagged in .