Friday, March 30, 2012

11 Days- How to Make a Stove in Pictures

My old stove with 2,000 + miles on it with its replacement.
Gather supplies.
Draw a circle around the can 3/4 inches from the bottom and another  1 1/2 inches from the top of the can.  Use the hair tie to make an even circle.
Cut out the middle of the can using the guidelines (Use the paper awl or other pointed object to start the whole to make cutting easier).
From the top of the can cut out the mouth section.
(The can is upside down to better show the tabs that were cut).  Cut tabs on the top section on the can:  1. Cut tabs 1/2 inch wide around the can from the cut edge up to the "shoulder" of the can (the shoulder is where the can starts to bend inwards and upwards towards the lip of the can).  2. Pick a tab, snip off a sliver of the tab leaving a gap between the two tabs.  3. Add about 8 more gaps spaced evenly.
Fit the top of the can into the bottom piece.  It should fit in nicely, but snugly.
If you look at a Pepsi can the bottom is pushed inward.  When assembling the stove the tabs should but up against the indented portion of the can.
Fuel is added where the mouth of the can used to be.  Once lit the flame wicks up where the tabs are and comes out where the cut edge of the bottom of the can meets the shoulder on the top of the can.  My pot sits right on top of the stove--no need for a pot stand.
The new stove try-out.

 The rest of my cooking set-up:
Wind screen folded up, cook pot, lighter, knife, stove on a piece of tin, and long handled spoon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

15 Days- Bargaining at the Big Box Store

Awhile ago my Mom was out shopping and she spotted Hickory Farms gift boxes marked down 50%.  We think they were Christmas left-over’s that were about to go out of date.
On Saturday we went to the store with the hopes of getting an even bigger discount.  The boxes I wanted had 8 ounces of cryovac cheeses and two 7 ounce summer sausages for the marked down price of ten dollars a box.  We wanted them for five.  We ended up getting them for eight, which was still a very good deal.  An eight ounce block of cheese is usually 2.50 at the store and sausage goes for just under 4.00.
Now I have nearly half the sausage I want for the trip and enough cheese for six resupplies.  Tuna fish in water is buy one get one at the store right now.  I want to pick up about a dozen packages.  Ideally I want tuna in oil--more calories for the same weight.  Maybe they will go on sale next.

All of my prep is on hold until Thursday.   That will leave me a mere 12 days to finish everything.  The idea sends a small bolt of panic through me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

19 Days- Completed Projects

There are only 19 days left until I fly to California.  The fact that my countdown has reached the teens is a little daunting.  There is no more pretending that there is plenty of time—but I might be at the point where I don’t need plenty of time to get ready.
Lately my lists seem to be in good shape.  This week my Mom and I worked steadily on my Make, Modify, and Repair list.  Together with help from the sewing machine we crossed off all but three items on the list which leaves a pillow, rain skirt modification, and alcohol stove.  The stove I’ll make myself as soon as I get my hands on a Pepsi can.  I’m stumped on the pillow.  I always carried one in the past and I would get a small amount of glee using a pillow when other hikers were using their boots or balled up clothing.  I feel like it is something I should leave behind.  For the two years I’ve had my rain skirt it hasn’t received much use.  When I did use it the fabric would stick to my legs, bunch up, and then I’d have wet shorts.  I haven’t been able to figure out a way to make it stay down.  Velcro didn’t work, and that was about the extent of my ideas.
I’m still dehydrating food.  I’m getting very close to calling it quits, but I’m trying to preserve.  By my count I have lunch covered, but I only have about 80 dinners.  What I have doesn’t look like much food some I’m concerned I’ve over estimated.  It’s hard to tell how much food is in a glass jar after dehydrating.  I’ve dehydrated five pounds of potatoes in a stew this week.  The recipe called for ¾ a pound of potatoes for six servings.  I added two cans of beans which were not in the recipe.  So after hiking twenty mile days what is a serving?  It’s like one of those math problems I hated in grade school.  It’s also a trick question.  The answer is there is never enough food.
My little home.
The biggest project crossed off my lists was working on my tarp tent.  We added some Velcro tabs so the bug net at the bottom on the tent can be attached to my Tyvek foot print.  My new cut to mummy bag shape footprint is about 4 ounces lighter than my old Tyvek footprint.  The weight saving is canceled out because I added 4 ounces of clothing.  I’ve swapped my fleece lined leggings for lighter leggings and swapped a fleece long sleeve shirt for a dress.  I need to pack everything up and find out my new base weight.
I’m slowly filling up my Amazon cart with more hiking stuff.  I noticed a couple weeks ago that I’ve broken off one trekking pole tip.  I cleaned my poles for the first time in three years last week and they promptly stopped working.  The poles have taken a beating—they have lost their paint, but they are still straight and still lock—or at least they did until I cleaned them.  My Dad looked at them for all of a minute before figuring out how to fix them.  I’m also ordering a spare battery for my new smart phone.  I’ve typed up one journal entry on the phone and I think it took the whole day.  Hopefully I get better or I’ll have to carry a battery for each day between towns.
Also since I’ve last posted I’ve registered for ADZPCTKO (—a big kick off party for the PCT hiking season.  In the four and a half days registration was open 512 people signed up.  I’m still working on arranging transportation to and from the Kick Off.  I did get in touch with a trail angel for a ride to Campo for the 22nd, so that’s all set.  Just under a month until I'm on the trail.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

28 Days-We ought to eat all our provisions now

"I think," said Christopher Robin, "that we ought to eat all our Provisions now, so that we shan't have so much to carry."  Winnie the Poo by A.A. Milne
Some goodies, including a 4 pound bag of chocolate chips

On Sunday after spending two hours at the gym walking six miles with my pack I went up the street to Sam’s Club to do a little whole sale shopping with a member card borrowed from my Aunt (Hi Sandy!).  I didn’t have a list, just the plan to go up and down every food aisle slowly.  At this point I know what I like to eat while on the trail, but I still took my time.
I started at the candy aisle and quickly added a large can of peanuts to my massive cart followed by a 48 count box of Snickers and a 24 count of PayDays.  In ’09 I bought four boxes of Snickers and didn’t finish them off until November of ’10.  I took a Snicker vacation in ’11 and I’m ready to return to them.  I might have to go get a second box—I’m not sure yet.
190 dollars of food in one box.
I went there looking for breakfast foods and snacks.  Since I was last in a whole sale store in ’09 I think the selection of food increased.  I found everything I expected, but I found some of it in different flavors than “original.”  I’m pretty happy with the variety of food I picked out and I even found a few things to add to my homemade and dehydrated lunches and dinners—like a giant bag of bacon bits.  I think any of my dinners would benefit form a handful of bacon bits.  Sadly, they only had tuna in cans.  Hopefully a grocery store puts tuna packets on sale soon.  They had some potted meats and yard long pepperoni sticks, which I’m not interested in.
I accidently stayed a half hour after closing time—I blame the Nutterbutter cookies that I stood in front of debating if they should be in my cart or not (I went with not) for too long.  I rang up with 190 dollars of food that all fit into one big box—it looked like more in the cart.
Almost 7 days of food with 4,453 calories.
Sunday I bought the food so Monday I took it and spread it across my floor in tidy little categories.  Awhile ago I had broken my maps into section for mailing and I used them for the base of my food planning.  I started small with drink mixes and some food that I had left over from last summer ridge running.  I have nineteen drops planned—and that counts what I’ll have in my pack on day one.  I quickly laid out breakfast, second breakfast, morning snack, afternoon snack, drink mixes, and hot chocolate powder.  I might have over done it buying two boxes of hot chocolate mix.  I ended up with 140 envelopes hot chocolate and I plan on being out there for 150 days.  I had planned on bringing tea as well, but I’ll wait and see. 
For one 7 day section that I prepped I ended up with 4,453 calories of snacks and breakfasts which breaks down to 636 calories a day.  Besides missing lunches and dinners I’m missing half my breakfast for that section.  I’m planning on having half oatmeal and half breakfast bars in each drop.  Each section I prepped yesterday is also missing goldfish crackers, cookies, and gorp (that’s what the 4 pounds of chocolate chips are for).
Most of my drops.
A lot of people don’t do food drops because they worry about getting bored with the food in the drops.  That doesn’t worry me at all.  It’s never been a problem on my other hikes—my Snickers vacation wasn’t due to boredom, I simply ran out of them and without a Sam’s Club card of my own I didn’t feel like replacing them.  I try to pack a smidgen less than what I’ll want to eat:  if I’m out for seven days I bring six candy bars.  That way I have the option of bringing a different type of candy out of town or making do with an extra handful of peanuts.  A little bit of hunger makes me appreciate my food a lot more. 
The dehydrator has been humming along, but I’m no where close to done yet.  I had to toss one mistake, but since then I’ve made three batches of artichoke soup and today I’ll be making a Thai dish—or at least the veggies and the sauce for it.  And while that dries I’ll be at the gym walking.

Friday, March 09, 2012

31 Days- How to Tell When You Are Almost Ready

How to Tell When You Are Almost Ready for a PCT Thru-Hike:

You stop structuring your day around waiting for the mailman and UPS to arrive.

You stop checking Steep and Cheap every twenty minutes for a good deal.

You delete sale emails from REI, EMS, Backcountry, Sierra Trading Post, Campmor... instead of reading them.

You spend more time hiking than reading gear reviews.

You stop adding new items to your to-do lists.

Your to-do list has more items crossed off than pending.

You're able to tell people "I'm starting my thru-hike next month."

You start to sleep better as you finish buying gear.

You start to sleep worse because you're too excited.

You start to dream about doing the PCT on roller-skates because someone hide your hiking shoes.

You start to eat more fresh foods to make up for five months without.

You say "just about" when someone asks if your ready for your hike.

You start rediscovering your other hobbies.

You time how long it takes to break down and pack up camp.  Then you try to do it quicker.

You spend the day trying to cut your base weight by a pound.

You start finding things to do like learning bird calls or constellations.

You sleep in your tent for practice.

You cook all meals on your camp stove.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

33 Days- Take Your Pack to the Gym Day

Florida Hiking
Took my pack for a six mile walk yesterday in one of the Florida preserves near here.  It was a very windy day, and rather cool for Florida.   The trail had almost none of that loose sand from the other day but it was just like all the other Florida hikes that I've been on.

Right after the hike I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill with my pack on.  I was only there for an hour and fifteen minutes but I had a lot of curious glances come my way.  Only the guy at the front desk asked where I was backpacking to.  I don't think he was expecting me to say Canada.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

36 Days-A Practice Hike: Shifting Sands

Should have known something was up with mileage covered
Around 8 o'clock Friday morning we left for a practice hike that boasted high sand dunes, prairie, cypress tree groves on two loop trails-9.7 miles and 3.5 miles with a connector trail-for a hike of 17 miles.  Some of the hike followed the Florida Trail and some was State Park trail.
After an hour's drive we arrived at Jonathan Dickerson State Park.  We talked to the ranger about the 9 mile loop and bike trails and he gave us three different maps for the park and trails.
We parked, made some last minute adjustments and grabbed our stuff and were ready to hike.  This was the first time I had my new pack out for a hike.  I weighed it before we left home.  With two liters of water and all my gear-even my insulated jacket came along for a hike in mid-80 degree weather-the pack was at 17 pounds.  My food bag was empty so I bulked it up with a large bath towel and pj bottoms to give the bag the shape, but not the weight, of a full food bag.  In the parking lot I added lunch and snacks for a total weight of 18 pounds.
The trail started off very exposed to the hot sun and parallel to Highway US 1-a very busy main road.  The trail undulated across high sand dunes.  The treadway was a very fine and very bright white sand.  It was loose and deep and shifted dramatically underfoot.  I'm used to the very stable, if sometimes rocky, treadway of the AT.  When the ground underfoot changes with every step your body has to constantly correct itself-from the placement of your foot, to ankles, knees, and hips and all the muscles in-between.  It’s a much more physical way to hike.  It got me hoping the desert of the PCT won't be as sandy.
Sandy trail after railroad crossing
I don't think we were even a mile in before I started missing my trekking poles.  I hadn't needed them before on the other hikes I've done in Florida.  I was missing the two extra points of contract of the poles on the sandy uphill’s-even though they were very small inclines.  By lunch time my hands had started to swell up from hanging at my sides for so long.  A lot of hikers use poles to avoid hand swelling.
We were hiking along, doing pretty well, when we came to a road crossing that wasn't on any of our three maps.  Painted on the road were two orange arrows one pointing left the other right with no clue as to which way we should turn.  We went right and followed along some train tracks that we knew we needed to cross.  We could sometimes see our orange blazes on the other side of the tracks but the vegetation was so thick there was no chance of crossing.
We saw a bridge up ahead and realized we had to cross the tracks on the bridge.  It is illegal to cross train tracks anywhere but an official crossing and the trail had only recently changed to reflect this.  At one point the trail made a sharp right off the road into the shrubs.  Trail was so new it had been blazed but not cleared.  On the other side of the road we could see the trail on a gated dirt track.  We crossed and followed the trail all the way back to the two painted arrows.  That new section of trail added 2 miles to our hike-I think it was then that I knew I wasn't doing 17 miles.
After lunch they tried to play the train crossing trick on us again.  Instead of following the tracks up for a half mile and then back we took the road for a half mile and rejoined the trail after the crossing.  At this point we were about two miles from our car.  We were beat.  We were achy.  Our Florida hiking guidebook had billed the hike as one of the best with not to miss views.  Those views must have been on the other loop.  We were unimpressed with the shrubby palms and grassland.  There were a few patches of cypress tress that offered some beautiful shade.
The nicest part of the hike
In the last ten minutes of the hike we came to a lake.  A cool breeze came off it and there was a boardwalk with two benches.  We sat for a minute, but at that point, after 13 miles, we weren't feeling like lounging in the hot sun-we were feeling like a swim.  We finished our hike and drove to the swimming area.
The swimming area was a part of a river that had been roped off.  The roped off section was about 50 feet down river from a sign which cautioned about frequent alligator sightings.  We took a very quick dip in the warm water, dried off and went home.
On Saturday were were all a little stiff.  I was thankful I didn't have to get up and walk twenty miles.  From the pictures of the PCT that I've seen nothing looked like beach sand like this hike, so that's a little reassuring.  

Thursday, March 01, 2012

40 Days-Artichoke with Lemon Soup

I took a small break from the dehydrating.  It is to the point now that any procrastination means something may not get done.  I have one month and ten days left and I would guess that I have half of my lunches done and a third of my dinners.  Dinners are still giving me troubles, although I did come up with a winner:  Artichoke with Lemon Soup.

This is a light soup with a strong artichoke flavor backed by lemon and is brightened up with the vivid greens and it can be made hardier in camp by adding some meat.

Artichoke with Lemon Soup
Artichoke Lemon Soup in the dehydrator.

1lb artichoke hearts (fresh or frozen)
½ cup rice (cooked in stock)
1 cup stock (for rice)
1 cube bouillon dissolved in 1 cup water
1 teaspoon tarragon (dried)
1 can of Great Northern White beans
½ cup greens (spinach or collard)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Cook rice in stock.  Once cooked transfer to a large saucepan add all the ingredients.  Cook until hot then turn off heat.  Because the artichoke hearts are much larger than the beans the soup needs to be blended some.  Using a blender or food processor pulse small batches of soup to end up with a chunky final product (or puree, it preferred).  Spread on trays to dehydrate.   My first batch filled three trays and I used two fruit leather trays and one tray covered with wax paper.

When in camp rehydrate with hot water and eat as is or add meat (tuna/ chicken pouch or summer sausage).

When making soups that I plan to dehydrate I use less liquid than typical.  Cooking the rice in the stock infuses the rice with flavor.  Dissolving the bouillon cube in a cup of water will give the soup the flavor of the bouillon without having to remove the excess water from the broth while dehydrating.

The recipe is about 8 servings so maybe four servings on the trail.  Maybe even less.  It dried to almost nothing.   I'm really looking forward to this meal on trail.