Thursday, January 26, 2012

92 Days- Hiker Hunger Returns… Or, I Joined a Gym

Back in the beginning of January I did like what a lot of people do that time of year and joined a gym.  One month plus two free weeks for being a new member.  The membership was necessary.  Before the gym, since moving to Florida at the beginning of December I went to two Yoga classes, went on one Florida-version of a hike, went on one 25 mile bike ride, and have spent a good number of days at the beach.  I also walked around the neighborhood a handful of times.  With the exception of the bike ride nothing was feeling like actual physical movement. 
Doing some winter hiking in Maryland.
Early spring hike in Maryland.
I spent last winter in Maryland and I was going for 10-15 mile hikes once a week.  I was usually the first one on the A.T. after a snowfall.  Granted I wasn’t doing that many miles, but I felt like I was keeping in hiker shape.  At the end of March I did a 28 mile day hike with a large group and felt great the whole time, and I believe, with the exception of the trail runners, I was the first women done, and the fifth hiker done.  But I was incredibly sore the next day.  I don’t want to start the PCT after putzing around for a few months. 

So I joined a gym.  My membership will last me until February 23rd and I’ll probably sign up for one more month after that.  I don’t predict that I’ll have much time for the gym come April, but who knows?  
My body went through a week of breaking in.  The instructors love making us do squats and lunges.  My quads do not love doing squats and lunges, but they are starting to get used to it.  Already I’ve adjusted to the point where nothing hurts the next day.  After every class I’m incredibly famished.  My thru-hiker hunger doesn’t mess around.
My ice cream after the Half Gallon Challenge on the A.T.
It’s a little strange for me to be working out in a studio.  I’ve never been much of a gym person before.  Since I’ve started backpacking I’ve just been very actively backpacking.  I didn’t have to worry about staying in hiker shape.  I hope that going to the gym is going to do the trick.  I know the best way to get into shape for a long distance hike is to hike long distances, but that isn’t really an option for me here.  One of the instructors suggested that I spend some time on the treadmill.  She suggested that I should walk on it backwards to simulate going down hill and sideways to simulate side hills.  With my pack on, of course.  It should be interesting.  I’ll probably start that next month.
On the PCT, I want to do 20’s at the start.  I think that will be better motivation than the usual reasons people join a gym in January.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

96 Days- A Book Review

Almost a week ago I received Yogi’s Pct Handbook in the mail.  There are two books:  Planning Guide and Trail Tips and Town Guide.  I started right in on the Planning Guide.  I read the first 100 pages in a day which put me close to the end of the gear section.  
While reading those first 100 pages I did a surprising amount of skimming and skipping.  Before getting the book I expected to hang on every word in there.  Yogi broke the PCT down into every topic you could imagine:  Detours, luxury items, camp shoes, toilet paper, and hiker behavior to name just a few.  Each topic is covered by Yogi and then by a panel of 22 past PCT hikers.  I read what Yogi had to say about each topic, and then a handful of the opinions of the panel—I mean there are only so many times you can read that buying water bottles at every town is the way to go. 
The desert section, covering topics like sunscreen and water caches, started on page 136, and pretty much put an end to my skimming.  The desert is something I don’t know much about so I was hanging on every word.  I found the section on the Sierra’s just as interesting.
Yogi has a section about resupply: bounce boxes (a box of supplies like sunscreen, maps, and phone charger that a hiker mails ahead to different towns) and mail drops (a box mailed to a town full of a hiker’s food, maps, and sometimes gear).  Yogi seemed anti mail drops while pro bounce box.  The panel of hikers seemed to be split evenly on the matter.  I won’t be doing a bounce box, but I will be putting together resupply boxes.  Yogi included a chart of how the PCT panel would resupply if they did the trail again.  I actually skipped over the chart, but I will study it soon when putting together my itinerary and resupply boxes. 
I was about 50 pages from the end of the planning guide when I realized I should have been reading the book with a highlighter or colored pen in hand for note making.  I finished the book yesterday and already I’m finding myself hunting down information that I half remembered.  I could always read it again--that doesn't sound like much of a hardship.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

98 Days- How I Pick My Gear...Or How I Make My Head Spin

Buying gear is becoming a bit of a challenge, but I’m sure I’m making it that way.  Yesterday I bought a pair of zip-off hiking pants, but I have spent days trying to find the right pair.  The process I use while buying anything I need for my hike is a long and complicated one that makes my head spin, but I still enjoy it.
I start off with an idea of what I want.  For the pants, I had a cheap pair that I liked hiking in until they disintegrated, and I knew that zip-off pants are pretty common on the PCT.  Pants are something I have trouble getting the right fit so I wanted to try them on first.  So I went to the store.  First was Gander Mountain on the way home from the airport.  They had a few options, some North Face ones, but I was with family and it wasn’t the right time to do shopping.  A few days later I went to Sports Authority, which is probably a great store if you’re buying a yoga outfit, or if you want to look cute, but they didn’t have any women’s zip-off pants.  That shouldn’t have surprised me because I already knew they didn’t carry any women’s long sleeve button down hiking shirts.
In this part of Florida there seems to be a limited selection of outdoor/sport stores.  That left the internet.  I went to, my typical starting point.  I got a feel of the choices there:  the prices, the weights, the reviews.  Any pant that seemed like a possibility I left the tab open on my browser.  Then I went to Sierra Trading Post and the comparisons started again.  I looked for the right color, fabric, size, pockets, inseam length, price, weight, shipping cost.  And it’s frustrating when a piece of information isn’t listed.  Most of the mittens I’ve looked at the weight isn’t listed.  I’ve weighed my oddball collection of tent stakes to find the six lightest I have (and the difference is only a tenth of an ounce) so of course I want to know how much a pair of mittens weighs.  Then I went to Campmor, then Zappos, then REI, then EMS, then Amazon (and I usually do this all more than once).
Then I sorted through the potential ones.  I close the duplicates that are cheaper at one store or another.  I compare shipping.  At EMS if I buy 45 dollars of stuff shipping is free, but I didn’t like their pants as much as I liked other ones, but I liked their sunhat the best and if I ordered both I’d have the 45 dollar minimum.  The REI pants were a little more expensive but I could switch my EMS order to REI and save with the yearly dividends, but REI didn’t have the gloves or sunhat that I want, but the pants were okay.  Sierra Trading Post was the cheapest for a lot of what I’ve been buying, but not this time.  Zappos was a strike out.  Amazon had a pair that met all my expectations for 20 dollars less than anything else I was seriously considering.  And only one pair in my size left in stock.  And there was free shipping if I spent 48 dollars, except I didn’t realize until after picking out a cheap watch that I had to spend the 48 dollars with the Amazon-seller that was selling the pants.  So I ditched the watch out of my cart and just bought the pants and paid the eight dollars of shipping, but still paid less than what I expected.
I do this with everything that I buy for this hike.  I’m counting on these pants being the only paints that I wear for the five months I’m on the trail.  That’s a lot of pressure for a pair of pants, glove liners, sunglasses, pack, or socks.  All this gear really does make my head spin.
For all the care I've put into most of my purchases my new GoLite pack was a total impulse buy.  I had browsed packs before, but not with the intent of buying one—I have a perfectly good, slightly heavy pack that I was planning to use.  Then GoLite deeply discounted some packs and I bit.  I’m not allowing myself to look at the other ultra-light packs on the web.  I have plenty to do without second guessing purchases—like look at hiking shoes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

100 Days...Or 100 Things to Do

There's 100 days until the PCT Kick Off.  I will most likely be starting my PCT hike a few days before the Kick Off and getting a ride back so I can participate.  I have close to 100 things to do before then.
I’ve made quite a few lists lately.  I wanted to wait until after November 1st to start on the official PCT planning, including all list making, so I wouldn’t be planning for the hike longer than I was going to be hiking it.  I decided early on that reading trail journals and forms didn’t count as planning—they fall under…knowledge gathering.  They are the planning before the planning. 
My first official purchase for the PCT was a new rain jacket.  I had to take advantage of the Black Friday sales online.  I bought a GoLite rain jacket for a steal, although the sleeves might be a half inch short on me.  Keeping it anyways.  I haven’t tested it out yet even though we had four continues days of rain last month, and we haven’t had much since then.
I didn’t start in on the lists until shortly after buying the rain jacket.  I have a Things to Buy; Things To Make, Modify, or Repair; Things To Do; Dinners to Dehydrate; and Lunches to Dehydrate (food will be a separate entry).  I might need a list to keep track of my list. 

Things to Buy:                                                Things To Make, Modify, or Repair:
Base shirt                                                        Pack cover
Long sleeve hiking shirt                                  Pillow (maybe not)
Short sleeve hiking shirt                                  Hygiene ditty bag
Sports bra                                                        Tent modification and repair
Zip-off pants                                                   Tyvak ground cloth
Running shorts                                                Tent stuff sack modification
Dirty Girl Gaiters                                            Sleeping bag liner  
Sunglasses                                                       Sleeping pad modification
Ursack Minor food bag                                   Rain skirt modification
Watch                                                              Things to Do:
Pot cozy                                                          Dehydrate lots and lots of food
Camp shoes                                                     Read planning guidebook/ Trail guidebook
Hiking shoes                                                   Prep resupply boxes
Guidebook                                                      Start a journal (one down)
Maps                                                               Make an Itinerary
Bear canister
Ice axe and micro spikes (most likely)

Monday, January 16, 2012

What is a Thru-Hike on the Pacific Crest Trail?

The U.S. is crisscrossed by a network of National Scenic Trails.  They are long distance hiking trails with the Appalachian Trail (AT), located on the east coast, being the oldest, and one of the most well known.  The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the west coast version. 
At 2,660 miles the Trail winds through six of the seven ecosystems in North America including the desert of Southern California where I’ll be starting my journey, old-growth forest, alpine country, and the rain forest of the Pacific Northwest.  Hikers on the PCT will experience a wide range of altitudes from sea level to 13,000 feet and an equally varied temperature ranging from scorching desert days to below freezing nights.
Starting in April I will be one of the roughly 300 hikers that start the PCT with the goal of hiking from the Mexican boarder through California, Oregon, and Washington to the Canadian boarder before the snow flies in October.  To accomplish this journey, a thru-hiker will have to average 15 to 30 miles a day of hiking.  I will be carrying a pack weighing (hopefully) less than 30 pounds.  Inside the pack I’ll have everything I’ll need to walk and camp out for 5 months.  I’ll have a tent, a warm jacket, a place to store my water and a way to treat it; I’ll have a cook-pot and stove, a spoon and a knife, and a bag of food that I’ll replenish with short trips into nearby towns.