Monthly Archives: March 2014

antici … pation

24 days out

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” –  J.R.R. Tolkien

Anticipation has me packing and re-packing my trail bag. Looking up new and lighter alternatives, contemplating tearing sections of my sleeping pad off. Replacing covers for electronics with bubble wrap which I know I will just throw away. Anticipation has me filling up my water bottles and water reservoirs under the pretense of ‘washing them out’ and loading up my bag with all the items and food and water I expect to carry and exclaiming “when did my pack get heavy? !!!”. Anticipation has me pacing around my apartment, with my pack and gaiters on, making circles around my packed-up belongings trying to feel how it will be to go up a hill with the full load. Up a mountain — all the way up to Canada — for five months!

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This is what I do in the evenings.

In my anticipation I have my apartment packed up already. I bought five new duffle bags for my clothes and belongings. I needed new ones partially to replace the old and nearly worn through duffle bag my parents gave me years ago which had my initials embroidered on the side, black on black. The other bag I have used in many moves is my Navy sea bag, it developed a rip in the bottom at some point but still works, it has seen it’s share of airports, trunks, car roof travel and more. For some reason it makes me sad to see those old travel companions worn nearly to shreds, showing their age and me being more careful with them instead of just stuffing them full on the way out the door for another adventure.

All this anticipation, just waiting when you have everything ready that you can think of after a year of planning, of dreaming and finally you are on the cusp of that and like the slow clack of the roller coaster creeping up to the launch, you are with bated breath just waiting for the ride to start. In all my moves I have never had this much preparation, this much to worry about for small things going wrong like minor foot or leg injuries or screwing up my resupply and not having maps and socks or going hungry. Or, of hoping that I purchased the right gear after all that research and planning and weight considerations. What if I chose wrong? I also realize these are things that may happen, and I will be okay. I trust myself.

Right now it is like being in-between worlds, one I love and I am comfortable in and the new one steaming madly towards me built entirely of a powerful desire for adventure, and a savage thirst for life.

I am ready to go.

Getting to Campo via bus from El Cajon

28 days out

I just got off the phone with the SDMTS Rural bus information line. The lady said that I should not try to get on the bus via the multiple stops listed on the schedule on the site (It was not communicated 100% sure as to why) and that I should go to the transit center and catch the bus there. She also informed me to expressly not purchase a ticket from the machine but to pay $10 cash on the #894 bus to Campo.

Here is the official schedule.  And here is the google map version linked from the site. I was considering stay at the Travelodge there and then just catching the bus when it came by W. Douglas until I called them to verify. Additionally here is the PDF version of the route and timetable. I will provide an image version below for on a phone.

www.sdmts.com RouteFiles routes pdf 888.pdf

Additionally here is the trolley map from SDMTS. Now I am thinking I might change up where I was planning to stay and swap some things around. Originally I had wanted to stay downtown but I think that is less of a concern for me than making 100% sure I am on that 8:30am bus so I am looking into options for around there so I am thinking one of these.

 

The PCT plan, AKA ‘the schedule’

32 days out

A few of my friends and family have indicated they would like to meet up with me on the trail during my Pacific Crest Trail hike this year. So, you will need to know what is what and about what time I expect to be where (rough estimate). Today I was out buying my initial food and packages for my first resupply which I have to mail before I leave Venice.

Right now my apartment here in Venice beach looks something like I imagine what the back room of REI looks like. I have clothes and tents and bags and boxes everywhere mixed in with skateboards and bikes and hammocks and hiking poles and stuff sacks and now even food. I purchased a LOT of food which is currently being delivered from quite literally all over the United States to my parents house in Oregon. I am going to have them send out the resupply packages for California that I will need. And they will also be mailing out my bounce bucket for me. The idea is that I will have all my paper maps in my bucket and will keep mailing it ahead of myself in order to always have all my maps.

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Main meal purchases today for first part of the trip (initial ‘supply’ I leave the southern monument with.) and my first resupply at Warner Springs. 

My ‘plan’ for right before I am on trail is as follows:

  • Tuesday April 8th, I mail out my Warner Spring 4 day Resupply.
  • Friday April 11th, my last day of work and my going away party.
  • April 12th, I expect an epic day of soup and watching tv and recovery from my party.
  • April 13th toss my furniture, give it away etc. Have everything ready by this point.  This will be my last ‘real’ night in Venice, I intend to come out and have a couple beers with people but I need to be up bright and early.
  • April 14th pick up my rental SUV, load it up and drive north. (I already have it booked)
  • April 15th-April 20th I will be Oregon putting together my resupply and hanging with my parents and setting up the schedule. They will be sending out my resupply. I also need to mail my Big Bear 5 day resupply before the 19th.
  • April 22nd put away my cotton clothes, get in my hiker-trash gear and start driving south,
  • April 23rd, drop off my Rental SUV and hang out in San Diego in my hiker clothes and have a nice sleep in a very nice Hotel bed and get room service.
  • April 24th, very early I will be on a bus from El Cajon to Campo, I should arrive in Campo and set out about 10am.

So, lets look at roughly where I will be when I am on the trail. Here is my current “optimistic” spreadsheet schedule.  And here is an image of it as well.

Copy of PCT Schedule Tool

If you would like to meet up with me, first check the PCTA map and guidebook section and also note that I am on somewhat of a tight schedule, as it is a race to get to the end before the snows, so it would be better to not do huge sections.  One part that would be good would be the Mammoth -> Tuolumne Meadows section which is just under 40 miles, it is a great spot on the trail and there is an airport in Mammoth and you can get an easy bus from Tuolumne Meadows (it is the high point of Yosemite). The VVR->Mammoth would be another good option as VVR has shuttles and Mammoth has lots of transportation options. In Northern California I truncated a lot of the places from the resupply points list. Which I will be going through a town here and there every couple days in that section and buying food as I go.  I will be ‘around’ Lake Tahoe for 4th of July, which would be pretty awesome. I plan some time off in Ashland Oregon as I used to live there and want to hang out for a bit. Also, I intend to stop for a bit in Cascade Locks, and definitely will be hanging out in Leavenworth WA as I have been there before also. I intend a zero (day when you don’t hike) in Stehekin WA and also hopefully Leavenworth.

I would not suggest meeting me in the Oregon sections as I will be powering through Oregon, that is the flattest/fastest section of trail and I will more than likely be trying to make up time lost in Northern California. Additionally Washington in September could be really dicey depending on the weather (I read a blog by a hiker who referred to is as a ‘washing machine’) and if I am running late (I imagine I will be) I may not want to slow down as at this point I will be a walking machine in incredible shape and able to do some serious miles. However, the ‘Goat rocks wilderness’ is supposed to be one the prettiest sections of the trail.

So, the ‘best’ areas to meet me would be around Mammoth lakes and Yosemite (I won’t mind hanging out there and chilling out, I am bringing a fishing pole during this whole section). And then Northern California around Lake Tahoe is a good area as well as you can get on and off the trail easily, though I would research it because there is some large sections there which go through lava flows so there is sharp and loose rocks everywhere.

If you are really nuts, you can intercept the JMT at some of the lakes after the Whitney summit (not going to miss that) and we can hang and chill, though that is a pretty major time investment on your part.

Some plants along the PCT are not cool.

34 days out

A well founded fear of hiking is getting Poison Oak. Imagine you are stuck out in the wilderness covered in toxic rash and itch causing oils, no shower in sight, absolutely not an ideal situation to find yourself in. I am fairly familiar with them from living around them in Oregon, Washington and California though it has been a while so it is always good to brush up and remember “leaves of three, let them be” (or ‘leaves of three, f**king flee’). If you took ‘Fish and wildlife’ classes in high school in Oregon you are taught a lot about how to identify these and how to stop these from spreading, on your body in case you fall into some.

Here is a handy chart identification guide for Poison Oak, Poison Sumac and Poison Ivy.  The best treatment for these is a product called Zanfel which is expensive but worth it, mostly because it works ‘in the field’. I am lucky in that I react very mildly to these, though the danger comes if you get the oils on your hand and rub an eye or other soft area (I speak from experience here, as a kid I had to go to the emergency room because of a quick bathroom trip into a huge patch of Poison Oak I didn’t realize was Poison Oak).

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The other fear on the PCT, is a burn-following toxic plant called Poodledog Bush found in Southern California which can cause severe reactions in people, blistering skin and horrible rashes. You don’t want to touch this stuff and trail closures will happen if this is growing all over. It is oddly exceedingly pretty to look at though, the flowers look similar to digitalis, though are double-belled.

Later on down the PCT we will be running into a plant I am deeply familiar with, Stinging Nettles. These can be alarming if you are not used to them, but I have found that I don’t really mind the sting much and a couple summers ago purposefully strung my hammock on trees in a huge patch of them, wearing shorts. Some people DO react badly to them, so always good to avoid them if you don’t know or cannot resist itching.

If you run across me on the PCT and have poison oak or poison ivy, I decided that I will have some Zanfel in my kit.

The other thing I have added is instead of my regular mosquito headnet, I decided to go with a full ‘bug jacket‘ instead. I like my sanity and this seems to be a major theme for a lot of hikers who have gone before me, they complain very very little, except about one thing , bar none they ALL complain about mosquitoes.

so … this trip will include food (resupply)

39 days out

Food for the Pacific Crest Trail is a major thing, major. I have not personally experienced it but hiker-hunger is supposed to turn you into a food gobbling machine who can only think about ice cream and hamburgers. Apparently I can look forward to a lot of daydreaming about food so, I decided to take food, and my resupply, pretty seriously. Some hikers mail themselves all their food and get a resupply at every stop, while some only resupply at towns. Either way has it’s advantages and disadvantages. If you mail all your food you might get sick of what you mailed and that is not fun. If you only resupply in towns you may get stuck eating whatever is left over at gas stations, or having to hitchhike many miles out of your way for resupply. I am choosing a hybrid method, I will be mailing to specific spots where there are not good grocery stores or known resupply, or where resupply is prohibitively expensive. Towns which have services I will be just spending money there and doing my resupply as a I go. This way I have figured out I will be sending a total of about eight resupply boxes from the start and will create and mail more from the trail as needed.

21QYCgtkCcL._SY100_My spoon. Chosen for length, so you can get to the bottom of peanut butter jars.

In my resupplies I will be needing to put in shoes, I am going with the shoe that seems to be tried and true and everyone’s favorite, I also have been wearing a pair for a couple months now off and on and agree that the Brooks shoe, the Cascadia is awesome. I have purchased two pairs which I will be mailing myself every 500 miles of the trail.

51TbtIO4+GL._SY100_Resupply coffee. The coffee I chose is Starbucks Via, just add hot water.

Two resupplies will be for later parts of the trail. One to Ashland Oregon and another to Cascade Locks Oregon, each one will be mostly for sending maps and in each of these towns I will be making and sending out my resupply ahead. Oregon resupply from Ashland and then ones for Washington from Cascade locks. The reasoning behind this is that a lot can happen between then and now and I would not want to be stuck with food I won’t be sending out. I will be purchasing and mailing to myself more shoes at the Ashland point as well, as if I am injured or taken out with illness then I don’t want to have a pile of new shoes reminding me.

Notably the most important resupply for me will be the one I do at Kennedy Meadows. Kennedy Meadows is the entry point for the Sierra and where just about everyone mails their bear canister as some kind of canister is required going forward from this point for quite a while. K.M. is also where you start to need things like micro-spikes and/or an Ice axe. Personally, I see having sure footing as a better option than having an ice axe as an ice axe is for ‘self arrest’, or stopping yourself while sliding down snowy/icy inclines. Microspikes (link below) are for not sliding down in the first place.

I will be mailing myself stuff in a five gallon plastic bucket to Kennedy Meadows, which will also be acting as what is referred to as a ‘Bounce box’, as what I will be doing is sort of ‘bouncing’ this bucket, via the USPS, ahead of myself with various stuff in it (Later it will be useful to mail away my bear canister and other items I decide I don’t need) . The reason for it being in a plastic bucket is because cardboard boxes are not rodent proof (a problem in some smaller post offices where PCT hikers send lots of food) and it will not break down like a box will after repeated mailings and taping open and shut.

The Sierra is where mosquitoes rule, so I will need to bring a head-net for them, it is also where I should start packing some lightweight rain gear.

Amazon sells the bucket and the top separately. So here is what this resupply will look like. All images are links to Amazon where I bought them.

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The BV500 Bear Canister will fit inside the bucket with room for other stuff along the side.

Inside the canister will be some of the following (I will be supplementing with others I purchase up in Oregon).

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The mashed potatoes I picked three different ones, Loaded, Smoked bacon and four cheese. Additionally dried fruit and Parmesan cheese in each resupply for flavor and variety.

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I also found these energy gels in Rei and of all of them, these were the ones missing and the clerk said they are awesome and people like them, so I will toss in three for each box.

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The one thing here I am not getting on amazon is olive oil, I am going to have to try to find small bottles of olive oil as I go, or bounce it in my bounce box, in order to add calories to the food. It is hard to find olive oil in small bottles and it does not store well in plastic as the taste can get very bad.

Obviously I will be getting other things like nuts (“trail mix” is not my thing so I need to be creative here) and whatnot. Basically, I am going to get all my flat-rate boxes, sort all this stuff  listed here into each and then go and pick up some things at the grocery store to round them out, crackers, string cheese, peanut butter and so forth. This list is what I am able to round up online without visually seeing and feeling the weight of it all to know how big the packages are and if they will fit right. This is about as good as I can do without being in a store.

Still so much to do and I really only have a few weeks to get this all wrapped up.

Busy busy.

Final piece of gear, the zpacks down sleeping bag

Well, my final piece of gear came in today. It is my custom sleeping bag by the awesome ultralight gear company zpacks.

This is what it looks like and weighs in at a whopping 16.7oz in it’s cuban fiber stuffsack. The down is hydrophobic and the bag itself is water resistant. For the weight, it really cannot be beat.

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It is, as you would expect, one of my core pieces of gear as part of my ‘primary’ or ‘The big three’ (sleep-system, tent, backpack) and is one of my best weight savings without any sacrifice in usability. My big three is 5.98lbs (that 0.02lbs counts!). I could shave off some weight by getting a different pack, but it would not be a lot, I could also shave nearly a pound with my tent, though I picked my tent for specific reasons and it is still considered very light weight. I may however hack off a couple sections of my z-lite pad.

Popping it open you see that is has a draw-string near the top to cinch it up, there is also a zipper-clasp so you don’t mess up the zipper.

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I wish I had got a picture of the guys at my work throwing it up in the air and watching that it actually had a ‘slowish’ fall, yea, it is that light.

The tag is thankfully at the base and is small and unobtrusive., but has a hang-loop (when being stored you want to hang your down bags loose and not in sacks so the down stays good, If anything you can use a large pillow case so they stay fluffed up)

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This is the large size, I am 6’0″ and this fits perfectly.

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So the question is: “did you climb in it? And, how was it?”

Yep, I did, I wanted to make sure the fit was right and see how it felt considering that this will be keeping me warm for almost half of this year. For how it was, it is super comfortable, I was impressed. Down has an interesting thing that it does. When you get into a down jacket, pants, etc — or in this case — a down sleeping bag, it can be a little flat still and not really all fluffed up on it’s own. However ,after a time being next to your body the down reacts to your body heat and starts to loft up. The more it lofts the more it insulates and thus the ‘warmer’ it is. When you get into this bag, looking at it is odd because at first it is sort of normal and then it slowly looks like you are this big caterpillar of green fluff and the thickness is pretty astounding.  I stayed in it for I guess about ten minutes and got out because I was getting sleepy.

I have no doubts this will keep me warm on the PCT, especially combined with my liner and other clothes. The only thing I am a little worried about is that being so light it feels almost like you are about to rip it just pulling it up around you. I worry that you must take a lot of extra pains and care to make sure it stays in good shape and so I will need to be treating this like my baby the whole way. Though. with all the ultralight gear I have, I have noticed this trend with each one that you need to take extra care with the gear because many times ‘light’ means it is also fragile.

Here it is in the stuffsack, for size-comparison I put it next to my ULA pack, BV500 and a jetboil sol

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I am probably going to keep the stuffsack and not use an eVent compression sack for this just because I want to guarantee that I keep the down in good shape.

Word of advice: If you decide that you are going to buy items from zpacks or any of the other small custom ultralight gear providers please note that the four months before April is their busiest time of the year, I would suggest getting in an order in November or December to get a jump on the season. This particular bag took over six weeks to get to me. I contacted them and they nicely let me know that they were having problems getting down. Which is partly also do with the fact that every other supplier of down products is also having a very bustling time in the pre-hike gear buying season.

USPS issues and stress

(UPDATE: I was informed by the Pacific Crest Trail coordinator at the border processing centre that they had received my priority mail today, it took over a month to get there.)

Last week I had to resend my Canada entry permit because the $20 mail I sent from the USPS here never arrived after weeks (It also has not been returned). So, on the suggestion of the nice people in the Canada permit processing centre I mailed it ‘regular’ 1st class for $1.15 which apparently they always seem to get. So now, thanks to the USPS I have copies of my passport *and* my drivers license floating around ‘somewhere’ in the mail system. Awesome.  I really don’t get it, I choose that method and paid to ‘ensure’ that the mail is delivered properly and promptly and it is the one method that seems to guarantee that it is not delivered.  I will be calling them up again here on Wednesday to see if they got this latest round. This should all be do-able via online forms, it is ridiculous to have to physically send things like these through the mail.

Fellow PCT thru-hikers: When you are doing this, the guy said that he has a one-day turn around on each one, so these should be quick. If you sent yours in and have not heard back after a few weeks you may want to consider calling them.

Related note, my zpacks bag has finally been shipped, apparently there was an issue getting a down shipment (really) and so that slowed things up by these many weeks now.

Preparing for this trip is giving me ulcers, I swear I wish everything was automated and I didn’t have to deal with people.

So, I needed a nice pick-me-up.

Because I am moving out I will be tossing a lot of my hoodies I have collected over the years here in Venice and decided I would replace the majority of them with one bomb-proof hoodie from American Giant. Supposed to be the best hoodie ever made.

We will see, with my luck the order will be lost by the USPS.