Whale Shark

Our home for the summer received a quality control shakedown after being created this week.

Gen Shimizu, the genius behind Yama Mountain Gear, posted a pic and asked if it looked like a shark.

It does.  A Whale Shark.

At 36.5oz actual weight, I’ll barely notice it in my pack.  But we will both enjoy this Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2-person tent on those wet and windy nights.

 

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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:

 

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.