Tuesday, February 28, 2012

42 Days- Temperamental Sewing Machine

Too large stuff sack.
At the beginning of 2010 my Mom and I made me a tarp tent to use for ridge running.  I don’t think it even crossed our minds to make the new tent a stuff sack, but the first time I went to pack it up the oversight was obvious.  We had already moved on to other projects, like making rain skirts, at this point so instead of backtracking I salvage.
On my 2009 AT thru-hike I had used a Eureka! tent that developed a leak early on and I used it sporadically.  Ask any AT thru-hiker from the class of '09 and they will tell you how it rained, and rained, and for good measure it rained some more so a leaky tent was a very heavy piece of dead weight.  I shipped it home and relied on shelters the rest of my hike.  In 2010 I repurposed that tent’s stuff sack for my new tarp tent.
The old bag was clearly too big.  The fact that it took up a smidgen of extra space and weighed maybe two ounces more than it should have kind of bothered me.  It didn’t bother me enough to do anything about it for two ridge running seasons, but with a list of projects for the PCT downsizing the stuff sack sounded like an easy one.
Excess fabric.
My Mom and I started our alterations about a week and a half ago.  We snipped off about five inches from the top of the bag.  We set up the old sewing machine, folded over and pinned down the new top of the bag and ran it through the machine.  One time around left the bag partly sewn.  For some reason the machine was skipping huge sections, then a few successful stitches and then another section of missed stitches.
Dials were fiddled with, the internet was consulted, new needles were bought, second opinions were sought, and yet, the problem persisted.  We tried some scrap cotton fabric and the machine worked just fine.  Tried the bag again with the same unsatisfactory results.  We thought the fabric of the bag was too slippery.   It wasn’t looking good for the tent modifications I wanted to make or the new pack cover I wanted sewn out of silnylon which is a very slippery fabric.
The new lighter brighter stuff sack.
We tried a piece of scrap silnylon left over from making my tent.  The machine sewed it perfectly.  We decided the machine just didn’t like the old stuff sack.  With a bigger piece of left over silnylon my Mom cut the piece for a new stuff sack and had the bag done in under an hour.  The only remaining piece of the old bag that we used was the cord to sinch the bag closed.  Using the silnylon makes for a much lighter bag than the old one—even after trimming it down.  And being bright red will help the bag reach Canada with me instead of blending in with its surroundings. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

44 Days-The Flight is Booked

Planned on buying a phone, bought a flight instead
Last night after getting home from dinner and cell phone research I booked my flight to California. I’ve known for awhile now when I wanted to fly and start my hike.  For some reason it seemed like bad luck to proclaim a start date.  I am a superstition person so it doesn’t surprise me that I would come up with some random one about PCT start dates.
I'll be flying April 11th into San Francisco were I will stay for roughly five days and then somehow I will make my way to San Diego where I will stay for about five days.  In addition to the food dehydrating, gear sewing, shoe buying, sleeping bag washing, map organizing I need to plan a two city California tour.   The plan is to see everything:  to sight see like I’ll never get the chance again.  It should be exhausting—which is of course the best thing to do before starting a long and sometimes grueling five month long hike.
My PCT hike will start April 22, 2012.

Monday, February 20, 2012

65 Days- Off Trail Magic

New spikes and no ice to use them on.
I received some off trail magic on Thursday: a new pair of MicroSpikes.  I knew I was getting a pair—a friend had sent me a message saying she was getting hooked up on deeply discounted MicroSpikes and did I want in on the deal?  I sent back my shoe size thinking in a day or two I would be told how much I owed.
Instead they arrived on Thursday with a thank you card from the map group.  They had gotten together quietly and bought the spikes for me.  It was a complete surprise and very sweet.  It was something they didn’t have to do, they said thank you—some of them profusely, and that was enough.  This is one example of why I like being a thru-hiker.  Being helpful, doing kind things isn’t a rarity in this circle.
I had enjoyed organizing the map buy; I had the chance to chat with several people in the group and I really felt like part of the group.  It was a fun experience and I can’t wait to meet them on the trail.

Friday, February 17, 2012

68 Days-Updated Lists

This week marked ten weeks until the Kick Off party.  Ten weeks feels like a very long time and not much time.  And in the same confusing way I feel ready for this hike and not ready.  If I was to leave tomorrow I’d be okay.  Most of the things left on my lists I could get by without doing—there are some exceptions like I still need a bear canister—but others are niceties, improvements, or they are style choices (like the mail drops).
During the week I worked more on my food.  I checked out a health food store and quickly BJ’s wholesale looking for cheap bulk goods.  Adding to my food stores is something I need to put more time into pretty soon.  The dehydrating is a tedious process, but I’m enjoying the outcome.  The Lentil Tapenade that I shared a recipe for is fantastic.  I keep nibbling on the dry portions. 
I discovered that I need to work on my dinners.  I was looking through my list to pick a meal to try out and none of them were sparking my interest.  If I don’t want to eat the meal fresh at home, I’m not going to want to eat it on the trail.
My printed Halfmile Maps
Besides working on food I ordered a couple more things from my list.  I bought a pot cozy and Tyvek for my tarp tent ground cloth yesterday.  My maps came in the mail today.  Each page looks like a work of art.  It’s a shame they are going to take a beating on the trail.  I sent in my PCT thru-hiker permit and Canadian Entry application on Monday.  Hopefully all goes well with them.
Yesterday my Mom and I started one of my simple sewing projects, but of course the sewing machine is on the fritz, so that has been put on hold.

My lists, updated:

Things to Buy:                                                Things To Make, Modify, or Repair:
Long sleeve 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 (purchased needs customizing)
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(ordered-be here next week)              Dehydrate lots and lots of food (in the works)
Camp shoes                                                     Read planning handbook/ Trail handbook
Hiking shoes                                                   Prep resupply boxes
Guidebook                                                      Start a journal
Maps                                                               Make an Itinerary
Phone                                                              Apply for permits
Bear canister                                                   Wash sleeping bag
Ice axe (most likely)                                       Break handbook and maps up into sections
MicroSpikes                                                   Taxes (not strictly PCT but needs to be done)
Plane ticket                                                    

And I really want to go on a hike.  I am getting so tired of the gym.  I need a 15-20 mile section on the Florida Trail to take my pack for a hike. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

76 Days-Buying Maps for 38

 Towards the end of January I volunteered to take on the task of organizing a bulk purchase of Halfmile's Pacific Crest Maps (http://www.pctmap.net/).  Halfmile lets hikers have his maps for free—a hiker can print them out, download them to a phone, computer, or other electronic device.  It takes a lot of pages to cover 2,600 miles of hiking trail, roughly 235 pages printed front and back.  A lot of hikers don’t want to print out the maps on their home printer—too much ink will be used up making them very expensive to print.  It is more cost effective to order them from a professional printer so a group of us from the Facebook group PCT Class of 2012 and the PCT-L got together a bulk order.
On the Facebook group we talked about the best way to get our maps.  Halfmile pointed us towards a Portland, OR printer that is hiker friendly.  In the past they had given a discount to hikers for ordering their maps in a group.  After getting a sense of who would be interested in a group run interest kind of flagged off.  We didn’t have a leader for this projects, and while hikers are some of my favorite people, they can tend to have a laissez faire attitude. 
I had the feeling that nobody was going to volunteer.  I figured I was pretty active in the discussion process, I love discounts, I had a PayPal account, and I had the time, so I might as well volunteer.  At that point we had 20 people who had expressed interest which would get us a ten dollar discount.
I sent out a message to the 20 people on the list asking for shipping address and giving details of how the ordering would work.  I figured if I got an address from somebody they actually wanted the maps.  I was guessing I wouldn’t hear back from at least five people on the first list.  I sent out that first message kind of late at night, and the next morning when I checked my email I had 21 messages from Facebook—not all of them about the maps, some general PCT messages posted to the group as a whole. 
Over a couple of days more people joined our group and more addresses came in.  I kept track of our progress publicly—partly so if I missed an address that person could say so, and also to keep our efforts in the forefront of people’s minds (add maybe to put a little peer pressure on).  I also posted our efforts in to the PCT-L—an email group focused on the Trail.  I had a master list of everybody interested on my computer to better keep track of everybody because I had two different groups.
It felt like I was sending the same information to different people repeatedly.  It seemed like every time I sent out a mass message a new person would join the group and I had to get them up to speed.  In all my messages I tried to be very clear about what was going on—address that I needed, price, shipping, how to pay—and very firm—I set deadlines, I had a refund policy if I was charged any PayPal fees.
I know in the past I’ve been thought of as being a little too nice or a push over, but I figured there was no way for the group to know that.  If I accepted the PayPal fees I would have been loosing close to $90.00 dollars and that knowledge made it a little easier to refund money and send a quick note explaining why their money was being refunded and how to send money again.  I did issue quite a few refund while hoping the person who was getting their money back wasn’t going to be grumbling about how horrible and cheap I was being about a two dollar fee—I received many “you rocks, thank you’s, and you’re awesome’s.”  There wasn’t a single negative response—which doesn’t really surprise me because I’m always telling people that hikers are the greatest. 
Every day more money was coming into my PayPal account.  People were thanking me for my organization efforts and I felt like I should be thanking them for trusting me with their money—I know I’m trustworthy, but they were taking me at my word.  It was incredible watching as my PayPal account jumped to $500.00 dollars the first day to over a thousand the second day, then over $2,000.00.  Out of the 38 people only one asked if I was trustworthy.
As the funds grew I continued to post public updates so the group could know what was going on with their money and they could know who hadn’t made a payment.  I liked having the names public—I didn’t want to take all the responsibility for getting people to do what they said they would do. In the end I only had to gently nudge a couple of people to pay.
From the original list of 20 that I started out collecting shipping addresses from only two people never got back to me—much better than I had anticipated.  Many others joined the list—two of those were after the order was placed. 
The maps were shipped out yesterday.  My map should be slowly working its way across the country to me.  I should have them sometime next week.  By the time I’m done with my maps they will have crossed the country twice and traveled the width of it twice, too.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

78 Days-If at First You Don't Succeed

For the past two days my dehydrator has been humming away.  It's been making the house smell rather good.  I've been tackling lunch foods.  I've selected five different recipes for my lunches.  All of them to be eaten cold with (or without) cheese, summer sausage, and something bread like.
For the re-fried beans I started with one can of pinto beans and it seemed like only minutes later I had re-fried beans.  I used up my other four cans on pinto beans.
Five cans worth of re-fried beans
Re-fried Black Beans

2 cups canned Pinto beans

1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chicken Bouillon (omit if using stock)

1 teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Next was tapenade-olive past.  Again, very quick to make. 

Lentil Tapenade almost dry
Castle's Lentil Tapenade
1/4 cup (dry) red lentils
1/2 t vegetable or chicken bouillon or stock
1/4 t garlic powder

1 T  roasted red pepper, cut tiny
1 T  olives
1 T lemon juice
1 t dried parsley
black pepper to taste

Cook the lentils in the stock for more flavor.  I've adjusted the recipe for a larger batch: 3 cup dry red lentils cooked in 1 cup stock and 3 cups water.  3 cans of olives seasoned to taste.  That gives me about 4 trays to dehydrate. 

I had cooked more lentils than I had olives so I used the rest of the lentils in another lunch recipe.  I choose red lentils because they pack in 170 calories in each uncooked quarter cup serving.  And it's 13 grams of protein per serving.  Taste-wise it doesn't seem to have much of a taste of its own, but does pick up the taste of what it is cooked in and mixed with. 

Corn and Lentil Salad
Re-fried beans-dried.
1/4 cup (cooked) red lentils
1/4 cup corn
1/2 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bullion
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 T orange juice
salt and pepper to taste

Next time I think I'll add roasted red peppers to this one.  It looks bland.

Monday, February 06, 2012

80 Days- Not Enough Chefs in the Kitchen

In 2009 I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and in 2010 and 2011 I was an A.T.  Ridgerunner in Maryland, which means I've eaten more than my fair share of instant mashed potatoes, peanut butter, Snicker bars, pasta sides, and such.  For the PCT, I want to try something different; I want to dehydrate my own food.
Before I start on that I had to move from Maryland to Vermont to Florida all in one month.  The Maryland to Vermont move was easy—I took down my tent, put everything in my car, and drove for a day.  The Vermont to Florida move was much more intensive.  
Our kitchen; plastic wrapped and minus cabinets and counters.
Once in Florida I took a couple of days searching through recipes online.  I was looking for recipes that didn’t rely too much on meat or dairy—I don’t want to risk dried meat or diary going rancid.  I wanted meals that weren’t tomato based (I’m not a fan).  I wanted recipes that shared a lot of ingredients to make shopping easier.  I eventually came up with a list of 15 dinners.  If I’m on trail for my planned 150 days I’ll eat each meal ten times. 
Shortly after I had my recipe list the kitchen went from dingy-don’t really want to touch anything-to striped down concrete blocks and studs.  The refrigerator was in the dinning room.  The silverware was on the back porch.  The counters had gone out with the trash.  The cups were in the guestroom.  My new dehydrator was still in its box in the dinning room where it landed after being taken off the moving truck.
Slowly, over two months, a couple holidays, a trip to Vermont, family visits, we have most of a new kitchen.  New-to-us cabinets went in a couple at a time.  A new wall was built and some old walls were rebuilt and painted.  A new light went up.  Plywood still serves as makeshift counters.  And my dehydrator is still packaged up.
Every week I check the local circulars for hiker snacks and ingredients for my meals, yet I’ve only gone food shopping twice.  I bought mostly snacks.  But I did start a collection of beans for humus, refried beans, and soups and some frozen vegetables.  I also scoped out a few discount food stores.
On Saturday night I picked one of my meals to try out:  Chickpea and Spinach Soup.  The cookbook described it as:  "an especially earthy delight."  The outcome was nothing of the sort, although I don't blame the beans.  The problems probably started when I realized I didn't have chick peas but figured I could substitute Great Northern Beans.  Then the food processor overflowed when I turned it on with one can of beans and three cups of stock, so I had to spoon out a cup.
Garnished and still not good
The recipe called for three tablespoons of fresh mint finely chopped.  I didn't have any mint, fresh or otherwise, that wasn't in the form of tea.  I have pure peppermint tea in my stash of hiker food and Candy Cane tea in the cabinet.  I put in a shy tablespoon of Candy Cane tea because I was too lazy to go up stairs and root around for the peppermint tea.  I didn't think it would matter, the other flavors in the tea always seemed so subtle but in the soup they were overpowering.  I tried a bite, choked it down, then added more garlic powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, and lemon juice.  I sampled it again.  It was just as bad.
I adjusted the other seasonings again, tasted it, and thought maybe with some parm and smooshed crackers it would be okay.  I dished it up, ate maybe five bites before dumping the whole batch of it in a plastic container and froze it.  So no dehydrator going and with one bad meal pasta sides are sounding better and better.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

86 Days (Still)- A New Hat... Or, I Love When UPS Comes

Around the time the UPS typically shows up I was lingering in the living room with a clear view of the driveway and the street beyond it.  I may have been out the door before the truck stopped.  What can I say, I like a boxful of PCT goodies.  It seems like a steady stream of stuff coming in.  And yet my shopping list is still so long. But the hat, it thrills me.  The hat says "I'm going hiking in the desert."  I wonder how long until that bright white hat is a nice beige color?

86 Days- Preserving the Past and Goals for the Future

For the past three winters I have been working on a scrapbook of my 2009 Appalachian Trail thru-hike.  On that I hike I took roughly a picture a mile so I ended up with 2,175 photos.  From those I picked out my favorites—a mere 1,000 of them (sometimes I think about hauling out such a huge photo album at a family function and clearing out the room as everybody else finds something to do besides look at hiking pictures for a couple hours).
I used Snapfish to upload, edit, and print my photos.  They run constant promotions:  penny prints, free shipping, new member discount…  It still wasn’t cheap to get that many photos, but when I held the two cardboard cartons they came in they were hefty with wonderful memories.
In the winter of ’09 and ‘10 it was my goal to complete the book.  I worked steadily; taking over the kitchen table.  I cropped pictures, picked out complementary paper, and went through a few packs of photo-mounts.  It was evident at the beginning of spring 2010 that I wasn’t going to finish the scrapbook project before I moved to Maryland in May.  I left the project in Vermont when I went to Maryland—I didn’t want the photos and paper getting ruined.
The pages for Mount Mossalokie in New Hampshire
After a spring, summer, and fall spent on the A.T. (only Maryland’s 40 miles) it was winter again and it was time to get back to work on my scrapbook.  I was making good progress even though not a single page had captions and I was storing the pages in a boot box instead of an album.  At the end of March I still had about 300 pictures left and all the captioning, but it was time to pack my pictures and supplies up and return to the A.T. in Maryland.
Again, this winter the goal is to finish the scrapbook.  Seriously this time.   I have a work space set up in my room and between the gym and planning my PCT hike I worked on my scrapbook.  On Monday I finished gluing down the last of the 300 photos.  It was with a huge sense of accomplishment when I finished that last page even though I still have to add captions.
The pages of my scrapbook
The book has to be done before I leave for California—I’ll have a few thousand new pictures to play with by the end of the PCT.  I don’t know if I’ll make a scrapbook for my PCT hike.  This one has been a very time consuming project.  Snapfish makes beautiful photo books and they run sales on them all the time.  As much as I like the hands on approach of the scrapbook a professionally printed photo book has a lot of appeal. 
I have learned a few things while putting together this scrapbook.  First, as beautiful as the Appalachian Trail is photos of people make for a more interesting book.  My goal for the PCT is to take more pictures of people:  people in camp, day hikers, trail angels on the trail, people lounging in town, people admiring the view, crossing rivers, eating plates of food as big as their head.  Second:  Towns are part of the trail, too.  My second photo goal is to take more pictures of hikers in town, trail angels, where I eat, and hotel rooms after a pack explosion.
When I look through my A.T. pictures I miss those moments.  So if I take your picture on the PCT while you’re cooking dinner, you’ll know why.