Colorado Mountains and Dump Ranch

A few weekends ago, we flew to Denver so that I could co-host a celebratory weekend for my sister, who is getting married in May. I left my baby and my husband with my parents and my sister’s fiancé in Denver, and I drove with my sister and four of her good friends into the mountains to stay at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort for the night. It was beautiful, and my sister’s friends were so generous. I’d rented a cabin with a kitchen, and I’d asked them to bring food for dinner and breakfast rather than planning to eat at the resort’s restaurant. (Since I was flying in late the night before, I didn’t have the time or availability to pick up groceries.) They contributed beautiful charcuterie, a lovely salad (with edible flowers!), adult beverages, tasty fruit and yogurt and granola. It was amazing. One of the women was doing a Whole30, and her enthusiasm for a few recipes AND her InstantPot stuck with me past the weekend, and I made most of her suggestions (several in the InstantPot!) the following week back at home.

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs was lovely. We stayed in a cabin with two bedrooms plus an upstairs loft with two queen beds. It had a mostly stocked kitchen, but no oven. The temperature got down into the twentys overnight, and was maybe 30-50 throughout the day.

We arrived around 3pm, had some snacks and drinks, and made our way to the hot springs. There are several pools and also creekside areas that are heated from below by the hot spring water. We tried some of the smaller pools and the creek (which was nicer in idea than in practice). It was super crowded, which was a bit unfortunate, but we still had plenty of room to enjoy ourselves.

After that, we ate dinner and played games in the cabin.

The next morning, after breakfast and packing up, we spent several hours at the pools again before heading departing. I got a sunburn wearing a bathing suit sitting by a hot spring pool in 35 degree weather! Colorado is so weird.

Before heading home, we drove a few miles in the wrong direction to Buena Vista, CO for lunch. I hadn’t been to Buena Vista in probably 15 years or more (since high school), and there was a totally new area called South Main with cute homes and shops and restaurants down by the river. We ate at Eddyline Restaurant, sitting outside on the porch, and it was delicious. The right side of my body got more sunburned. I had the pork posole and brewery burger on lettuce instead of a bun (it actually came wrapped in some kind of green leaf that way). Green chile and grilled prosciutto might sound a little strange together, but it was so good.

The first recipe I made that my sister’s friend recommended was the Dump Ranch. Apparently this is a Whole30 thing that I was previously unfamiliar with. I’d made homemade ranch dressing, I think from Cassy Joy’s Fed&Fit book before, but I’d never heard the term ‘dump ranch.’ I think there’s a lot of recipes out there for it, but my sister’s friend recommended this one from 40 Aprons. I maaaaaay have used this as an excuse to by a larger measuring cup that I could use my immersion blender in. It worked great, and the ranch was delicious.

I was skeptical before trying the stuff my sister’s friend made, because she’d told me the oil is avocado oil. I find Whole30 compliant mayo hard, because I *hate* the taste of avocado oil, apparently. I’ve been able to handle Primal Kitchen’s avocado oil mayonnaise in the past, but I don’t love it. However, I couldn’t taste the flavor that I hate in this dressing. My sister’s friend showed me which oil she used (Primal Kitchen’s avocado oil), and my sister confirmed that there are two types of avocado oil: light and dark. I think Primal Kitchen makes both. The light stuff (which I used, which was the right choice) is in a square shaped bottle. The darker stuff is in a circular bottle, and is extra virgin. It’s probably better for you… but the flavor is too strong! Anyway, it was fine! No bad flavor. Just delicious ranch dressing.

The recipe at 40 Aprons says to use it within one week. I have not. I still have some in my fridge, which at this point I should throw out. Going to do that now…

 

 

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Sleep

Every once in a while, or maybe more, who knows, I’m going to throw a post up here about my experience with motherhood. I’m still thinking of adding a post or two from things that I wrote in the early days of motherhood when I was really struggling, but I’m not sure. For now, here’s one about how we approached sleep with/ (for) Gabriel. He’s a pretty good little sleeper these days and my life is mostly normal in terms of sleep, and I feel pretty good about that. The purpose of this blog, for me, is to document things – for me, and for anyone else who’s interested. Some things are already starting to slip my memory in terms of how we’ve gone about raising Gabriel. If we ever do this whole kid thing again, or even if we don’t, I want to remember how we went about things. And maybe someone else can identify with some of these experiences or get an idea, so I’m sharing. So here.

Sleep.

When Gabriel was about 7 weeks old, I went to a lunchtime peer to peer breastfeeding group at The Womb Room. It was the second or third time I’d been. While on maternity leave, most weeks I would go to a breastfeeding group on Mondays at Mercy Hospital, facilitated by a nurse and a lactation consultant, and also this one on Thursdays, facilitated by other breastfeeding mothers. I’d noticed something that felt particularly acute that week: I appreciated the breastfeeding support but I CRAVED information about newborn sleep (particularly overnight sleep) and any indication that I might get more of it soon. On that Thursday, I felt exasperation and desperation as mothers went around the room describing their breastfeeding experiences and challenges, and I just wanted to scream, yes but what about SLEEP?! When it was my turn, I did express my frustration that it didn’t seem to be getting any better and that I needed to know when it would. Everyone around the room was like, oh, 7 weeks? You should start getting longer stretches soon. Four hours, five hours, six hours. At least for the first stretch of the night.

Nope. Until Gabriel was 11 or 12 weeks, we got a four or five hour stretch once, and it was the night after he got his two-month shots. I made sure to breastfeed every two hours during the day, trying to increase day calories so he wouldn’t need them at night. I heard other mothers’ stories of their babies sleeping until 2 or 3 or 6 in the morning, while I was up every night at 11, 2, 4, 5, 6. I tried to come to terms with the fact that Gabriel was maybe just destined to be a bad sleeper. I am, so maybe it’s in the genes.

Sleep: The Early Days

In the first few weeks, I of course had no expectations that Gabriel would understand night and day. But my parents were staying with us, so I could feed Gabriel at 6 am and then pass him off to my mother downstairs and sleep uninterrupted for two more hours until 8 or so. It didn’t really occur to me after she left that I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore, so I kept trying to sleep til 8 or 8:30, but Gabriel was not sleeping at those hours. It felt like I fed at 5:30, 6, 6:45, 7:15. I thought of these as overnight feeds, but they weren’t, really. Around 6 weeks, which also happened to be during a very hot period in Baltimore, I said screw it, I’m just going to start getting up at 6 and going for a walk. It was too hot to go out later in the day anyway. So we’d walk for an hour or more before 8am. 

But I was still feeling desperate. I hit a wall around 9 weeks when we went to Whistler for a family vacation. I was up with Gabriel 4-5 times a night, more frequently as daytime approached. I just fed him every time he woke up fussing. I knew about strategies of not responding right away and all that to see if he went back to sleep (as described, for example, in Bringing up Bebe, an actual source for parenting advice we’ve relied on), but 1) at that particular time, we were in a very close space in an Airbnb, and other people (Dan’s parents) were staying there also. I didn’t want Gabriel to cry for too long. And 2) I was so desperate for sleep that I preferred to just feed him and get it over with than risk him fussing and not stopping and THEN having to feed him, thereby missing out on five or ten minutes of desperately needed sleep.

So I bought Babywise and read it on the flight home (while wearing a Solly-wrapped sleeping baby on my chest). I didn’t know much about it in advance except that it seemed polarizing and some people thought it was cruel and other people swore by it. Whatever, I just needed some ideas.

We tried to implement babywise (ie, a schedule of feeding and naps and a cycle of eating upon waking, followed by wake time, followed by nap time, and then eating upon waking again). We tried to force the schedule (which required unrealistic 1.5 hour naps) for a week or two, and then gave that part up, but kept the cycle of eat, wake, sleep – which actually was a sort of routine we’d fallen into even before I read babywise. Sometimes this led to more cycles in a day than babywise would have predicted, sometimes not. Gabriel rarely ever had a nap longer than 45 minutes (which is still true).

The other thing we adopted around that time was trying to soothe Gabriel back to sleep at night without feeding him for the first part of the night. With a pacifier, it worked – for a bit. Throughout weeks 9-10, we had goals of getting to 1, then 1:30, then 2 am without feeding him and instead giving him his pacifier.

Cool. Until, we started to realize around week 10-11 that we were having to reinsert his pacifier like every 5-10 minutes. This came to a head on another trip, mid-August, to Michigan. We were staying in a hotel room, and none of us were getting any sleep, having to reinsert his pacifier every time it fell out. We were achieving the goal of not feeding until 1 or 2 (some nights), but not actually getting more sleep. When we got home from that trip, I swore we were going cold turkey and giving the pacifier up. And anyway, Babywise emphasized the importance of getting to no sleep props. We tried for the first 24 hours, in which he did not nap or sleep much at all and cried constantly. I realized the following day he also had his first cold, which had been unclear the day before because I thought his hoarse voice and runny nose was due to all the crying. Sigh. And went back to using the pacifier.

Sleep: Finally Seeing Some Light

But not as much. I tried to limit its use to only when it seemed absolutely necessary, including during the day, and seeing if Gabriel would fall asleep without it. And I’m not sure if it has anything to do with our interventions to try to limit it or not, but Gabriel stopped using it on his own within a few days or maybe a week and found his fingers for sucking. Some people think that’s better, some people say it’s a harder habit to break, because you can’t take their fingers away from them. At 10 months, Gabriel still uses his fingers to self soothe, and maybe it will be a hard habit to break. But his ability to self soothe has made all the difference. And for better or worse, he hasn’t really taken a pacifier since. He’ll chew on one these days sometimes, but doesn’t even seem to recognize it as a thing to suck on.

But back to week 11 or 12 and my (new) desperation to break the pacifier habit… which was now no longer helping the sleep situation, but hurting it. In searching for pacifier strategies and what’s normal, I came across Precious Little Sleep, the website companion of the book by the same name, which I recalled that a good friend of mine had recommended. I bought the book and read it immediately (even sacrificing some sleep to do so).

Fast forward to now, it’s seven or more months later, and Gabriel consistently sleeps through the night from 7 or 7:30 til 6 or 6:30, and mostly has since his six month birthday. We go through periods of early wake ups (5-5:30), and are currently, but that’s the worst of it. He naps pretty well at home (they’re short sometimes, but he falls asleep easily), not so well at daycare, but better now than a few months ago. All in all, sleep is good. I’m no longer desperate and haven’t been in months. 

Sleep: What Worked For Us

So I’ll tell you what we did, but the real implementation of strategies didn’t really begin until 3-4 months. Had I read these books earlier, could I have implemented things earlier? Would I with the next kid (if there is a next kid)? Maybe not really. Most of it can’t be done before then.

The most valuable things I got from those books were:

1. The eat, wake, sleep structure. This might not work for everyone, and some people worry that it sets babies up for short naps (if they’ve been awake for a while after eating, they might wake up from their nap out of hunger, whereas if you fed right before a nap, they wouldn’t wake up for that reason). But it helped us so much. It helped me because I thrive on routine. I think it mostly helped my husband because he had a solution for a fussy baby. If baby’s just woken up and was fussy, he was probably hungry. If he’s eaten and been awake for a while, he was probably tired. And that helped me because then husband wasn’t always begging me to feed baby to get him to stop crying. We still do it. We dropped to four feeds when we dropped to two naps around 7 months or so, so I feed Gabriel upon waking for the day, after the first and second naps, and before bed.

2. The importance of establishing independent sleep.

3. The importance of a consistent routine. 

Here’s what we did (that I think helped):

• 3 weeks and beyond: Tried to lay him down awake in the normal sleep spot for at least one nap a day. Gabriel slept all over the place – being carried, in a bassinet down in the kitchen, on walks in the stroller, in the car seat. But he usually had at least one good morning nap and one good afternoon nap, and I tried to have at least one of those be in his bassinet in our room where he also slept at night, and to put him down awake or drowsy if possible (that didn’t always happen). Later, around 10 or 12 weeks, we started trying to have this be in his crib in his room instead of the bassinet in our room.

• 3-4 weeks: Have a consistent night time routine. We didn’t REALLY have this down until after I read Precious Little Sleep (and until we moved him out of our room at just after 3 months), but starting very early, I did try to read him a story every night before the sleep period that I hoped would be the longest.

• 3-4 weeks: Pause. Wait a minute or two, whatever felt comfortable, before responding to his fussing. I didn’t always do this, as I said before, but often I did.

• 9 weeks: Implemented consistent wake time of 6:30am. (Tried to implement a full Babywise schedule, but that didn’t work). We’ve had this wake time since then. Correct, I haven’t really slept past 6:30am in 8 months.

• 2.5 months: A little bit of crying when it was time to go to sleep (at night, or for a nap). I wasn’t comfortable letting him cry much yet (and PLS and AAP and various other sources recommend against ‘cry it out’ before four months), so this was a transition from not letting him cry at all to letting him cry a little to letting him cry longer – not an immediate thing. As the days and weeks passed, I got more comfortable with letting him cry 2, 5, sometimes 10 minutes. (Dan was comfortable much earlier.) Gabriel didn’t usually cry longer than that to fall asleep, and if he did, I would try to calm him, and if that didn’t work (total crying of about 20 mins, with some intermittent intervention), I would just get him up and start the cycle over (feeding, wake time, down for a nap after some wake time).

• 2.5-3 months: After I read Babywise but especially Precious Little Sleep, we stopped doing things that could become sleep crutches. No rocking to sleep, no feeding to sleep (we switched up the bedtime routine to begin feeding him first, then doing pajamas, bath if doing that night, and story), no letting him fall asleep on us. (The feeding him first thing terrified me because it made me worry that I would lose that potential sleep time because he’d wake up earlier because he’d fed earlier by 20ish minutes. But it was fine.)

• 2.5-3 months: At about 11-12 weeks, I started trying to set a consistent bedtime as well as the consistent daily wake time. I started with 9pm or so, but Gabriel wasn’t making it that long, and it was shifted up to 7:30 within a week, with bedtime routine starting consistently at 7pm every night. We stuck with this until around 7 months when we dropped to two naps and were having early wake ups, so bedtime routine shifted as early as 6:30 and down by 6:45 or 7, depending on how naps went during the day (yes, earlier bedtime helped him sleep later 🤷‍♀️). More recently, we’re back to a 7/7:30 bed time. But a consistent bedtime was magical. Suddenly I had a baby-less hour to myself each night after he went to sleep and before I went to sleep. Until this point, I’d gone to bed when he did in order to maximize sleep, but somehow this consistency gave me the freedom and confidence (that I would still get some quality sleep) to prioritize a bit of me time over sleep.

• 3 months: The night before his 3-month birthday, Gabriel woke up around 10 or something and I fed him, and then he miraculously slept until daily wake time. It wasn’t repeated in the surrounding nights, but was encouraging all the same.

• 3 months, 1 week: We moved him to his crib in his room for overnight. AAP recommendations are to sleep in the parents’ room until 6 months, but it wasn’t destined to be for us. We didn’t suddenly all start sleeping better, but it was a slight improvement (even if just in terms of not having to tiptoe around the bedroom at night). We were still up frequently overnight and my superhuman mother ears (never mind the monitor) meant that I felt like I was awake at his every movement and noise still.

• Around 4 months: The night before his 4 month birthday, Gabriel had his first night actually sleeping through from bedtime to daily wake time. Again, this was a one-time occurrence. But, we started to be more comfortable with him crying a bit, and around this time, I stopped feeding him before midnight. Period. I would send Dan in to soothe him if he woke up crying (or I would go in if Dan wasn’t home). For full transparency, Gabriel was persistent. Throughout the next few months, there were at least a handful of nights where he cried for 1-2 hours. It was kind of rough, but I wasn’t worried that he needed to eat. And Dan would go in and soothe, so I felt better that he didn’t feel abandoned.

• Around 5 months: Gabriel was not waking until 3-4am most nights to feed (although sometimes would still wake up at like 11 and cry, then fall back to sleep until 3-4), so I stopped feeding him if he woke before 2 am. This basically meant I was feeding him once between 3 and 4, and sleeping the rest of the night. This felt pretty sustainable. And honestly, the one overnight feed felt like cozy quality time. But it also really started to feel more like a habit than a need.

• 6 months: So, on Gabriel’s 6 month birthday, I stopped feeding him overnight altogether. In the week leading up to this, I limited the 3am feed to 10 minutes, then 8, then 6, hoping he would drop it himself. Nope. We did 2 minutes the last night. And then… none. His 6 month birthday was on a Monday. He cried for a bit, I don’t remember. 30-60 minutes? Same thing Tuesday night. Wednesday night, I woke up with a stomach bug and feeling terrible. After throwing up, I decided to go check on Gabriel at 2:30am. He was fast asleep…. laying in his own vomit. So I got him up and changed his sheets and fed him, obviously. Thursday night and Friday night were miracles. No wake ups, no crying, no peeps. Then Saturday night. It was the worst. He cried for 2-3 hours, maybe more. I even went in and rocked him for 20 minutes at one point. It was awful. I realized the next morning that he had a piece of hair wrapped tightly around a finger, which may have been the issue. :(.

• And since then…. mostly sleeping through the night with no wakeups. Around the holidays (7 months), we had family staying with us and the whole household was up later than usual, which disrupted things. I did feed him 2 nights in a row after bedtime because I was awake, and he’d woken up from people bustling around, and I think I was also worried he hadn’t been eating enough. Anyway, that resulted in two more nights of crying after everyone left, and then things went back to normal. 

• Now (almost 10 months): Gabriel is still on two naps that range typically from 45 minutes to 1:15 at home, and shorter at daycare. His overnight sleep is more like 10.5 or 11 hours, so that often means early wake ups if he goes to bed at 7, but we are trying to move bedtime later instead (which has sort of been helped by DST and two trips out west). He surprised me with 11.5 hours (7:15p to 6:45a) a few nights ago, but that’s not the norm lately. But in any case, we are all mostly well rested, confident that we will get a good nights sleep, and no longer desperate. 

Hallelujah. 

Holiday-themed Weekend

My approach to weekends has changed a bit since having Gabriel. I used to be v.e.r.y hesitant to make plans, preferring to hole up and homebody (and often cook :)). I still would probably prefer that, but it’s no longer possible with an infant, who needs to be looked after and somewhat entertained all day. It’s nice to spend time together, but it’s also sometimes exhausting (especially if he’s fussy) or boring (if we read the same book five times or just sit on the floor and bang toys around). So having activities to do to get out of the house is often a welcome distraction for us both. It keeps us entertained. So I find myself saying yes to more things than I used to. This weekend I did four events in two days, which would have been totally unheard of pre-baby. And enjoyably, most were holiday-themed!

On Saturday, I attended the annual Baltimore Delta Gamma alumnae ornament exchange. I brought Gabriel, of course. Dan works overnight on Fridays so sleeps til 1 or 2pm on Saturdays. I love this event. The hostess has a lovely home and makes a delicious brunch, and we exchange ornaments white elephant style. I came home with two anchor ornaments that look nice on our tree. Gabriel did great. Around his nap time, I put him in the Ergo to see if he’d sleep on me, which we hadn’t tried in months. It took a bit (~20 minutes?) but he eventually fell asleep. It was nice, because we don’t cuddle like that anymore (goal: independent sleep habits, achieved). And then I think he slept on the car ride home.

That evening (okay, late afternoon really), we went to a friends’ house to have latkes and light Hanukkah candles. She has a two year old and a three month old and was very impressive wrangling them both (Dan and I weren’t much help unfortunately – they mostly wanted their mom’s attention) until her husband came home. It was really nice to visit. Gabriel had a 30-minute late bedtime, but was okay.

On Sunday, we had three couples over, two of which have two kids each, ages 3-6. Four of the six adults went to high school with Dan, and we all try to get together roughly annually. Before Dan and I lived in the area, we would see them when we came to Dan’s parents for the holidays. Now that we live nearby, we don’t see them any more frequently unfortunately, but it’s nice when we do. I made this chili from The Real Food RDs (added kidney beans near the end), and it was a big hit. One couple brought cornbread and beer, another cookies, and the other cookies. We had a great visit, got to enjoy entertaining in our new house, and proved that multiple young children can survive in and enjoy the space.

Finally, yesterday evening we went to another friend’s house in Hampden to celebrate their daughter’s third birthday and walk to 34th St to see the wild Christmas lights that the entire block participates in. They do it every year, it’s a Baltimore thing, but I’d never gone. There was a Santa on a Harley Davidson and other Baltimore things. We didn’t stay for long – it was again past Gabriel’s bedtime and he was letting us know it, but it was still fun to walk around with him and see the lights.

I think we (well, me) paid for the schedule disruption this morning when Gabriel woke up crying an hour early. Dan always says something like, well, maybe he’ll sleep well tonight, or maybe he’ll sleep in, when he gets less sleep due to missed naps or late bedtime. But no – it throws everything out of whack and usually results in less sleep for me. But I’m starting to be well-rested enough to think that sometimes it’s worth it, because I had a lot of fun this weekend!

She Borrows and Buys – More Pregnancy Stuff

Quick life update: My son, Gabriel, is now 23 days old! He was born on May 26th. And we moved! We closed on May 1st and moved on May 5th. Very exciting stuff. I was SO STRESSED OUT from late April through mid-May, but finally started to feel ready for baby toward the middle of May… just in time :-).

Now onto the purpose of this post, which is to add to the list of all the items I bought or borrowed or used in the second half of my pregnancy (and beyond), as a part 2 to the post I wrote about the first half of pregnancy. In case, you know, you find it useful.

Workout bottoms:

  • Gap Maternity GapFit Blackout Technology full panel capris:  I finally broke down in the third trimester and got another pair of capris. I think I had a coupon, and I could no longer wear the Lululemon leggings from the previous post. It seemed silly for fewer than 3 months, but ended up being really useful. And I’ve been able to wear these postpartum as well.

Workout tops:

I didn’t need to buy anymore of these. I continued to wear the Athleta speed light tank, Sweaty Betty Athlete tank, and GapFit Breath short sleeve crew I wrote about in my last post.

Sports Bras:

I didn’t end up buying any more sports bras. I wore the 36DD Juno bra exclusively for the remainder of my pregnancy. Every time I worked out. It got washed a lot.

Casual bottoms:

I ended up wearing the GapMaternity full panel jeans I spoke about in my last post a lot more toward the end of my pregnancy, so I’m super glad I bought them. I also wore:

  • Indigo Blue capri jeans: Size small. My friend gave these to me to borrow early on in my pregnancy. I didn’t end up wearing them until third trimester, when the weather started to get warm. I wore them a lot at the end. I’ve also worn them once postpartum so far. I can’t find them online, but I believe they were from Motherhood Maternity.

Work Bottoms:

I didn’t buy any other work bottoms. The black LOFT pants I wrote about in my last post ended up splitting at a seam in my third trimester, but I only had a couple days of work in the office left before I started teleworking exclusively, so I sewed them up poorly and wore them a couple more times.

Tops:

  • Motherhood Maternity tank tops: Size small. My friend gave me two of these to borrow. They became the shirts I exclusively wore once the weather turned warm. One is orange/pink with white stripes and the other is navy with white stripes. My wardrobe continued to be very minimal and boring.
  • Pinkydot 3/4 sleeve shirt: size medium. I left my wine-colored shirt from H&M in Telluride, so I replaced it with this.

Undergarments and Pajamas:

  • Bravado! Designs nursing bras: Around week 26, on my travel home from Telluride, I decided that I could no longer wear a bra with underwire. My belly had gotten too large, and the underwire dug in and was super uncomfortable. I bought two of these bras (size large), one in beige, one in black, and they are what I wore exclusively for the remainder of my pregnancy and now in the postpartum period.
  • Maternity Sleep Shorts from Motherhood Maternity: Love these still. I slept in them every single night, and still do most nights.
  • Clip down nursing camis from Motherhood Maternity: Size medium. I almost didn’t keep these because the shelf bra wasn’t remotely supportive enough, but the return would have been more of a cost/hassle, so I decided to keep them. I do wear them sometimes.
  • Jessica Simpson clip down nursing cami: size medium. These were more supportive, and I liked to sleep in them. My boobs are bigger postpartum, so they’re not working great anymore, but I do sleep in them sometimes.
  • Clip down nursing nightgown: Size medium. I bought this to take to the hospital with me. I did try to wear it on my third day in the hospital, but felt like it was a little tight in the rib cage and have not worn it since. Sigh. I mostly wore the hospital gowns.
  • Pull down nursing nightgown: Size medium. Same. Bought it to take to the hospital, but I mostly wore the hospital gowns. I wore it once in the hospital, but not since. I’m more likely to wear this again though.

I think that’s all! I bought some more stuff to take to the hospital in my hospital bag. 10 pairs of boring XL white underwear, non-skid socks. I mostly didn’t need anything I brought. I’ve used the white underwear since coming home from the hospital, but didn’t need it in the hospital. And the hospital had non-skid socks for me.

I’ll write another post about what I’ve bought/used in this immediate postpartum period.

 

 

 

Halfway There – Pregnancy Purchases (or make-dos)

I’ve spent a fair amount of time perseverating over whether to buy certain products (mostly clothes) while pregnant, and which ones. I thought I’d share what I’ve found it worth my dollars to spend money on so far in my pregnancy (and what I’ve somewhat regretted). I’ll probably do another post like this near/after the end of my pregnancy.

I may also do a post on our baby registry, which required way more research and thought.

Hopefully this is helpful to someone! Jumping right in:

Workout bottoms:

  • Lululemon high-waisted full on luon ankle tight (non-maternity)I bought these around 11 weeks pregnant in a size 8. I’m normally a size 6. (Ankle length fits me full-length.) I figured they would work for the first part of my pregnancy and again after birth. They’ve been great, and they’re still working at 22.5 weeks (and a big bump) without slipping down below the belly too much. (I actually originally purchased these in a 10, since I’d seen a recommendation to go two sizes up, but they seemed too large, so I returned them for the 8.)
  • Lululemon high-waisted full on luon crop (non-maternity): I bought these at the same time as the ones above, in a size 10. I decided to keep these in a size 10, thinking I’d probably still need the room to grow. However, at 11 weeks I had to constantly pull these up during a workout. And the same is true now at 22 weeks. They don’t stay up on my bump as well as the 8s. So I guess I should have just gone one size up after all. Still, I’ve been using these regardless (especially now that I’ve started prenatal yoga that allows for more pulling up than CrossFit does), and I’m glad to have the second pair.
  • Ingrid & Isabel ‘Active’ maternity leggings: Around 19 weeks, I finally broke down and bought a maternity pair of workout pants. I got these in a size small, which is my pre-pregnancy size for most leggings. Hopefully these will last me til the end. They’re super comfortable and good for all kinds of workouts, plus lounging (if they’re not already sweaty from the day’s workout…). If my Lulus stop working, I might need to get another pair.

Workout tops:

  • GapFit Maternity Breath short sleeve crew tee: So far, this is the only dedicated maternity workout top I’ve purchased. I got a medium, as I’m often between a small and medium in shirts (pre-pregnancy). A small probably would have worked fine so far, but the medium is fine too and I’m only going to get bigger. I only started wearing this around 18 weeks or so because it really accentuates the belly. But hey – I really have one now.
  • Other than that, I’ve just used longer Ts that I already had on hand for a while, though I think that is coming to an end. I’ve also been able to wear my Sweaty Betty Athlete tank tops (I had one already and then purchased another recently in a sale, both size M), and I also purchased an Athleta Speedlight tank (size small) when I was in Colorado because I forgot a workout top. It’s still working. I have NOT been wearing my Lululemon racerback tanks since about 11-12 weeks because they would ride up and be super stretched out (the SB and Athleta tops have that grippy stuff around the bottom hem that helps keep them down below the bump).

Sports bras:

This has been the area of biggest frustration for me. Many years ago, I decided that investing in good, supportive sports bras is worth it, even though they are expensive. So, I’ve been annoyed that I’ve had to invest in MULTIPLE, and even some of those aren’t really working anymore. Here’s what I’ve been wearing (only the last three were new purchases):

  • Sweaty Betty Victory padded run bra: I bought this in a 34C (my pre-pregnancy size) JUST before I found out I was pregnant (at about 4 weeks). I was able to wear it through… maybe 8-10 weeks? #frustrating
  • Lululemon Enlite bra: I had this pre-pregnancy in a 34C. I was able to wear this until maybe 16 or 17 weeks.
  • Moving Comfort Juno bra: I had this pre-pregnancy in 34C. I was also able to wear this until maybe 16 or 17 weeks.
  • Sweaty Betty Victory padded run bra: When the two bras above started getting tight AND SB was having a holiday sale, I bought this again in a 36D. I bought this at 16.5 weeks, probably started wearing it at 17 weeks… and now at 22 weeks, it’s already too tight. Gaaaaaah. This one is the most frustrating. It was only $32 on sale, but still. 5 weeks of use?! Maybe it’ll be useful post-pregnancy. I don’t know. #veryfrustrating
  • Moving Comfort Juno bra: This bra is a recurring theme. I love it. I also had this one pre-pregnancy in a 36D, saved from several years ago before I’d lost some weight and when I had bigger breasts. Hallelujah! I’m still able to wear this at 22.5 weeks, but it’s getting tight.
  • Juno bra by Brooks: I just purchased this in a 36DD and wore it for the first time this morning (22.5 weeks). This version is slightly different than the Moving Comfort ones I already had, even though I know Moving Comfort is by Brooks. I think this one still has a little room to grow… (thank god).

So let’s take stock of my current sports bra situation. As of today, I can wear the 36DD Juno, the 36D Juno (but it’s tight)… and the 36D Sweaty Betty Victory if I can handle being fairly uncomfortable. The last two aren’t going to last much longer at this rate. SIGH. I think it’s so important to have a good fitting high-impact sports bra, but this is EXPENSIVE.

Casual bottoms:

  • J. Crew signature leggings (non-maternity): I bought these very shortly after I found out I was pregnant, knowing that I would want something that was stretchy as my body started to grow but before I really had a bump. I tried a small and medium. Normally I would have kept the small, but since I was purchasing them to have room to grow, I kept the medium. I haven’t tried these on in a week or two, but so far they’re still working, though they don’t really have much to keep the waist band up on the belly instead of below it. I might start wearing them with my belly band (see below). I think they’ll work for a while. I’ve thought of getting maternity leggings, but I’d prefer to make do with what I have while I can.
  • JUSTBLACK Maternity skinny jean in dark grey from Stitch Fix: When I was about 8 weeks pregnant and realized I needed some maternity clothes but didn’t know where to start, I decided to start with a Stitch Fix box. I ended up keeping all five items in it (a questionable decision, as you’ll see). I got these in a size 28, which I thought was too big, but now is probably about right. I’m usually a 27 or 28. I still wear these with my belly band (see below) to hold them up, but I think they fit right in the hips/thighs. Hopefully these will work all the way through! I wear them a lot.
  • GapMaternity full panel best girlfriend jeans: Got these in a size 28. They’re roomy in the hips and thighs. I guess I’m glad I got these to have another jeans option, but I usually just wear these at home on telework days or weekends. If I’m going out of the house, I’ll usually wear the grey jeans above. I probably could have foregone this purchase.

Work bottoms:

  • LOFT Maternity skinny ankle pant: I got these in a 6 petite, which is usually my pre-pregnancy size. I started wearing these around 12 weeks, and they’re still working great.

Tops:

I was able to wear my pre-pregnancy tops for maybe the first 12 weeks. Since then, it’s been more limited to certain sweaters (generally longer ones) and some button-down shirts. Most of those are starting to become inappropriate, so I’m down to a few maternity tops. Purchases include:

  • Bowie 3/4 Sleeve Dolman Knit Top from Stitch Fix (non-maternity): This was in that one StitchFix box I got (size small). I think I’ve worn it twice. It is roomy and flowy and was advertised as being good for the in-between period, and it seemed it would be. But I just don’t love it, and the in-between period really only lasted a few weeks. While it’s roomy and flowy, it’s not super long, so (I just tried it on again) it doesn’t completely cover the pants belly panel, especially if I raise my arms. But I should wear this one or two more times before it really becomes impossible. And maybe it’ll be useful post-pregnancy for a bit.
  • Chiana Graphic Open Drape Cardigan (non-maternity): Also in that StitchFix box, size S. I’ve never loved the super-long cardigan look, but I actually LOVE this and wear it all the time. It was great for the in-between time and now the early bump time. I imagine it will take me through to the end and beyond.
  • Loveappella Charlote Ruched side maternity knit top from Stitch Fix: Also in StitchFix box, size S. Since this is clearly a maternity shirt, I didn’t start wearing it until 17-18 weeks. But I love it.
  • H&M MAMA Jersey top (maternity): size medium. In addition to the Loveappella top above, this is one of three maternity tops I own right now. Essential. If you’ve seen me in the past four weeks, I was probably wearing this or the Loveappella top, the chiana cardigan, and my grey maternity jeans.
  • Old Navy maternity classic white popover shirt: Size small. This is bordering on the tent-like-maternity-shirt-necessary-in-the-third-trimester, but given my shortage of shirts, I wore this for the first time to work yesterday. Roomy, so far.

Dresses:

  • Renee C Lior Maternity Cross Front Aline Dress from Stitch Fix: Size M. This was the last item in that StitchFix box. With the 25% discount they give you if you buy all five items, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to return an item. I haven’t worn this yet, but I’m just now probably getting to wear I’m pregnant enough for it to make sense. The print is a little louder than I’d normally choose, but I decided I liked it enough to keep it (especially when the marginal cost is free). It could be nice for a shower dress or for work.
  • GapMaternity 3/4 sleeve wrap dress: Size S. This dress, along with the LOFT pants and couple shirts above, rounds out my work wardrobe for the most part. (Plus Le Tote, see below.) This one should work all the way through, and I don’t think I’ll need to buy more work clothes, though maybe another shirt or two. I only go into the office 3x/week, and one of those (Fridays) I can typically wear jeans. So my LOFT pants one day, my dress another, and my jeans the last. That’ll do for about 6 months, right?
  • Kimi & Kai Lace Maternity Skater Dress: After a) realizing that it costs at minimum about $45 to rent a dress and b) that I have three weddings to go to in the next four months, I decided it would be worth it to spend $90 on a maternity dress that I can (hopefully) wear to all three and that I can guarantee I like (which isn’t always true of rentals). I ordered no less than 8 dresses from Nordstrom to try on, including this one in teal and a medium as well as in black and a small. I kept the small, black one. I’ll wear it to a wedding next month in Houston and hopefully to another in April and a final in mid-May. There’s definitely room for belly growth, some room for boob growth, and generally otherwise forgiving. Fingers crossed.

Hosiery and Undergarments:

  • H&M MAMA tights 100-denier: The denier indicates opacity. These are pretty opaque. Size medium. I needed tights to wear with my dress.
  • H&M MAMA tights 30-denier: Size medium. Again, just generally need tights in the winter. I’ll wear these to those weddings (but don’t want to wear them every day, because they’re pretty thin and therefore colder and more likely to snag).
  • Belevation Maternity Support Belly BandSize medium. Belly bands are advertised as being for women who want to keep wearing their pre-pregnancy pants so that they can wear them unbuttoned and this will keep them up. Well, I only wear this with maternity pants. I’m not sure why, but the panel in maternity pants isn’t enough to hold the pants up… they start to slip down and pull my underwear with them. It’s very uncomfortable. It’s probably for a similar reason that I ALWAYS have to wear a belt with regular jeans. I think I’m just shaped funny (and have proportionally larger thighs than waist, although now I don’t have a waist, so who knows). Anyway, whatever the reason, this has vastly improved the maternity-pant-wearing experience. I’ve also worn it once on a long run with my Lulu Wunder Unders, and I’m going to start wearing it with my non-maternity J. Crew leggings.
  • ThirdLove Classic T-Shirt Bra: Size 36D. This (and by ‘this,’ I mean a bigger bra) became a desire around 10-11 weeks and a must around 11-12. It was a little too big when I got it, but now (22.5 weeks) fits quite well and is starting to approach maybe too small. This is the only real bra I have that fits. I wear it a lot. Like, most days if not every day. I’m getting close to buying a new one, but I would like my next purchase to be a nursing bra, so I want to get closer to estimating what my final bra size is going to be. Like sports bras, I believe in investing in good quality regular bras, but unlike sports bras, I’m comfortable not washing this after every single use. Also, I have two Patagonia Barely Bras that I had pre-pregnancy (size M) that I wear when I’m at home (which is 2x/work week and on the weekends). I wouldn’t wear these out of the house at this point, though.

Other Clothing ‘Purchases’:

Not wanting to buy a lot more clothes but knowing I’d want some more variety over the last five months of pregnancy, I decided to try LeTote’s subscription service. They have a maternity option. I selected the one where you pay a flat fee per month and get three clothing items and two accessories per box. Why pregnancy necessitates new accessories, I still can’t explain. You can wear the items as many times as you like and then return them, at which point LeTote will send you another box. Boxes are unlimited and you get to select the items you’re going to get in your box. In my first box, I only wore one clothing item (a size M Seraphine black pencil skirt) and the two accessories. The other two clothing items (a VERY low-cut dress – why are so many maternity dresses V-neck??? – and a tent-like maternity top) were no good. I just got my second box last night, and I will wear the shirt for sure, the sweater most likely, the accessories definitely, and not the dress. So. I cancelled the subscription. I’ve only paid for one month and got several days’ outfits out of it (while avoiding making unnecessary purchases), so I’m okay with having made this purchase, but also think it’s right that I cancelled.

Other purchases:

  • Honest Organic Belly BalmI started using this around 20 weeks. I haven’t noticed any new stretch marks so far and there’s no real evidence that using something like this prevents them, but why the hell not try? It supposedly also helps prevent itchy skin which commonly occurs as the belly skin stretches. So far so good.
  • Thorne D3/K2 dropsMy early pregnancy bloodwork indicated that I’m ‘deficient’ in Vitamin D. I’ve paid enough attention to people like Chris Masterjohn and Chris Kresser to know that that statement is more complicated than people suggest, so I put off doing anything about it for a while. I did try to make a more concerted effort to get sunshine during the day, but then temps were in the single digits for a few weeks and work was super busy and that just didn’t happen. So I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try these. I use 2-4 drops (which is only 1,000-2,000 IU of Vitamin D3) per day.
  • PaleoValley GrassFed Organ Complex: Because I’m not even pretending to try to eat organ meats right now. And, assuming this is as potent and real-food-like as it claims it is, this is so much easier.
  • Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver OilBecause I haven’t been making salmon a priority, and I want baby to have all the DHA he needs to grow a fully functional brain and nervous system and I trust Liz Wolfe.

Those supplements, along with the prenatal vitamin and probiotic I was taking well before I got pregnant, make me feel like I’ve turned away from my real-food roots and am succumbing to the supplement hoo ha. Maybe I am. But just for pregnancy. I expect to go back to assuming my diet fulfills all my needs as soon as I’ve given birth. Or as soon as I’m done breast feeding. You know. Eventually.

Assessment:

So there you have it. Those are all the things I’ve spent hard-earned money on (or in some cases already had) as a result of being pregnant. Not a short list. That’s depressing. But I really feel like most of it has been worth it, with the possible exceptions of the second Sweaty Betty sports bra, the Bowie knit top from Stitch Fix, and maybe the Gap jeans and Stitch Fix dress.

I also have my eye on this cozy sweatshirt. I’ll probably break down and buy it. But unlike the other items I’ve bought, which I intended to buy as living essentials (to work out, go to work, have clothes that fit, etc.), this one would be pure luxury. I want it just because I want it. We’re going to Telluride for almost a week in February, and I want this to go with me. We’ll see.

 

Lately – December 2017

There’s been a lot going on lately, which partially explains the lack of posts. The main things are:

  • It’s budget season again. I talked about this briefly in this post. Budget season typically starts in September when we (OMB) receive budget submissions from agencies. And it ends in February with the release of the President’s Budget. Last year the timeline was different because the Administration changed in January, so budget season shifted to the spring. Anyway, all of budget season is crazy, but October and January are the craziest. So that’s happening. I’ve been working more than usual.
  • We’re buying a new house! New to us and new new. It’s a few miles away from our current house (which we rent and where we’ve lived for almost five years). It’s new construction and will likely be complete in March or April. I’m expecting we’ll move in April. It’s been a lot of fun to pick stuff out (first floor floorplan, cabinets, tile, hardwood, carpet, countertops, sinks, etc.), but it’s also taken up a lot of time. And there have been a lot of meetings, both during work and outside of work hours. Plus all the general house-buying and mortgage paperwork.
  • I’m pregnant! 16.5 weeks. It’s going great, but I was more exhausted than I could ever imagine feeling in the first trimester, so sleeping cut into my free time more than even normal. My 9pm bedtime became 7:30 sometimes. With two naps every Saturday and Sunday. It was the worst weeks 5-10 (so, late September through the beginning of November). Plus, there’s been prenatal appointments and ultrasounds and lots and lots of reading, so it’s been keeping me busy.

Needless to say, I’ve been a little lazy in the kitchen. I went through a period of relying heavily on Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet salads for lunch, but I’ve mostly resolved that. Then I started picking up the pumpkin spice yogurt pots from Pret in the mornings as I made my way from the Metro to my office in DC. I’ve also been voting for pizza delivery somewhat frequently – not quite once a week, but not too far from that either. Often on Sunday nights when we’ve had a busy weekend or been out of town.

My diet in general in my first trimester kind of went downhill. Not terribly. I still ate mostly really well. But I was definitely more lenient with the Halloween candy that was around the office and the frequent pastries people brought in. I also was testing out my recently-resurrected sourdough starter and making/eating much more bread than normal. I got it together for several weeks before Thanksgiving though, and since Thanksgiving it’s been so so. Better than before, but not awesome. Starting to sort of slide downhill again. This week has been a week of holiday parties and socializing (and treats – so many treats!). I’m thinking of doing a Whole30 again in January, as I’ve done the last two years, but maybe including grass-fed (usually Greek) yogurt which I just can’t get enough of. We’ll see.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Things I’ve been reading:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This was for bookclub (I hosted this month!). I really enjoyed it, but it took me a long time to read.
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. This was our last book club book – my recommendation. I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Jennifer Egan happens to be Dan’s best friend’s cousin, so we’ve anticipating this one for a while. LOVED it.
  • Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James Clapp and Catherine Cram. Made me feel better (and optimistic) about continuing to CrossFit through pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin and others. It took me a while to get into this because it launches pretty quickly into making decisions about birth itself, and I was still in a what-should-I-expect and whats-okay during pregnancy stage. But I’ve started to transition, and now find this really useful. It has a clear but fairly subtle bias toward unmedicated childbirth (which I am interested in), but I feel it presents other options objectively and fairly without speaking negatively/judgmentally about them. Mostly, it just explains the processes of labor and giving birth and post-birth in detail, which is really helpful. Because I’ve never done it before!
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. I’m not really into this one yet. It’s much more biased about preferring midwifery (which I’m using) and unmedicated childbirth (which I’m interested in), but at this point, I’d prefer the information being presented to me without judgement and with facts about all options. I can’t even remember where I got the recommendation for this. We’ll see if I get through it.

Things I’ve been watching:

  • Fine, I admit it. I’ve been watching the entire series of Gilmore Girls. Again. Really, for like the millionth time (more honestly probably the tenth or so). I start it every Fall and watch the whole series. I don’t actually watch most of it, it’s just on in the background as I cook, fold laundry, etc.
  • Stranger Things Season 2. Dan and I are trying to watch this together. I think we’ve made it to episode… 4? Maybe 5?

Fitness I’ve been doing:

  • CrossFit 3x/week. So far so good. I maybe missed one or two workouts during the first trimester to prioritize sleeping, but as usual, my energy is highest in the morning and it’s later in the day that I start to flag. So workouts were mostly fine. My gym offers three sets of suggested weights/programming for each WOD – ‘fitness,’ Rx, and Open. I worked up to being very comfortable with the fitness weights through my first year of CrossFit, and before becoming pregnant had started to work towards Rx. But since becoming pregnant, I’ve mostly stuck to fitness. I was still doing strength maxes, though. Starting around week 10 or 11, I started to scale back on those as well (opting to do more like 70% of my 1 or 2RM), and also to pay closer attention to whether I would be able to converse during WODs. Now that I’m in the second trimester, I’ve decided to stop kipping pull-ups and any sit up things and will instead do things like strict pull-ups, ring rows, and planks.
  • Baltimore Running Festival Half Marathon. This was when I was about 9 weeks pregnant. My pace was 8:50 (total time: 1:55:51), which is slower than my half marathons from the past 3 or so years, but still respectable. Training runs were tough leading up to it due to how tired I was. I’m also just less into running lately, and don’t think I’ll keep doing half marathons twice a year. But, got ‘er done and was pleased with it. The weather was amazing (high 60s, low 70s, sunny – actually felt hot at points).
  • Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K in Grand Rapids, MI. My sister, her boyfriend, Dan, and I all ran this. This was my 6th or 7th year doing a 5K on Thanksgiving Day. Pace: 8:34, Time: 26:35.
  • Upcoming – I’ll be running the Celtic Solstice 5-mile run in Druid Hill Park this Saturday. It’ll be my third year in a row.

Hikes I’ve Been On:

  • A friend couple came up from Houston for a weekend in early November. We went camping in Catoctin Mountain Park at Owens Creek Campground. Before heading to the campsite, we did the 8-Mile Loop Trail. Dan and I had done this once before with his mom (or maybe just a part of it.) The leaves were beautiful, and there were a couple of nice overlooks. The weather was slightly on the chilly side, but it was really nice to hike in. As we drove from the end of the hike to the campground, it started raining. And it continued to pour through the next morning. We attempted a fire for a while, but finally gave in and gathered together in one tent to eat trail mix and play cards.

Things I’ve Been Listening To:

  • Holiday music!
  • The Modern Mamas Podcast. Trying to binge-listen to get up to current, but they keep just putting more out! I’m only up to number… 13 I think. I’ve most enjoyed hearing about Laura’s birth story and being introduced to Aware Parenting concepts.
  • Occasional Girls Gone WOD podcasts, but I’ve definitely fallen behind.

 

Five Hikes in Japan (aka Japan: Part 2)

While in Japan, we hiked the following:

  1. Mt. Fuji
  2. Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to Kamikochi (Japan Alps)
  3. From the top of the Happo One ski resort chair lifts to Happo Ike pond (Hakuba, Japan Alps)
  4. Kurama to Kibune (outside Kyoto)
  5. Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (Yakushima)

A few general observations on hiking in Japan:

  • I underestimated the first few. My experience of hiking in Japan now is that it is almost invariably steep and usually involves a lot of stairs or rock scrambling. It was like doing hours of stair stepper. But prettier.

(Okay, to be honest, three of those photos are from the same hike. But seriously – all the hikes had either built stairs like this, rocks-as-stairs or rock scrambling like the last photo, or steps made out of the landscape.)

  • Japan is a small country with a lot of people. The hikes are not very remote and are generally fairly developed/built. And crowded.
  • MontBell seems to be the hiking gear brand of choice for Japanese, though I’m not sure if that’s because they offer rental equipment. Speaking of, it seemed like many people hiking Fuji rented their equipment – from packs to shoes. A good option if you don’t want to carry a pair of hiking shoes and warm clothes all over Japan in the middle of summer for the rest of your trip.
  • While some people were outfitted head to toe in serious hiking gear on each of these hikes… there were also pretty ladies in kimonos and sandals on at least one of them. And everything in between.
  • Japan’s got some pretty cool stuff to see on hikes.

Mt. Fuji

We hiked up Mt. Fuji from the Subaru Fifth Station on the Yoshida Trail. There are four main trails up Mt. Fuji. Yoshida is the most popular. You can begin Yoshida, and I believe the others, further down the mountain. I think most people begin at this or another fifth station, and the Subaru Fifth Station is where most of the tour busses and other public transportation go.

I wrote about getting to the Subaru Fifth Station in my main Japan post. We each packed a day pack (Dan used the top of his Osprey backpack and I used this awesome Sea to Summit sack) and then stuffed our packs (i.e., our luggage) in a somewhat random-seeming pay locker (1000 yen) in one of the buildings. Then we paid 1,000 yen donation to the folks asking for a donation and set off.

It started okay. The trail was relatively flat (even downhill – which ended up seeming unfortunate the following day when we hiked back) and wide for a while. There were a lot of people, but there was a lot of space. Before long, though, we started switchbacks up the mountain along a trail that soon had ropes on either side. It turned out that this would be what the rest of the trail was like.

I estimated it would take us 4-5 hours (max 6) to get to the hut where we would sleep that night. It took us 2.5. We were definitely moving, and more quickly than most people, but it was manageable. We were also willing to be jerks a little bit. Not too long after we started switchbacking, a few things happened to cause some backlogs: the trail narrowed a bit, the trail became very rocky and required some scrambling, and we began passing huts along the trail. At the first backlog, leaving a hut area, I was a bit flummoxed. I was sure it was an anomaly. But no, they got worse. Luckily, Dan and I were able to rock scramble around the crowds (still within the ropes of the trail, but to the sides where no one else was scrambling). We made it to the hut around 4ish, were asked to eat dinner right away, and enjoyed a beer at 3,400 meters looking down at the hikers continuing their way up the trail. This particular hut holds 300 people and was sold out, I believe. After a bit of a fiasco with our sleeping area (one sleeping setup was missing), Dan and I went to bed at 7pm and got a little bit of sleep. At 2am, we got up with the rest of the hikers that intended to make it to the summit by dawn. Using the previous day as my guide, I assumed it would take us less time to get to the summit than I’d originally estimated (1-2 hours), and I was worried about getting to the summit too early and being cold. I was already cold. So we set out around 2:30/2:40, and DAMN, we should have left earlier.

We almost missed sunrise. The trail up the mountain was SO crowded that we were literally in a traffic jam the whole way up. Sunrise was at 4:40, and we literally got there at 4:35 and raced to a spot where we could see. It was infuriating. The trail was narrower, so we couldn’t be jerks and go around anymore (though we did a bit early on – then we started getting chastised). Sometimes it narrowed to single-file from two, causing further backups. It was like step forward. Wait two minutes. Step forward. Wait two minutes. The sky started lightening around 3:15 or 3:30. It was pretty. But.

Thank goodness we made it for sunrise. It was really beautiful. I’m pretty sure that makes the whole experience worth it. And our hike around the rim of Mt Fuji was also really nice. We got to walk through a snow field and see the shadow of Mt. Fuji projected on the valley below it.

Then we were ready to go down. It was about 6am. We were among a crowd of hundreds of people trying to enter the trail (while some others were still coming UP the trail). By 7am, we had gone two switchbacks (maybe 100 yards). It was like that until we got back almost to our hut where the trail finally split off and there was a separate down trail that was even less pretty than the up trail, but was at least wide. Still steep, though, and mostly gravelly.

We made it all the way down by 9:30, and we were ready to be finished. I’m very glad for the experience, but I don’t think I’d ever do it again. At least not on a Saturday in July. (For the record, we were warned that it would be crowded; I just never imagined.)

 

Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to Kamikochi

This hike started from the top of the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway. I’d read in our Lonely Planet guidebook that you could hike this either direction, but that Kamikochi to the Shin Hotaka was very steep. We’d just hiked Mt. Fuji and just the timing and bus schedules made this direction more manageable. There was no information in the main Shin Hotaka observation deck building about hiking, nor were there clear signs upon exiting the building onto trails. We saw a couple going one direction, which seemed to be the only direction to go, and tried to ask if it was the way to Kamikochi. They told us that no, hiking to Kamikochi was ‘very hard mountain’ and that they thought it was ‘impossible from here.’ It was hard to know whether they actually meant impossible (like, that was the wrong direction), or it was just known to be a difficult hike. So we returned to the building to ask and got a sorta map written on the back of a receipt by the store clerk. We  determined that had been the right trail and set out. But all the signs were in Japanese until we got to a mountain hut.

So, the Japan Alps do have a good network of huts that allow for multi-day hiking trips. We were strongly advised to fill out a form in a small cabin before setting out regarding our intended itinerary or face a 50,000 yen fine, which we did. But we were only going for the day, of course. The trail was pretty steep uphill until we got to the only hut on our route, where we stopped to eat snacks. Then we continued on, and the rest of the trail was pretty steep downhill (many of it actual steps) into the Kamikochi valley. I think it took us about 3 hours total? This was the least developed of the hikes that we did, but it was still fairly developed. We passed a few people along the trail, but not many, so it was also the least crowded. We were trailing a trio of American guys that we then later saw in the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima – see, small country.

Kamikochi was beautiful. It’s not really a town (at least what we could see). There’s a bridge on the south end, where we arrived, and then another bridge about half a mile north on the north end that crosses the river. On the side of the river we arrived on, that half mile is dotted with several ryokans (one of which had a public onsen that closed at 3pm and we arrived at 2:45, sadly, so we didn’t go). We walked to the north end and crossed over. That side had a couple restaurants/stores and the bus terminal. I think that’s all there is.

Hike to Happo Ike

I believe ike means pond. This hike is from the top of the Happo One ski resort chair lifts (a gondola and two chair lifts) to a pond. The trail continues further to the summit (dake) of Mt. Karamatsudake, but we didn’t have the energy or time for that – we wanted to get back to our Hakuba ryokan and relax! Also, the clouds were rolling in and we didn’t want to get caught in a storm. I was less worried about hiking in the rain and more worried that the lifts would stop operating in a thunderstorm and we wouldn’t be able to get back down in a timely fashion.

Again, this trail was super rocky and pretty steep. Partly, this was the route we took up. On the way down, we took a slightly different route that had more built boardwalks and steps that made it easier. The views of Hakuba and the valley and the surrounding mountains were beautiful. And we saw (and walked through!) snow fields! For the top half of the hike we were primarily in clouds, including at the pond, which made it look very misty and dreamy.

I think we got to the top of the lifts around 1 and were back to the lifts by… 2:30? So this wasn’t a super-long hike. But it was really pretty. And made us sorta feel like we earned our onsen :-).

Kibune to Kurama

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. Read this for more information, better pictures, and a generally more positive perspective. (Note: we did this in the opposite direction of that description, as we wanted to eat above the river before starting.) As I mentioned in a previous post, the heat and humidity while we were in Kyoto killed my soul a little bit, and getting out of the city in the mountains a little bit didn’t help. At all. Plus, it was a Saturday, and this is a common excursion from Kyoto for tourists and Kyoto residents alike. It wasn’t crowded like Mt. Fuji by any means, but it wasn’t remote at all and we were hiking with many other people. This is the hike that many women in kimonos were hiking! With slow, short steps, as their strides were limited by their outfits. They looked wonderful with their perfect makeup and nicely done hair, while I was sweating like crazy and a little grumpy. It’s almost not even right to call this a hike. It was more like a stair climb to a summit and then a stair climb down, via a temple. We only took one picture.

However. On a day that is not 95+ degrees F with 95% humidity, I can see where this would be a really lovely outing, with or without the crowds.

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Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine

This is one of several popular hikes on Yakushima. The other we strongly considered was a full-day hike to Jomon Sugi, the oldest and largest cedar on the island, estimated to be 3,000-7,000 years old (!!). However, this was the last full day of our trip, and we were staying in a fancy hotel, and we wanted some time to relax, unwind, and enjoy ourselves. So we opted for Shiratani Unsuikyo, which offers three different loops of varying lengths. We essentially did all three, except for portion of the shortest one that didn’t overlap with the other two. I estimate that it was about five miles total??

To get there, you drive up a very windy, often one-lane road with very beautiful views of the valley and the town of Miyanoura on the coast below. We passed a family of monkeys on the side of the road! (We’d also seen monkeys in Kamikochi walking along the bank of the river.) The parking lot was full when we got there, but there they let us park on the side because we had an itty-bitty rental car. Others had to park further down the mountain road and walk up. It cost 500 yen (or maybe 300?) per person to enter.

The path started with boardwalk and steps, but once we veered off onto the longer loops, we found ourselves in what felt like very deep, very misty forest. We passed several very old cedars, all of which had signs marking them and observation platforms (usually with a bench) for sitting and admiring. There are also several large ‘second generation’ cedars in which a seed germinates in the stump of an older cedar. In a few places, there were signs describing how the forest has been cleared and replanted to some extent, and that all of the cedars in a particular area are from a ‘mother cedar’ in the area.

It poured on us at one point and was generally just wet and misty, so a lot of my photos have the film of mist over them. Apologies. We were able to hike to a rock summit with a really nice view of the valley. It was cloudy so pictures don’t do it justice, but it was a nice panoramic view. We had planned to eat lunch up there, but no food was allowed (understandable since it’s a popular hike and it would probably get too crowded having people hang out up there too long), so we ended up having to eat our hotel-boxed lunches (rice, fish, and orange slices) off the side of the trail soon after.

So that’s my experience of hiking in Japan. I would love to do more, especially multi-day hikes, in the Alps. We saw such cool stuff everywhere though, despite my grumbling about crowds and heat. Super awesome experience!