Tag Archives: pct

Letting some creativity flow

Home

The ceiling is about six feet above my head.  A smooth white surface, crisscrossed with a grid of dark, aged wooden beams, the echos of my typing fingers bouncing off of it back down at me.  I bring my gaze down to the ledge running the length of the wall in front of me which supports black and white images of a memorial and the interior an extravagant house.  The table which this computer rests on matches the color of the wood on the ceiling and has two abstract gold vases centered on it.  To my right are mirror-backed, lighted cabinets, no doubt intended to display something elegant. They are empty.

The hotel has been around for a while, exactly how long I can’t be sure.  The lobby hints at an earlier decade with it’s marble and brass.  Old elevators can’t deny their age either.  This temporary home would be comfortable for someone with much higher standards then myself. I am only a guest here.  A traveling passenger, living in this home away from home away from home.  Can I even call this state home?

The idea of home is a place that is always there, at least that is how I interpret it.  Our quest for something that doesn’t change in a world that thrives on change.  How natural is this scenario?When a mature tree crashes (silently?) to the ground in the forest, opportunists germinate and race to fill this sun-drenched void.  How warmly would we welcome those who, in the wake of a disaster, rushed in and built a house on our old foundation?  Can this succession that is the law of nature be tamed?

I’m about to carry my home with me for five months.  It’s really not too difficult.  It fits in my hand.  A home as impermanent as this is erected in two minutes time and disassembled just as quickly.  It offers a place to sleep and stay dry.  This is minimalism.  But it’s not just my ‘home’ that is simpler these days.  In six days I will become a nomad (more of a nomad anyway).

In six days I will place my hand on a cluster of wooden posts that rise out of the desert sands on the Mexican boarder and gaze North.  With an improbably small backpack, I will close my eyes for a fleeting moment and think ‘this is it’.  In six days I will begin walking and I won’t stop for five months.

As a traveler on the Pacific Crest Trail, I will sleep and wake on Gaia’s schedule. The straight lines and concrete and plastic of our civilized society will give way to salt brush, cacti, rock and sand.  The curving, rolling landscape which flows beneath my feet funnels me North.  An untold diversity of plants, animals, and landforms is waiting just ahead and I will see it all.

Gasoline-powered landscaping equipment is humming outside the wall to my left.  Water rushes through piping to a shower head down the hall.  On the sideboard that is level with my eyes, sculptures of ginko leaves, made from some silver metal reflect the searing white-yellow filaments of bulbs hanging above my head.  This ‘home’ is not my home.  My home is the trail, and I will be there in six short days.

When lite IS right

In my quest to prepare for the PCT, I have found myself getting sucked into the game of shedding weight wherever possible. Recently I read a great article by Andrew Skurka “Stupid light”.  Andrew’s article gives some great examples of omitted gear that ultimately proved detrimental to his comfort and abilities on particular trips.  I thought I would give a few examples of my own to further illustrate weight savings, not safety 20140327-165842.jpgcompromise.

As I have been preparing for the trail, water treatment has been one of the areas that I have seen my strategy slowly evolve.  I originally intended to use a chemical purification product called AquaMira. I used this product on a NOLS semester course with success. In addition to its ability to make questionable water safer to drink, it had no unpleasant taste that I could detect in addition to being simple to use and light weight.  Unfortunately it is rather cost prohibitive at $11 (which treats 30 gallons).  I anticipate drinking more then 200 gallons of water during my PCT hike. This works out to a cost of roughly $75 for enough Aqua Mira for my entire hike.

I felt that I could do better then $75 so I looked to my Steri Pen Classic.  I bought it for $50 on sale at REI. Some benefits are the fact that it is chemical free and more compact then most filters. Upon researching this product however, I found that it will only purify roughly 100 liters (under ideal conditions) on one set of lithium batteries ($10).  This would cost roughly $80 for batteries in addition to the cost of the pen itself for a total of $130 for chemical free water purification for the duration of my hike.

Although I had entertained the idea of using bleach, which is highly cost effective and lightweight, I still have a 20140327-165831.jpghard time willingly putting chemicals in my body (even though chlorine is used to purify municiple water supplies…). Before I invested in a dropper bottle and bleach, I was lucky enough to come across the Saywer Mini water filter.  This little gem is compact, easy to use, and for $25, will purify 100,000 gallons.  Also, in my quest to shed unnecessary weight, this filter comes in at 1.5oz less then the Steri Pen including a collapsible water bottle, straw attachment, flushing syringe and stuff sack. If I leave behind a few of these accessories, I can get the weight down to 1.6oz, almost 5oz less then the Steri Pen!  This is a rare instance where the lighter option is also much cheaper (unheard of when shedding ounces) and is actually simpler to use without sacrificing function.

After having so much success in reducing my gear weight with water treatment, I reevaluated my stove – the MSR Microrocket. This little piece of metal is already light, weighing in at 4.5oz including all the accessories. These additional accessories include a hard plastic case as well as a piezoelectric igniter.  Separating these items and putting the stove back on the scale revealed a weight savings of 1.75oz. Leaving behind a plastic case and igniter (redundant items since the stove can stow in my cooking pot and I will still carry a lighter) is a safe move that doesn’t jeopardize my safety or comfort, two important factors to consider when taking items out of your pack.

20140327-165837.jpgOne last example of weight savings is my choice to forgo a long sleeve shirt.  I initially planned on bringing a wool tshirt as well as a long sleeve shirt.  While it would be nice to have to two layers, I came across my biking arm warmers.  I substituted the arm warmers for the long sleeved shirt – a moderate weight savings which doesn’t sacrifice my ability to cover my arms for added warmth or protection from the sun.

With all of these substitutions and omissions, the main question I asked myself was, ‘am I threatening my safety?’.  In all of these examples the answer was no, allowing me to make these weight saving changes without threatening my well-being on the trail.  I recommend using the same criteria when making decisions about your own gear choices – good luck and happy hiking!

 

Planning for a PCT Thru-hike

Recently a friend asked if I might be interested in writing a blog article about the planning process for the PCT.  Until he had suggested it to me, I hadn’t thought about detailing the steps of planning the hike.  Sure, I have been loosely documenting my experience with this blog, mentioning my experiences so far with little tidbits about the process of getting ready to hike.  But so far, I have not written any specific articles detailing the process as a whole.  So here it goes.

Getting the Bug

It all starts with an inspiring series of events.  At least that’s how I would describe my experience with ‘catching the bug’ for a long distance hike.  Rewind a few (15+) years.  When I was a middle school student I got involved with a fantastic program known as Overland (www.overlandsummers.com).  They are based out of Williamstown, Massachusettes and offer summer outdoor recreation based camp programs for students from middle-highschool.  I had never attended any kind of sleep-away camp and was a bit apprehensive at first.  With some coaxing from my family I participated in a two week program in the North East, hiking and mountain biking.  Some of our hiking took us on the Appalachian Trail, one of the most famous long-distance hiking trails in North America.  This was not the specific moment, but this was the beginning of my love of hiking.20140321-170158.jpg

I participated in other trips with Overland as a student, later returning as a trip leader for three years.  I took students mountain biking in Colorado, backpacking in Yellowstone National Park, and on my final year as an instructor, co-led a cross country bicycle tour from Georgia to California.  Up until our cross-country ride I had never completed a long distance journey and to say we were thrilled with our accomplishment would be an understatement.  This trip, which lasted six weeks, was a testament to the ability of the human body, given time, motivation, team work, and the desire to accomplish something ‘great’.  Our group of students and my co-leader amazed me with what we all accomplished together.

Fast forward.  Some time after my coast to coast bike tour it occurred to me:  I biked 3000 miles in 6 weeks, why couldn’t I hike 2000+ miles in 5-6 months?  During college in Maine, I had some opportunities to hike on the AT near it’s Northern terminus in Baxter State Park and on occasion I had the opportunity to meet and chat with some AT thru-hikers.  They seemed like an odd breed, talking about eating gallons of ice cream in mere minutes, carrying VERY simplified backpacking setups, and sporting strange ‘trail names’.  I wanted to be one of these people.

I didn’t catch the bug at one specific moment, I had lots of opportunities and experiences that conspired to make the idea of thru-hiking a long distance trail something that I wanted to do at some point in my life.

When is the time right?

While getting excited and deciding that you would like to attempt a thru-hike might seem like a big step (actually wanting to hike thousands of miles you say?), deciding when the time is right is a much more difficult task.  We don’t exactly live in a society that embraces the idea of leaving your job (or career?), home, and responsibilities (who needs those anyway…) behind, in favor living in the woods for 4-6 months.  And even if this sounds appealing, how realistic is it to just pick up and go?  Could you leave your job and would it be waiting for you 5 months later to pick up where you left off?  Do you have the ability to move out of your home so that you don’t have a mortgage or rent?  Can you afford your other bills – phone, health insurance, student loans while not working?  Regardless of money and societal expectations, you also have your family and loved one’s who will no doubt have an opinion of the hike you are about to embark on.

Luckily for me conditions have been just right.  It hasn’t been an easy set of events to get to this point though.  In addition to a nine year long relationship ending, I was laid off in late September, a month before Thanksgiving.  While both of these events have conspired to make my thru-hike attempt possible, I would not wish divorce or loss of work on anyone.  They are both terrible and will make even the most confident person examine their self-worth.  Instead of getting depressed about the shitty hand I was just dealt I decided to remain positive.  I no longer had any responsibility to anyone other then myself – this is a good place to find yourself if you want to go hiking for 5 months.

Without speaking too much longer on ‘when the time is right’, it has become clear to me that often there is no ‘right’ time.  You simply have to get off your ass and DO IT.  Don’t wait.  You are only going to get older and fatter (it’s the American way).  You are only going to become more entrenched in your way of life, having commitments, obligations, bills, events, Jesus, you might even have kids.  You either take the steps necessary to make it happen or it won’t.  You have to be proactive here, it’s the only way.  If you wait, the opportunity could slip by without giving you the slightest chance to embrace to unknown and get out there.

Some stuff you HAVE to do

I already mentioned some big picture stuff like leaving your job, your home, and almost all of your responsibilities.  But let’s backtrack a tiny bit.  What do you know about the trail?  Where does it start?  Where does it end?  How long is it and how much will it cost you to hike it and what do you need and where will you sleep and…  What I am getting at here is research.  You have to do some.  Behold, the greatness of the interwebs.

I personally started with The Pacific Crest Trail Association website.  You will find more information on this site that you can easily digest in one sitting – it is a fantastic starting point complete with maps, trail journals, photos, phone numbers, distances, and any other information regarding this hiking trail you could desire.

Another great course of action would be a Google search for ‘PCT trail journals’ or some similar keyword combination.  In the past few months I have come across multiple journals and blogs of previous and aspiring PCT thru-hikers.  The experiences and lessons they have learned will no doubt help you refine your planning stages, avoiding some of their mistakes, and learning from their successes.

PERMITS

This is really part of ‘stuff you have to do’ but deserves a small, separate section.  The two big ones you will need are:

My long distance hiking and Canada entry permits.

My long distance hiking and Canada entry permits.need are:

Long Distance Permit – Information and forms to obtain this are available on www.pcta.org.  The paperwork is easy to fill out and straight forward but you will want to do a little bit of general research about the trail prior to filling out the forms.  The PCTA will want to know things like your anticipated starting and ending dates in addition to where you will be starting and finishing your hike.  This permit is only needed if you are going to be hiking more then 500 continuous miles.  I received my permit roughly 2 weeks after sending in my paperwork but the closer you get to April/May, the longer I would anticipate waiting – best to secure this one early.

Permit to enter Canada via PCT – Like the Long Distance Permit, I would recommend securing this as early as possible.  I have read about other hikers having to wait over a month to receive this permit after mailing in their paperwork.  I got mine in two weeks.  You will need a valid US passport and drivers license and color copies will be required in addition to an estimated date of entry to Canada and itinerary while in Canada.  While it sounds a little daunting, filling out this paperwork was not very difficult.  Write legibly and be as complete as possible to avoid having your paperwork returned or denied.

*There are a couple of other, less important permits you will likely want to secure.  All the information regarding permits is provided on the PCTA website – I’ll let you figure it out, it’s part of the adventure!

GEAR

Current gear selection for my 2014 pct thru-hike attempt

Current gear selection for my 2014 pct thru-hike attempt

I won’t mention every item because YOU will have to decide what you can and can’t live without.  Here is the breakdown as far as I am concerned:

  • Three big items – Backpack, Sleeping bag, Tent.  These are usually the heaviest items.  I am using an internal frame pack (Gregory Z55, my heaviest piece of gear).  I am using a silnylon tarp-tent (Black Diamond beta lite).  I am using a 20(ish) degree down sleeping bag (Rab neutrino 600).  Don’t get hung up too much on weights, but if possible, shoot for under 10 lbs (it’s very doable with today’s fancy-pants materials).
  • Cookware – Stove and other cooking items.  I am using a small canister stove (MSR micro-rocket) and a titanium (Evernew) cook pot.  While I have used and read about others using alcohol stoves (exceptionally light) this is not possible due to fire restrictions in California and possibly other areas on the PCT this year (2014).  Consider eating utensils, mug, seasonings, etc.
  • Water treatment – I will most likely be using bleach.  There are lots of options out there, filters, uv sterilizers, chemical treatments.  I would suggest something that is lite, fail-proof, and cost-effective.
  • Clothing – Upper and lower body layers.  The criteria I am using:  Can I wear everything all at once.  I am choosing layers that compliment each other and can all be used together (comfortably).  Minimalism is key here to avoid bulk and excess weight.  In the past month and a half I have removed almost half the items I originally planned on bringing.  An important note – you will likely need to make changes based on the region you are in.  Your clothing selection for the Southern California desert will most definitely be different then what you need in the Cascades.
  •   Footwear – Not too much info here.  The amount of support you should seek for footwear depends on a couple factors.  Do you pronate or supinate?  Do you know what these two terms mean?  Also, the ‘burliness’ of your footwear should be relative to the weight that you are carrying on your back.  The less weight in your pack, the lighter footwear will PROBABLY be sufficient for you.  I plan on using trail running shoes.  Test your proposed footwear PRIOR to your hike WITH the FULL WEIGHT you anticipate hiking with for DISTANCES THAT ARE EQUIVALENT to what you expect to hike on the trail.
  • Other items – Lots of things can be included here.  Some extras I am bringing include trekking poles, a camera, a digital voice recorder, a journal, a PLB, and some other small items.  Keep in mind ‘even small’ items add up.

My original pack weight was roughly 20lbs.  I removed some items and got it down to a little over 15lbs.  I am aiming to reduce that number by 2-3lbs more before I get on the trail.  Am I a fanatic about pack weight? No, but having hiked with packs as heavy as 85lbs (thanks NOLS) and also with lightweight ‘minimal’ backpacking setups, I have concluded that going light rather then heavy is the correct choice for me.

Training

There is no true consensus here.  Some people do a lot of training, some do a little, and some do none.  If you have never been on a backpacking trip I would suggest trying it out prior to making all the aforementioned preparations.  If you know what to expect then I would suggest incorporating SOME sort of regular physical activity into your daily life.  Other then being generally fit I think your thru-hike will kick you into shape.  Sure, it will hurt a little at first.  The short answer here is that everyone is different when it comes to physical activity and you should train in a way that will prepare YOU so that you can have the greatest chance of success.

Food

Two main options here: buy as you go or resupply via mail.  There is also the obvious middle ground where you do a little of both.  Using pre-packaged resupply boxes will likely give you better financial control over gear/food but can be limiting.  How can you possibly anticipate accurately everything you will need in advance?  Also, how will you know exactly how much food you will ACTUALLY consume?  I plan on purchasing as I go, but occasionally sending boxes of food/supplies ahead when availability/cost of resources dictates the need.

Sponsorship/free stuff

All I have to say is that this stuff exists.  Get creative.  Send letters, emails, and make phone calls.  Your chances of success will depend on a few factors including what you can offer potential sponsors as well as your persistence and professionalism.  Be polite, expect to get turned down a lot, but stay positive and you just might find some great opportunities.

In conclusion…

The above describes SOME of what I have experienced in getting ready for this endeavor.  It is highly likely that I have left some key information out (thanks recreational substances!).  The important take-away here is that preparing for a trip of this magnitude will be different for everyone.  Don’t expect the same experience as I have had.  Planning to thru-hike the PCT might be much more complicated, but it might also be simpler.  Do your research, have fun with it and make it yours!

Getting organized: the gear…

Current gear selection for my 2014 pct thru-hike attempt

Current gear selection for my 2014 pct thru-hike attempt

Ok, here it is, the blog article going over the gear I plan on using for my 2014 thru-hike.  While I occasionally indulge in gear-geekery, I try not to get caught up in all the little gadgets and gizmos designed for those of us that like to recreate outdoors.  Why?  Let me ask you this question, if no new gear was developed ever, would it prevent us from enjoying our outdoor pursuits?  The answer is most definitely no.  All those companies out there who come out with newer, lighter, more advanced gear are mostly doing so to have a new product to sell you.  Now I don’t want to give the impression that this gear isn’t great or that I don’t find some of this stuff fascinating and awesome. I have bought a few new pieces of gear specifically for my thru-hike.  I will however be using MOSTLY gear that I already owned.  The point I am getting at is that you should not feel the need to buy gear just because there is a newer, lighter, brighter-colored version.

I did think it would be fun to mention all the different gear and geek out for a bit in hopes that some of you who read this might have some suggestions for me to cut a bit of weight.  My base-weight at the moment is right about 20lbs.  I was hoping for something in between 10 and 15.  And while the 20lb weight includes some things that I will actually be wearing and not carrying on my back, there were a few items that I realize I did not add that I will in fact be bringing (stakes, socks, maybe some other small stuff…).

So lets get to the gear.

Starting on the top left of the photo above – the pack, one of my new gear acquisitions for the trail.  This is a Gregory Z55.  This is a size small and weighs in at just over 3 lbs.  It has a frame (yeah I’m not sure if frameless appeals to me for 2600+ miles) and 55 liters of capacity.  Gregory packs graciously provided this pack to me for use as an ambassador while on the trail, communicating with others about my experience using their gear.  Thanks guys, I look forward to putting the Z55 to the test!

On the far right of the picture are two sleeping bags.  A Rab neutrino 600 down bag and a Mountain Hardware ultra lamina synthetic bag.  Both are rated for 20 degrees.  I plan on using the down bag in the desert section and switching over to the synthetic bag once I hit the mountains.

As for upper body layers: Patagonia lightweight wool tshirt, Ibex hooded long-sleeved wool shirt, Patagonia R1 fleece, Montbell windbreaker vest, Montbell Fleece, Patagonia Houdini windbreaker, Wildthingz alpine shell, Patagonia Nanopuff hooded jacket.  I’m already planning on ditching the Ibex base layer and one fleece (probably the R1, even though I love it).  I may add arm warmers.  I may also ditch the Houdini even though it weighs next to nothing.  Count the ounces and the pounds mind themselves right?

Lower body layers include:  Montbell expedition weight wool long underwear, Rab hiking pants, Patagonia hiking shorts.  Socks (haven’t picked them out yet).  And hopefully a pair of wool boxers.

My tent is a Black Diamond beta-lite tarp (19oz).  It is made of sip-nylon, pitches with my trekking poles and gives surprisingly good weather protection – I have used it above 9k feet in Colorado during a spring snow storm, and on the coast of Maine in high winds.  It has held up well.  I am forgoing a footprint.  I have a Big Agnes sleeping pad as well as a silk sleeping bag liner.

I am currently using an MSR 6 liter dromedary bag with a drinking hose attachment.  I might look for a lighter weight camelbak bladder which will most likely have 3-4 liter capacity and have to add a few lightweight water bottles.

As for cooking I am using an MSR micro rocket stove (new this year) with an Evernew titanium pot (.7 liters I think).  I also have a long-handled Sea To Summit spoon and an MSR titanium mug.

As far as other small items, I have a journal, signal mirror, whistle, pen, Black Diamond headlamp, mosquito head net, blister treatment kit, SteriPen, wide-brimmed hat, GoPro, extra batteries, and backup water treatment (iodine).

I know I haven’t gone into much detail on these items, their individual weights, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. etc.  I’m hoping that I’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t work while I’m on the trail (and I plan to blog/tweet about it).  I will also likely add items at certain points such as ice axe and crampons, helmet, etc.

Ok, I’m already losing my patience for this post.  Those are the items I’m brining.  I will attempt to ditch roughly 5 pounds of gear in the next month to get my base weight down into the sub-15 pound zone, I’m sure my feet and back will thank me for it.  Any suggestions or criticism is appreciated!

Later!

Planing the trip to CA

I’m writing to you all from Fort Collins, Colorado today.  The weather here is warm and while the mountains seems to continue receiving consistent snowfall, the flats are drying up nicely.  I’m going to attempt a re-cap here before discussing my plans for the next few weeks.

Since returning to the Front Range from Salida, where we experienced an epic weekend of powder at Monarch mountain, I have been running all over the place.  I have spent some time with my girlfriend Megan in Fort Collins, attending a few of her classes.  Most memorable of those was a natural resource class in which we had an interesting lecture focussed on water law in the Western United States, a lecture that immediately made me think of the lack of water I am going to be experiencing in Southern California while on the PCT.

I have also recently re-united with a former co-worker from the Forest Service who was just accepted into a Smoke Jumping program in Alaska for the upcoming fire season.  Fantastic work Kael!  We caught up over some sour beers and exchanged stories from the past two years.  Kael is in the process of training for his upcoming work season and I joined him for a 7.5 mile run near Horse Tooth Reservoir, just West of Fort Collins.  We encountered lots of snow and had a great time.  Has it really been months since the last time I did some trail running?  I felt great and got a boost of confidence regarding my fitness level at the moment.

Megan, her friend Annie and I took a weekend trip over to Tabernash, Colorado and stayed with some College friends of mine.  We got two great days of skiing in at Winter Park, with great snow and a fantastic guide (thanks Andy).

After returning from Grand County I got in touch my friend Chris who was on a NOLS semester course with me in 2005.  We got together in Clear Creek Canyon to celebrate Chris’s birthday with some ice climbing and then drove back to Summit County for a brewery crawl that evening.  The following day I enjoyed Chris and his friends’ company for a day of skiing at Keystone.

From Summit County I headed back to the East side of the divide to stay with my friend and climbing/skiing partner Jason and his family.  They are the best hosts.  We ate some amazing food and Megan drove down to join me for a day of skiing at Loveland.  We had 5 inches of fresh snow from that evening at it continued snowing all day while we enjoyed some of the less-traveled terrain in the vicinity of lift 8.  Megan headed back up to school and I stayed around for one more day of skiing at Loveland.  The snow my second day was very wind-affected and I skied a short day before heading back to Fort Collins to have a wonderful Valentine’s day dinner with Megan.

Megan and I also managed to get back to Clear Creek for an afternoon of ice climbing.  We also recently just got in an afternoon of dragging at North Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado.

I also managed to find a used Thule cargo topper for my car.  Finally I have a bit more room inside to manage all my belongings.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.

So here I am in the present.  Hanging in Fort Collins, starting to put together our (Megan and my) plants to drive to California in March.  As of now our route looks like we will be headed to Indian Creek for some climbing, then to the Grand Mesa (also in South-Eastern Utah) to hike to some Anasazi ruins.  We will then drive to the Grand Canyon for some camping and hiking before heading to Red Rocks in Nevada for some loooong desert multi-pitch climbing.  After Nevada we will be driving down to Joshua Tree for a bit more desert climbing before arriving in Los Angeles where our road trip will end (insert sad face here).

After that long recap, I find myself listening to some notes I have recorded in the past few weeks on my new voice recorder.  The idea was to get a tool that would help me remember writing ideas which seem to escape my mind just as easily as they materialize.  The most intriguing thought that Id love to explore with you right now is the idea of coincidence.  What exactly is coincidence?  Can we use coincidence as a way to explain events that seem linked together?  Is coincidence merely a tool that we use to help rationalize certain decisions that we make in life?The actual question that I recorded for myself three weeks ago was: Are coincidences us changing our consciousness to help convince ourselves that we are taking the right path or making the right decision in life?

Google defines coincidence as, ‘a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection’.  In my life right now coincidence takes the form of events that seem to be telling me that right now is the time I am supposed to be hiking the PCT.  Clearly all the decisions we make in life lead us to certain outcomes.  Making the conscious decision to hike the PCT this year has led me to take certain steps to make this dream a reality.  Coincidence comes into the picture in the form of events that seem to conspire or convince me that my decision to hike the PCT is a correct decision for me at this time in my life.  A good example is meeting ‘Hot Wing’ this year in the town of Nederland.  He is an avid long-distance hiker and offered me lots of great advice about my ambitions.  Another great coincidence is the fact that my father lives in Los Angeles, a great jumping-off point for the PCT.  Something that logistically makes getting on the trail easier for me (easier then the CDT or AT at least).  These are simply two examples and there have been other coincidences that I only vaguely remember at this point.

Without diving into my own personal examples any further perhaps any of you reading this can share some of your own examples?

PCT – on the trail in a month!

Well, I am roughly a month away from beginning my thru-hike of the PCT.  Lately my days have been comprised of planning my drive out to California, repairing gear, and enjoying my last few weeks in Colorado.  I have recently been looking for blogs written by 2014 thru-hikers to get a better idea of start times for folks this year. It looks like people are aiming for starts as early as March 1st. As an avid skier I am usually paying attention to the snow falling all over the country. I have been aware of the low snow year that California has experienced and this makes me slightly anxious to get started with my hike.  Seeing trail closures due to wild fire has also gotten my attention.  All I can say right now is that this may be an exciting year regarding the trail and I can’t wait to get started. Until next time.

A Left Coast kind of Christmas

At the moment I am writing to you all from Studio City in Los Angeles. Spending the holiday on the West Coast is a nice change of pace, warm weather and palm trees – not a typical Christmas for me but still enjoyable. I am staying with my Dad, enjoying a nice visit.

After tying up some lose ends in Nederland, I drove down to Denver to catch an afternoon flight out of the Mile High City. I don’t typically fly any airline other then Southwest, and for good reason. While everyone I interacted with at United was friendly, they charge $25 and $35 respectively for your first and second checked bags. You ONLY get free sodas on your flight, no solid food (unless you want to spend $8 for some ritz crackers).

I spent a productive hour at my gate talking with a lovely woman from Kansas who works in the outdoor recreation industry among many other interesting art-focused jobs (including helping design the monument for the fallen fire fighters from the South Canyon Fire!). After talking with her about my current situation and plans she offered some wonderful career/life advice. ‘Picture where you want to be in five years,’ she said, ‘and then start taking the steps to make that dream happen.’ The advice seems simple enough, but I find myself asking, ‘what is my dream?’. I have some direction but my end goal is not totally clear yet. I suspect that is the goal of the travel and adventures that I am in the process of organizing for the next year. More on that later.

After an extremely bumpy climb out of the Front Range, our flight was pleasant. It’s funny celebrating a holiday that you associate with snow in a place where the temperatures are in the 70’s and 80’s during the ‘winter’. I’m not complaining about wearing shorts, sandals, and a tank top, it’s just a little strange this time of year.

And speaking of this holiday, I find myself caring less and less about the materialistic focus that seems to exist in our country. Sure it’s fun to exchange gifts, but the excess that typically exists is such a turn-off. If you are a fan of The Office, Michael Scott has a great quote regarding the exchange of gifts:

“Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is this tangible thing you can point to and say, ‘Hey man, I love you this many dollars worth’.”

And while this is obviously made to poke fun at the state of affairs, its scary how accurately this seems to depict where this holiday has gone. While I don’t have any religious beliefs, I still appreciate Christmas and for me, it’s about spending time with family, being kind and thoughtful to others, and these two foci don’t necessarily have to be demonstrated through the giving of things.

Now after all that discussion about the excesses of materialism during this holiday you might laugh at me when I mention the one gift I received – a GoPro camera. Yes, this was a big gift. It was given very thoughtfully though and you all should be thankful (joking, kind of) because now I have a means to photograph and capture photo of the journey I am about to embark on. Hopefully I will produce some enjoyable media, I’ll let you all be the judge.

Enough of my rambling about my personal beliefs. This visit has really been wonderful and I am thrilled to be able to spend time with some of my family during the holiday season. My happiness at the moment though is focused on another opportunity that has just been preposed – a trip with an old climbing partner to attempt an ascent of Mt.Rainier in May. While I would love to attempt this climb, some logistical concerns are raised. My thru-hike attempt of the PCT this year will have a start date between April and May meaning I would have to leave the trail, get to Washington, attempt this climb, and make it back to the trail, loosing roughly a week (that’s a guess) of trail time. I am not too concerned with loosing trail time, I will likely have a month or more of ‘zero days’ during the duration of my hike. The issue comes with missing a SOLID week of trail time, and right at the beginning of the hike, in the desert, a place where you don’t want to waist time when the weather starts getting warm. We will have to see how the opportunity develops but all I can say for now is that I am thrilled at the possibility and I will attempt to make it happen if at all possible.
Until next time, be well friends and family, I look forward to writing my next update.