From My Vagina to Yours: Hiking Tips for Women

It happens to the best of us.

It happens to the best of us (and our vaginas).

Being a  hiker AND having a vagina can be extremely inconvenient.

If that sentence grossed you out, just stop reading now. Because it’s about to get way worse. I only wish someone had told me these tricks before I started hiking. So to you women who have questions about how to manage your vagina while hiking, camping, or seeking other outdoor adventures, I invite you to benefit from my heard-earned  wisdom.

Let’s start with the easy stuff…

PEE-PEE PROBLEMS

Problem: You have to pee and you don’t have a penis.

Solution: Get a penis. Purchase the GoGirl, the Little John, the pStyle, the SheWee…lots of cleverly named options here. Basically, these products create a penis for you out of plastic. It’s a little awkward at first, sure. But after you get the hang of it, you’ll be thanking GOD for plastic!

Real-life example: Port-a-potties and pit toilets. I hate them. The plastic penis saves me from hovering my genitalia over a vat of cooking feces (and the flies that eat the feces then land on my vagina…fucking gross).

It's not as bad as it looks.

It’s not as bad as it looks.

Problem: You forgot your plastic penis and you don’t want to hover your genitalia over the port-a-potty.

Solution: Disposable cup. If you’re near a port-a-potty or pit toilet, it’s assumed you’re at a trailhead or campsite. So grab a disposable cup and head to the port-a-potty for some privacy. Pee goes in the cup, the pee goes out of cup and into the toilet, the cup goes in the garbage. Brilliant.*

Real-life example: I entered the pit toilet at the Peralta Trailhead and was greeted by a turd sitting on top of the toilet seat. Someone had also smeared the turd so there was a visible brown trail of shit everywhere. Lucky me, I hadn’t planned to use the toilet anyhow. I brought an empty Starbucks cup and then I filled it to the top line…almost a full venti!

Problem: You’re using your plastic penis on the trail and a stranger unexpectedly catches you in the act.

Solution: None. That person is left to wonder forever about your anatomy. Unless that person is a lady. If that’s the case…time to show and tell, girl! (P.S. This is why I only use the plastic penis in a port-a-potty situation.)

Real-life example: Also none. But I imagine I’d be so worried about the person’s resulting confusion about my gender, that I might chase them down to provide an explanation. “No, no, I swear, I’m a girl! See? It’s right here!”

Call me an idiot? I'll shove a used tampon in you.

Call me an idiot? I’ll shove a used tampon in you.

PERIOD PROBLEMS

Problem: You got your period.

Solution: Tampon, duh. Think ahead and bring tampons on every single hike no matter what. You’ve got your first aid kit, right? Add at least 3 heavy flow tampons to that thing. Done. Problem solved forever. And here’s an unexpected perk: Tampons make excellent kindling for fires. Just spread the cotton, throw on a spark and watch that thing ignite.

Real life example: Lou and I used a tampon to start a fire while camping. Brilliant invention, I say!

Problem: You got your period and you don’t have a tampon.

Solution: Uh, get the hell off the trail. It’s not like it’s going to get better. If things get crazy, however, open your backpack and look for anything useful. Handkerchief? Kleenex? Gauze? Hate to say it but you’re going to have to do it middle-school style and start filling the crotch of your pants with anything absorbent. And if you see another woman on the trail, good God don’t be shy. Ask her if she’s got lady supplies handy. She will help you.

Real-life example: A friend of a friend hiked into the Grand Canyon and she got caught without a tampon. By the time she arrived to the campground, the poor woman was a mess. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

Problem: You got your period, you HAVE a tampon, and now you have to change it on the trail.

Solution: Grocery bag. Always carry at least one one white plastic grocery store bag in your pack. You’re going to use that bag much in the same way you would use it to pick up dog poop. Only this time, it’s like the dog poop has a string attached to it and you have to pull it out of your dog’s butt-hole then catch it with your bagged hand. And also, your dog lives in your pants. Sounds complicated but it can be done. In fact, I’ve mastered this maneuver and can successfully make the big switch without even removing my pants. I feel proud.*

Real-life example: Too many to count. I’ll tell you this much though, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I see photos of the top of the flatiron.

I'm feeling a little...unfresh...down there. You know...in my...swamp thing.

Hmmmm. I’m feeling a little…unfresh…down there. You know, in my…swamp thing.

GENERAL VAGINA PROBLEMS

Problem: Swamp vagina.

Solution: Bring Kleenex on every hike. You’re just one discreet wipe away from feeling fresh again!

Real-life example: When a hiking partner and I finally confessed to this unfortunate side effect of having a vagina on a summer desert hike, we forever called the resulting incident, “The Great Wipe-Out.”*

Problem: Cameltoe, moose knuckle, turtle paw, frontal wedge…whatever you want to call it.

Solution: Embrace it. I prefer yoga pants to traditional hiking pants when I’m out on the trail and while I try to be conscious of vaginal fabric bunching, the reality is, I often stop caring. I’m sweaty, dirty, thirsty, and tired. And, most likely, I had to degrade myself with doggie-bag tampon changing or pissing in a cup while staring at a smeared turd. Now I have to obsess about my cameltoe? Whatever.

Real-life example: I’d rather not know. If you’re reading this and you’ve hiked with me, please refrain from commenting. Thank you.

That’s it! I can only hope that writing this blog post will  help all the other vagin–I mean–women looking for outdoor adventures!

How do I know so much? Well, my vagina and I have hiked over 100 trails in Arizona. Then my vagina and I wrote a book about 81 of them called Take a Hike Phoenix. For less vulgar, more G-rated writing about hiking, please visit my other blog, liliatakesahike.com.

*I adhere to a very strict pack-it-in-pack-it-out policy. There’s no excuses on this one, hikers, and it includes the icky stuff. Littering is bad and, also, are you really going to make a park ranger pick up your tampon, piss cup, or vag Kleenex for you? Don’t be cruel!

Winter Hiking in Phoenix, a Guide/Rant

Smiling doesn't mean you're happy.

Smiling doesn’t mean you’re happy.

Looking out my window this morning, I see gray clouds and a wintery-looking Phoenix.

One might think that on a day like today, a Phoenix hiker would be dying to hit the trails. It’s better to hike in the cool weather, right?

Wrong!

​This hiker prefers hiking in the summer.

Yeah, I said it.

I’d much rather trek through the baked dirt in the disgustingly hot evenings wearing practically nothing and sweating like a maniac than hike in the cold — bundled up and clammy with snot dripping from my freezing nose.

Wow. Hiking is not very attractive.

Anyway, as a hater of the chilly outdoors, I’ve come up with a list of tips/gripes to make winter hiking tolerable:

1. Layer with as many zip-up clothing options as possible
With fuzzy beanies, visors, sunglasses and other cumbersome accessories, you’re not going to want to keep pulling something over your head that musses up your hats and glasses. Zippers are your friends.

2. Bring a snot rag
With a cold nose, you’ll start to drip watery snot out of your nose. It’s super gross and it’s really freaking annoying. The only way to avoid this is to keep a snot rag on hand and constantly blow your boogers out of your head. You may as well use an old bandanna. A tissue will just get shoved into your backpack or pocket only to be discovered later. Gross.

3. Bring a non-snot rag bandanna
This is essential. If you find yourself feeling too chilly around your neck or head, this thing can be fashioned into hat, ear-warmer, or scarf. Of course, do not confuse it with No. 2.

4. Cover your ears
This may only apply to me because I’ve got ugly monkey ears that poke out of my head but those things can catch a lot of wind. Then they freeze and I experience the most painful freaking headache in the world. Keep ‘em fettered if you can.

Lou...harnessing inspiration from "The Road".

Lou…harnessing inspiration from “The Road”.

5. Bring a tissue and a zip lock baggy (if you’re a girl)
Another thing I hate about hiking in the cold: you don’t sweat out your water consumption so you have to pee in the desert. This is the suckiest. Especially for chicks. And it’s not like there are big bushes in the desert you can effectively hide behind.

Again, if it’s summer, this is not a problem at all. One time I hiked a 10.5 trail in 100 degree weather and didn’t go pee once. It was beautiful. Anyway, you should be able to guess what the tissue and the zip lock bag are for…don’t litter your pee rag.

6. Remember to drink water
Duh, right? But I actually get more dehydrated on winter hikes because it’s so easy to forget to chug water when you’re not at risk of heat stroke. Plus, I don’t like to drink water on the trail because then it brings me to tip No. 5. I can’t win!

7. Bring your camera
Ok, I admit it. The desert is more beautiful in the winter sun … assuming you have time between pee breaks and snot-blowing to notice.

This blog post originally appeared on The Phoenix New Times website way back in 2010 when I had no idea I’d ever write a hiking book. I stand by what I wrote with just one caveat: winter hiking is truly spectacular because, unlike summer, I can plan glorious, 10-15 mile hikes that take all day.

Also, now that I published a book with an entire chapter devoted to safety, I feel it’s my responsibility to mention that my summer hikes only take place in the early morning or at dusk because hiking midday in the summer is too dangerous. Also, if you hike a trail of any length in 100-degree weather, please, please, please be sure to bring plenty of water. I take 3 liters for any trails over 5 miles, no matter what time of year. And when it’s warm, I take 3 liters plus a large water bottle, sometimes two. Okay, I’ll stop now!

The Great Eight

Trail 8. Quiet. Secluded. Friendly to those with full bladders.

Trail 8. Quiet. Secluded. Friendly to those with full bladders.

Well, I am just thrilled!

My best hiking buddy Kristina is back on the trail after months of cruel confinement to cast and crutches. To celebrate, we hiked. Big surprise, right?

We were pumped. Look at all those teeth!

We were pumped. Look at all those teeth!

We chose an unassuming little trail that has become one of my favorites in town: The L.V. Yates Trail 8 in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

Things I love about the L.V. Yates Trail 8

    • It crosses Trail 100 within the first quarter mile. Look to the east and you’ll see a stunning view of Four Peaks in the far distance.
    • It’s not that hard. It climbs the whole way and the entire trail is 5 miles (out and back) but it’s so gentle, you don’t really feel it.
    • It’s 5 miles. Since writing the book, I’ve found that 5 miles is my “Goldilocks” distance. It’s long enough for a great conversation but short enough so I don’t have to pack a lunch.
That's me. Posing on the bench.

That’s me. Posing on the bench.

  • The parking seriously kicks butt. The trailhead at 40th street has plenty of spots so there’s no parking politics to sour my serene mood.
  • It’s secluded. Most people just stick to Piestewa Peak when they hike in this area. Which is fine by me because I like having Trail 8 all to myself.
  • It shows off some fantastic scenery. Four peaks, Dreamy Draw, Piestewa Peak, and the surrounding desert. You can’t ask for much more.
  • It has benches. This may not sound like a big deal but I have great affection for a trail with a bench. Especially when the bench marks the halfway point on a trail and your friend’s foot is still recovering so you should probably turn around anyway.
  • It features decent pee spots. Not only is there a pit toilet at the trailhead, but the seclusion, surrounding hills and low vegetation offer some exellent private peeing potential.
  • It’s quiet. You’re far away from major roads and the only thing you hear is the crunch of rocks beneath your feet. I love that sound.
  • It surprised me. I found Trail 8 when I was doing research for my book and I needed a 5 mile trail. I thought it would be mediocre. It wasn’t. In fact, I love it and was thrilled that I could include it in the book.
  • I’ve only ever hiked Trail 8 with Kristina. And, as I’ve established, hiking with Kristina is a super special thing.

Check out more photos, gps information, and other details of  the L.V. Yates Trail 8 on my Everytrail.com page which shows just half of the trail. A detailed review of the entire 5-mile trail is featured in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores late November and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

I Don’t Hate Zooey Deschanel (Anymore)

I used to think this was bullshit.

I used to think this was bullshit.

I have spent years proclaiming hatred for the actress/singer/hipster darling Zooey Deschanel.

But I do not hate her anymore.

Here’s how it happened:

Hate Reason #1: The Lost Girl

I despised Zooey because I watched a bad movie called Winter Passing and she played the “lost girl” role. I then blamed her for the creation of this weak female archetype: Girl in her 20’s with less-than-perfect parents who has indiscriminate and unemotional sex with lots of men and is prone to suddenly moving from city to city. In this version of “lost girl”, she also drowns a kitten. The “lost girl” movie role is a two-dimensional excuse for a hot girl to be slutty (and therefore accessible) on screen.

How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #1

Zooey was a young brunette trying to make a career in acting. I’ve done more than a few lame things in my career as a writer to keep a paying job, so I get it. Besides, she didn’t write the role. A girl’s gotta pay the bills somehow.

Hate Reason #2: She’s Pretty

I got mad at Zooey Deschanel because she wears cute little girl dresses and she’s constantly blinking her big blue eyes under her flirty brunette bangs.

How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #2

I’m a brunette with bangs and blue eyes. Let’s face it. She does it waaaay better than I do. And after reading Lean In, I’m big enough to admit that I was just jealous.

She does it better. I'm okay with that now.

Look man, I’m no slouch. But she just does it better. And I’m okay with that now.

Hate Reason #3: All the Boys Like Her

And it seems like every guy my age wants to do her.

How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #3

Jealous. Again. (Duh.)

Hate Reason #4: Her Music

Technically I never hated her music. I’m big enough now to admit that  from the minute I heard She & Him’s (that’s her band) Why do You Let Me Stay Here song on the myspace page of a guy I drunkenly made out with then mystalked afterward, I loved her music. I even bought the She & Him Christmas album for God’s sake.

How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #4

I didn’t talk myself out of it…I just started talking about it out loud. Like a true coward, I used to only listen to She & Him by myself in the car.

Hate Reason #5: Her “Bad” Acting

Between Winter Passing, that horrible Wizard of Oz re-interpretation, and 500 Days of Summer, I did not have a high opinion of her acting.

How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #5

Let’s face it, those roles sucked. I’ve already explained the irritating lameness of “lost girl”. Dorothy wasn’t her fault. The writing was unforgettably awkward. And as far as 500 Days of Summer goes, Zooey actually did a pretty good job in an acting role that was designed to absorb the residual hate for some pathetic, self-victimizing, crybaby asshole who never got over his ex girlfriend (and then made a boring movie about it).

Love Reason #1: New Girl

Sure, the first few episodes play up the adorably quirky Zooey Deschanel caricature in an annoying way, but as the show moves on, things get better. Way better. In fact, when my Netflix binge ended on the last available episode, I felt sad for days that it was over. I’m still sad. She was hilarious in that show and I can’t wait to see more.

Because I love Zooey Deschanel.

Ten Alternate Trails to Hike While Camelback Echo Canyon is Closed

I’ve see a few tweets that will surely piss off a Phoenix Hiker or two.

According to azcentral.com, the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain may not be open until January 2014, a solid 2 months later that the originally scheduled November date. I’ve seen other tweets say that Valley hikers might be waiting even longer due to delays in the trail renovations, parking lot expansion, and bathroom construction.

These tweets don’t piss off this Phoenix hiker, however. Because I have options. In fact, I have 81 of them which I will share with you in late November when my book is released.

In the meantime, though there’s no replacing the Echo Canyon Trail, here are quick summaries of ten alternate trails that offer some of the same features of that valley favorite.

Camelback Cholla Trail at your service.

Camelback Cholla Trail at your service.

Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain

3.6 miles, 1,300 ft. elevation gain

Did you know there’s a trail on the other side of the mountain? With constant climbing, heavy scrambling, and views from the very same summit reached via the Echo Canyon Trail, the Cholla Trail will surely satisfy your need for climbing Camelback Mountain. The similarities to Echo Canyon don’t end there…the parking is a nightmare. With no proper parking lot, hikers must park parallel along Invergordon Street then walk to the trailhead.

Piestewa Peak Summit Trail in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

2.4 miles, 1,200 ft. elevation gain

This one’s a no-brainer. Wildly popular, the Piestewa Peak Summit trail demands hard-core huff n’ puff all the way up. And up. With barely any reprieve from the climbing, Echo lovers will feel that scathing lung burning they crave. No scrambling efforts required here except for the parking. It’s crowded at the trailhead but there are other parking lots within walking distance.

Holbert Trail at South Mountain

3.6 miles, 950 ft. elevation gain

Like making it to the top? This trail will take you to the highest point accessible in all of South Mountain park at Dobbins Lookout, 2,330 feet. This one’s a more subtle burn but offers plenty of sweat-filled climbing as you make your way to the stone-stacked structure which marks your endpoint. The big difference here is that reaching the top means running into non-hikers who opted for the mountain drive, accessible by car. But with views of the entire city, you’ll barely notice.

Black Mountain in Cave Creek

2.2 miles, 1,275 ft elevation gain

It’s really no secret that Black Mountain is Cave Creek’s Camelback Mountain. It’s a hefty grunt all the way up this rocky trail with zippo switchbacks to ease the pain. Make it to the top and you’ll be treated to views that rival Camelback’s. It may be a drive but it’s right off the main drag in Cave Creek so treat yourself to a burger and beer afterward.

My husband. Sweaty and sexy on the Sunrise Trail.

My husband. Sweaty and sexy on the Sunrise Trail.

Sunrise Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (aka McDowell Mountains)

3.7 miles, 1,100 ft elevation gain

To put it simply, this is a stellar hike. The trail and trail head are brand new, beautifully maintained, and in a nice area of North Scottsdale. Reaching Sunrise Peak guarantees clear views of your beloved Camelback as well as the Phoenix Mountains, the Supersitions, Four Peaks…you can even see the Fountain Hills fountain’s massive projectile of vertical water if you time it right.

Tom’s Thumb Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (aka McDowell Mountains)

4.1 miles, 1,325 ft elevation gain

Okay, so when you’re on Camelback and you’re looking north, you’re looking at the McDowell Mountains. Have you ever noticed the single, rocky protrusion that looks like a teeny little thumb? That’s Tom’s Thumb. And after you sweat your way up this challenging trail, it won’t be teeny. In fact, it’s so huge, you can barely wrap your head around its massiveness.

Pinnacle Peak Trail

2.9 miles, 1,000 ft elevation gain

This trail offers the same Scottsdale fanciness that the Echo Canyon Trail boasts. Nice area of town, beautiful trail, and tons of opportunity to stare into rich peoples’ backyards. This trail is less of a summit hike and more of an up, down, up, down…turn around and do it all backwards kind of hike. You’ll love it.

Image credit: www.jfryhale.com

Start early. Pack water, gloves, food, and your courage. Climbing to the flatiron could be the best hike of your life.

Siphon Draw Trail to the Flatiron in Superstition Mountains

5.8 miles, 2,750 ft elevation gain

I am going to say this now and I’m sorry if you’re offended. This hike is way, way, waaaaayyyy better than Camelback Mountain. Six miles. Vertical climbs. Merciless crawling over boulders. And the absolute most breathtaking I-am-on-top-of-the-mother-fucking-world-right-now views. If you love Camelback, you must do this hike.

Hunter Trail at Picacho Peak

3 miles, 1,900 ft elevation gain

To the timid, this trail is downright terrifying. But if you like the steep parts on Camelback when you have to grip those bars, you’ll adore this trail. It’s one of the few in the U.S. that boasts via ferrata climbing — Italian for “iron road”. Picture this: rockface, metal cables, and you gripping the cables while hanging on for dear life as you climb your way to the summit. Chickens, you’re going to want to sit this one out.

Elden Lookout Trail in Flagstaff, AZ

5.1 miles, 2.400 ft elevation gain

Admittedly, this requires a lot more driving on your part. But if you can zip up Camelback Echo Canyon Trail, it’s time to up your game, friend. This trail is about 5 miles roundtrip with 2.400 feet in elevation gain. It’s like two Piestewa Peaks stacked on top of each other surrounded by thin, Flagstaff air. No bones about it — you’ll feel like a serious badass after you finish this one.

Want to know more about these trails? You’ll read all about them in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores late November and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

PC to Mac…What Was I Thinking?

Yeah? Well, you did a SHIT job.

Yeah? Well, you did a SHIT job.

I’m writing from the screen of my twice-as-expensive-as-any-other-laptop-I’ve-ever-purchased-before MacBook Pro.

I’ve been a PC user for years. Because PCs are cheaper.

“You’re a book author now,” Lou said. “It’s time you get yourself a good piece of equipment. As a musician, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend money on a quality instrument.”

Since this thing arrived, I’ve (taking a deep breath and using grown-up corporate words) been challenged by the transition in the following ways.

No right click. God, I miss the right click. It was so nice to be able to have all my options at my fingertips (well, my right hand ring fingertip, to be accurate).

Only a “delete” key. So the “delete” key functions like the backspace key and I don’t have a delete key at all. This means I can only eliminate the text behind my cursor and not in front of it. As a writer, I require full functionality to erase my work from every direction, dammit.

Hidden scroll bar. I actually had to change settings in order for the scroll bars to show up. Come on!

Icon overload. Everything is a flippin’ icon. There are no actual WORDS on my desktop. A little explanation would be nice.

Minimizing is a problem. Here’s a new one I just discovered. I maximized the window. Now I can’t figure out how to shrink the damn thing back down. I guess I’ll google THIS basic move, too.

No right click. I already covered this. But the amount of red-eyed craziness this is causing warrants a 2nd mention.

I have many more complaints. Please tell me this gets better.

Knock, Knock…

©iStockphoto.com/Raycat

Who’s there?
©iStockphoto.com/Raycat

I just spent the last two hours researching sex on the internet.

Lou and I have been married for 2 1/2 years. I’m turning 32 in July. So I guess it’s time to get knocked up.

Now that we’ve started this discussion in earnest and set some dates for doctor appointments, I’ve been struggling with the urge to write about it.

As a side note, I wish I would just not write about it. But if I could keep myself from it, I probably wouldn’t be able to call myself a writer. As it is, I’ll write about it and deal with the stresses that come along with this exposure.

What if people from work read this and are disappointed? Why do I feel like pregnancy is a betrayal to my employer?

What if I can’t get pregnant? What if this blog turns into a depressing journal of my infertility-related mourning?

If I post this blog, do I have to keep blogging about every step of this pregnancy thing? Am I being tacky?

And, as usual, writing about myself means I’ll invite everyone to witness the less-than-pleasant sides of my personality. As an example, I’m already feeling bitter about the whole thing.

I assume a good future-mom would never feel bitterness. A good future-mom would softly mention her intentions to a few close friends. And when she spoke of it, she’d gently grin, brush her abdomen with her hand, and be magically bathed in morning light. Her soft-spoken announcement would be private, beautiful,  and (in my opinion) hideously vaginal.

Today, my announcement is made via the low-brow blogosphere. And as I blab about a decision that’s supposed to be private, I will express my disgusting fears of stretch marks, big nipples, constipation, weird underwear, the surefire compromise to my career, and the reality that my vag is going to literally rip open.

In all moments when I’m lacking grace, I rely on the advice of other women. Today, I must remember my mother’s words from a few years ago:

“It’s not fun. But at least you get to bring home a cute little baby afterward.”

Goal for this week: Start taking a multivitamin.

Update: Just to be clear, I’m not pregnant. We’re researching and arranging the preparations necessary to become pregnant. Just want to be 100% clear on that, thanks.