Thursday, March 28, 2013

12 Days- No Back-Up Plan

Summit of Monadnock

Since being in Massachusetts Portrait and I have been on a handful of small hikes—like a couple miles round trip.  We did one overnight—a six mile hike along the crest of the Mount Holyoke Range. We spent a rather cold damp night on top of Mount Holyoke under the summit’s house porch.  Last weekend I went for an icy hike up Mount Monadnock with my brother.  Monadnock is one of the most climbed peaks in New England, but it was a first ascent for me and my brother and we had the summit and the snow flurries to ourselves.

Aside from the short overnight, I haven’t carried any weight on my back since finishing the PCT.  And I have not heard a peep from my Achilles tendons on any of these quick hikes.  There has been no Ibuprofen, tenderness, or swelling.  There hasn’t been that feeling of the tendons pulling tighter with each mile until my legs are taut from heels to knees.  There hasn’t been any discomfort at all.

Portrait on Mount Holyoke Range
Despite the pain-free hiking of late I do wonder how my tendons really are.  When I load up my new pack and go for a hike?  When I leave from Crazy Cook and hike a full day with a pack on?  When I’m hiking day after day?  Will six months of rest, a lighter base weight, lighter footwear, and a heightened attention to food and water weight be enough to prevent problems?  All questions I’ll be answering for myself over the next few days and weeks.

The tendons are not a sure thing, and knowing this, I have no back-up plan if my tendons do start to hurt. The goal has always been, through the planning and food prepping, to thru-hike the CDT.  There’s been no if’s or but’s.  I didn’t buy nearly 200 protein bars only to look at them and think about how long it will take to eat them all if I don’t finish the trail.  The plan is to hike the CDT.  That’s it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

20 Days- The To-Do List

Perhaps I’ve planned for enough thru-hikes that I’ve gotten really good at it or maybe my to-do list is deceptively short.  It has a measly nine items that are not checked off.  All but one of those items, making a sleeping bag stuff sack, has been started—most of them are nearly done.
I’m still waiting on making my sleeping bag stuff sack because I’m still waiting for my new pack.  I don’t want to make a stuff sack that won’t fit into the pack.  If you plan on buying from a cottage industry remember that mid-winter through spring is their busy time.  Don’t procrastinate.

New home made cuben fiber food bag with food
I have a few food purchases to make still.  I want to wait for sales, but I’m running out of time for that.  My list of missing food is thankfully short:  summer sausage, salami, tuna fish, salty snacks, pumpkin seeds, sesame sticks, gummy candies, and hot chocolate.  For the first hike ever Snicker bars were not on my shopping list—I had nearly a case left over from last year and will be flushing out my candy bar selection with other choices.  I have all the food I have organized and it will be a quick task to complete sorting my food once I have it.

Maps are organized.  It took Portrait and me a couple days to print off the maps.  We went through and highlighted the town and wrote on the map how to get there—the maps were surprisingly not user friendly compared to the PCT maps.  I still need to get a decent GPS program on my phone.  As I write my phone is offloading a year’s worth of photos to Dropbox to make room for CDT photos.

It’s a little disconcerting not having my days revolve around hike prep.  I think about what I need to do daily, but I don’t work on the prep daily.  Nevertheless things seem to be coming together. I don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed.  There came a point during my PCT planning that everything seemed to come together and I was able to focus on other things (although I was dehydrating food the day before I left), but that came much later in my planning stage than it has for this hike. 

High Priority Tasks

Resupply schedule
Resupply boxes
Buy food
Setup phone with GPS app and maps
Make Food bag
Make Sleeping bag stuff sack
Make Mom List

High Priority Purchases
Order plane tickets
Warm hat
Warm jacket

Medium Priority Tasks
Make stove
Find fuel bottle
Pack bounce box
Plan route
Figure out shoes
Water bottles
Wear out socks

Saturday, March 09, 2013

31 Days- New and Old Gear

For the CDT this year I will only have three items in my pack that have been with me all the way from Maine in 2009:  my cook pot, my long handle spoon, a stuff sack, and the head lamp that joined me in Pennsylvania.  Everything else is new since that hike, and a lot of my CDT gear is new since the PCT.

Most of the new purchases were made to replace gear that really didn't work for me.  My North Face pack was just too heavy to justify after wearing Portrait’s homemade cuben fiber pack and my GoLight Jam pack was simply uncomfortable.  They both gave me pack rash as well.  The original plan was to make a pack like Portrait’s, but that turned out to be a little too ambitious for my sewing skills…and my patience.  Last week I bought a ZPacks Arc Blast weighing in at 13.5 oz and costing $259.00.  I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet, but ZPacks assured me it will arrive in plenty of time.
My new sleeping bag

I replaced my tired North Face 15 degree sleeping bag with a Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 degree bag for a weight savings of 15.21 ounces.  The new bag ended up costing me $246.05 which feels like a steal.  The bag retails in the mid $400’s.  I bought mine from MooseJaw on Black Friday for $435.00 and they gave me five times the normal MooseJaw points.  I used the points to buy a MontBell Men's U.L. Down Parka worth $188.95, and I didn’t even have to take out my credit card to make the purchase.  I have a measly 1,000 points left which will earn me just about nothing.

My little homemade tarp tent will be staying behind this year.  It is replaced by a new ZPacks Hexamid Twin Tent w/ Screen for a 7.7 ounce weight savings and hopefully less bugs in the tent.

Portrait sewing his food bag
There have been a number of small, less spendy changes.  There are new gloves, food bag, tent stakes, camp dress, sleeping bag stuff sack and sleeping pad.  I was hoping when I started making all these changes to have a less than 10 pound base weight.  As I was making the changes I changed my goal to an 8 pound base.  Right now my pack should weigh in at 8.5 pounds without food or water.  I’ll reduce it if I can, for the sake of my Achilles tendons, but the real task will be not letting the weight creep up on me.