“I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.”
― Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent
I continue to work aggressively on my resupply plan, though I don’t have the plan yet as it is revealing itself to be a long and tedious process of philosophical deliberation and endless difficult predictions of how fast I will travel, how much food I can carry, how much rest I will need in towns, mail or self supply, or both. Reviewing the PCT blogs of others has proven helpful to get a feel for how difficult each section is and how long it will take to traverse it. I must say that Craig’s PCT planner is a wonderful tool to assist with this monumental task. I donated at his site. Quite deserving…
I have gone full circle between having all my supplies sent via mail, to doing a complete self supply using trail towns, and then back to doing about half and half. Self supply has the advantage of complete flexibility in food choices, the allure for which is likely to change over the course of the hike, and town arrival schedules which are dependent upon how fast I hike, which is hard to predict. However, I have dietary restrictions that limit my food choices. Due to high blood pressure, I require a very low salt diet. Most of the trail foods that you find in the stores have arrestingly high salt content. My stove will only be used to boil water to rehydrate dried or freeze-dried foods for my main meals, coffee, tea, etc. You can’t find the Mountain House (or equivalent) freeze dried meals on the trail, so I plan to mail them. I enjoy MH foods and they are very easy to prepare. The standard MH meals are also loaded in salt, but you can purchase lower salt versions online. So, my primary dinners will be mailed and I will purchase breakfast and lunch foods (mostly energy/candy bars, gorp, etc. that don’t require a stove) in trail towns.
The bounce box is a tough one. This is the box that gets mailed ahead about every 10 days or so, containing hard to find consumables or other convenience items that I won’t want to carry on the trail all the time. Here is a list of potential bounce box items that I gathered from other sites along with my own choices:
Batteries, Meds/supplements, Extra TP, Alcohol stove and pan, Battery Chargers, Foot repair supplies, Duct tape, Maps/data book/guide books, toothpaste, extra toothbrush, dental floss, Mailing labels, Paracord, Hair clippers and grooming, Kleenex, Copies of hiking documentation and ID’s, First aid supplies, Packing tape, Dental floss, Soap, Q-tips, Ibuprofen, Clean shirt, pants, 3 pairs of socks, underwear, Hiking pole tips, Hiking pole snow baskets, Pens, paper, postcards, stamps, envelopes, Sunscreen, Bug juice, Hand sanitizer, Spare head light, Lighter, Quart and gallon freezer bags, Trash compactor bags, Moisturizer, Freeze dried foods, Spare boots/shoes, Camp towels, Down Jacket, Down pants.
If I were doing mostly self supply in trail towns, it seems a bounce box (or two) would be essential. Since I’ve decided to send resupply packages to all the locations that I would have a bounce box sent to, maybe I can get away without the bounce box. I
plan to have my daughter send the resupply packages. Since I can contact her by phone, email or text, I can have her add/remove items from a package prior to shipping it. Say I need more batteries, I’ll just have lots of extras at her house and she can add them to a resupply package before sending it. This can be true of most everything on the list above. Only down side is if I discover I need some supply after the resupply box is already on the way. In that case, I will need to purchase the item, if possible, in town or wait for the next package in the next town. Who am I kidding? I still need a bounce box for things like battery and phone chargers, hair
grooming implements, and stuff that I don’t need for the next section, like a down jacket or rain pants. It will also be nice to have a clean set of town clothes in the box to wear while doing laundry, etc. The bounce box can be smaller, but still necessary, and a bit of a pain to deal with. It always means another trip to the post office before leaving the trail town.
There is a kick off meeting called the “Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff” (or ADZPCTK) that most the hikers attend at the end of April. It’s held at Lake Morano 20 miles up from the border, right on the trail and lasts for two days, Sat and Sun (4/25 – 4/26 this year). My plan is to:
- start the hike at the Mexican border on 4/23 at 6 am
- hike for 10 miles and camp overnight
- On 4/24 I’ll hike another 10 miles to the kick off meeting
- Spend Fri/Sat nights at Lake Morena and attend the festivities
- Leave on Sunday around noon to continue my PCT hike.
At the kickoff, many previous hikers will be there to give presentations and advice on things like ultralight backpacking, blister management, water in the desert, snow report, etc. Also, there are vendors that will be there to show their stuff and allow you to make last minute purchases. It will be fun meeting some of the other hikers as I will probably run into them often on the trail and in the towns. They also do a group picture with everyone who is hiking that year, actually, all those that attend the kick off.
In order to finish the hike in less than 6 months, I need to average no less than 20 miles/day overall. Some sections that involve a lot of climbing or snow will limit the daily miles to well under 20/day. Other sections are flat and fast, and 30 miles/day may be reasonable. My initial hiking plan is to hike only 10 miles/day the first week, 15 miles/day the second week and 20 miles/day the third and subsequent weeks. At some point, I’ll just hike whatever I can on a given day. I want to make sure I ramp up slowly enough to prevent foot/knee/hip/shoulder issues. I think the biggest mistake most new through hikers commit is enthusiastically overdoing it in the first 3 weeks, leaving them in reeling pain from blisters and swollen feet. Most of the drop outs happen during this period. In the first 3 weeks the discipline should dictate stopping for the evening long before your body demands it. In the process of getting in shape, muscle tissue breaks down and rebuilds. It takes about 36 hours of rest to rebuild after a hard workout. Unless you have trained for weeks at a 20 mile/week level, the first weeks will accumulate muscle tissue breakdown and will be very painful. Also, the feet need to get used to walking all day and callouses need to form. With a slow ramp up, this whole process is much less painful and less likely to end in injury.
In normal snow years, it is recommended to arrive at the start of the Sierra Nevada mountains no earlier than June 15th. This is so the snow has enough time to melt low enough for easy passage. Any earlier, and you may be postholing in all the high elevation sections, or may be blocked entirely from passage and will have to wait at Kennedy Meadows (start of Sierras) until the snow clears. With my scheduled ramp up, I predict that I will arrive at Kennedy Meadows on 6/14 which seems to be perfect timing.
During low snow years, it is fine and maybe recommended to leave early. There are several advantages:
- The dessert is cooler
- Fewer bugs in the Sierras
- Earlier arrival in Oregon and Washington, possibly avoiding heavy rains and snow in the Cascades.
If you leave too early, you may still have some issues with hitting late storms in the San Jacinto mountains or in the Sierras. So my start date and plan will have to remain flexible, allowing me to move the date up a couple weeks if it is a low snow year. One way to do this and still attend the ADZPCTK kick off meeting is to hike ahead for a couple weeks and catch a ride back to Lake Moreno on 4/24. Attend for two days and catch a ride back to where I left off. This is kind of a pain but it does allow for an early hike with all the advantages that comes with it, while still attending the kick off party.
On the knee front.. My doctor appointment was pushed out for 10 days, as the doctor has an emergency to deal with! Psychologically, I could not handle that news and asked for another doctor that I can see sooner. The new appointment with a new doctor is Feb 5, only two days later. I’m going a little crazy as I can’t hike or ride my bike, and my weight is going back up instead of down. I’m also on edge as the meeting with the doctor will make clear what chance I have of doing the hike this year. I need to know!
Here’s a little video of “Halfway to Anywhere” 2013 PCT thru-hike for your enjoyment…