Lunch Interrupted

Midday Sunday.  We were making lunch before we ran out the door to take care of some errands.

I was pulling the vegetables out of the drawer for a salad when I became distracted.

For the next couple of hours.

It’s a good thing that Goddess is patient.  She took advantage of the time to not only finish preparing lunch, but to eat it and take a nap.

That was time well spent.

The subject of my distraction was a pair of lovely carrots that we received from one of our local farmers in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Aren’t they lovely?

You’d never find these in a store.  Honestly, I don’t know why.  It’s not like they are less nutritious.  The human mind is odd.

Truth be told, mine is too.

Watching these carrots suspended in space in my makeshift studio (the hallway) for a while gave rise to many different stories in my mind.

Which stories can you come up with?


Later this week will be our last delivery for this winter through our CSA.  This is the second winter that we’ve received bountiful baskets full of in-season vegetables from Barking Moon Farm.  Thanks for the flavors and the exploration, Melissa and Josh!

Walking

There has been a lot of walking around here lately.  A lot more than usual.

We do live in quite a walkable town.

But we’ve got a longer walk to get ready for, you know. So it’s a lot more hours on the feet, more frequently.

Today was one of those days, complete with errands and appointments.  It helped that our errands and appointments in town today were spread out.  That forced us to get walking early.

It was also a great opportunity to test the rain gear that we have on hand (we’re still mulling over a couple of  items), plus check to see how the sock/shoe systems work while soaked (verdict: swimmingly).

The best part is that once the appointments were done and we were waiting for the shop to finish with the car, the walk delivered views like this:

We took the rainbow as a sign that our car was done at the shop.  Three hours later, we found that to not be true.  But four hours later, all was right.

That image was shot right after we stopped for our “lunch”.  I put “lunch” in quotation marks because we’re working on our feeding schedule on these walks, trying to stick to every 90 minutes or so for a snack, then keep moving.

This specific feeding was closest to noon, so that counted as “lunch”.

Just 90 minutes later, it was mid-afternoon and it was time for a break.  It had been raining pretty steadily and hard for several hours, not to mention all of the water blowing off of the trees in an increasing wind.  But we were comfortable.

Just a touch hungry.

As Goddess boiled the water for some hot tea, I snapped a couple of pics, which didn’t stop her from eating some of the salami and rehydrated veggies.  But her look here, a look that I did not notice at the time, is proof that if I didn’t act fast, I was not going to get any of it.

Now that’s what I call “hangry”.

 

Icy Mount McLoughlin

Just a few steps to the left (west) of where Skinny was lying.

For me, it’s all about the clouds, although the mountain is nice too.

Mount McLoughlin, viewed from the frozen surface of Lake of the Woods, Klamath County, Oregon.

This was taken in March of 2013.  If only we’ve had a winter like that since.

 

Yep, He Got Us!

Over the past few weeks I have been culling my photo database.  Starting with my the first images in 2004 when I switched from analog, I’ve been looking at every single one.  I’m up to 2011 so far.

As I look at each one, I’m looking for:

– Technical quality – is it in focus, is it exposed properly, etc.

– Duplication – Is it a duplicate?  If so, is it the best of the rest?

– Uniqueness – Is the image of an event that can’t be repeated?  Will I have the chance to observe it again?

– Sentiment – Does the image have some sort of sentimental value?  Oftentimes, this and the previous step are the same.

It can be quite tedious.

I was never shy with the shutter button when I was shooting film.  That hasn’t changed since I moved to digital, but I know that I do shoot more.  Rarely did I have a 4-roll day with film, but I can easily shoot 200 images in a session.

But they all aren’t keepers.

I haven’t kept track exactly on numbers, but I know that I’ve regained ~120GB of hard drive space.  That’s at a time when I was needing to get at least one new hard drive for storage.  In this case, it’s almost “free money”.

And I’ve already started using the process for the new shoots.  During the session that included last Friday’s image, I shot 58 frames.  I applied those same four steps to the session and now have 10 frames to pick from.

Especially when it comes to landscape, the “duplicate” step is the deciding factor.  I can click back and forth between two images dozens of times to see the minor differences.  Sometimes it’s a matter of flipping the coin.


 

Anyway, what in the world does all of this have to do with the title?

Bear with me.  It does.

I wanted to post a slightly different angle of Mount McLoughlin, one from a real winter.  The last one we’ve had in this area was two years ago.  That’s when the mountain lakes froze hard enough that folks could go out and fish, ski, snowmobile, etc.

So I jumped forward to 2013 and went for images of Mount McLoughlin, viewed from the frozen surface of Lake of the Woods and worked one to post here.  Then I realized that today would be the seventh anniversary of Skinny’s Gotcha Day.  Although in reality, it’s our Gotcha Day.

For those of you not familiar, when adopting a greyhound there is a house visit.  The visit is to make sure that the potential adopters have a suitable house and enclosed yard, plus watch the interaction with the greyhounds, the adopters and their families, both human and animal.  For such a home visit, a few greyhounds are brought along.  They are happy, social animals.

We had our eye on a specific greyhound that we had met a couple of times.  The adoption volunteers brought him, along with a couple of other greyhounds, including Skinny.  Skinny wasn’t on the list to be adopted.  Instead he was being reintroduced to the home-visit process and new people after he had been returned to the adoption agency.  He didn’t mesh well with his previous adopted family and had, as we learned, a “pupitude”.

Full on attitude.

So the group enters the house.  The grey that we had our eye on and the others shyly enter and sniff around, staying close to the volunteers.  Not Skinny.  He immediately explores the whole house, then flops down in the middle of the living room floor.

He announced he was home.

And he was.

He never lost that pupitude.

Never, not even at the end.

He still makes us smile.

Thanks for picking us, Skinny!

 

Play

The last few weeks have been much more work than play.  Although compared to work in years past, this work is still play.

The days are filled with culling and moving the belongings as well as researching and planning for the long walk.  Other than cataloging items or recording other items before disposing of them, I hadn’t grabbed the camera in almost a month.

That’s bad.

It was time to get out for a shoot that wasn’t about working.  Although it was long walk related.

We drove the approximate route of a possible self-imposed deviation from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that we’re considering taking this summer.  It doesn’t really increase or decrease the length of the walk, but might make a minor resupply easier while getting us more consistent access to water on a 30-mile stretch of the trail.

That access means that we’d have to carry less water, which is less weight.  But more exposure to mosquitoes.  It’s a tradeoff we’ll consider along the way and likely not make a call until we’re back here in Oregon.

All while keeping in mind a quote from a much faster thru-hiker than us when referring to part of the trail that we would bypass:

“As soon as we crossed the highway, it was like walking into a wall of mosquitoes.  There were hundreds at a time all day every day.  Carry DEET and a gun to shoot yourself with”.  – Straight Jacket

And we’re considering a route with more water.

Granted, we’ll be later in the season, around mid-August, when the mosquitoes really die off up near the mountain lakes, but they’ll still be an issue.  Perhaps those will be the days that we get in 30 miles per day to just try to get through it.

A bit of manic hiking, perhaps.

Once we covered part of that detour, we hiked, following the PCT north into that bit of what would be mosquito hell in a few months, then turning back south, crossing the highway and hoping to get a good view of Mount McLoughlin.  The day had been clear and I was hoping to get some good late afternoon shots of the snow-covered mountains.

Of course, once we got into a clearing, we could see the clouds moving in.  Mind you, I like the clouds.  They give some interest and texture to what could be  otherwise boring.

But these clouds were getting thicker to the west and really cutting down on the sunlight.  I rushed ahead, tramping over the crusty snow and bare trail to find a good vantage point.  I left Goddess behind and she wasn’t too pleased with that.  But we were losing light.

The view turned out OK.  Not quite what I was hoping for, but it was part of a few hours out on the trail.  That’s always a good thing.

Plus we were able to attend a viewing of a new movie covering the John Muir Trail (JMT), a 210-mile trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  During our long walk this summer, we’ll cover about 160 miles of that trail, as they share tread.

The movie is a documentary of two ultra-marathon runners who set a “fastest known time” for the trail back in 2013.  It just so happens that one of the runners, Hal Koerner, owns our local running shop and is a certifiable badass.

This trailer gives a glimpse of some of the beauty that we’ll be walking through.

How’s that for motivation?

 

PCT Pacing

In the last post covering PCT Planning, I mentioned a 20 mile-per-day (mpd) average needed for us to get to Canada by the end of September.  Hopefully before the snow starts falling.

Twenty miles a day?  Walking?  On purpose?

Gotcha.

But remember, that’s the average.  Half of the hike will be below, half will be above.

We’re going to stick with the ultra-marathon mantra of “start out slow, throttle back”.  In other words, we intend on being tortoises.

We’ll start our hike about 10 days earlier than the traditional start of the PCT hiking season, which coincides with an event called the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO).  The ADZPCTKO is, in a nutshell, a camping weekend where hikers can meet other hikers, get advice on their equipment, buy what they need and get the latest trail, water and snow conditions for the trail before they head out.

[I actually typed “buy what they don’t need”.  Freudian slip, anyone?]

The location of the ADZPCTKO is the Lake Morena campground at PCT mile 20.  A lot of folks will do that 20 miles in their first day.

Goddess and I will not.

We’ll take two days to get to that campsite, a week before the masses.  We’ll keep moving at a 10 mpd average pace for the next couple of weeks.

There are downsides to moving so slowly.  We’ll have to carry more water between watering holes (literally) in the desert.  We’ll have to carry more food between resupply points.  But we’ll be giving our feet and our bodies frequent breaks during the day, giving everything a chance to settle into the task.

A typical day early in the hike might look like this – wake up early and get on the trail around sunrise.  Walk for a couple of hours until mid- to late-morning when it starts to get hot (it will be the desert, y’know).  Find or create shade, have lunch, take a siesta and wait until late afternoon.  Then get a couple of more hours on the trail in the late afternoon/early evening before setting up camp for the night.

A lot of folks will try to get in 20 mile days, day after day, right from the start.  Some of those will soon start to deal with incessant blisters and/or bio-mechanical issues.  Quite a few of those will stop at Warner Springs, just 110 miles into the hike, deal with their injuries and never continue.

That’s not something we want to experience.

We’ll get to Warner Springs as the ADZPCTKO is in full-swing and we’ll likely continue north.  Although we’re still discussing the possibility of hitching a ride back down to the event.  We’ll have time.

If we continue along the trail, the fast hikers will catch up to us within a few days.  Soon the trickle of hikers will become a steady stream as the faster ones catch and pass us.

But we still won’t be in a hurry.

By the time we get to Kennedy Meadows, the traditional start of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we’ll be up to a whopping 12 mpd average.  And we’ll still get to Kennedy Meadows about a week earlier than the traditional 15 June date.  In a typical year, departing Kennedy Meadows earlier than 15 June means dealing with a lot of snow at elevation, while departing Kennedy Meadows after 15 June means an easier time as the snow melts quickly.

Mind you, that average takes into consideration days off.  In thru-hiker parlance, a day off is a “Zero Day”, meaning no miles are hiked.  Often taken in a town, a zero day can also be taken on the trail, but that requires additional food and water for that segment of the trail.

Another option is what is called a “Nearo Day”.  Instead of no miles hiked, a hiker can camp a few miles outside of a town, wake up, hike into town and take care of whatever resupply and other chores are required, then hike out of town a few miles to camp for the night.

The advantage to a Nearo is not paying for a hotel room.  Handy when you’re trying to save money on the trail, but not so much if it has been 7-10 days (or more) since the last shower or hiker bath in a large body of water.  Even your fellow hikers might start to say something about that.

So while the average is 12 mpd, we’ll slowly build up our daily pace to accommodate those off and shorter days.

The next 400 miles through the Sierra Nevada Mountains will be slow going as we have to work over several high elevation passes and across streams swollen with snow melt.  After that, it’s time to get serious about making miles.

Through Northern California and Oregon, it’s likely that we’ll be covering 25 mpd, many days covering 30+ miles.  It sounds like a lot, but when you consider that by the time we enter Northern California we’ll have had over 1,100 miles in our legs over three months, we’ll be up to the task.

Not to mention time.  We’ll enter Northern California in early July, a few weeks after the summer solstice.  The days will be long (~15 hours of daylight).  We’ll be comfortably walking 12-14 hours each day at a slower than normal walking pace of 2.5 mph.  That gets us over 30 miles each day if we want or need to push that hard.

Once we get into Washington, the terrain becomes a bit more demanding again and our daily pace will slow down a bit.  But at that point, we’re five months into our long walk and have the finish in our grasp.  Excitement and motivation will help overcome any terrain and weather (rain) that we have to deal with.

And that, in a nutshell, is how we average 20 miles per day on this long walk.

But that sure is a lot of words.  Perhaps this will help with the understanding of the motivation:

 

PCT Planning

I’ve been posting about this long walk that we’re taking this summer, a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).    If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, click here for a quick overview.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

OK, good.

Well, as you can imagine, a 5-6 month hike doesn’t just happen.  For some, sure, it can be done.  Especially if they already have all of the right equipment and a bit of background doing this.

That could be us.

In a couple of years.

But for now, we need a plan.  Enough of a plan that Goddess is comfortable with our general direction.  Why she trusts me to do this, I’ll never know.

Perhaps it’s curiosity.

Luckily there are hundreds of hikers that make the same trek every year.  Some multiple times.  Others glean information from all of their hiker friends and do things like write guide books for the rest of us.  One such hiker has a trial name of “Yogi”.  Yogi’s book is the Bible for the PCT (she does one for the Continental Divide Trial [CDT] also).

The best part is that she updates her book every year.  For folks like us who bought last year’s book to try to get an idea of what we were getting ourselves into, she’s kind enough to post a summary of changes.  I can then pencil in the changes without having to buy this year’s book.

The level of detail is just crazy.  Although not mile-by-mile, it might as well be.  Every known water spot, every known road crossing, every known spot to resupply (more in a later post) is listed in the book.  It sure helps those of us that aren’t familiar with the trail and the towns.

So Yogi’s book is the Bible.  While it gives us the overview and the details, it doesn’t do much to help build a schedule.  That’s where Craig comes in.

Craig first hiked the PCT in 1996.  Planning for that hike, he built a schedule on a spreadsheet compiling as much data as he could.  Eventually he ported it over to a web-based program and he puts it out there for us to use for free, although donations are appreciated.

Craig’s PCT Planner starts off simply enough – enter a start date and press “go”.  After that it’s easy to get buried in the weeds.  That’s where I’ve been for several months now.

This is how it looks graphically:

CaptureAnd for those of you in the know about this sort of hiking, that is not our plan.  Most quick hikers at the front of the pack are not averaging 24.5 miles per day through the Sierras, even if they were doing that through the 700 miles prior to these sections.

Not to mention that this plan would be leaving Kennedy Meadows and entering the Sierras almost a month earlier than conventional wisdom, ensuring a lot of deep snow to push through.  No thanks.

We’ll be much slower than that, likely only covering 15 miles per day through this stretch in mid-June, a month later than depicted.  But that’s OK, we’ll make up for it later in northern California and Oregon.

For the detailed planning that I’m doing now, the graphical display is nice but hard to follow.  Instead I export the data into a spreadsheet, just like Craig used in the beginning.

That’s where the Devil is.

In that spreadsheet.

A lot of details and a lot of things to stress over, if I was to stress over those things.  But the one thing I do know is that no matter how much planning I do now, it doesn’t matter once we start walking.

As Craig cautions – “Just because you carried four cases of beer into the woods that one time 15 years ago does not mean you can still do it now“.

For us, the days will evolve however they will.  We’ll adapt or we won’t.

In other words, while I’m doing quite a bit of planning, I constantly keep military strategist Helmuth von Moltke The Elder‘s paraphrased quote in the back of my head:

No plan survives contact with the [trail].

In other words – one step at a time, one day at a time.

We’ll get there.

 

Lint Shakedown

No, not the accumulation of fluffy fibers.

Lint doesn’t sit still long enough for that.

Lint is a rock star in the thru-hiking world.  In the last 11 years, he has completed 11 thru-hikes, including twice earning Triple Crown status, which means that he has thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail.  That’s enough of an achievement for most people.  He’s done that twice and is only one trail (Continental Divide Trail) away from earning his third Triple Crown.

The man lives to thru-hike.

Anyway, we found out that he lives right around the corner from us and was willing to get together to look at what we have and give us suggestions.

We were excited about his offer.

Although probably only half as excited as he was.

He and his girlfriend came over and walked into a living room with Jennifer’s gear spread out on the floor.  Lint got right to it, telling us tales of the trail, looking over what we had, giving suggestions and ideas on what equipment we do have and what we’re looking to purchase.

His girlfriend is a relatively newer hiker and she still had plenty of advice, including ideas for Jennifer that Lint couldn’t provide.

It was a fantastic two hours where we learned a lot.  And it reinforced many of the things that we had read about and planned for.

So what was the equipment layout like?  Here’s mine:

Other than a few small items, that’s it.  Well, except for what I was wearing, which, for the most part is what I’ll be wearing on the trail.  Although the red blanket will not be going.  That was just to lay out the gear.

Oh, and the tent.  We don’t have our tent from Yama Mountain Gear yet, but it won’t take up much space at all.  Gen is working very hard getting everything in line for our sponsorship, not to mention coming up with great new tent designs like the brand-new ultralight Swiftline 2-person tent.

From left to right:

  • Backpack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa
  • Electronics – Phone, Headlamp, SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger
  • Sleeping Bag – Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15° Mummy Bag
  • Sleeping Pad – Thermarest NeoAir Xlite
  • Bear Canister in the back (only carried for a few hundred miles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where it’s required)
  • Kitchen – folding bowl, titanium long-handled spoon, flint lighter, ultra-light camp stove (thanks Mom!)
  • Hydration – Platypus 2L hydration pack (not shown, 2 2L collapsible water bottles)
  • Additional items to be worn – Sun Hat, reflective umbrella (great sun protection), gaiters to keep sand and rocks out of the shoes, extra socks, glasses
  • Extra clothes in the pack – rain jacket, down jacket, extra underwear, sleep socks (helps keep the sleeping bag clean), long underwear, extra hiking socks, neck gaiter and wool beanie.
  • Paper maps and guide book – the maps will be separated into sections and the book will be dismantled so that the appropriate information is filed with those sections.  We won’t carry them all, instead mailing them to different pickup locations along the trail.

Like I said, that’s it for six months (worst case), save the few small items that we need to pick up.

Currently that puts me at just under 14lbs (6.3kg) for my base weight.  Yes, I could go lower, but that also means shelling out a lot of money to replace items that we already have.  So we’re good with what we have right now.

For comparison, Lint’s hiking with a base weight of just over 6lbs (2.7kg).  But getting into that realm of ultra-light hiking requires some experience and self-trust.

Perhaps we’ll get there one day.

It’s Friday.  Do you have any adventures planned?

Homeless?

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that if anyone had any questions about this idea of hiking the PCT this year, to ask.

Twice this week I was asked “so does this mean that you’re going to be homeless?”

In the traditional sense, yes.

We will turn over the keys to the house that we’ve been renting for the last couple of years.  All of our stuff, well the stuff that hasn’t been donated, recycled or thrown away, will be in storage.

Once we put the car in storage and step off from the southern terminus of the trail at Campo, California, everything we have or need will be on our backs.

I will carry the shelter, Jennifer will carry the kitchen and we’ll each carry the stuff that we each need for the hike.

That’s it – we will have a house and we’ll be together.

That’s home.

We’ll just have a different view out front every morning.

After the hike?  We don’t know right now.  That’s part of the fun of the hike.  We’ll figure out where it takes us.


The picture at the top is the view of one home.  It was the last morning of a long hitch of trail work down in California.  It was the middle of summer, August 5th to be exact.

It looks like snow on the ground, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t.  That’s the remnants of the hail storm we had overnight.  By 2am there were several inches of hailstones blanketing the entire area, but most of it had melted in the summer warmth by sunrise.  The evaporational cooling created quite a thick layer of fog over the area by the time we broke camp.

That little tent did a fine job of protecting that young man through the worst of the rain, the hail and the runoff.  It was extremely loud inside my tent, which was protected by trees.  I still can’t imagine how loud it was for him out in that meadow.  But he emerged in the morning with a big smile on his face.

That was a fine home.


Do you have any questions about this journey of ours?  Let me know and I’ll talk about it.

Thanks for reading.