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Hiking for the Couch Potato (Part 2)

Ridge of Inselbergs in High desertMarch has come to an end. The theme this month for the High Desert Bloggers was inspiring change. Have you been inspired to change your activity level? Are you inspired to discover new territory? I know it can be difficult, but you can do it.

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. On the flip-side….it also takes 21 days to create a habit. Have you created a habit of walking, now that you’ve been at it for a month? Are you reading blogs about it? Or are you blogging about it? Habits are interesting behaviors. For example, you might be in the habit of drinking only 8 cups of water a day. However, as you become more active, particularly as you plan to hike in the High Desert, your body demands that you drink more water, even at this point in the game.


It can be argued that water is essential to living.  It helps us process food, move nutrients, keep our electrical impulses flowing and, of course it cools us off when it is hot outside.  The high desert presents a unique challenge to individuals participating in physical activity.  It is both hot AND dry. Both of these conditions increases our water needs by a factor of 2.  Think of it like this, if you are walking or hiking in the desert in full sun, at the hottest time of the year, you will lose 2 quarts of water in 1 hour – that is just walking!

If you are RUNNING or jogging at a reasonable temperature, your body averages this same usage. Thank goodness we have the sense to stay indoors during full sun. But that does not change the fact that it is dry. As a general rule, most hikers will bring at least 1 liter of water per each hour they hike. I say, that is a pretty good rule of thumb even just walking around the neighborhood. Most hikers will NOT walk during the hottest part of the day.

The PLAN (Month 2)
You have been walking three times a week for 4 weeks now. You might have added a day if you were feeling great, and hopefully you have been consistent with paying attention to how your body feels after a walk and even the day after a walk.

You may have been walking for about 20 minutes, and if you have been feeling good, you may have been going up in duration to about 30 or 45 minutes.That is great. This duration is somewhere between 3/4 mile to 1.5 miles – depending on how long you are walking and how fast you are walking. Let’s add some frosting to this cake.

For the most part, we will walk the same 3-day per week, but we will add a 4th day. This day will be the day that you will increase EITHER your duration OR your distance. Since the high desert is relatively flat, we don’t really have to worry about elevation gain or challenging terrain – for the most part. If you lived elsewhere, you would consider this as a third factor. We will call this extra day, your “Long Day”.

Here is how this will work:
Again, you choose you schedule. If you choose MWF, your 4th day would be Saturday and your rest day would be Sunday. If you choose T-Th-Sat, your 4th day would be Sunday, and your rest day would be Monday. We are resting on the day after so that your muscles can recuperate. Then back to the first day (Monday or Tuesday depending on your schedule). On this first day, you should take it easy. Walk a little slower and see how your body reacted to the increase of time or distance.

Week 1:
If you are walking 45 minutes on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s, on Saturday or Sunday and you are walking about 2 miles in that 45 minutes

  • if you increase your duration, you would add 15-20 min during this week.
  • if you increase your distance you could add on another 1/2 to 2/3 mile.

Week 2:
You are already walking 45 minutes. Take an easy walk for 45 minutes on your Day 1 (Monday or Tuesday). How do you feel?
On Day 2 of the week (Wednesday or Thursday), increase your 45 minutes ONLY if you are feeling energetic. I would only increase about 10 or 15 minutes, or if you did distance, maybe 1/4 mile. The rule is that you do NOT want to increase your time or distance on this middle day by the same distance or duration you did on your “long day”. By the third day of the week (Friday or Saturday), you will do your regular distance or time but at your normal pace. As a matter of fact, your body should feel back to normal. If it does, let’s increase our time or distance on the long day. If not, let’s repeat what we did for week 1 in time and distance.

On the long day, if we walked for an hour the previous week, we should increase by 1/4. So if you walked for an hour on your last long day, you will walk 75 minutes. If you walked a mile (distance as opposed to duration) you will walk 1 1/4 mile.

Week 3:
Again, rest the day immediately following your long day.
Day 1: Moderate walk
Day 2: Regular pace/distance
Day 3: Regular pace/distance
Long day: Increase previous long day duration or distance by 1/4

Week 4:
This is the week we call a rest week. Again, we will rest the day immediately following your long day.

Day 1: Moderate walk
Day 2: Regular pace/distance
Day 3: Regular pace/distance

Long day of the 4th week we will cut our distance or duration in half and just walk that. This is called cycling and it allows your body to rest and repair itself. It helps to prevent injury. By the time you reach the next long day, you will be READY to and well rested to increase the duration or distance.

What are the benefits of following this plan?

  1. It let’s your body recover. Any running or activity article that your read these days stresses that rest period are just as important as periods of activity. We must allow our bodies to rest. That is why we sleep every day. It is a rejuvenating and replenishing process. In this plan, the first cycle is weekly. We stress our bodies one day out of the week, to increase our stamina. The remaining days, we allow our bodies to recover from the stress. On a monthly basis, we all our bodies to fully recover for one full week after 3 weeks of stress.
  2. Allowing your body to recover prevents injury. Rest days does NOT mean go to the gym and work out on weights in order to make up for the reduced mileage – especially if you are not in the habit of going to the gym. That will just lead to muscle fatigue and injury. We need to patient with ourselves and learn to respect our bodies and not punish ourselves.
  3. Less muscle fatigue means more energy to do other things. Like encourage your friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow commuters to walk with you. Having more energy means being able to focus on other things instead of putting one foot in front of the other.

When you put a plan on a longer scale like this, you will be more likely to keep going with the program, because you won’t use the excuse that you’re too tired.
You’ve got the baseline on building mileage. Next time we will talk about choosing a trail.

Beverly Familar is a blogger and hiker dedicated to encouraging and supporting well-balanced dogs through mental and physical activities. She shares her love of nature and dogs with others through her hiking group: Hiking with Fido. If you are in the Southern California, consider joining a pack hike. You can follow the pack’s furry adventures on the Hiking with Fido Google+ Page; via Twitter @hikingwithfido; via Hiking with Fido on Instagram; and on the Hiking with Fido Facebook page. Visit the pack page at

Race Across the High Desert … on Foot

racers support   runners at stage 01    It takes nearly 10,000 volunteers to make the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay a real challenge, and yet not many people even know about it. To cover the grueling 120-mile foot race through some of the most desolate stretches of high desert, runners must create their 20-member teams with physical endurance, perseverance, and ability to support their participants within a 24-hour time frame.signin volunteers

The Challenge Cup is a relay pitting runners not against each other as much as against the worst the desert can toss at them. Scores are based on times for the legs of each section — some only four to five miles in length and the toughest  with 10.7 miles — but must be completed by the 24-hour maximum deadline. In the past some teams were disqualified because they couldn’t keep up. Extreme weather, heat strokes, and blisters take out many.timing table recorder

What makes this race unique is the fact that only law enforcement personnel can race and you must be invited to help in the support roles. Not everyone can enter; not all can help. LA Police Officers Chuck Foote and Larry Moore created this crazy race 30 years ago, based on the format laid by LAPD Metro Division´s “Death Valley Relay” ending in 1985 — a seven-year stint of running through the Devil´s Graveyard.

Strong interest has grown each year to include not only California and Nevada divisions but other states and even other countries. Japan, Sweden, Germany, UK, and Canada coordinated their teams and flew in for the honor of racing. For more details visit:

The foot race begins in Baker, California, at 8 am, climbs through the higher elevations to Shoshone, the Gateway to Death Valley, then veers right through a narrow canyon, across Chicago Valley, and into Pahrump, Nevada. Once passing through town, racers then begin the long climb up the grade toward Las Vegas. In this section,Volunteer Sandee in Comm Center all runners are in the dark wearing flashing vests to warn motorists that they are sharing the road, their added protection is provided by their follow support vehicles. As they clear the crest of Mountain Springs Pass, the lights of Las Vegas prod them on to the finish line at the Las Vegas Hotel Convention Room.

Just looking at one Stage, where a baton is handed off to the next team runner, as many as 200 people can swarm there. They stand in excitement waiting for their runner to arrive, prompted by a trained team of Amateur Radio communicator volunteers who announce each runner coming in. The support teams also include the registration of current teams, a medical contingency, race officials, and the growing numbers of team race supporters and their families. Once the current racers have moved on, all of the support volunteers move on to the next Stage. Volunteer Virginia in Comm Center

Volunteers who are assigned to man one stage for the complete 24 hours, will have been awake throughout the evening, well into the early hours of the next morning. My husband and I have helped in several of the assignment teams, whether it was in Shoshone, or race headquarters, or camped long the highway offering our radio support. We are now Lead Ham Radio assigned support for Stage 14. We’ve be involved for more than 17 years.

As old-timers we still find it fun, tiring, exciting, and enthusiastic to see all the teams milling around waiting for their teammates to break through the chute and hand over their batons. We even recruit new volunteers to invest their time so others can take breaks or even skip a year of service. The race officials also make it more efficient at stages by promoting the newest timing gear and computer-assisted scoring to make our jobs much easier.Friends at dinner

Although the dates of the race tend to shuffle from March to April, next year’s race is now set for March 28th. Reservations in motels and camping resorts are already filling, and surely the teams are gearing up for the 31st year. It’s just another one of those strange desert traditions — one in which we are honored to assist.

Rusty LaGrange

Hiking for the Couch Potato (Part 1)

Ridge of Inselbergs in High desert

A couple of weeks ago I was with some newly found and absolutely fabulous friends in the High Desert. They are all bloggers, so it goes without saying that they pretty much write all the time, if they are not working. One person asked me if it was possible and what I would recommend, as far as training, for a blogger with a couch potato status to get into hiking. So, I am here to tell you that it is possible and I have a plan for you! This will be a monthly series of blog entries to get you to the next level. You might take longer or shorter time. You might want to add more distance initially. The point is, go at YOUR pace, and don’t hurt yourself. This should be FUN!

First I want to premise this by saying that I wasn’t always a hiker. I didn’t always visit or live near in the higher elevations, a.k.a. the high desert. I lived near the beach and practiced yoga about 3 times a week. But my search for more elbow-room and the ever-elusive idea of privacy in an urban setting, took me east towards the Inland Empire.

Living in the foothills, there is a lot of country to wander around near me. Slowly but surely I got into hiking because I wanted to experience the nature around me. I didn’t want to go alone, so I got a dog. I had to train my dog to walk next to me, so we started going on daily walks. First it was just around the block. But by the second week, we were going 3 to 4 blocks. after 6 weeks, we were walking at least 1.5 miles every day (that is approximately 30 minutes walking at a relative relaxed pace). Once a week on Saturdays, I would challenge by myself either by increasing the mileage OR increasing the difficulty of the terrain (for example, more uphill).

Nowadays I do between a 7-10 mile hike twice a month. You can get to this point too. It just takes patience, consistency and a desire to relax and enjoy the area around you. And…maybe blog about it, or at least keep a diary about how it made you feel. By the way, if your dog is not used to walking long distances, believe it or not, they need training too. This would be an excellent way to get Fido in shape!

So… Potato-heads! Are you listening? It’s time to shake off those cobwebs, grab your closest pair of shoes and get ready to take a hike around the block.

Assess your physical condition

It doesn’t matter if you have been walking for a day, a month or a year, if you are getting up from a day’s work at a desk, you need to assess how your body feels. This is a good point to stretch, especially if you feel tight. Before getting up from your chair:

  1. Rotate each foot to loosen you ankle joint;
  2. Sit up straight in your chair. Do head circles, slowly. Don’t force this. Go only as far as you feel comfortable, without feeling like you’re pulling your muscles. Tilt your head to the left, count to 20. Then do the same to the right, count to 20.
  3. Sit up straight in your chair. Extend your hand above your head and reach to the ceiling. Try to keep your shoulders relaxes. Don’t let them scrunch up next to your ears. If that means that your arms are extended out towards the sides so that you are making a wide “v”, that is fine. Just reach your arms to the ceiling. Breath in and out slowly, count to 20.
  4. With each exhale, bring your arms straight down in front of you, so you are pointing forward with straight arms. With each inhale, raise them slowly toward the ceiling again. Breath slowly, making sure that your movement does not finish before you terminate your breath. What does this mean? As you finish your exhale, you are finishing your movement of bring your arms down in front of you. And as you finish your inhale your arms are completing the movement of being raised overhead.
  5. With your arms reaching overhead, stand up while you inhale. As you exhale, extend your arms out to the sides, then down onto your thighs. As you complete your exhale, bend forward at the waist in a forward bend, but keep supporting yourself with your hands on your thighs. Be careful to only go as far as you are comfortable. do not push your limit. You should feel a slight stretch in the back of the legs. Your hands on your thighs support your back. This is important. Take three slow breathes in and out in this position. You may feel your body relax a little.

This is just getting your blood flowing after a long day of sitting. On an inhale, stand up. How do you feel? With all that slow breathing, you should feel a little more lively. We did just oxygenate your body, after all.

Grab a pair of walking shoes. Make sure they are comfortable rubber soled shoes. Grab a dog (optional). Open the door and walk. Actually that’s all a given.

The PLAN (this month)

We will only walk for duration. The first week is an experiment, because no one really knows how far they can go if they are just starting a program. I call it base-building. The days listed could be Monday-Wednesday-Friday, or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. Just take a break in between so you can evaluate what effect this walk had on you.

Day 1: So for this first day, let’s just stroll for 20 minutes. We’re not going for distance, we are just going for time. We are not trying to win a speed-walking competition, so just take your time. When you get home, assess how you feel. Write it down.

Day 2: Did you stretch? How do you feel after that 20 minute walk? Was it well within your limits? Increase by 5 to 10 min. Do you feel like you just want to keep walking? Go for another 20 minute walk and this time take your time and look around. You might notice something really cool, which will take your mind off of the time. Maybe invite your neighbor. Maybe invite their dog (if the dog is nice to you and others that you might pass on the street). How did you feel today? See anything interesting on your walk? Feel crummy? Feet hurt?

Day 3: Don’t forget to stretch! Assess how you feel. Don’t worry, if you feel a little muscle tension. It gets better. How did your body react to the extra time, if you added it. If it was well within your mean, you can add another 5 -10 minutes. Don’t push yourself, especially if you have never walked in successive days before. If you were at 20 min yesterday, let’s do 20 min again today, but let’s change the venue. Walk the reverse way around the block, or walk around the mall and window shop. The bottom line is, if you were a true couch potato, just getting out and moving is good for you. No doubt about that!

Self Evaluation Time

Part of physically participating in an activity like this, is also assessing where your are. Do you feel better? Or do you feel worse? If you don’t take a self-assessment, it could lead to injury. At this point, you should feel something – good or bad. Let me address how to alleviate a physical ailment.

So, assess how you feel. You have walked for 3 days. If at any point you are feeling pressure on the knees, swelling in the ankles, etc, apply RICE (no, not the food). This is what athletes do. If you have ever heard of an athlete in an ice bath, they are actually soaking their entire body in ice. COOOOOLD! As laypeople, we don’t have to be so dramatic.

RICE is:
Rest: sit on the couch. Remember you are also taking a day off in-between walking days.
Ice: Put ice n the affected area. You can get a reusable ice bag at Walgreens for $10. Just refill it with ice cubes. The ice will reduce circulation to the affected area, thus decrease the swelling.
Compression: Wrap your affected area to keep the swelling down. The system should look like this: Keep the ice on for 20 minutes. Take it off for 20 minutes. Then put it back on for 20 minutes.
ELEVATE your affected area. The idea is to elevate it above the level of your heart initially. So if you are lying down, put a pillow under your leg or arm.

NOTE: After taking ice off the 2nd time, do not walk on your leg for another 20 minutes or more. This area has to warm up again, and it is best if it is done gradually. If you notice the same reaction later on in the day, ice it again. How do you feel?

Now what do you do?

Do it all over again. Don’t forget to stretch! Assess yourself. Can you do 20 minutes again? Or were you in the 30 minute group? Do it again today. Try a different route, for more variety. Compare this route to the previous routes. What did you notice? What bored you? Want to share it? Post a comment and tell me. I’d love to hear what you have been up to!

Beverly Familar is a blogger and hiker dedicated to encouraging and supporting well-balanced dogs through mental and physical activities. She shares her love of nature and dogs with others through her hiking group: Hiking with Fido. If you are in the Southern California, consider joining a pack hike. You can follow the pack’s furry adventures via Twitter @hikingwithfido; via the Hiking with Fido Facebook page and at

Victorville’s Old Town Walking Tour in the High Desert

Santa Fe Trading Company

Looking for a fun outing for the family? Join this exciting Old Town Walking Tour event planned by Santa Fe Trading Company on Saturday, March 17, 2012. READ MORE »

Riding the Range with The Keys

Desert Cowboys never made the  desert; the desert made them. Among the notable desert ranchers is William Keys. I had the privilege of riding with his great grandkids.

Bill Keys came to this area in  1910 to work as an assayer and watchman at the Desert Queen Mine. When its owner died, he received the mine and its 5-acre millsite in payment for back  wages. His five acres grew to 160 when he homesteaded adjacent property to  become his Desert Queen Ranch.

I consider him a “desert  rat”: one of those characters who strive on surviving and creating a code of ethics in an  inhospitable land. In this rock-rimmed canyon using ingenuity, patience, and  hard work, Bill built a life for himself. He soon married Frances May Lawton,  who left the comforts of the city to move to the Mojave Desert ranch and start  a family. The couple had seven children between 1919 and 1931, three who died during childhood.

Together the Keys family tackled the hardships of isolated desert life. Eventually, the Keys’ homestead included a ranch house, store, two school houses, a home for a teacher, outhouses, sheds, a stamp mill, a corral, supply yard, orchard, cement dam and lake, windmill, irrigation systems, rock retaining walls, and a cemetery. He raised a family and coped with the harsh realities of the desert. To the ranch, miners brought ore to be assayed, neighboring homesteaders brought their children to be educated, and countless visitors came to enjoy the family’s hospitality. Their old wooded-wheeled mining truck was frequently seen in 29 Palms at Pioneer day parades.

Keys’ ability to repair machines and household items often came in handy. Since the ranch site was far from town, the family rarely threw anything away that they might use to fix a broken item. Keys scavenged abandoned ranches and mines for rails, wire, pipes, household items, old cars, and tires left behind by less
successful people. He even purchased an entire junk yard and organized it into neat piles on the ranch to use as a supply yard.

Most of the surrounding homesteaders and miners viewed Keys’ ranch as the center of their desert network and its owner as a helpful friend. Miners appreciated his knowledge of mines in the area and his milling capabilities. Keys built a one-room school house for his children and others in the area to ensure they received a proper education despite their isolation. He provided the teacher with a cabin on the ranch. The family also hosted many visitors at the ranch including well-known writer Erle Stanley Gardner, and famous botanists Phillip Munz and Edmund Jaeger. Jaeger, while identifying new desert plant species, named a flower “Keysia” (Glyptopleura setulosa) in honor of the kindness the Keys family showed to so many desert travelers.

After Frances death in 1963, Bill sold the ranch to eventually become part of the Joshua Tree National Park. He remained on the ranch until his death on June 28, 1969. While the world outside the ranch had changed dramatically, Keys’ way of life had remained remarkably constant. He was buried beside his wife in the family cemetery to become part of the canyon he loved and labored for during 60 years of residence.

When I lived on the mesa in Pioneertown, the Keys extended family had settled in a deep canyon near Pipes Canyon. The ranch was earthy, low-slung and wood-heated most of the year. There were several out buildings and horse corrals near the main driveway. Once you got past the main wooden gate that was usually standing open, several dogs with Mrs. Keys came out and greeted you. Johnny Keys, up in his 60s at that time, was always a busy man.

His two daughters, Johnna and Debbie, were close enough to my age that we often went horseback riding up into the boulder-lined ravines. Up canyon, the piñon and juniper grew rich with their nuts and the scrub jays and quail often ran underbrush just ahead of us.

It was a great time to be out in the wild. Sometimes we’d go scout out new trails, other times when the heat got unbearable, we’d jump in a natural spring and soak our clothes to stay cool for the ride home. Johnna was the hell-raiser of our group, and loved to go skinny-dipping.

One time after a spring rain, we  had trailed a set of cougar prints into the upper ravine, and being adventurous, thought we might spook it out of the timberline. The desert holds traps for young adventurers. Debbie soon found out that the sandy arroyo near the rocks was not solid. Her horse panicked and began post-holing, leaping and bounding in the quicksand, eyes fearful, head flailing. It was a disastrous

I tossed a rope to her while  staying on my saddle. That rope provided just enough tension to help her horse seek a route out of the mire. She stayed on and coaxed him to the edge where he finally got solid footing.

We were all waiting, shaking, and watching the poor fellow shiver from the adrenaline rush. We all felt done in. Deb got off and wiped her mount down with her shirt to let him relax and cool off. It was awhile before we decided to head back and leave that cougar for another time.


Note: 1917 Keys Cattle Brand is Capital B with stylized horizontal F sticking out of the center like a key in a lock.

Partial info retrieved from mural series in 29 Palms

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