Hikes and Stories

TMI: What It Really Means To Hike Like A Woman

Editor’s Note:  You were warned. TMI.

Back when I began my spring break saga last year, I told you that I was going to write that story in several different ways.  I wrote some pages on how to visit the national park and attractions that we stopped at along the way.  All Rated G kind of stuff.

I, also, wrote about a story about our adventures and all the funny things that happened to us on our trek.  Meet Underwear Ben…

But I still haven’t told you everything.

There are more layers to my story that I have saved because they go deeper.  They have to do with personal things or observations I had along the way.  Earlier this year I wrote a post on how I didn’t want to be a woman hiker, I just wanted to be a hiker.  THAT was my story.  But the truth is, there is one aspect of being a woman that the guys never have to deal with…

As Denise and I were making the long, hot haul out of Havasupai and up to our car 2000ft above the canyon floor, we were passed by a woman who was headed in and she looked at us, flexing her biceps in the air and said something to the effect of, “Doesn’t it feel great to be a woman!”  Denise and I looked at each other as we left her and I said, “I think I pretty much ALWAYS feel like a woman.”

You see, this trip actually started out as one of the worst road trips I have ever had, despite all the fun I wrote about.  Sometimes, that’s how stories are.  I can tell you whatever I choose to tell you.  All truth, just from the perspective I wanted to share.

The day before getting on the plane for this trip, my period started. It started like it usually does, with some spotting to warn me of what is going to come.  Since my teen years, I have always had regular periods.  As in, you could set a clock.  Same time every month. Once a month. Not heavy and lasting maybe 4-5 days.  I never got the severe cramps some of my friends did and I had no idea what it meant to have heavy periods that would keep a woman home.

Until my early 40s, that is.  It all changed as it does for many women and a monthly cycle becomes this random unwelcome visitor that could make an appearance at any given time in all sorts of manner.  Spot two days, go three months with nothing, spot a week, go four months, then suddenly out of nowhere the Shining elevator doors open and it’s a bloodbath for a week.  Thankfully that has only happened twice for me so far.  The second time being the morning I left the house to meet Denise to get on the plane at Sea-Tac.

Oh, you might think I would have been better prepared since I had technically started the day before.  I had thrown a handful of cotton bullets into my bag when I packed.  But the thing is that when it doesn’t happen all the time, you grow complacent.  You desperately want to believe it is an anomaly.

So, needless to say I was out of ammunition by the time we were boarding the plane, having blown through one an hour, and all I could hope for was that I didn’t ruin my seat on the 747 before we landed in Las Vegas. (No, I didn’t find any in the airport shops).

As I sat there on there on the plane wishing that there was some way to “hold it in” I was kicking myself for not being smarter.  It was totally my luck. I mean, so far this winter I bled with EVERY SINGLE STRENUOUS HIKE I had gone on.  Even if I had had my period the week before.  So much so, I would just go ahead and make a preemptive insertion just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it on some summit somewhere.  You see, everything is covered with white in the winter.  Yellow snow is one thing, pink snow might bring the authorities out to look for a buried body. Did I mention Aunt Flo even came to visit on my first snow overnight?  That’s right, of course she did.  Pack it in, pack it out…

Anyway, we landed in Vegas and we quickly it through the car rental agency and headed to Wal-Mart where I picked up a big box of Super tampons.  And then proceeded to barely make it an hour before I had to find a bathroom in Trader Joe’s to reload.  Every hour?!?

Do you recall how many times I mentioned having to stop to go to the bathroom on the first day in Nevada?  Go back and read, every time meant another change.  Without or without running water.  By the time we had left the Valley of Fire, I knew that I had not picked up enough supplies and we headed to Wal-Mart again. This time, I bought out half the feminine product aisle from Super Duper Double (who knew they came that big?) to mammoth overnight pads for which I then had to buy the appropriate undergarments (I call them Granny underwear) because the type I usually wear don’t have enough surface area for these absorbent bandages to adhere to.

By this time, we were headed to find our camping spot for the night and I wondering how I was going to make this all work.  I wasn’t exactly feeling my freshest and what if I had to get out of my hammock repeatedly in the desert night to swap out?  Denise looked at me sympathetically in the car and gently asked if I wanted to stay in a hotel instead.

“No, no, no. I am not giving in to this!”

Remember when I woke up in the middle of the night to the ripping of my hammock and found myself on the desert floor.  Well, let’s just say that I stared up at the moon and had some choice words for God. “Really? As if my period was not enough??”  It took everything to not just curl up in a ball and cry.  I just had to laugh and wonder what else?  What else could possibly go wrong…

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So what about the hiking, huh?  The next morning I was planning to be on top of Angel’s Landing.  How exactly was that going to work if I needed a bathroom every hour?  Have you seen the width of that trail??  Since I was not sure what to expect at the bathroom at the trailhead, I prepared myself at the visitor center with a super-duper AND an overnight adult diaper (at least they feel that way) and prayed it would last me for the hike.

Hopping off the bus, I flew up that trail as fast as I could without wearing myself out prematurely.  I had some extra supplies in my pack but there would have been absolutely nowhere on that trail to perform a change out.  I stayed on top as long as I thought I could risk it and then quickly made my way back down and to the bathroom again.  I made it without “leaving any trace”, thank goodness.  I’ll just say here, those pads cause some serious chafing.

Zion

Oh, yes nice couple, I will gladly take your picture.  Sure, you can take mine, too.  Let’s goooo….

The rest of the day proceeded much the same: short hike, bathroom break. Bus ride, bathroom. Short car ride, rest stop. Short car ride, Bryce.  Repeat. So much fun.

Have I had a period like that since then? NOPE, just a few false starts.  That’s right, 10+ months.  For all I know, it’s storing up for my next vacation (no backpacking trip in my immediate future, unfortunately).  No wait, probably my HONEYMOON.

Am I still carrying a full arsenal with me everywhere?  You betcha.  Hiking like a woman (or simply being a woman) means that behind every story, climb, or expedition there could be another “adventure” that one needs to be prepared for.  A layer that doesn’t usually make it into the magazine, blog or water cooler chatter.  Think about the women who reach summits like Everest, what would that be like? The fact that most people don’t even think about this happening behind the scenes is only a testament to what it takes to be a woman.  Can you imagine what it would be like if we talked about it as frequently as we talk about sweating, sunburn or blisters when sharing our tales?

How about you? Any “adventures” you’d like to bring out into the light? I know I’m not the only one!

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5 thoughts on “TMI: What It Really Means To Hike Like A Woman

  1. Im glad someone is talking about this. 🙂 I had a major shift in my cycle going into my 40’s as well. Started having super painful cycles (though Ive recently found some relief through the keto diet). But on my first Grand Canyon hike (6 days) in Oct 2016, I started my cycle on my last mile out of the canyon. I ended up not having any anti-inflammatories left and the pain escalated. Instead of looking over the rim in awe of my accomplishment, I literally laid down on the parking lot in major pain. It was all I could do to get myself to into the car and to a gift shop to find some Advil. Im glad it didnt happen on the hike! I hope you find some relief.

    1. Oh, that’s awful Jaime! What a terrible way to end your visit to such a beautiful place. I’m not surprised to hear about the keto diet helping, I switched to paleo after I started having perimenopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats in 2010 and they stopped (other than the odd cycles). I’m too young for that stuff yet!

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