Two years off trail, wow…

It looks like this years batch of PCT hikers have all finished the trail and I have been talking with friends who are going to be hiking next year. The Class of 2017 Facebook groups have been set up, people are joining the roster and talking about start dates. They are making their lists, weighing packs and doing test hikes. Exciting stuff, and I have two good friends/ex-coworkers who will be hiking next year.

To follow up on my last post on this blog, I did go down to Costa Rica but ended up coming back to LA in a rather massive change of plans and life adjustment (see below). I’m still at the same company and just wrote an extensive article there on creating robust application in the cloud. Life is going very well.

This year in April I volunteered up at Hiker Heaven during the busiest time and really enjoyed myself driving people around and walking people through the wonder that truly makes the Saufley’s house a “Hiker Heaven”. I intend to back up there again next spring with my new four-door Jeep (I’ll take off the doors) driving people around.

In other news, I have a baby boy on the way, he will be coming into the world on or near March 10th, and will be named “Indiana” and I could not be more excited and ready for anything in my life. His arrival is going to curtail any long-distance hiking I had been considering and put a lot of that on hold. But, I am okay with smaller hikes for now, and once he is older I can get him out there hiking with me.

I still have been hiking often here in Southern California, just this last week I did the 8.4 mile hike to ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’ in 3 hours (with a stop for food) which is actually an improvement on my PCT standard hiking speed. Previous to that I have out on the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica mountains and have done the various loops out there, 4m, 6.2, 7.8 and so on. I have a bunch of hikes in planning, Cucamonga peak trail, California riding trail, and PCT sections and loops I want to do. So, I am still out there quite a bit.

Every day I still think about some of the things you learn on the trail, the lessons, the changes that it made it me, the challenges and the victories, both small and large. If you do the PCT, and I could not recommend more that someone do something like the PCT,  it will change your life for the better and you will never ever, not even once, regret it.

I may be making a move, late next year, to outside of Atlanta–it is looking like that is the plan anyway. I will be there at the base of the AT, so I will be section hiking that trail and will need to find opportunities to trail angel out there as well.

For those of your who didn’t know, one of my hiking buddies ‘Kokopelli’ died this last year, he was something else and really was great to talk to on the trail, you can see him featured on the Do More With Less video in a few spots. This video is WELL worth your time to watch I saw these guys filming all over the trail that year, glad to see the finished product.

Happy trails.

-Room Service

One year, a retrospective of sorts.

One year after the PCT I have been watching the current class posting their finish pictures and noticing that PCT friends are all a little bit more nostalgic about their finish pictures and I see some rumblings about ‘doing it again’ which may be in the cards for me down the road.

I have given a lot of thought to the PCT over the last year.

I bike 12.5 miles in to work most days (~25 miles/day total), when it rains I Uber in, but I like to bike in as much as possible. This morning, and most mornings, biking in and having random people who will half kill themselves in the heat to get in front of you when on the bikepath and I got to thinking about the PCT saying “Hike your own hike (HYOY)” and how cyclists could use to practice it as well. The idea is that you set your own pace and don’t go at another persons pace, you choose your zeroes (days off), you are out there for you, not for anyone else. Sure there is some give and take but if you need to hike out, hike out, nobody will fault you. It is an important idea to learn because ultimately if you hike at a pace set by someone else you could get injured and end up off the trail. In life, I could see this as not letting your life be dictated by the life needs of another person, especially if you have different life goals.

The more I think of it, the more I feel like the PCT is a perfect little compact metaphor for life. You start out with a fence behind you with all this equipment you have to learn to use as you go and you have your missteps and trials. There is heartbreak, love, joy, sweat, pain, fear. You endure unbearable heat, freezing cold, thirst, hunger, confusion, uncertainty … everything. All this while being tired and hurting — and you love every second of all of it. At the beginning you have all these trail angels leaving water, cokes and food (magic) out for you at key points, you have easy hitches and scheduled rides, you have places to stay and everyone is supportive. Once you ‘graduate’ and make to the Sierra that ends and you are suddenly alone, you are carrying an extra burden (the damn can), you find you miss the trail magic and the support, but the scenery is glorious, obviously Oregon, with it’s easy tread and pace, would be the middle years and the Goat Rock wilderness and the winter of Canada being the ending.

The thing with the PCT as life metaphor is that you know all the time, every day on the trail, that you are running against a clock and if you don’t make it to Canada before winter you will not finish the trail, your adventure cut short. In life this is something I always try to remind myself of, to live life like I have a cab outside with the meter running, to not slip into the comfortable now and keep going around those corners until I know what is at the end, if there is an end. If you think you know what is around the next corner, hike a long trail, you will quickly understand that you really don’t.

Another lesson I learned was that when you hiking a trail and that trail goes over a mountain, you gotta just buck up and take it on. If you don’t hike that mountain today, then it is still there, in your way, tomorrow and it will never move for you. This is obviously a life challenge thing, it is something I learned when I quit smoking (which was a rough experience for me) and that nobody will do for you what you won’t for yourself.

The kindness of strangers is a beautiful thing, my faith in humanity was restored hiking the trail and I wish I could go back and shake the hand of every person who gave me a ride. Who kept telling us we were inspirational to them and kept giving us encouraging remarks and their good will (and green apples and coke). The trail angels in particular make the trail what it is and if you have read my last post you know I am very upset about the issue that came up earlier this year. For those of you hiking this year (2015) and for years to come, when you are hiking through Agua Dulce know that you are missing out on the absolute best trail angel experience on the trail now because of it. it was sadly entirely preventable, though, how the trail is another will spring up.

All that said, at the end of the day, it is about the people, and the experience would have been very lonely had I not met all the intense and amazing people I met, who I am still friends with.

With all those thoughts bouncing around the last year, I realized my time here in LA is coming to a close, I was just passing time here and I even got what I would consider the perfect ‘office’ job, the job where it not a ridiculous amount of work, where I work with the best people I could pick for a team doing what they do, where the environment is exactly what it should be.  I quit that job, am on my last month in my apartment and am moving my life onto the road with another job, that I think might be better. It has one thing I need, it is mobile only, there is no ‘office’.

Where I am going?

I will be starting out working in Costa Rica, bouncing around to various co-work spaces in surrounding countries like Panama and Nicaragua and then back here to the U.S. for the holidays before heading out to Bali for a couple months, after that perhaps a stop in South Africa, I was looking at Lisbon, going back to Chiang Mai … who knows, I will turn that corner when I get to it.

(quick draft, may need some edits)

Do not buy Yogi’s guidebook and probably skip K.O. too.

I am going through and updating any posts I might have made in favor of using Yogi’s guidebook. I had previously considered a lot of my issues with the books more of a HYOH issue, but now after personally witnessing some online interactions I have come to the conclusion that this person is more harmful and destructive to the culture around the trail than helpful and I cannot in good conscience continue to support that kind of person, especially as she is branching out her guidebook business to other trails like the CDT and the AT.

Then there is my personal experience with the guidebooks.

From what I saw, her guidebook was dead wrong about almost every town and steered a lot of hikers astray (some in rather funny ways, but thankfully not dangerous ones), additionally I heard numerous first-hand reports that she refuses to take updates from the field (I.e. you can be standing in front of something that is obviously wrong/incorrect and it will not be amended or corrected in the guidebook for future hikers) which is a pretty major problem if you want an up to date experience. The one thing I did end up carrying and not throwing away was the pink cards that come in the guidebook packet, however I even witnessed misinformation in those which I would not be surprised if it was still wrong.

If you need a guide, right now your best option is actually having a smartphone and then paper maps as a backup. I used the Guthook app and Google for everything I needed, and was fine, I only looked at the guidebook pages if I was really bored. Save yourself the weight, you will be carrying a phone and maps anyway. My idea was that I kept my phone in airplane mode most of the time and would flip it on a few times per day to check things and it worked great. This is what everyone pretty much ends up doing. My main reason for choosing the Guthook app was the campsite images, that way you could look at where you want to camp in the morning and then coordinate with your hiking partners.

The second note here is that you could probably skip the K.O. (Kick Off) as it is almost entirely a format to sell you things at this point, and/or party. It is really more of a reunion for the prior years hikers than new hiker information. The main reason for going as a new hiker would be to meet people, which is a positive, but you are going to meet people on the trail anyway so why stop for days right at the start to be crammed in with other hikers. Also another thing to keep in mind is that the K.O. creates “the” HUGE bottleneck and “herd” on the trail which means the entire section to, at least, Kennedy Meadows has huge packs of hikers that overwhelm the small towns near the trail, and deplete the water caches and trail magic left out for hikers. Perhaps the main focus of K.O. is the water report, and that is what nearly everyone was concerned with, this is entirely available online and the PCTHYOH app will keep a cached version. Also, you can find these printed out and up to date all along the trail. The main thing I got out of K.O. was new tent stakes for my tent, really.

For Lake Morena campground/K.O. You will be hiking through the park anyway, stop at the nice little store down the street and get a burger and some resupply and carry on. If you really want to experience K.O. then start earlier and hitch back to it and then forward again after it is done, though you would probably want to start a couple weeks early if you do this route.

The PCT is losing a lot of it’s trail angels this year, trail angels that I was planning to be volunteering and taking time off of for work and paying for car rentals to help. (I was just looking over dates and was deciding where to angel or help angel along the trail near where I live) It makes it a lot easier to help hikers if they are not all crammed together. Something that the trails angels in the southern section did was to kind of hold back the tide, so to speak, and evened out the herd created by K.O.. Now they are gone thanks to in-fighting in the PCT community on the online forums.

post trail depression is real, my post trail life update

This is for those of you still hiking or just ending your hikes.

I would like to discuss something which is well known, post-hike depression and what it means to someone after a hike and what it can do to you, the hiker, when you get off trail and have to face the real world again.

I would like to start by saying “I am fine.” Last year I am aware that one hiker killed himself after hiking the trail and another died in what may have been a suicide. I am not ‘that’ kind of depressed. Long ago in another life I was indeed ‘that’ kind of depressed and I realized that there is plenty of time for non-life later, I have too much living to do while I am indeed actually alive. So please do not worry about that.

That said.

When you get off the trail you are going to be lost, entirely and hopelessly lost. You are going to struggle with basic things, like dealing with the bank, family, looking for an apartment and everything else will seem pointless and complex, either moving too fast or too slow. You are going to dread work and feel like like the idea of an ‘interview’ is absurd. You will struggle to feel something, anything.

Anything at all…


That is ‘real’ depression stuff as say, a manic depressive would feel. It is the empty nothingness of eternity, the inability to feel a thing, to sustain yourself with energy to draw breath and get up. It is slowly bleeding out in front of all the people you love during a dinner party you are hosting, but not caring that it is happening, and them not noticing a thing because you keep on smiling and serving food.

That is the danger of depression, it likes the dark places, it needs them in fact.

Post-hike depression is your body chemistry going through the same things that seriously mentally sick people go through, I think it should give you some compassion for their plight if anything. It is going from walking twelve hours per day in an endorphin fog and being this mountaintop cloud-dancing-amazing-being to suddenly crashing back to earth bloody with your wings clipped and the jackals circling you for money.

In other words; it sucks.

When I first got off the trail at mile 1334 I was very very sick, I had to sit in a chair for almost two weeks without really moving and walking up stairs would leave me out of breath. It was not a good end to an amazing experience and I desperately wanted back on the trail. It was not going to happen though because it literally took about six weeks for me to recover. I am doubtful I am recovered fully here at seven weeks out, though I am biking around and feel better and am putting weight back on.

It really sucked.

I found an apartment in Marina del Rey, after living on a close friends generous couch in my old home of Venice for a few weeks. I was so anxious to find a place and a job that I broke out in hives. I was that nervous.

When I got my new place I put everything away and have color-coded almost everything because I didn’t know what else to do with all this stuff I had, I realized I have too many things now, or it feels like I do. I was feeling neurotic and anxious, I was feeling tired. My closet however is perfect and clean and my house is in order as it never has been. There is no mess.

You have to watch your food consumption after the trail, I can see it is easy to put on a lot of weight by eating like we did on the trail and your body will try to stash it away because of the calorie burn it is used to.

You will get weird reminders of the trail, things like the smell of wood smoke will take you right back or walking the aisle of a grocery store and passing the drink mixes will have you remembering all the stores you hunted for Gatorade powder. The drink aisle are in a similar way to how you react to the pet aisle after your animal is no longer with you, you still have the urge to reach out and look for something they might like, a toy or a treat and then you feel sad and wistful and rush on.

As in all depressions you need to make yourself go out and socialize, you cannot be a recluse or it will get worse. You just need to plow through it.

I have been interviewing and have some great job prospects, but I am still nervous about that ‘step’ back to life, that finalization of having the lease and now the job with the insurance and the 401k and career prospects and yadda yadda etc — who cares.

My suggestion is to run, run and run and run. When you finish the trail start running and don’t stop and stay in shape. Plan another hike, I am already plotting a second attempt for a couple years out, I made it ~1334 miles the first time, I can best that. If you can take time for yourself and ease into life, don’t go crazy and dive back in or it could really cause an adverse reaction, if I tried what I am doing now right off the bat I would be curled up in a ball unable to move.  It would have backfired.

The trail life is so radically different from regular life that you need to take time going back in.

Take care of yourself, you deserve it.

I miss the trail and I miss you all out there, I am eagerly following along and waiting for your pictures at the northern monument. I’ll admit I am a little jealous as well, I was supposed to be there with you.

-Room Service

gear review update.

I updated my gear page with reviews and some explanation on what worked and what didn’t. Some stuff I got rid of almost immediately and others I carried for the entire time I was on trail.

Next up I need to do a full PCT page listing all the entries fror the PCT 2014 attempt and add in all the videos now that I have them all uploaded.

I also have some of these animated gifs I made while on the trail that I need to figure out what to do with.


[off trail] – calling it a scratch

July 30th

I have had time where I should have had enough to start feeling better and at this point I am still feeling exhausted and sick. I have taken medicine for a week, some powerful ulcer medication, but it has only made minor improvements to how I feel.

I am still waking up exhausted and feel like I may need ‘at least’ another week so, I hate saying this but I need to call it a scratch at this point and will need to section hike other parts at some other point in time later down the line.

I lost enough weight and seem to have left myself vulnerable to sickness. I came down with some poison oak on my leg several days after going off trail which I didn’t get on the trail even though I know I brushed it with my legs and arms. I have a cold of some kind of mild flu which seems to keep going and could be part of why I feel like crap.

It sucks, it really sucks, but I am okay with it, there is no way I can go back out like this and so there is really not any options for me for hiking now.

What can you do?

Tomorrow I pick up a rental car and am going to do a bit of travel around and will see PCT friends in Ashland and will be available to give rides around town (REI) starting on Friday afternoon.

I will be updating my posts with tons of videos and will be going through to proof and add in more information on each one, also I will be adding an index for this hike and will be updating my gear list which radically changed from what I initially brought with me and it should be noted that many of those items I discarded, some failed and some were replaced or duplicated.

I will make posts about it obviously.

[off trail] – healing up, itching to be back

July 25th

I am itching to be back on trail but I am still very wiped out. The plan as it is now is that this next Wednesday, July 30th or even the 31st, I am going to see about getting back to Ashland and wait there for some friends to show up and have a rental car to help drive them around. Then if (and only if) I am feeling 100% I will rejoin them on the trail and continue from Ashland, after Canada I will return and complete the missed section southbound. This is to keep my Canada entry time roughly correct and avoid the snow which I could not do with this time off trail for a major health issue.

Currently at my parents house here in Oregon trying to recuperate with medicine for my ulcer(s) and lots of food. Was feeling like I was getting soft or something and so walked to the next town over today (about eight miles) with no pack and then promptly realized I had made a mistake in thinking I was good to take a long walk, I am still am not there yet, not close, though I got to see some friends so that was good.

It is entirely possible that I will not be up to going back out on trail in time and I am prepared to accept that possibility — with a lot of cursing, but accept it I will — so I do not put myself at any further risk. This is my least desired outcome and I am really hoping to be healed up and good to go next week.

Either way I am going to do some angeling in Ashland and will be giving people rides next week. If I can’t be back on trail then some trail magic will happen at the highway!