I have a 5-6 month journey that I am preparing for, as you know. It’s now less than 2 weeks before the start and I feel I have a month’s worth of tasks to complete before I’ll be ready to go. This induces stress that has two properties. One is that I start making rash decisions, the other is I become very efficient in my preparations. Either way, I tend to cut out all activity that is not absolutely essential to completing the task. This blog has been one of those ignored activities, and I am sorry for the long intermission. Expect that I will be inconsistent with my postings until I am on the trail. At that point, I believe I will have nothing better to do in my tent than to write.
The PCT cannot be easily categorized as a trail. It includes desert sections, mountain sections, flat, hilly, barren, lush sections. Even the mountain sections have their unique features. The Sierra’s are monstrously tall, thereby inducing altitude as one of it’s challenges. The insects and be relentless during the summer and resupply is more challenging than other parts of the trail. The Northern Cascades are lower elevation, but higher latitude, making them more challenging to traverse during the early months of summer. It so happens that in choosing to go southbound (SoBo), I will be experiencing the most difficult part of the trail at the start of the hike. The first section has the following properties:
- It’s the longest section between resupplies at 12 days. We will be planting a food cache at the half way point.
- The snow is still deep, requiring ice axe and crampons to prevent sliding off a frozen mountain.
- The snow freezes during the evening and melts during the day. Since it is so deep, the way to traverse it is by walking on top of the frozen snow in the very early hours and camping/resting in the afternoons when the snow becomes too soft to walk on.
- The weather is unpredictable. It may be sunny and warm, rainy, cold, windy, etc. We could have a blizzard for days and need to be prepared for any event. This means carrying a lot of equipment and clothing.
Our packs will be at their heaviest for the trail and we will be moving at a snail’s pace of about 1 mph for 10-12 hrs a day. Once we get out of the northern Cascade mountains, the rest of the trail should seem easy. Unfortunately, there’s no easy section at the start to get your body in shape and prepare your mind for more difficult sections. You must be physically and mentally ready for the worst right at the start. While these facts frighten the bejesus out of me, it also invigorates me to think about going up against nature and seeing how I’ll do.
I have some handicaps:
- Sleep apnea requiring almost 9 lbs of extra equipment
- Damaged knee, surgery in March.
- Arthritic joints
- High blood pressure requiring a low sodium diet. All hiker food is super high sodium. This is one of my greatest challenges.
- Poor navigator. Have trouble staying on a city trail…
- mosquito (insect) magnet. They absolutely love me!
- Photosensitive skin, forcing me to cover all skin from the sun. This will be difficult in very hot sections.
And my strengths to overcome the handicaps:
- Arrestingly stubborn.
- Poor memory ( forget the pain)
- Support from trail angels, especially Jan (BeeKeeper) McEwen, who has been tirelessly supportive in all aspects of my preparation.
- I told everyone I would do it.
So where am I in my preparations? Here’s a list:
- I have designed a meal menu for one day so far. I need at least 10 of these to rotate. it took all day to do one. The goal is to get over 4000 calories with less than 2000 mg sodium. It adds 2.2 lbs to the pack for one day. Here it is…
- I’m still trying out backpacks. I received my fifth backpack today. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa. It looks like it it will work out except it does not have as much volume available as I was expecting. If I can find a way to get all my stuff in/on it, it will be the final version. Otherwise, I will have to do an exchange on the trail. Not optimal.
- I completed most of the details of my resupply plan. I still need to add locations for where I can get propane canisters for my stove. It’s important to make sure I purchase enough canisters to get me to the next town that sells them. Not every resupply location sells them and to ship them is a bit of a pain.
- My tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pads are all settled now.
- My pack weight will be around 40 lbs for most trail sections. At the start, however, I have to add in snow equipment and clothes with lots of food. I don’t know what my final weight will be but it’s hovering around 45-50 lbs. Hope the new backpack can handle it as it is rated at 35 lbs max.
- I have GPS maps on my phone, Garmin Oregon 650, and paper maps. I also have a guide book that I will rip up and put appropriate sections in my resupply boxes.
- I have 4 batteries and 4 power supplies for my cpap machine. This covers all sections but the first. I can go 8 days with these batteries before needing a recharge. The first section is 12 days before a town stop where I can do a recharge. In this section, I am bringing a solar panel to charge whenever there is sunlight. The batteries are heavy (1.1 lb each) and expensive ($300 each). The 4 power supplies add another couple pounds, but I should be able to mail them forward from town to town, mostly. Also, most sections only require 2 batteries. In that case, I will mail the other batteries forward to where I need them.
- I tested my satellite communicator and all works fine. I can send messages and my progress will be tracked on a web page that anyone can access. The link to access it is on the sidebar of this blog called “Where Am I”. Just click it and it will take you to a map with my hiking history and where I currently am.
I have been hiking 2-3 times a week. I’m up to 15 miles with 2700 ft elevation gain with a 40 lb backpack. Tomorrow I will do 15 and increase the elevation by 1-2 thousand feet. The starting elevation is already 8000 feet, so the air is thin here, and much higher than I will see in WA. I hope to crank this up to 20 miles before I leave for San Diego next week. I will feel a little prepared then.
There are many, many more details that are too many to cover. I just keep making lists and crossing them off. Next Sunday (6/8) I put my motorhome in storage and drive to San Diego. On 6/11 I fly to WA. On 6/13 I start hiking.