Saved by the Bicycle

The next post was supposed to be my first draft of the PCT equipment list followed by the first draft of the resupply locations with mileage.  These tasks seem to be endlessly time consuming and refuse to settle to a reasonable conclusion.  I will continue to labor on these until I have something publishable.  In the mean time, here is the latest progress on my physical preparation.

I’m currently residing at Caballo Lake State Park and will do so until Wednesday (Christmas day), where I will move back to Elephant Butte State park for the next allotted two weeks.  Next weekend, I intend to hop in my car with my bike and hiking gear to visit friends and family in San Diego.  The visit duration should only be 2-3 days, and then back home to NM.

As previously mentioned, my knees are being unduly uncooperative negating any hiking without  significant post hike pain.  Last Friday, I saw a doctor who specializes in sports medicine in Las Cruces.  $450 later, he prescribed stretching my hamstrings several times a day, along with the icing, ibuprofen and bicycling that I have already been doing.  I guess this was good news, as I don’t seem to have anything that requires surgery or long term rehabilitation.  I don’t even need to see a physical therapist.  In the continuing effort to lose weight and improve my conditioning, I’ve stepped up the bicycle riding intensity.  My riding schedule started as 30 miles every other day but the last two rides have been over 40 miles, which will continue for a couple more rides, when the bar will rise to 50 miles on alternate days.  How far can I take this?  Who knows?  Presently, it’s the only real exercise I’m getting so I must make the best of it.  On the alternate days, I plan to add short, easy hikes with increasing intensity over time.  If the knees get worse, I’ll scale back a little until I can do it pain free.

The Rio Grande River

There are two directions that I can travel by bicycle; north and south.  Northbound is three times more hilly than southbound and quite challenging.  I alternate between the two.  The cycling plan has hardly gone effortlessly.  There are several dogs in the northbound direction that meet me on the road and chase me at speeds approaching 25 mph!  Every time this happens my adrenaline rockets up to full fight or flight levels and leaves me cursing the dogs most enthusiastically.  It seems my best solution to this problem is to fill their snouts with a good burst of pepper spray, but I can’t seem to find my canister and the local Walmart doesn’t stock it.  There are no sporting goods stores around so I’m left with mail order.  Amazon is my favorite online store and today I placed an order, but, unfortunately, mail has to take a round about path to get to me as it has to go to my mail service in Texas and is held until I give them the go ahead to ship, what they have accumulated to me, general delivery.  It may be a couple weeks before I receive anything, and until then, I must keep my cycling schedule on track, so I face the dogs unarmed.  I do have a small canned air horn that is loud enough to put your hearing into a coma for a few minutes.  I may give that a try in the short term.

My return to hiking started today with a fairly gentle two mile stroll near the lake with three other fellow motorhome comrades.  My knees had no trouble with that so next time (day after tomorrow) I will up it by a mile or two.  Aside from lots of stretching, the key seems to be walk slowly with a short stride.  The long stride works the hamstring the hardest and is probably why I developed the knee pain, as up until lately, I have emphasized walking at a brisk pace.  During the PCT hike, I’ll need to average roughly 25 miles a day through mountains.  My pace will need to be quite fast to achieve this rate.  One short term strategy that I may employ is to drop the hiking boots and switch to my minimalist trail sneakers.  These have no heal cushion requiring a stride without heal strikes, meaning step flat or on the front of the foot.  This naturally shortens the stride, putting less stress on the hamstrings.  At some point, the boots must return as I need the long stride to complete high daily mileage on the trail.  But that can wait until my hamstrings are stretched enough and the knee pain is alleviated.

The other fitness indicator is weight.  My weight should naturally come off as the workout intensity increases.  The current rate is about 1 lb per week, which is too slow as there are about 16-17 weeks before starting the hike and my goal is to lose about 37 lbs by then.  So far I’ve dropped about 13 lbs in 8 weeks.  Upping the pace to 2 lbs per week will get me close to my goal of losing 50 lbs before the hike.  With the increases in both cycling and hiking, this may be achievable.  Dieting hard would take away from my training, making it psychologically more difficult to maintain the workout schedule.  The emphasis is on exercise fitness rather than weight, as I can still hike overweight but I can’t complete the hike if my fitness is poor.

A month or two should see some overnight hikes, which will work into multi-day hikes at the end of February and all of March.  Multi-day hikes in New Mexico won’t be the same as on the PCT as I will be quite alone hiking in the winter.  Running into anyone else on these trips is unlikely as it is off season.  Also, the weather will be much colder, so I’ll be packing differently.  Lastly, I will feel the need to protect myself against animals when out in the wilderness alone, far from civilization.  So, what do I do?   I have a can of bear spray that hopefully will do the job.  This will be my first line of defense in any dangerous animal encounter.  But, I have heard of bear spray canisters that failed to fire.  That would be a dire situation indeed if surrounded by a pack of wolves or a mean and hungry bear, or several mean and hungry bears.

I have a 45 cal pistol that I can throw in my pack, unloaded.  In NM, you can carry a gun open or concealed without any permits if it is not loaded.  You can also open carry a gun loaded in most places, but there are so many exceptions you may find yourself breaking a gun law that could land you in jail with felony conviction.  State parks are an example where you cannot open carry a loaded gun, and I’m likely to walk into a state park without realizing it while on a hiking trail.  Better to keep the gun unloaded, and put a mag in if needed.  Frankly, I don’t think I would get much sleep all by myself in the middle of the wilderness without the gun, locked and cocked.  Every snapping stick would send my adrenaline rocketing up.

So what do I do if I need immediate protection, say from a sudden face off with a mountain lion, and don’t have time to load a mag?  If all else fails, I purchased a large Bowie knife that I can open carry on my belt for immediate defense.  I would hate to have to fend off a large lion or a pack of wolves with a knife, but it would be better than without one, or with a pocket knife.

I put off posting this for a couple of days and went for a 40 mile road ride today. I saw all these little pens and shelters lined up in a field. Upon closer examination they all had one calf in each pen. I guess we are raising cows like chickens, where they can’t move, just stand there and eat.

That’s it for this week.

Merry Christmas!


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7 Responses to Saved by the Bicycle

  1. Rick Crook says:

    Bill– As far as I know, there is only one, single wolf in all of California in the far NE part of the state (NE of Redding). My understanding is that the greatest animal dangers for PCT hikers are (in this order)– other people (mostly on the very southern portion of the trail), cougars in SoCal, and scorpions & rattlesnakes. Bears should only be an issue going after your food, which you will have well sealed (and away from your tent at night). From where did you hear that you might encounter “packs” of wolves? Has your research shown you that other hikers carry guns? Did this discussion concern other people or animals. What you must really worry about is Sasquatch in the State of Jefferson. You will hike thru this area later in your trip. — rc

    • billweberx says:

      Rick — I have a Garmin Oregon 650 GPS with high res Western states topo maps.

      As far as wolves, I was referring to New Mexico hiking. You might want to go back and read that section. I am only talking about doing multi-day hikes in southern NM, possibly on the CDT. Actually, I don’t think there are any wolves until you get up to Wyoming or Montana. I may carry a gun on the CDT in NM as it will be off season and I will be very alone in the wilderness. On the PCT, I’m considering a bowie knife only just for the chance encounter of a mountain lion. I will sleep better if I have some means to defend myself. I don’t really expect to have to. Bears frighten me but I don’t expect any problems as I will, indeed, eat and park my food away from my campsite. I will be carrying bear spray on the PCT anyway.

  2. Rick Crook says:

    Will you be carrying a GPS locating device? I think you can procure these at REI or on line.

  3. Lou Cambruzzi says:

    Happy New Year Bill.
    Looks like you found where they raise Veal

  4. John Fitzgerald says:

    Nice job on you blog Bill. Looking forward to your next one.
    BTW, maybe you could try some dog treats on the neighborhood dogs.

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