Bump On The Trail: Backpacking Jefferson Wilderness While Pregnant

It’s amazing how the very same hike can be such a wildly different experience with as few as 8 weeks between seemingly identical adventures. Both trips involved the same exact trail, terrain, epic views and gear. Both weekends had perfectly sunny and clear days. Both experiences involved the camaraderie and support of incredible women. The difference between these trips for me - pregnancy. The first trip was just a week before the conception of our baby and the second trip was while I was 8 weeks pregnant.

The Planning

In late Spring of 2018, I had gathered with some of my favorite humans at Base Camp Brewing to plan our annual ladies backpacking weekend adventure. The setting was just right - you walk in through the patio covered in prayer flags, like the ones all over the Himalayas I saw on my first trek. As you step inside the building, you’re immediately inspired by the wall of rotating outdoor photography just behind the taps and can smell the delicious aromas of the Nepalese food from the Sherpa Kitchen food cart. The stoke level continued to rise as each person trickled in and we settled in to a table big enough to spread out maps.

Over tasty beers and momos, the planning was ready to commence! What weekend would work best for all? The year prior we hiked 32 miles of the PCT from Potato Hill to Mosquito Lake in Mt. Adams Wilderness and it was amazing; also that was my first adult backpacking trip ever. With an incredibly full year of avid hiking, trekking and backpacking under my belt now, where would we go next? Perhaps Timberline Trail, Jefferson Wilderness, The Enchantments… Our considerations were relatively simple - we had all agreed on a 3 day trip in September and were comfortable backpacking up to 12 miles a day depending on elevation gain; we were just a group of rad ladies ready for adventure. After going back and forth on a loop versus an out and back + day trip adventures in between, we decided on Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.

Mt Jefferson Wilderness, Take 1

Fast forward to mid-July and I saw an event pop up for Mountain Chicks. Their ambassador, Ellen, was leading a 2 day backpacking trip to Jefferson Park from the South Breitenbush Trailhead. I had just purchased my first lightweight backpacking tent, the Big Agnes Tiger Wall, and the timing of her trip couldn’t have been more perfect for its maiden voyage! Although Mt. Jefferson Wilderness was on the radar for the other upcoming backpacking trip in September, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to hike it twice; I’d seen so many beautiful photos and was stoked to make new friends - so I said yes to the adventure! Our weekend was amazing! I met a bunch of badass mountain babes from the Portland and Salem areas, engaged in meaningful conversation and backpacked 17 miles round trip with 2900 feet of elevation gain (those numbers are according to my GPS watch; the trail info said it was 13 mile r/t). Did the trip live up to it’s “difficult” classification in the Oregon Hikers trail description? Absolutely! And it was worth every ounce of sweat and all the aches my toes and feet could endure from the rocky trail!

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Backpacking Mt. Jefferson, Take 2. This time, while pregnant.

Feeling incredibly satisfied from the Mountain Chicks version of this trip and eager to share, I immediately told my friends who I was planning the annual ladies backpacking trip with all about it! This trail, this wilderness, those alpine lakes, those views...I could visit this place day after day and never get bored with its majesty!

My friends agreed to the proposed trail and we hashed out the final plan:

Day One:

  • Meet at a restaurant and kickoff the morning with a big breakfast

  • Re-group into 2 vehicles

  • Hike in 8 miles with 2900 elevation gain and set up camp

Day Two:

  • Explore Russell, Scout and Bays Lakes

  • Embark on day hikes

  • Catch up on some reading in hammocks

Day Three:

  • Hike back to South Breitenbush Trailhead or 8 miles

  • Stop at a hot spring on the way home

Plans were set and we all eagerly awaited September.

3 weeks later though, I learned I was pregnant! My partner and I were over the moon! Nothing really changed about my immediate outlook on adventures for the rest of the summer and fall, although I knew that soon I’d need to start thinking about how to outfit my clothing for the trail once my belly started growing.

A couple weeks went by and before we knew it, we were driving up to Anacortes and taking a ferry over to Orcas Island for our 3 day sea kayaking trip. 20 miles of paddling + 15-ish miles of hiking and tent camping, no problem. I went to bed earlier than I had in the past, but the sun was down and I felt great. For the most part, the first half of my first trimester was pretty active. Soon enough though, it began to involve a good amount of fatigue and mid-day crashing, but otherwise I felt like myself...though a little bloated. This trip was a great confidence boost that I’d be fine for our upcoming ladies weekend.

As the backpacking trip approached, I decided to take it easy during the days leading up to our departure just to be safe. Extra rest, continued healthy eating, I was confident this would be just like the last backpacking trip in Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, but with a little bit of fall foliage.

Packing for the trip

Although my body still felt like my regular body, I was extra attentive to what and how I packed. The weather was clear and sunny, which also meant colder evenings with a forecast around 30 degrees at night. My sleeping bag was rated for 15 degrees and I decided to purchase a sleeping bag liner to add an additional 15 degrees of warmth, rating me at 0 degrees; that seemed sufficient, yet packable. My sleeping pad was insulated. Down puffy coat, warm wool base layer plus an additional thermal - they were all light weight and packed well.

Now the food cravings, how would I attend to those? Luckily for me, my cravings were fruit - as in give me all the fruit! I packed fresh fruit to keep in a cooler of my Jeep for before and after the adventure and packed dried fruits and kid’s squeeze pouches of fruit purees. And Electrolytes! Uncertain how to calculate how much more a pregnant body might need, I brought tablets to add to my water and electrolyte jelly beans. For dinners, I read carefully through the ingredient lists of freeze dried meals and only selected those with high amounts of protein and fiber. Then hydration - I made sure I could carry enough to super hydrate since I tend to need a ton of water in my regular body while hiking. I carried 2.5 liters in the bladder on my pack, another liter in a bottle and of course my water purifier. That was perfect!

The only part of the trip itinerary that needed to be modified for me was the hot springs. Since the temperature gets up super high, it’s unsafe to go in during pregnancy. The general rule of thumb is that if the water is hot enough to raise your body temperature, it’s too hot. So while warm baths around 98 degrees are okay, long soaks in hot springs and tubs can be dangerous.

Onward with adventure!

Our hike into the campground was incredible, but slow. The foliage was something of dreams! My pace on the other hand, not so dreamy. With all the weight on my back plus my body in overdrive creating a tiny human, hiking was much harder here than it was a few weeks ago in the San Juans empty-handed. It felt like my legs could only propel my body at half the pace. Fortunately, my friends had my back. I didn’t want to slow them down, but we also believe in never leaving anyone hiking alone. Each friend took a turn staying behind with me at my slower pace, stopping every 10-15 minutes for a break. Halfway up, I thought to myself, “Whose body is this?! How am I moving sooo slow?! Thank goodness my friends love me. Can I really do this?” Having an amazing wolfpack who supports you means everything - for me, this fortune equaled words of encouragement and support that kept me motivated, rather than turning around when I began to question my decision and doubt myself.

One good thing about a slower pace is there is more opportunity to take in the sounds, smells and scenery. My hypersensitive sense of smell was ridiculously amazing - every single scent of leaves, bark and earth was super intense and uniquely different than the last. Also, more photo opportunities! We snapped plenty of photos and had a blast doing so! However, this time around it took me an extra hour to complete.

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Once we got to camp, we all popped our tents, added a layer or two as the sun began to set and gathered around our jetboils to prepare dinner. It was right about then that I noticed myself taking on a chill so I grabbed my puffy coat, wool hat and added my capilene pants beneath my leggings. This is where things got rough.

 
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One of my favorite things in the world is sleeping in a tent, especially when I am bundled up and the air is cool. Tent camping is usually my best sleep ever! This time though, not so much. I made sure I was evenly snuggled into my sleeping bag liner, then my sleeping bag itself and rested flat onto my back atop an insulated sleeping pad. I’d slept outdoors in colder weather, yet this time I could feel the cold radiate upwards through my pad, sleeping bag, liner and layers and hug my entire backside. I laid for a bit hoping that I would warm up, but I couldn’t. So I turned to my side to sleep since there would be less surface area to chill me, but my hips would ache in tremendous pain - a pain I hadn’t felt before, after 15-20 minutes of resting and just before I could doze off. That pain quickly tricked down my arms and after a few tosses and turns, I noticed whatever side I rested on would go numb quickly. My body was having a difficult time maintaining it’s temperature and as a result, kept all of the blood flowing to my core, and to my growing baby.

The next morning we gathered by the lake to eat breakfast and within minutes I was in tears. I was so frustrated and exhausted from tossing, turning, freezing and experiencing numbness in my limbs throughout the night. I let my friends know that I was going to head back a day early because there was no way I could do another night like that. Not wanting to interrupt the group’s plan, I let them know I would still pick them up at the trailhead the following day. They refused...because that’s what friends do. As a group, everyone agreed we’d cut our trip a day short so that.

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After recounting my experiences side by side- nearly identical trips, gear and weather, but one trip in my regular body and the other in my pregnant body, I’m blown away by how different they were. After writing it all down, I sat on this post for nearly a month contemplating whether or not I should share for fear that I may scare some newly pregnant women away from embarking on adventure. But that’s also the problem! It’s scary to share our true stories sometimes, but so important we do to let others know they aren’t alone. I started off my pregnancy gung ho on a mission to let the world know that nothing can keep me from being me and certainly not from adventuring...ever. I was determined to live through action and push myself as hard as I could to prove a point. And that’s a really fair reaction to media and society constantly telling us that our pregnant bodies aren’t meant to adventure or be seen; that we’re meant to sit at home and nest.

Every body is different and has different needs and abilities. What’s most important is that we try! We try to be true to ourselves. We try to listen to our bodies. We try to see the lessons learned in every situation and make the modifications necessary to keep on exploring.

So here is what I learned:

What I did right…

  • I hydrated like crazy, acknowledged my nutritional needs and found ways to incorporate that into my packlist.

  • I packed lots of layers, enabling me to layer up or down as needed.

  • I communicated to my friends when I needed to slow down, when I needed support and when I needed to call it quits.

What I could have done differently…

  • Snuggled a friend for more body warmth. I was so in my head in those moments of freezing and numbness, that it didn’t even cross my mind to ask a friend to snuggle.

  • Talked to my midwife or wellness providers while I was in the planning process of this trip, once I knew I was pregnant. Good wellness providers will support your active lifestyle and encourage you to adventure, while also educating you about your changing body and what might need to be done differently.

Do I regret any of it?

Absolutely not!

Adventure on my preggo friends! If you have a story you’d like to share about your experiences with your bump on the trail, please reach out to me!

See you on the trail,

Dayna Del Mar

 
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Bump On The Trail: Hiking While Pregnant

After my revelation that I can do all the things—grow in my career, be an outdoorsy badass, launch a startup and in the near future become a mom—there was certainly nothing that was going to keep me from hitting the trail as often as I could.

Fascinated by the idea of a tiny peanut inside of me, I couldn’t help but daydream of holding my growing belly atop cliffs of the Columbia Gorge, staring into the depths of the forest and feeling the mist of waterfalls as I stood before them.

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Our three-day sea kayaking trip around the San Juan Islands and Jefferson Wilderness Backpacking trip were planned back in spring and nothing about my being pregnant was about to impact my intention to accomplish these; we simply had to re-think what some of that might look like in terms of preparing and packing. And did our adventure planning stop? Absolutely not! We planned a week of winter glamping packed with snowy adventures in Whistler and plotted out our hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing goals of the fall and winter.

Then the wheels really started turning...

I began to imagine how my wolfpack might grow and evolve. Who would be the faces of our new friends—the parents who we might raise our children with, specifically on the trail. How would I find them?

And then I thought about gear and clothing. In what ways would I need to modify my packlist? What types of clothing would I need to add? How would I figure out sizing since there are so many different body types and every woman’s pregnancy needs and weight gain can vary drastically from one another. Are there even brands that make maternity specific outdoor apparel? Or would i need to sleuth out the hacks that women before me have done to make adventuring with a bump on the trail possible?

Then finally, the big day! Not our baby’s birth day, but the day we bring her out into the outdoors to experience all that mother nature has to offer. What type of gear should I be researching for adventuring with a baby? What brands hold up well and can be bought second hand, and what might I prefer to buy new? What are the essentials for hiking with a baby or toddler? How will our packlist modify for camping and Airstream glamping?

Oh, and my wellness care. What types of questions should I be asking my midwife? Who can I ask for guidance around planning my adventures. Sure, nothing is going to stop this mama bear to be from adventure—but I should plan wisely, make sure that I am informed of what’s happening in my body and how that will impact my needs.

So. Many. Questions.

The thing is, the more I began to research, the more I realized that there wasn’t a ton of information out there. Sure, there are a handful of niche articles that gently brush the topic, you know that one article that checks the “we wrote something for pregnant women in the outdoors” box, now let’s move onto more interesting things. Yet, pregnancy is fascinating; I’ve never learned so much about my body and life as I have during these past several months! Sadly, I wasn’t having much luck in finding any one source take a deep dive on on the topic. Pregnancy occupies nine-ish months of our life. While this may seem relatively short to some, if you are an active and pregnant person it’s at this time you need to see articles that support and guide you through this deeply special, but wildly unknown time in your life. Pregnancy in itself is a huge chapter in a person’s life and how we treat ourselves during this time will have an everlasting impact on future chapters. And then there is postpartum: when we are with this sweet, new human in the world, we absolutely need resources and guidance to help us have confidence and learn the skills we will need to be the newest version of ourselves!

Pregnancy is often viewed and treated as an illness with symptoms. Society often says that women should take it easy during pregnancy, don’t overdo it, stay inside….stop doing anything fun and just sit and gestate. That advice is all all wrong! Yes, there are people who do need to take it easy during pregnancy, and things can indeed come up; in fact there were moments for me where I had to take a break or significantly scale down activity levels. But that doesn’t have to be the norm. If you’ve been active, you can continue being active and at some point modifications might need to be considered. We should be encouraged, not discouraged, to keep on adventuring with our baby bumps displayed in all their glory on the trail!

Walking while pregnant has tons of health benefits, so why not take that baby bump onto the trail for a hike:

  • Great way to get fresh air, improve your strength and get a good cardio workout

  • Relieves stress and gives your brain some time to decompress

  • Lowers blood pressure, which lowers the risk of pre-eclampsia

  • Regulates blood sugar levels, which decreases chances of gestational diabetes

  • Helps to maintain a healthy weight for both mom and baby

  • By keeping your blood flowing and hip and leg muscles toned and flexible, you can help alleviate some of the aches and pains of your growing and expanding body while also preparing your body for an easier and faster labor  

  • Exercise causes your body to release endorphins and it’s not just the mama who reaps the rewards of this—while her mood is boosted, those very same endorphins make their way to the baby stimulating healthy development, with the brain as the primary target, making them smarter.

Although I’m no expert in pregnancy, I realized that the best I can do to positively impact the wellness of others around me is to start the conversation. My advice and tips may not be perfect, but during my pregnancy I’ve had a ton of time to journey within. It’s not about acting in perfection; it’s about accepting our imperfection, waking up to the realizations of knowing that we don’t know what we don’t know and then having the courage to start doing the work, sharing our experience and owning our voice.

For me this meant this translated into two immediate actions:

  • Share my own experiences, including my research and recommendations

  • Shed more light on other amazing mamas with their bumps and babies on the trail

Stay tuned mama bears! Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing posts to touch on all the things I’ve mentioned above! If there is a topic you’d like to hear more about, or a person or organization you think needs to be highlighted, let us know send us an email! Additionally, I’ve created a instagram account, @bumponthetrail, to highlight women we can look to for inspiration to get us on the trail and keep us there, bumps and all, with the hashtag #bumponthetrail to be featured.

See you on the trail,

Dayna Del Mar


Bump on the Trail: Founding a Company and Having a Baby


I’ve always wanted to have children, but I never felt ready. In my mind, I’d have done, or tried to have done, something epic, something that could change the world—but I was never quite certain what that looked like. I wanted to feel like a role model for my children, with a story to share that would inspire them to pursue whatever calls them. At the same time, I felt that regardless of whether I was ready, I would be forced to choose from among of the following:

1. Continue to grow in my career

2. Live a life of travel and adventure

3. Be a mom.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was holding myself prisoner to this zero-sum idea that society and my upbringing instilled in me. Part of that, of course, has to do with the various bubbles I’ve existed within, including my privilege. But a bigger part of that is the public visibility of women who embrace their identities as woven together from many things.

Usually when we hear about or see motherhood in the media, it’s baby clothing and gear ads—a setting within the household, some chores, diaper-changing, bottle feeding (because god forbid we see a woman’s breasts)—you get the idea, it’s this image of a mom who is exclusively caring for her baby. It’s as though her entire identity is stripped, or at least put on hold, while she wears her mom hat. Rarely is she portrayed to have any outside interests, like somehow her degree is out the window, she only wears sweats and yoga pants, stops participating in social activities except for mommy-and-me classes, has no career or passion projects and certainly doesn’t climb mountains or travel abroad. She’s never just an ordinary woman doing mom things and other things—she’s either frazzled and disorganized, or she’s picture perfect with amazing hair, nails and makeup, is super fit with an exercise regime she performs in the home and blissfully cooks all of the meals for their family, sending her husband off with a packed lunch each morning.

I moved to Portland in 2013 for the outdoorsy adventures and a place where I could ground myself to focus on my career. By 2016 I was working in talent acquisition at a growing tech startup. It was only once I was immersed in tech that I began to see women in leadership roles who were also moms—directors, VPs and even CEOs. It was eye opening and reassuring to see that it could indeed be done. In 2018, I left my job to pursue PackDen full time. In the back of my mind, I thought, “Okay, let’s build our vision, launch it, fund it, grow it...and then we can think about starting a family.” That spring I attended a Mountain Chicks Retreat Weekend in Leavenworth and met with so many rad women and connected with about a dozen who were all pursuing a variety of passions in their lives—leadership career roles, photography, ambassador work, volunteer work and guess what ...almost all of them were moms! While I am slightly embarrassed to openly admit this, it just never occurred to me when I was I was getting to know all of these inspiring women that they could be moms too. But it turned out that nearly every single woman I connected with was a mom AND so many other things. One of my now dearest friends came from that very retreat!

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After a great weekend, there I was, driving home through the Cascades back to Portland, binging on the Women in Tech podcast while glowing with hope and possibility. For the first time ever, I realized and believed that I could be all of the things. I felt ready, finally!

In my mind it was all coming together...

  • Maintain the ability to continue growing in my career - I got this!

  • Keep on trekking—adventure far and wide, see the world - I got this, too!

  • Accomplish (or try to accomplish) something awesome: Pour my heart and soul into building PackDen - I’ve totally got this!

  • Become/Be a mom - deep breath...Okay, yes! I got this!

  • Do that happy dance, be me! Woo hoo! Throw them hands up in the air! Turn up Kesha’s song “Woman.” Yes!!! I’ve so got this!

  • ...but wait, put myself in a spotlight and raise scarce (to me) venture capital to launch our company? How the heck am I supposed to...who in their right mind would...am I freaking nuts? - The mantra goes silent and I’m now staring blankly into distance.

Who the heck am I to believe anyone in their right mind would fund a company led by a pregnant woman or first-time mom? I know myself to be highly ambitious and tenacious with an incredibly strong work ethic, but it feels like once seated at a table of investors pitching our vision, the moment that “mother” goes into that list, all of those other qualities become null. I am the co-founder and CEO of an early stage startup in tech and the outdoors. I must be crazy to believe that I can do all the things AND raise funding for PackDen. After all, according to Pitchbook: only 2.2% of tech startups lead solely by women get funded, and those investments tend to be significantly less than for startups led by men; 17% of startups with at least one woman founder get funded; and 11.3% of partners at venture capital firms are women. When it comes to the amount of women in C-Suite roles in the outdoor industry, it’s somewhere in the range of 10%-20% according to REI’s interview with DeAnn Buck, formerly of Camber Outdoors. Yet, women make up a whopping 46% of all outdoor participants according to The Outdoor Foundation!

I began opening up conversations around this idea with some friends and one day a friend shared an article by Techstars with me about the startup, Seed&Spark: “How raising a $2+M Seed Round really, actually went.” What made it unique was that the Founder and CEO, Emily Best, was fundraising during her pregnancy. Sure, she speaks about plenty of struggle along the journey, but all that I saw was an image of this strong, brave and badass woman with her baby bump on full display, making it happen. That visual will forever live in my mind because it was the first time I saw anything like it. I thought, if she can do this, so can I! And then I thought, why the heck aren’t we seeing more of this? Are we just a rare breed of crazies or does media hate seeing women with their bumps and babies out and about being their complex selves and pursuing dreams?

My worldview was shattered in the best way and reconstructed to now know and believe that I don’t need to choose between being any singular identity. With that realization, I turned to my partner and co-founder, Dana Maher, and said, “Let’s make a baby, like now!” He eagerly responded with a huge grin and a confident, “Yes!”  and a couple months later we were pregnant. We’re stoked to announce that our baby girl is due this April 2019!

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Was I nervous about the possible repercussions of this decision? Of course! But I thought back to the TiEXL Startup Bootcamp I attended (on scholarship) and remembered being inspired by one of the instructors, Paige Hendrix Buckner - Founder of Client Joy and The XXcelerate Fund, as she presented while just weeks away from giving birth to her first child, full baby bump on display. And then there was this fireside chat with a woman venture capitalist, Heidi Roizen, hosted by PDX Women in Tech and Silicon Valley Bank; I remember her joking about a request for an NDA signed by her child, since she often worked from home to manage parenting responsibilities while still crushing it in her career and being one of those rare 11.3% of female VCs. In October I attended Elevate Capital’s Inclusion Summit and felt more possibility than ever. For the first time, I saw a stage with six women who were partners or founders of venture capital firms on a mission to fund women and underrepresented minority lead startups specifically; I didn’t even know such a niche existed! There were panels on the power of investing in women and the impact of inclusivity, as well as plenty of stories told by women who were entrepreneurs...and moms. There they were—women leading by example and the timing of that visibility to me was impeccable.

It feels like now, more than ever, the world is changing rapidly and the spotlights are beginning to shine a little harder on folks who once never or rarely took the spotlight. I love this so much! The catch is, that not everyone has access to it, has role models to look up to, mentors to lean on or the resources to support it all. As we move forward into our beta launch this spring and then into fundraising, I am over the moon about the idea that I could potentially be a role model or source of inspiration to others, to believe that they can do anything.

See you on the trail,

Dayna Del Mar


My Most Impressive #TrailFails

My Most Impressive #TrailFails

It was mid-June in Oregon, and I was on Hike 25 of the #52HikeChallenge. A couple of weeks prior I had met a new friend, one of the first adventure buddies I had found since beginning my hiking adventure.

Kellie had moved to the PNW that spring, also for the promise of adventure — but next level! She came to Portland to train for a thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, an adventure of 2600 miles that can take six months.

Welcome to PackDen — Here’s What It’s All About

Welcome to PackDen — Here’s What It’s All About

My name is Dayna Del Mar, and I am the founder and CEO of PackDen. It feels funny to say that because, up until a year ago, never in a million years would I have imagined myself as a founder of a tech company. But my path to PackDen has been anything but ordinary.

Unlike most tech founders, I didn’t major in computer science or business, I didn’t graduate from high school when I was 14 and I don’t live in Silicon Valley. My resume looks a little bit different: