From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our quarterly excursions are opportunities for men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Winter 2019: D&T Grind

On January 24th, 2019, nine men and nine women will head into
the mountains of Santa Cruz for three days and thirty miles of cold and grit. This is their story.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Training Hike #1: Sitton Peak

What has oak trees, yucca, black and white sage, cool rocks and goes about 3000 feet high?

Hmmm? Guesses?


The hike you weren't on, that's what.

Unless your name happens to be Brother Omar or Sister Randa. Or as they shall forever be dubbed: Wildomar and his Womanzanita!

(oh, please. in my use of "his" i am not implying that women are things to be possessed. except perhaps by supernatural things like jinn. but that applies to both sexes. i'm not implying that Omar is a jinn, either. they belong to each other, yo, joined as they are in holy bondage. fifty shades of matrimony, baby. maybe if you actually went on training hikes and burned off your frustrations you wouldn't feel the need to obsess over my use of the masculine possessive. stop it.)

I'll get to how these two got their nicknames a little later. We need to start at the beginning.

They were late.

But I waited. Like a gentleman.

They told me the night before that they were bringing their son. He's 10 years old, "he's a pretty good hiker masha'Allah!" That's what the email said, all cheery.

The hike to Sitton Peak is 10 miles round-trip. The little guy would have to hike one mile for every year he's been alive. I considered having Child Protective Services meet us at the trailhead, but then I remembered: these two still owe me money.

Justice would have to wait.

They pulled up in a cute little hybrid sedan. Brother Omar was all smiles. Actually, he never stopped smiling. We hung out for six hours. Same smile. So disconcerting.

Sister Randa made sure everybody had their bags, snacks, sweaters, hats, sunscreen, grapes, water, socks, hand sanitizer, a clear sense of purpose without any hidden agendas, cookies, and sandwiches (in your choice of cream cheese or peanut butter).

I needed to pick up a parking pass. Brother Omar and Sister Randa already had their National All-Access Elite Recreational Wilderness Stormtroopers License in hand. Even so, Brother Omar came with me, smiling. While we were there we picked up a couple of maps and learned about what kind of weed the locals smoke.

With that, we were ready to start out. I threw one of those 2.5 gallon water containers in my pack:

It's a nice, cuboid shape that fills up the pack pretty well and goes a bit over twenty pounds. I really don't want to carry more than that on our trip if I can help it. And if I got tired and miserable I figured I could just empty the water.

We started our hike. Their son took off running up the trail and the three of us got into some lovely, animated conversation. The miles passed real nice, I must say. It was a gorgeous day, still a bit cool and damp from the rains a couple of days back. Clouds, trees, and stone would occasionally blot out the sun and it would become suddenly cold. Then you would round an exposed bend and the light would come streaming in to warm you right up.

We had approximately five miles to the peak. We planned to take in the views and have our lunch before heading back down, and that's pretty well how it went. The last quarter mile to the top had some scrambling and I had to stop frequently to catch my breath. The little guy was fine, bounding and leaping all over the mountain, yelling for us to catch up or look over here or I gotta pee.

There's a register at the top, a bundle of papers in a plastic bag stuffed into a tin can. You can pull out the papers and read what other people wrote. You can leave your own note. That's pretty fun.

We could actually see the parking lot from where we were. It seemed really far. And it was. We had hiked five miles! Which really left us with no choice but to commit to the five miles back.

That's when I started to feel the hike. Little things started to tell on me. I kept stubbing my toe, a sign that I was tired and not picking my feet up. My shoulders were getting sore. I could feel fatigue creeping into my lower back. My hips . . .

I don't have hips. But that general area where one might expect hips, that place ached.

And as we put on more of these descending miles, I felt a chafing at the bottom of my feet and, most alarming, a little twinge in my right knee.

I have a bad left knee. Skateboarding mishap. I was thirteen and trying to be awesome, but I've never been awesome so THAT was doomed and I popped a ligament.

I didn't want to tell my mom so I didn't and I just sort of limped around until she realized I was broken and took me to the hospital where they put a brace on me and scheduled me for an MRI but we had suck insurance so that didn't happen until forever and by the time they got a look they said it couldn't be repaired so just make sure you've got good quads.

I don't have good quads, so sometimes my left knee buckles. But my right knee is fine.

Or I thought it was until I got those little twinges.

But here's what I think and this is why training is important: I think I've got tight ligaments. I think I need to do some stretching. I don't typically do 10 miles of uneven terrain with 20 pounds on my back. I need to loosen up and maybe do a little more core training to take the load off my back.

And I might want a new pack. I thought I would be fine with the one I have, but those long miles with weight really start to tell you what adjustments need to be made. I think something that held the load a little higher and closer to my body would have been more comfortable.

Anyway, we all made it. The kid grumbled a bit, but he was fine and in high spirits at the end of it all.

The nicknames . . .

There's a mountain shrub called manzanita. It's super sexy, and when we were going downhill things would sometimes get a little slippery. That's when Sister Randa would reach out for a bush to stabilize herself and call out, "I need a man . . . zanita!!!!" Brother Omar would smile.

And once we got back to the trail head, Sister Randa noticed a large map with an area marked "Wildomar." So that's what she called her husband. I thought that was pretty clever.

I may be sending out an invite for another training hike this weekend. Whether I do or don't, make sure that you are getting your trail time in. It really is an education.

But also keep in mind that even a 10 year-old will step up if circumstances require it.

You're loved. Pray for each other and for the success of our time together. We'll talk about clothes next time.

And don't forget to follow Dust and Tribe on Instagram!


  1. Ahmed, how long did the 10 miles take (time)?

    1. Salam Waqar!

      We were hiking for about six hours total. Part of that time was lunch. As a larger group in January, I would anticipate our pace to be considerably more slow. Which means wearing our packs longer and that's no fun.

      But with some training and determination, we might be able to meet or even exceed that pace! That would be rad.

  2. What a journey. I love the honesty in how you felt and I can already tell Randa and I are going to get along great. Anyone who grabs a Manzanita and makes a pun like that is my homie. Automatically.
    I have lots of puns Randa. We might be dangerous together. In fact. We could start bribing the rest of the group to start holding heavy things from our packs in order for us to stop with the puns. This could get ugly.

    No, but in all seriousness, yes hiking with a heavy pack uphill for 2 miles feels like doing a flat 8 mile hike. Its a lot of determination and willpower. I like to pace myself a lot and go slow. I like to make lots of stops to look at bugs and trees and light streaming through trees.

    The neat part of all this is that somehow, the barakah in hiking with a group alleviates some of the pain and lightens the load. Its so beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing! I will be planning a conditioning hike end of december iA. Ill send an email out to the group if anyone wants to join!

    1. I'm ALREADY groaning just THINKING about the puns . . .

  3. Well written article Ahmed. With a lot of good tip. You are a good tale weaver. Looking forward to the trip