Thursday, March 26, 2015

Three weeks before start - Itinerary (the plan)

Everyone wants to know "when and where"?

  • When do you start? And just WHERE is THAT?
  • When are you going to get to the Sierras?
  • When you going to make it to Oregon, or to Washington?
  • Where does the trail end?
  • When do you think you will finish the trail?

I have spent the last several weeks working on my itinerary.
I used an on-line tool, Craig's PCT Planner, to select my resupply points.
The cool feature of this program is that it takes into account your hiking speed, and factors in such things as elevation gain, extra mileage required (getting off and onto the trail), and can be customized for a slower pace due to altitude or trail conditions (snow).

Here is a sample of the detail it provides:

I chose Warner Springs as my first resupply point. It is almost 110 miles from the border.
Since I am starting on April 16, it uses my average estimated hiking speed of 2.5 mph and factors in an adjustment of 45 extra minutes for every 1000 feet of elevation gain. I plan on hiking (moving) for ten hours each day.

Given this, it shows that it will take me 5.1 days to get to my resupply point. That is how much food I need at the start to make it to Warner Springs. The program calculates that I will be averaging 21.6 miles per day for this segment, and has a cool little elevation chart showing the challenges of the trail.

I spent a lot of time adding notes to each entry, including whether I planned to MAIL or BUY food, how much food I needed for the next segment of the hike, and additional notes regarding how to get there, notes on where to buy food or places to stay (if I am going to stay overnight).

An INCREDIBLE resource that I used was Yogi's Pacific Crest Trail Handbook.

She has compiled an amazing summary of trail tips and a town guide.
It is updated yearly and has the most current information about the trail.
Many of my notes were added directly from her book.
Anyone thinking of hiking the trail or doing a section of the trail would benefit from this resource.

I saved my entire itinerary in PDF format, and will have ready access to it from my phone.

In addition, I decided to put together an OVERVIEW of my entire trip, based on the information from each resupply entry.

And now, to answer everyone's questions, (drum roll), here it is:

I have borrowed the overview map from Halfmile's PCT map set, and augmented it with the dates from my itinerary. The projected dates are listed on the right-hand side. It predicts that I will get to the Canadian border by September 30th.

Of course, this is just the PLAN. I might find that I can hike faster, or my be surprised that I am going more slowly. I may decide to take an extra day off, or skip a planned day off.

And, as past through-hikers have stated, your plan will likely go out the window within the first week of your hike!

Here is the summary of my hike generated from the tool:

So there it is.
I have finished my planning for the hike, and now am continuing to tie up a few loose ends.

Family and friends are planning a couple of  "Bon voyage" parties before I go!

I am SO excited!

Monday, March 16, 2015

One month before start - butterflies in my stomach

Time is flying by as April 16th approaches, the date of the start of my adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I feel like a youngster who is getting ready to drive the car for the first time. I've taken all the lessons. I've passed all of the required tests. I've practiced, and practiced, and practiced some more. Yet it seems there is always more to learn; more questions that remain unanswered. I have butterflies in my stomach!

And soon, it will be time to go and prove that I really can do this!

To me, the biggest challenge will be learning to live in the outdoors. At the end of most days, I will still be in the wilderness and sleeping in the cool of the night. No longer will there be a cozy bed and comfy sofa. No longer will there be easily obtainable water and food. And I will need to adapt to the changes in weather. I suppose all of this is part of the adventure.

Last week, I set up my tent and adjusted the lanyards of the "bathtub" ground sheet. The ground sheet attaches to the inside walls of the tent, and is designed to keep me dry. I have heard that splatter from rain sometimes comes over the sides of the ground sheet if the lanyards are not properly secured. I also decided to get a different set of tent stakes. I currently have titanium stakes that have round-shafts. They are great for holding in dirt, but are not as effective in sandy, rocky or snowy ground. I purchased a set of titanium stakes with a V-shaped shaft.

What I have accomplished since my last post?

  • I now have all of my permits, with the "Entry into Canada" permit arriving two weeks ago. It took four weeks to get the permit.
  • I now have all of my gear. I just got my new rain coat from ZPacks. It is their "Challenger" jacket which is made from a special fabric that is breathable. I have been wearing it on my training hikes for the past week, and it seems to work fairly well in allowing sweat to pass through. It does wet up however, when I am really perspiring, but not as much as my old coat. I walked with it in last weeks rain downpour, and the shell keeps the rain out. 
  • I have gathered together more food. I still need to put together the last boxes that I will need for the hike through Washington state. I got some more Mountain House meals. I found that I can buy a bucket of them from Amazon that includes the three classic meals: Spaghetti with meat sauce, Chili Mac with beef, and Rice with chicken. I also found some Tuna Salad foil packs, that will be good rolled up in a tortilla shell. I stopped at Trader Joes and got some banana chips, candied ginger, and a mixed fruit mix. I heard from a through hiker last year that these taste really good as snacks while hiking.
  • I finally perfected a recipe for brown rice, refried beans and taco meat. I found that if I add a chicken flavored bouillon cube to the water it adds more flavor. I also added butter flavor and Parmesan/Romano cheese. The mix smells and tastes really good.
                    1    Cup Refried beans
                    1/2 Cup Brown Minute Rice
                    1/3 Cup Taco Filling
                    1    Tbsp Parmesan/Romano cheese
                    1    Tbsp Butter flavor (Butter Buds) 
                    1/2 Tsp salt
                    1    Chicken flavor bouillon cube

                    Place everything in a one-gallon zip-lock bag.
                    To prepare, add 1 3/4 cup of water and let set for ten minutes.

                    It is even more tasty if a little cheese is added along with some Fritos corn chips!
  • I have continued walking/training every day. In February, I have averaged 21.6 miles per day. That's over 600 miles in February alone.

As I walk through the woods each morning, I feel like I am a guest just passing through.

A few days ago, I heard a loud squawking coming through the trees. Several crows were dive bombing a hawk, trying to drive it away from their territory. And yet, it seemed to understand that this is just the way life it in the wild.

I noticed that there are birds in the same places each morning. 
Along one stretch of the trail, the red-wing black birds were especially vocal:

And, of course, on some mornings, I get to see Mount Rainier as the sun rises. Just like the picture at the beginning of this post, it is one of the most inspiring sights!
Mt. Rainier captures the morning sunrise.
For those who are interested, I have updated my gear list and provided links to each item.

Oops, the butterflies just jumped again!