Opening Statement

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden


Monday, July 17, 2017

PCT 11 - Low Mountain Ranges - Castella to Etna - 98 PCT miles



Crossing Interstate 5, the PCT climbs from Castella at just under 2,000 feet to a high traverse of the Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness areas.  While the trail mostly stays between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, the mountains except for Lassen and Shasta are only slightly higher.  In a sense these are low mountains, but have much of the drama that we find in the high Sierra.

I left Castella at about 5:30 in the afternoon,  just hiking up away from the Interstate to a beautiful stream crossing where I made camp with a few other hikers.  The next day was demanding, with over 6,000 feet of climbing over 24 miles.  The day after the trail was much flatter, making for faster hiking, and I logged 27 miles, my longest day so far.  These big days put me ahead of my hiking schedule,  but also tired me out.  The next two days I was slower and finally getting to the Etna Summit trailhead was a relief.

In this section I enjoyed hiking along with 8 other hikers who were hiking similar miles per day, although all at a faster pace than I  hike.  Grim, Akuna, Mello, and Rubber Ball gave me the trail name Lickity Split  because I take short breaks, and then I am gone down the trail.  Grim also noted that there is also a reverse meaning in it since my hiking pace is so slow.  Sort of like calling a really tall person "Tiny."  If this makes no sense to you, you have not yet internalized the random logic of trail names.  Spatula,  Lucky Charms, and Bang Bang thought "The Nutty Professor " would be a good fit because of my squirrel puppet, which is another good opportunity for a leap of logic.  For the moment, I am going with Lickity Split.

Etna is one of those extremely small towns that still manages to have everything a hiker needs.  Thus includes a good burger shack, and a hiker-friendly B&B with one side of the property called the hiker hut.  The hiker hut has a shower, laundry, common room, WiFi,  and an area to pitch tents.  Oh and did I mention a brewery?   Not essential,  but Etna has it's own too.

I will likely take a rest day tomorrow to recharge, and be back hiking on Wednesday.

Photos for this section are here:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/EcUAmPQQsGFozip53

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PCT 10 - Forest in Earnest - Burney to Castella - 89 PCT miles


From Burney the trail entered the forest, with occasional glimpses through the trees of Mt. Lassen, then Mt. Shasta and eventually Castle Crags.

This was a section with a lot of ups and downs, with one day including over 6,000 feet of climbing, but also with a lot of shade to moderate the summer heat.  I found myself doing slightly over 20 mile days, which is about the pace that I want to be on right now.

One of my daughters asked what I think about while hiking, and I'm afraid that the answer isn't impressive.   Basically I'm just experiencing the trail and being in nature.  Few deep thoughts are racing through my mind.  I generally hike without listening to anything in the morning,  and listen to audio books, podcasts, or music for a few hours in the afternoon.  I finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in this section.  After I make camp, I might read a bit, but I  usually go to sleep after a few pages.

There are still a lot of wonderful wildflowers, and it's nice to see some of the same people at breaks who are hiking at about the same pace that I am.

Here are the photos for this section.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/eiJg5vlrvJCxIe2v2

Also, I was able to post the photos for the previous section and have updated that entry with a link to them.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

PCT 9 - Snow Melt Blooms - Quincy / LaPorte Road to Burney - 175 PCT miles


Back on trail after a short visit home.  Due to continuing high snow in the Sierras, most thru hikers had to skip north, at least temporarily.   After finishing the desert section, I got back on trail at the Quincy / LaPorte road, which allowed me to bypass all but about 1/2 mile of snow hiking.

Although I didn't plan it this way, my timing also put me on trail right after the snow melt.  So, I was treated to an explosion of wildflowers similar to the superbloom in the desert.  It was fantastic summer hiking with warm to hot days and mild nights.

Hiking this section, it's striking both how clear the air is, and how slow the Internet is when you can get any connection at all.  This is my first hike where electronics were important, and it's strange to have to have to juggle charging devices and finding a network occasionally with the much more primal aspects of hiking.

Notable this section:

Since I'm now hiking north, I'm in a small "bubble" of other hikers travelling at about the same speed, which makes for a more social experience.

I listened to the first Harry Potter book, and was instantly hooked.

The streams in the Lassen National Forest were full and cascading down waterfalls.  I had to wade across one after searching and not finding any dry crossing.

Hiking through Lassen National Park included walking over a lot of old lava, and the scenery was beautiful.

I ran into my trail friend Trek Ever, and we had a good visit.

Here are the pictures for this section.
 https://photos.app.goo.gl/8fvjAQ0C53UjA1Al1

Monday, June 19, 2017

PCT 8 - Cruising and Climbing - Big Bear to Idyllwild - 87 PCT miles

Coon Creek Historic Cabins

This was the section where I finally felt like my "hiking legs" had returned, bringing to mind a quotation from "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," "just like thread unwinding from a spool, I want the past to become present."  In a sense, this is a hike backward through time, as day by day I hike off accumulated stress (and fat) and my fitness returns to a level that I once could take almost for granted.  Right now my fitness is similar to what I remember in my 40's.  That works out to about one year for every 50 miles hiked, so at that rate I'll have the energy of a two year old by the end of the summer.

View from the Top of Mt. San Jacinto

The big event of this section was the climb from my camp spot in the desert at the base of Mt. San Jacinto at an elevation of 1,730 feet to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto at an elevation of 10,833 feet.  Worrying that I might get caught in the heat, I started the climb at 5 AM, carrying five liters of water against a 20 mile stretch to the next reliable water source.  My timing was good since by the time the day got hot on the desert floor, I was already above 5,000 feet and enjoying cooler weather.  I camped at 8,350 feet, for a net increase of 6,620 feet that day, and hiked on to the summit the next morning.  For comparison, the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado river has an elevation change of 4,380, so my first-day climb covered over 50% more elevation increase.  I was tired, but felt satisfied that I could cover that much elevation in a day.

Cool Weather Again up on Mt. San Jacinto

My first night into this section I made it to the Coon Creek historic cabins and was the sole visitor that night.  The San Gorgonio Wilderness was very beautiful and still had plenty of water, making it even more enjoyable.  It was also interesting to pass by the exotic animal cages of the Predators in Action company, although a bit sad as well since these animals have limited space to live in.

With my hike down Devil's Slide trail into Idyllwild, I've now completed the trail between Campo at the Mexican Border and the Kennedy Meadows Campground at mile 704.  I saw very few Northbound hikers in the last few days, and was also the only camper at the State Park campground in Idyllwild.  A friend that lives nearby came to Idyllwild to pick me up, and I went back home via Amtrak.

My plan is to get back on trail at mile 1232.33, which means temporarily skipping over the Sierras and hiking at lower elevations for awhile due to the snow.

Here's a link to the photos for this section:  https://goo.gl/photos/5kdCVMbTYonojwe9A

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

PCT 7 - Baking and Soaking - Cajon Junction to Big Bear -76 PCT miles


Deep Creek Hot Spring

Hiking into the deep creek drainage, the trail has little shade, and many hikers try to find an overhanging boulder to wait out the hottest hours of the day.  Even though I knew it was close, there was an exotic and fantastical transition as the trail dipped down to the water and surrounding  shade from nearby trees.  It felt like a different reality.  I stripped down and both swam in the river and joined the bathers for a few minutes in one of the hot pools.

This 76 mile section was my return to the trail after an 18 day rest due to knee pain.  I was eager to be back on trail, and found the miles easier than expected.  Although this section was hot, there was also relatively good access to water, so it wasn't as difficult as some parts of the Mojave.

Hiking Southbound has opened a window into the different types of hikers on the trail.  When I was near Kennedy Meadows, I met some of the fastest and fittest hikers on the trail, while now it's more of an average group, with even a few slow hikers thrown into the mix.

Since I stopped carrying a dedicated camera, these pictures are all from my smartphone :  https://goo.gl/photos/wRy2uPF1NSR78mn96

Saturday, June 3, 2017

PCT 6.1 - Back to the trail!

After two weeks off trail my knee started to feel much better, and I booked an Amtrak ticket to Victorville, just 18 miles from where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses I-15 near Cajon Pass.  I'm enjoying a rumbling ride on the rails right now.  Tomorrow I should be back on the PCT.  If all goes well, my next update will be five days later from Big Bear Lake.

Thanks for the moral support.   I appreciated the messages and encouragement.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

PCT 6 - Wobbling and Preservation - Wrightwood to Cajon Pass - 27 PCT miles

Falling Snow Climbing out of Wrightwood

Leaving my ride at Inspiration Point above Wrightwood, I climbed into heavily falling snow, with visibility of 100 feet.  Within a minute another hiker came down the trail saying that he was going back to Wrightwood due to the conditions.  My plan was to hike south through the Angeles Forest until I got over into the next drainage, which would start around the border into the San Bernardino Forest.  For the next five hours I hiked through falling snow and graupel, passing many hikers going into Wrightwood who had been surprised to wake up that morning with snow on their tent.  Almost exactly on plan, less than a minute after passing the San Bernardino Forest sign I felt a welcome gust of warmer air and minutes later I was hiking on dry trail again.

Burn Zone
Part of this section runs through one of the more desolate burn zones I had encountered so far.  When you combine desert conditions, tree die-off due to beetle infestation, and a hot fire, the landscape can become dystopian.  I was just around this point in the trail when a 20-something hiker came bopping up the trail listening to music.  She popped out her earphones long enough to excitedly tell me that "THIS IS MY FAVORITE SECTION SO FAR!!!!!!"  PCT hikers have the most upbeat outward attitude of any people I have ever met.

On the morning of my second day in this section I realized that even my most positive attitude would not be enough to make my knees stop hurting.  After hiking over 500 miles I was experiencing consistent inflammation and pain, and decided that I should take a trail break of at least a week to let my knees recover.  Thankfully my wife Christine agreed to bring me home for a break the next day.  While I was still able to hike through 15 miles that day, it required a slow pace and I finished off the last of my aspirin.  I'm currently at home as I write this post, but expect to be back on the trail in less than two weeks.

Trains Coming Through Just Before the Freeway Crossing
Just before reaching the Cajon Pass freeway crossing the trail goes both over and under an extremely active rail route.  The combination of the mountain landscape and the rail lines reminds me of the early development of the Western states.  Even today there is something calm and inspiring in the movement of these enormous trains through the landscape.

Here is a link to my photos for this section:
https://goo.gl/photos/sY4BRXTt9VMRgnfB7

Sunday, May 14, 2017

PCT5 - Humility and Determination - Casa de Luna to Wrightwood - 108 PCT miles


I was stopped for water at a fire station and chatting with another hiker. We were both alarmed to see another hiker stumble in sideways with a severe limp. His knees were giving out. We helped him to the fire station where he could make arrangements to end his hike and fly home.

Somewhere around 300 miles into the PCT, overuse injuries start taking their toll on many hikers.

Around Acton my own routine started to include regular doses of aspirin, and I'm currently laid up for two days in Wrightwood to allow my shin and knee to quiet down. On the trail this is often referred to as taking Vitamin I due to the popularity of ibuprofen.

On the plus side, Wrightwood is a delightful small town and the weather is perfect right now.  Wrightwood also has the reputation with many hikers as the most hiker-friendly town on the entire trail.

This begins with friendly people, and extends to being small enough that everything is within walking distance.

Leaving Casa de Luna headed South, the trail goes through some mountain desert and arrives at Agua Dulce after about 39 miles, where the Saufleys have created a hiker compound on their property called "Hiker Heaven," which is only slightly tongue in cheek.

I stayed two nights, delaying my departure partly because of an unseasonable storm that dusted the local mountains with snow.  On the second night, the compound was crowded with tents as hikers had rushed off the mountain to get lower to avoid the storm.

The next day, I hiked through the famous Vazquez Rocks then pushed on to Acton and camped at the KOA with some trail friends. This stop had a slightly bizarre twist as a thunderstorm had most of us in the break room where the KOA was screening first Jurassic Park and then Guardians of the Galaxy, adding a science fiction gloss to our trail experience.

Speed Hikers Tim and Freckles 
Over the next 75 miles my creaky knees and sore feet became more pronounced, and other hikers came flying down the trail much faster than my own pace. The reality sank in that while I may be a reasonably strong casual hiker, in comparison to the athletes of the PCT, I'm slow and clumsy.  This realization was a humbling one. Thank goodness for my squirrel puppet,  who keeps me from taking it all too seriously.

Mt. Baden-Powell was the last big climb before Wrightwood, and it was my first PCT section on snow.  I must have looked pretty tired as I finished the day.

After my break here in Wrightwood I will be pushing further South.  Here is a link to the photos for this section:  https://goo.gl/photos/vs55HcrQYT6DHQoH7

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PCT 4 - Reunions and Windmills - Tehachapi to Casa de Luna - 88 PCT miles

Reunion with Trail Friends

After a month on the trail, my decision to flip up to Kennedy Meadows and hike South put me back in touch with some of the hikers that I had first met near the start of the trail.  It has been fun to catch up.  Everyone has been losing weight, which has been interesting to notice too.

Surreal Landscape

Coming southbound out of Tehachapi,  the trail goes quickly uphill into an enormous wind farm.  There was also an advisory in effect due to even higher than normal winds--it was extreme.   Hiking while surrounded by enormous wind turbines adds a low roar from the nearest turbines, and a surreal aspect as the turbines add a factory sense to an otherwise natural landscape.

Walking the Aquaduct

Coming down from the wind farm there was a very dry section that paradoxically shared an easement with a huge pipe filled with water for the LA aquaduct.  Toward the end of the day I found a side road and pitched my tent.  The flat desert had no tall plant cover, but I was so remote from anywhere that I  thought privacy would not be an issue.  Just at the critical moment in my evening toilet, four quads roared by, unavoidably receiving a full moon from yours truly.

At Casa de Luna 

Also in this section I made stops at Hikertown, which has a Wild West theme, and Casa de Luna,  which bills itself as hipie day care.  More on these stops in the photo album for this section:  https://goo.gl/photos/PJvvoP7yxQugTCsQ8

Thursday, April 27, 2017

PCT 3 - Sand, Wind, and Bird Song - Walker Pass to Tehachapi - 85 PCT miles

McIvers Cabin

The first night I spent at the McIvers cabin, one of only a few shelters on the PCT.  It appears to be primarily used by hunters, but I had it to myself, along with a bubbling stream.

On my third day into this section I got on the trail early, bundled up against the cold and strong wind, which was more a jumble of gusts than anything more organized.   Rushing past my clothing, the wind took over my senses.  In that seemingly barren desert, I was aware only of wind, sand, and a few struggling shrubs and stubby Joshua trees.  Then as the day lightened, as though on a separate soundtrack, the birds started to sing, and I was reminded again that "Nature is never spent," and there is no part of this trail untouched by beauty.

This was one of the more challenging  sections that I have hiked so far, with 13,484 feet of elevation gain and 14,862 feet of elevation loss.  In other words you are either going up or down 90 percent of the time.  It was also very windy, with gusts of up to 40 mph, which is strong enough to make most hikers weave like drunks.

Roadrunner 

There weren't too many people on this section of the trail yet.  It seemed to me that it was mostly the ultralight superfast hikers, with trail names like Roadrunner, and the super strong outdoors people with more substantial gear, who nevertheless exuded complete ease and carried trail names like Happy Feet and Breeze.  I was again able to provide plenty of contrast to these athletes, as I am still building up my hiking stamina and speed.

Trail Gorillas Bill and Gerry

On the second day I met some of the Trail Gorillas, which is the volunteer group that maintains the first 704 miles of the trail.  For example, this group clears trees that have fallen across the trail and fixes areas that have washed out due to storms.  Without the Trail Gorillas and the other volunteer groups, the PCT might not even be able to survive, because the maintenance needs of such a long trail are staggering.   Pick-Axe-Pete asked me to send the location and diameter for every downed tree I found and I came up with a list of 68 trees in the next 50 miles.  He replied quickly that he would add my list to their database and they would be deleted as they were cleared up.

On the third night, I had pitched my tent at Landers Camp and was joined about an hour later by another solo hiker, Lost Lori, who confided that she had discovered that she disliked camping alone.  We hiked together for the remainder of the section and it was a nice contrast to my usual solitude.

Arriving at the junction of the PCT with Highway 58 I was amazed and delighted to find a photocopied list of trail angels who would give rides into Tehachapi.   After only a few calls, a woman named Patty agreed to pick us up, took us to the post office, and then dropped me at my hotel.  At times the PCT community feels magical, and this sense is only heightened by sore feet.

Here is a link to the photos from this section https://goo.gl/photos/ggBNfpiYRoXud9jt7

Friday, April 21, 2017

PCT 2 - Solitude and Storms - Kennedy Meadows to Walker Pass - 52 PCT miles



On April 17th Christine drove me from San Diego, where we had spent the weekend with our friend Mary Heany, to Kennedy Meadows, where I was going to get back on the trail.

Kennedy Meadows is a campground located way back in the mountains east of Bakersfield, California. We drove a winding 22 miles from the nearest big road to reach the campground and the PCT, which runs right through it.

From Kennedy Meadows I headed south into an enormous rock basin. Based on the trail register, I did not expect to see anyone else.  Being the only hiker in such a vast landscape made a profound sense of privilege settle on the experience.

The first night I camped next to Manter Creek, which bubbled pleasantly. Next morning, the play of light on the clouds was fantastic.

I had not done a good job of venting my tent, so the top quarter of my sleeping bag was wet, but it would take too long to dry in the cool morning, so I packed it damp.

The second day was a long haul of 17+ miles to a campsite at mile 676, which is situated on a saddle, in a perfect position to be buffeted by strong winds.

The beautiful morning clouds rained on me for two hours, then I hiked through chilling winds for most of the day. There were about 80 downed trees blocking the trail, which slowed down my hike.  According to the Forest Service, multiple drought years combined with beetle infestations have caused a massive die off.


Despite having the right gear, I didn't stay warm and ended up exhausted, cold, and pitching my tent in high winds. It took two hours for my body heat to dry out my sleeping bag. I felt far from being a gnarly backpacker as I paid for my sloppy decision to put it away wet.

Day three was a reminder of how amazing it can be to be in the mountains while a storm system is passing through. When I woke up my tent was crusted in frost. I got off to an early start and continued down the trail in both my vest and jacket due to the cold.

After an hour I heard a shout from down the trail and soon met up with Andy, possibly the first hiker reaching this point from the south in 2017. He had started hiking in February, which is very early. With his steel-tipped, hand-carved walking staff, work boots, and corn-cob pipe, he seemed both unconventional and completely at home with himself.

Later, I enjoyed visiting with fellow PCT hiker Playdoh (real name Dana), and crossed paths with another hiker steaming up the trail who didn't even break stride as he raced by me.

That night I camped at Joshua Tree Spring, which was a very pleasant oasis in the desert.

Day four started off cold, with a brisk wind and near-freezing temperatures that kept me bundled up. I made it out to Highway 178 at 1:45 pm and got a ride into Lake Isabela exactly an hour later from a very pleasant Swiss couple who were in California on a road trip.

I'm now at the Lake Isabela Hotel, planning a return to the trail tomorrow.

Here is a link to the photo albumn for this section. https://goo.gl/photos/68pe4MX2iTBNYe6r5

Friday, April 14, 2017

PCT 1 - Super Bloom - Campo to Paradise Valley Cafe - 152 PCT miles

The Desert was in Bloom

After a brief stop at our friend Mary Heany's house, my wife Christine drove me to the Southern Monument and trailhead at Campo, California.  Beginning the trail was exciting, and after a few quick snaps and a hug, I was off, lumbering down the trail with my 49 pound pack.  My objective for the day was to make it to Hauser Creek, 15 miles in.

Setting off from the Southern Terminus

It was hard to remember that we were in the desert with so many flowers, and frequent small streams crossing the trail.   Every few minutes I had to stop to photograph a flower or colorful vista.

It wasn't long before I discovered my status as the slowest hiker on the PCT.  Gee, I was just looking at the flowers!  At the end of the day it was satisfying to stumble into Hauser Creek at 5:30 in the evening, tired but elated.  Several people commented in a friendly way that just possibly my pack could be a little lighter.  The good-natured commentary went up a notch when I struggled to remove a massive bear canister from my pack, and realized that I was the only person at the campsite that had thought it might be a good idea to start off with a bear canister.

Phyllis and Georgie Starting a Rare Equestrian Thru-Hike


Over the next 152 miles, I enjoyed the straightforward names of the places that I camped.  I've included the PCT mile points and off-trail mileage to give you an idea of the distances.  My shortest day was about 5 miles, and the longest was 20.

Hauser Creek - (15.4) - 15.4 hiked
Lake Morena - (20.2) - 4.8 hiked
Fred Canyon - (32.0) - 11.8 hiked
Mount Laguna - (41.5) 0.8 off - 10.3 hiked
Sunrise Trailhead - (59.5) 1.5 off - 19.5 hiked
Stage Coach RV Park, near Sissors Crossing - (77.3) 0.6 off - 18.4 hiked
3rd Pipe Gate - (91.2) 4.3 off - 18.2 hiked
Mountain Valley Resort, near Barrel Springs - (101.2) - 10.0 hiked
Agua Caliente Creek - (114.7) - 13.5 hiked
Trailside - (134.8) - 20.1 hiked
Paradise Valley Cafe, then by car to Carlsbad for a break - (151.9) 1.0 off - 18.1 hiked

Sunrise Trailhead Earns it's Name
A few impressions:

Superbloom - So many plants were flowering that it was like walking through a garden.  I have an album for this section that will give you an idea:  PCT 1 photo album

The Trail - Incredibly well graded, built, and maintained.  I was wondering how people could hike 20 mile days, and surprised myself by hiking a few long days in the first two weeks.  This would only be possible on such a well-built trail.

People - Hikers, "trail angels," and business owners all have an upbeat positive attitude, and "no whining" is an unwritten trail rule.  Next would be, "hike your own hike," which means refrain from giving unasked-for advice.  Everyone is there because they want to be there, and is also entitled to learn from their own choices.

Meeting up with Wookie at the Paradise Valley Cafe

I'll update this blog when I get a chance.  Please let me know if you have comments.  I hope to see you out on the trail!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mud Yoga - yoga on the trail, even in the mud

Warrior II pose on the trail in Utah (that's not me in the photo)

Even if you have a regular yoga practice, it can be hard to keep it up when you are on the trail, especially if you typically include floor poses in your practice.

Below is my 18-minute practice composed entirely of standing poses.  These are focused mostly on spinal flexibility.  It would also be good to add the dancer poses if your boots aren't too muddy.

Hold each pose for 15 to 20 seconds:

Mud Yoga
Mountain
Standing side stretch: left
Standing side stretch: right
Standing supported backbend
Rag doll
Awkward pose
Standing extended big toe:  left
Warrior III: left
Standing extended big toe:  right
Warrior III: right
Chair
Chair prayer twist: left
Chair prayer twist: right
Standing backbend
Standing forward bend
Standing forward bend twist: left
Standing forward bend twist: right
Warrior I: left
Warrior II: left
Reverse warrior: left
Triangle left
Warrior I: right
Warrior II: right
Reverse warrior: right
Triangle right
Eagle: left
Eagle: right
Standing forward bend with yoga lock
Eagle: left
Eagle: right
Goddess
One legged squat: left
One legged squat: right
Wide squat
Wide squat twist: left
Wide squat twist: right
High lunge: left
Runners lunge: left
Extended side angle - beginner: left
Pyramid: left
Revolved triangle: left
High lunge: right
Runners lunge: right
Extended side angle - beginner: right
Pyramid: right
Revolved triangle: right
Wide-leg standing forward bend head to knee: left
Wide leg standing forward bend head to knee: right
Standing backbend
Standing forward bend with yoga lock
Standing backbend
Standing side stretch: left
Standing side stretch: right
Wide squat
Rag doll
Mountain

If you have the Yoga Studio app on your smartphone, you should be able to download the practice file from the link below, and then email it to yourself, and then open it from the email on your smartphone.  If you know how to do this more easily, please let me know.

Mud Yoga Practice 18 min - open from Yoga Studio App

If you have other favorite standing poses, please let me know.

Here are some additional stretches for hip and shoulder flexibility that Dr. Darryl Jackson recommended for me to use on the trail.



photo credit:  Warrior II - a4gpa via flickr (cc) https://flic.kr/p/5kvAUd

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why hike the Pacific Crest Trail?

Training Hike - Wildcat Canyon Regional Park - Mezue Trail looking NE
On my training hikes, and as I prepare logistics for the trail, my mind comes back again and again to the question, "why are you doing this hike?"

Why? That simple, single syllable carries with it an entire world view.  It demands a reason that makes sense. A reason that is productive. A reason that is efficient.

Making sense and being productive and efficient are useful concepts for understanding part of life. They help us be practical and effective. But not all of life can fall under the spell of goals and achievement.

While we think we dance to the tune of rationality, research on decision making tells us that we spin right or left based on our emotions—deeper impulses that can't be expressed easily in words.

I love the outdoors, and who doesn't love an adventure?  But, for me the deeper, resonant reason to hike is captured in this stanza from Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As Kingfishers Catch Fire (excerpt)

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Less poetically, the reason for hiking the PCT is to be myself most fully, to express my own inner life and nature through this outer action. And, perhaps equally to enrich my understanding and experience of life, or as a friend advised "channel your inner Reese Witherspoon," referring to her portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in "Wild."

Why?  To be myself.

After that, there are many simpler reasons:
  • The exhilaration of being in wilderness, especially at high elevations
  • The excitement of an adventure
  • The fitness resulting from 8+ hours a day of hiking
  • The knowledge gained of the trail, towns, and backpacking
  • The enjoyment of audio books on my "to read" list
Finally, I needed a good reason to retire.  After 33 years at one company I had a good professional position, had many good relationships, and could easily have continued there for several more years.  I needed a compelling reason to make a change, something more engaging than the daily challenges in a large company, and hiking the PCT gave me just the right motivation.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Rough Hiking Plan

Chinook Pass at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Here is my (very) rough hiking plan.  In short:

  • Starting on April 1, 2017 at the Mexican border, hiking north to Kennedy Meadows
  • then skipping ahead to Dunsmuir, CA and hiking south back to Kennedy Meadows
  • then going back up to Dunsmuir and hiking north to Canada, arriving at the end of September
You could call this a spin or blender hike since it involves two changes of direction.  The reason for hiking south form Dunsmuir is to reduce the amount of hiking through deep snow and on snow slopes, as this kind of hiking can be dicey with problem knees.  I may have to adjust the route and schedule further due to above-normal snow levels this year.


Photo Credit:  David Fulmer via Flickr (cc) link: https://flic.kr/p/otvqMj

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Poetry and Hiking

Glockenblume

Poems have a different music from ordinary language
C.K. Williams

On the trail you have time to think, and while hiking you can turn over in your mind a poem that you are trying to understand better, or work on memorizing a poem that you love.  One of my favorites:

Here

Uncanny to realize one was here, so much
came before the awareness of being here.

Then to suspect your place here was yours only
because no one else wanted or would have it.

A site, a setting, and you the matter to fill it,
though you guessed it could never be filled.

Therefore, as much as a presence, you were a problem,
a task; insoluble, so optional, so illicit.

Then the first understanding: that you
yourself were the difficult thing to be done.

C.K. Williams


At this link you can see some of  My Favorite Poetry on Google Drive.

photo credit:  die.tine, (cc) via https://flic.kr/p/538GXw

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Dreams

Backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, July 2016

In early 2016 I started thinking about thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  The idea grew on me until it simply seemed obvious that I should try it.  I'll start on April 1, 2017.

The reasons for taking a long hike can't possibly stand up to the sheer craziness of it.  It probably comes down to personality.  Based on conversations with friends, either the idea of hiking for five months either makes you jealous, or it seems insane.  For me, being in the mountains is both exhilarating and satisfying.

FAQ's

The whole trail?  I'm planning with the idea of hiking the whole trail in one season, but it's not my purpose for the hike.  If I have to break up the trip over more than one season, that would be OK too.

Hiking alone?   I expect to meet people on the trail, and a few people have said that they will hike with me for a week.  My wife plans to meet me along the trail every month or so.

How much weight?  Loaded for the trail, my backpack weighs about 40 pounds.  I'm not myself too "ultralight" as you can see in the picture, and I hope to lose a few pounds along the way.

Any worries?  Knees more than bears.  Deep snow this season may make some sections tricky.

How can I find out more about the PCT?  Google the PCT and you will find a huge amount of information.  Some resources that I can recommend:

The official source of information:  Pacific Crest Trail Association
A YouTube video of one person's hike:  Dundee Hikes the PCT
A book about a couple's experience hiking the PCT:  Hikertrash: Life on the Pacific Crest Trail
Cheryl Strayed's bestseller  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail