Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Okay, now what?

I need to sit down and start planning. The logistics of this trip are beyond overwhelming to me right now. Things like food and maps and clothing choices swirl through my head every day.  I have to constantly apologize to all of my friends and family who I continually bother with the most mundane questions. I realize that you don’t probably care whether or not my jacket has a hood or what socks I am going to try in yet another desperate attempt at finding the perfect sock shoe combo, but it’s something I can’t seem to get past. I’ve become that annoying person who asks the same question over and over in the hopes that an answer will change, even though I don’t know what answer I am looking for.

What’s even more ridiculous is that I thought I loved planning. I can spend absurd amounts of time and energy researching things, and I have enjoyed making lists and learning about gear. Only I’m not a great decision maker which seems to be a key trait needed for planning.
However I am a great procrastinator. So what have I been doing on my days off? Wandering the parks of the east bay, I actually need to get out and hike as part of my training for this trip but I know that eventually all of those decisions are going to have to be made. Until then will just keep stalling.

I've branched out from my usual 3-4 mile dog walk in Tilden looking for more miles and a change in scenery. 8-12 miles seems to be my average right now. Briones, Marin County Open Space, Samuel P. Taylor Park and Pt Reyes are full of great trails and surprisingly full of wildlife. There have been the usual cows and deer but also great blue herons, bobcats, foxes and coyotes. So much more exciting than spreadsheets…

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wait but you will be staying in hotels and stuff right?

Once the look of shock passes and the wait how far? Did you say 5 months? Conversation starts, a few other questions keep popping up.

Wait, how are you getting there?
Guys this may not be your typical backpacking trip but deep down that’s all it is. Every morning I will wake up, pack my bag. Put my backpack on and hike. Just think about it as one step at a time and it doesn’t seem so scary right?
But you are going with friends; you aren’t going alone are you? (almost always accompanied by a look of horror)

I have always thought about doing this trail by myself. Truly good hiking/backpacking partners are tough to find. Small things become huge and what started out as fun can devolve into bitterness and petty arguing. Plus your lives have to align perfectly for you to go with that friend or partner so solo it is.
Only I will not truly be alone. Every year there is this thing called ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off). The Kick Off is a big get-together at the start of the trail (well mile 20.6, at Lake Morena Campground), where hikers can, according to their website,
shed those butterflies that inevitably precede a life-altering experience like hiking the PCT by showing you the broad spectrum of strategies that have been successful in the past and those of your fellow 2012 PCTers. Additionally, it provides a low-key gathering in which you can begin the friendships that inevitably evolve from such a journey.
What that all really means is there will be at least 300 people who I will be hiking with this year and I get to meet a whole mess of them at kick off. So while I will technically be alone most solo hikers only stay alone if they want to.
Wait you don’t get to shower every day?
That’s a no. The trail passes through or near towns every few days (every 3-5 days with a few exceptions) so hikers usually detour into those towns to take a break, recharge and resupply on food and other essentials which might include a night at a hotel/motel with showers. Otherwise it’s up to whatever water sources you find on the trail and you just have to accept that you will be dirty.
But what are you going to eat?
Food, that’s right by being on the trail I do not magically morph into some bug eating extremist. I like food, in fact food is one of my very favorite things in life and I do not plan on starving. With so many towns close to the trail most hikers carry a few days worth of food at a time. When they need food, they get off the trail, go into a nearby town, and either buy food at a grocery store, or pick up a food box that has been mailed to them. I’m going to be doing a mix of this. Sometimes I will just buy as I go but when I think the store will be lousy or I know ahead of time that I will need something special I will mail myself a box of stuff (well actually my lovely mother will be in charge of resupplying me so she will be in charge of mail).

I’m sure there have been a million other questions but that’s a good start. Feel free to bother me with any others that strike your fancy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What am I getting myself into?

Let’s start with the basics. In April I will be setting off on a big time adventure and a longtime dream…hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

Making its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington and stretching 2650 miles the Pacific Crest trail (PCT) is one of America’s National Scenic Trails. The trail passes through six out of seven of North America's ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and alpine country.

Each year about 300 people attempt to hike the full length of the trail, these people are called thru hikers and this year I’m going to be one of them.
Due to the extremes of climate and terrain the pacific crest trail has a pretty tight time frame for completion. It all comes down to snow, leave too soon and you will hit major snow in the sierras but leave to late and you will get hammered in Washington towards the end of your trip. Typically thru hikers like to head north, starting at the Mexican border late April/early May and will try to hit Canada by October 1.

Some speedy folks will do things a bit differently but I’m starting with the bulk of this season’s hikers (aka “the herd”) right at the end of April.