A Day on the Greenbelt

Team Relentless hit the Barton Creek Greenbelt on Saturday for a 14-mile hike. Our plan was to start at the trailhead by the Barton Springs pool and walk to the top of the Hill of Life where we’d strategically-placed Bonita’s truck, stocked with water. After a little re-group at the truck, we’d head back down the trail, then celebrate at Green Mesquite with piles of BBQ.

We followed some of that plan. Here are some observations about our trek.

 [Bernie, Dave, and Carla, about 30 minutes into our hike. Note that they’re covering
their smocks with other, more attractive articles of clothing.]

Those ugly smocks are so Zen.
In person, I hated my white smock even more than I had in my imagination. My backpack straps create a very unflattering frame for my linen-y-fabric-clad boobies. Really not pretty. But I’m forced to admit, after 7+ hours in shade and sun and temperatures that ranged from 37 to 60+, I was comfortable… as long as I didn’t catch my own reflection in someone else’s shades. The right equipment really does make a difference, and I’m very relieved that for the most part, our team didn’t suffer blisters, chafing, or unreasonable discomfort from our gear. A little more padding in our shoes and around the edges of straps, and we’ll be in good shape for the March.

 [Bonita, Georgia, and Jennifer, also covering their smocks.]

It is possible to get tired of eating DD™ trail mix.
At 8:00 a.m. I distributed bags of the Rated-DD (dangerously delicious) trail mix, and we gobbled it down in between exclamations of “Yum!” and “This is so [snarf] good!” I reveled in the shiny patina left on my fingertips by the chunks of hard salami I alternated with handfuls of trail mix.

Fast forward to three hours later, we were all sick of the salty-sweet flavors of the trail mix… and the sugary dried fruit and the tangy-sweet beef jerky. In short, our appetites were totally deadened to the allure of the previously-adored foods we packed on our backs.

The solution: We’re going to plan “phase 2” snacks for the Bataan Memorial Death March: a stash of food we can break into about halfway through the trek to refresh our taste buds. I’m thinking about carrying a fresh apple – despite the added weight – just to have something that’s not dehydrated.

 [A nifty little “Flintstones” table and chairs by a climbing rock.]

Drink! Drink! Drink!
Despite the fact that we all knew we needed to stay hydrated, most of us didn’t drink enough water during our hike. Yes, one can always pee in the woods, but let’s be honest: for girls, it’s not all that much fun. Between hesitancy about lack of port-a-potties and underestimating how much water it would take to complete 14 miles, we got it a little bit wrong. Luckily, we had no major mishaps – just some droopier-than-necessary team members on Saturday night and Sunday.

The Bataan Memorial Death March, unlike the real thing, offers us water and port-a-potties every two miles. Problem solved.

Sometimes you gotta get your feet wet.
While I might be considered the unofficial cheerleader and list-maker for our team, Bonita is our sherpa. She knows all the ins-and-outs of gear, endurance events, blister prevention, and the trails that snake through the greenbelt. She also knew that we’d probably have to cross some water on our hike – and she kept that little tidbit to herself.

Here’s Bonita, testing the water for the rest of us.

She is smiling because she’s at her happiest when she’s indulging her curiosity and seeing what’s beyond the bend/across the river/under this rock.

I suspect she was also smiling because of the unholy racket of complaints taking place on the shore as the rest of us realized we were being forced to remove our gaiters and shoes and socks to roll up our pants and wade into very, VERY cold water.

This video is just a smidgen of the ruckus we made:

[Bernie is also very action-hero-esque. Note that she’s carrying her shoes and Dave’s shoes on her shoulders.]

In my attempt to find a shorter and potentially “easier” route, I actually directed Dave, Carla, and I to slippery mud (that almost sent Dave careening into the water) and a sudden drop-off that meant I was wet up to crotch-level. No one should ever listen to me!

Other stuff we didn’t expect to do, but soldiered through with some semblance of superhero-ness:

  • slipper rocks
  • a single-track trail bordered with a thick chain to use as a handrail: rock face+chain on the left, fall-away bank down to rocky crags and certain doom on the right
  • a second water crossing that was deeper and wider than the first, which lead to…

We almost had a mutiny. 
To be fair, hiking on these same trails in the summer is usually a dry experience. But winter has brought lots of stream-replenishing rain, and the trail crossings are now lovely-to-gaze-upon waterfalls and mini rapids and crystalline pools. All of which looks great from the shore, but not so great when you’re crotch-deep in cold water with another nine miles left in your hiking day.

When we approached the second water crossing – which would have meant a total of four crossings for the day – Bonita gamely waded into the almost-waist deep water to find a safe path for us to follow. Bernie, meanwhile, explored a potential rock-and-foamy-water crossing further downstream. Back on shore, the other five of us muttered and surmised and bordered on complaining and generally surrendered momentarily to less-than-good attitudes. Someone might have said, “I did not sign up for this.”

We tried to recall Bernie and Bonita to our rocks on the bank. When shouting didn’t work, Dave resorted to texting and an iPhone call. (The absurdity was delicious: Dave and Bernie holding iPhones to their ears on opposite sounds of a stream, shouting, “What? I can’t hear you!”). Eventually Bonita and Bernie returned to our side of the river (stream? brook? tributary? Mighty Miss?) and compromises were struck. We would abandon our quest for the Hill of Life – to avoid getting wet three more times – and instead loop around and up on a trail that would dump us at the crossroads of civilization: a Best Buy store where we could use the restroom and buy supplemental water and snacks, if necessary.

Moods returned to optimistic. Shoes were re-tied. Gaiters were re-snapped. Walking resumed. Crisis averted.

Given the right circumstances, Best Buy is Shangri-La.
I really can’t say enough about how great it was use the restroom at Best Buy and wash my hands in cool running water with soap. Yes, we’d only been on the trail for about four hours, but the fresh water felt heavenly. We looked out-of-place in our gear, so the dude at the “Out” door checking receipts asked what we were up to. I was surprised by how proud I felt when I explained why we were training. It felt badass to talk about Bataan and remember our motivation for marching around the Greenbelt this weekend.

Bonita is stronger than the rest of us.
If you know Bonita, you know she’s super fit and super strong, mentally and physically. “How strong?” you might be asking. Strong enough to walk at the head of our pack, all day long, with her backpack and her weighted vest. She was lugging about 42 extra pounds, and she’s doing the entire 26.2 miles of Bataan that way, too.

[The vest which is so heavy, we all groaned just picking it up.]

Seven really is a lucky number.
I wondered how we’d fare. It can be tricky, throwing together a group of people in a potentially stressful situation. Get the right people in the group, and together, you all rise above.

With these people, I know I can walk all day.

We talked non-stop (What the devil did we talk about all day long?) and laughed a lot. I almost fell in the water from laughing too hard. When I was nervous about those damn slippery rocks and that big fat chain, Carla encouraged me from behind. When my feet ached from the cold rocks at the bottom of the stream, Bonita reached out her hand to pull me up the bank. Out of water? There’s Bernie with a fresh bottle. Tired and feel like whining? Look at Jen and Georgia silently putting one foot in front of the other. Overwhelmed? There’s Dave, wearing a determined expression and a silly hat.

Even cave people like onion rings.
Because of the aforementioned affliction known as sickoftrailmix-itis, we all stopped eating about an hour before the end of our hike. It didn’t pose any great danger because we were almost finished with the walk – but it did make for seven very hungry people when we staggered into Green Mesquite. That might explain the appearance of baskets of onion rings, french fries, and hush puppies on our table. (Blame the buttermilk ranch dipping sauce on me.) I couldn’t get the BBQ pork and turkey into my mouth fast enough, and conversation around the table dwindled a bit while everyone focused on re-fueling. When Dave offered a few bites of his blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream, I answered with my spoon.

 [Team Relentless at Green Mesquite after our feeding.
L to R: Bernie and Pai, Jennifer, Georgia, Bonita, Carla, Me, Dave]

[The obligatory “mean” photo.]

I wish I could say I ended our hike by eating clean, drinking plenty of water, and stretching. But I cannot lie to you, dear readers.

I drank a glass of wine, took a shower, and went directly to bed. The last time I looked at the clock was 7:54 p.m., and I didn’t open my eyes again until 6:30 the next morning, when I got dressed and went immediately to Habanero for eggs, bacon, and coffee. You know if she’d had the option, a cave woman would have opted for someone else to feed her on Sunday morning, too!

Remembering Bataan

Today is the 68th anniversary of the beginning of the Bataan Death March. My thoughts are out in the desert of New Mexico, remembering our...

Read More
Bataan Memorial Death March: Mission Accomplished

I'm back at the corporate overlords' desk and feeling many emotions about our Bataan Memorial Death March adventures. I have lots of stories and "lessons...

Read More


  • Dave says:

    I think you guys have the main ingredient down…HAVING FUN!!!! REALLY look forward meeting all you Austin Peeps….and am really honored to be named honorary member…;-)

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Honorary membership has its privileges: trail mix on request ANYTIME and chocolate at the finish line 😉

  • Mary says:

    If you are open to non-paleo trail food — I always find that an peanut butter (or almond butter) and raisin sandwich really hits the spot! It travels well and tastes yummy!

    Nice work on the hike and the write up! Keep us posted.

  • Red Headed Racer says:

    you are an inspiration!! and also, it seems, a ton of fun!

  • Barbara says:

    Mel..what a great post! Sounds like your team had quite the experience. It may not have been 100% comfy or dry but it was real and you were in great company.

    A group of my friends did the Komen 60 mile walk and let me say that many of those 6-7 hour training walks were anything but glorious. The memories make me smile though:)