Exploring California, Step by Step

BackyardI use a Fitbit to keep track of my exercise. It’s fine motivational tool. When I look at the “dashboard” and see that I’ve been sitting around all day, or that my morning exercise walk only generated 15 very active minutes, I get up and do something physical.

But the Fitbit is only a high-tech pedometer. It measures steps, but it doesn’t understand those steps.

Case in point: After I got back from my three-day backpacking trip at the Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, I logged into my dashboard to see my Fitbit report. It was gratifying to find that I had far exceeded my regular step goals.

But soon after I logged in, I got an email from Fitbit, congratulating me on earning my 25,000-steps-in-one-day badge. And urging me to try to go for 30,000 steps.

“30,000 steps? Do you know how hard those 25,000 steps were?” I said to the email. (I may have yelled.)

But, of course, it didn’t. It only counts my steps.

I took those 25,000 steps on trails at Point Reyes, carrying my bed, meals, and other necessities on The Pacificmy back. The first few thousand of them were uphill. Then there were quite a few going downhill on a very, very steep grade — one that made my aging knees unhappy.

When things finally leveled off, we were on a trail paralleling the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful views, but miles of trail without any trees or other shade. And when we finally reached Coast Camp, it turned out that our campsite was all the way at the other end. On the bright side, it was very private. Several of the sites at that location left you in full view of everyone else there.

It was enjoyable. At times it was even exhilarating. But it was exhausting.

And the next day was pretty much all uphill. That day’s Fitbit reading was 18,000 steps, but only 46 very active minutes. Walking uphill with a pack on your back gets your heart rate up even if you are only walking about one mile an hour, but Fitbit doesn’t give the kind of measurement it deserves.

This trip was the first time in years that I’d done any serious backpacking. I wasn’t sure I was in shape for it, but despite some sore muscles and aching joints, I did fine. I didn’t even get seriously winded climbing the hills, for which I can thank my Fitbit-inspired exercise program of the last year.

We camped in three different locations. The picture at the top of this post is of a mossy area behind our campsite on the last night (at Sky Camp). We might as well have been in the rain forest. We were tempted to set up our sleeping bags there, but given that the fog came in that night and provided the moss and ferns with more water than they needed, it was good that we stayed on harder ground.

The second picture is of the ocean. Here’s another ocean picture — I was trying to catch a big wave as it was breaking toward the shore.

Big wave

It may not be obvious from the picture, but you wouldn’t want to swim in that surf.

Here’s the “ceiling” of our “bedroom” the first night, at Glen Camp (taken the next morning):

ceilingAnd here are some ferns from our last campsite:

fernsIn addition to the ocean and all the flora, we saw lizards, many varieties of birds (including, we think, some eagles), a bobcat, and deer. And we heard coyotes.

We met nice people, including the young woman who hiked into our first camp after everyone was on their way to bed, got up and did a day hike the next morning while we lingered over breakfast, and was on her way to see as much as she could the rest of the day before hurrying home so she could work the next day. She made us look like sluggards.

There were lots of people on horseback. There was even more evidence of horses than actual horses. We stepped carefully around a lot of piles.

There were kids in school groups and kids with their parents and folks out for a day hike who made us look young. All in all, a good cross-section of humanity, out enjoying the wilderness.

We had a wonderful time and I want to do it again in one of the many other parks and wilderness areas in California. So I’m going to keep up my Fitbit program. But if it’s expecting to see 30,000 steps in one day from me anytime soon, it better not be holding its breath.



Exploring California, Step by Step — 12 Comments

  1. A bobcat? Wheee! I haven’t caught a glimpse of any of the big cats. (Nor a close-up, except when they are in an enclosure.)

    Wonderful trip, so glad for you.

    • It was a young bobcat — probably a teenager out on its first prowl alone. A woman on a horse pointed it out to us. We heard some screaming in the night that sounded feline and might have been bobcats, too — it sounded like “get off of my turf.”

  2. It’s one of the greatest gifts to discover you like doing something so much you want to repeat it in other places. 🙂

    I’ve become that way about historical research car trips — and, of course, with Him as the companion. 🙂

    Sometimes, physically, the travel from point to point can be less than pleasant due to weather, availability or lack thereof in accomodations and food, and of course, most of all, my physical problems. Nevertheless none of these weigh anything in the retrospect of the physical experience of being in these places and what is learned. Plus, when one is able as well to meet f2f again with friends in these parts where they live, instead of here in NYC, it’s all even more valuable!

    Love, C.

  3. One of the drawbacks of all those “fitness aids” is that they’re designed by the already fit. 🙂

    • Actually, I think it’s more useful for people who are trying to improve their fitness habits than for anyone else. (Though that was a good crack!)

      The good thing about the Fitbit is that it pays attention to how much I’m up and about. So if I do a lot of walking around the house (as one does for housework, for example) and do errands around the neighborhood (easier to do in Oakland than in Austin), I get credit for moving around. And that’s good regardless of how fit you are. Sitting all day — a problem for writers and others who work on computers — is not all that healthy, so something that gives you credit for getting up and doing the laundry, etc., is good for everyone.

      But this particular device only measures walking accurately. It doesn’t give me much credit when I go to Aikido seminars or ride my bicycle or do Qigong — all of which provide more actual exercise than walking around my house.

      I’ve found it very useful in encouraging me to go out for a serious walk around the block after dark (it’s hot in Austin right now, so after dark is the best time for exercise) and for motivating me to park a ways from the stores when I’m running errands. OTOH, I’ve used it as an excuse to walk to an ice cream place after dinner in Oakland, and I don’t think I burn enough calories on those walks to offset the ice cream.

          • Not to mention GPS — which, we, of course, adore!

            Particularly Him!

            But we don’t have — still — one of those phones. Soon we will be forced to have one of those phones, when these dumb phones give up at the last. We’ve had these dum flip fones for so many years we can’t remember how many now.

            Love, C.

            • I finally got a smartphone and the horrible truth is that I love it. I find it very convenient to have a computer/camera/map available all the time.

              My previous phone was so old the workers in the phone store took pictures of it because they’d never seen one like that before. But all it did was make phone calls and do texting if you were willing to deal with texting on phone dial pad. I don’t really like phones — they ring and bring bad news. I want the other stuff.