Monday, March 31, 2008

Worked on my resupply schedule today

I spent most of the day working on my PCT resupply schedule. I'm sure it will be revised as I go along.

I estimated a meager 15 miles per day. I'll probably be able to do much more than that since I'm pretty certain the PCT doesn't make you crawl on your hands and knees like the trails I'm used to. But I figure the 15 miles per day helps even out the zero mileage days and the travels to and from trail towns.

Mostly I'll just resupply at supermarkets along the way with only about a half a dozen mail drops along the way. It should work out just fine.

I used the big trail guide books and Crow's resupply schedule to figure it out. I figure it will change as I do the hike depending on people I meet and other circumstances. So I won't publish it for now.

Next I have to figure out what to do on those days when I'm going to pick up my supplies. Where do I stay? Can I get back to the trail so I can stay there or will I have to pay some big corporation for the right to sleep?

It feels good to have that out of the way.

To Heck with Hurricane Deck!

We did our big adventure this weekend. We hiked the Hurricane Deck trail. 

Our mission was to hike from Nira to White Ledge the first day, then across Hurricane Deck to the Schoolhouse the second day, and then from the Schoolhouse back to Nira the third day. We fell short.

The Zaca Fire didn't burn enough of Hurricane Deck to make it as easy as we had hoped. In fact, mostly it was the same old Hurricane Deck trail that requires loppers and a saw and gloves (we only had loppers) and crawling on your hands and knees. My knees look like they have the measles from all the holes poked in them from crawling on the sharp leaves. That's why I say to Heck with Hurricane Deck. We may never go back again. It's just too much trouble.

My poor backpack got a bit torn up, too. I'm going to have to patch it. 

My feet were killing me as they twisted and turned on the crooked trail bed as I was pushed around and clawed at by angry plants. My 8 1/2 D width New Balance shoes simply are not wide enough. I think I need F width or G or maybe Q.

I don't believe anyone makes a shoe wide enough for me. Today I went to the store with my sore feet and 3 pairs of socks and bought some size 8 1/2 men's shoes. Even most of the men's shoes hurt my little toes. But I found a pair that I think will work. They'll probably be so big the bottoms of my feet will get blisters from sliding around, but that's what all the extra socks will be for. I bet by summer's end I'll be up to a men's 9 1/2 or 10. Can you imagine? Measured on the little shoe size thingie my feet are really a ladies size 7. They just don't make shoes to fit my hobbit feet.

This was good training for the PCT. Good to find out about the shoes. We did around 15 miles on the first 2 days. We didn't complete the whole Hurricane Deck trail. We had enough of the misery and bailed out down the Potrero trail. So our last day was very short. But it's good to see that I can hike 15 miles two days in a row and be disappointed there wasn't another 15 to do on the third day. I am sore, however.

Despite the soreness and the agony of the Deck, I do have to say that everything was so beautiful. After the fire the wildflowers are so lovely and the expansive vistas are amazing. I really like the wilderness after a fire. I kept thinking that I feel like the wealthiest woman in the world because I get to be here surrounded by so much beauty. This is what life is about. This is what riches truly are. The pursuit of money and security is a false summit. The true summit is time and wildflowers and feet to carry you to places where bear and lion roam, birds soar and flowers turn their cheery faces to the sun.

I'm still procrastinating on the resupply issue. I'm quite perplexed by it. But at least the gear issue is coming together. I bought a bear can today. It's half the size of the one we already have. I had to buy it because the one we have takes up all the space in my backpack. I think I have all the other gear I will need. I'm getting closer to being ready to go. I'm the luckiest woman in the world!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

20 lbs

Tony and I and some crazy fools are going to do a backpack trip this weekend. We're going to get a key to the gate blocking access to the San Rafael Wilderness area and we're going to do the Nira to White Ledge to Hurricane Deck all the way across to Schoolhouse loop.

I've loaded up my backpack. It's a little light on stuff I don't need, such as rain gear. But I do have extra socks, my chaco sandals and an umbrella for slightly unecessary things. With my weekend's worth of food but no water in the pack, the whole thing weighs only 20 pounds. Does this make me an ultra-light backpacker?

Perhaps I have enough weight left over to bring a musical instrument. Should I attempt the strumstick or bring my flute or just a tin whistle?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hike today

Today I loaded my backpack with some hiking gear and a 6 pound rock. The total weight was only 22 pounds. That seemed like a good amount to start with.

I set off on a hike up Rattlesnake trail to Tunnel trail. I stopped at the waterfall in that shady spot with the big rock you can lounge on like a chair. I felt pretty good.

The sun going up the Connector was pretty hot. I figured I would test out the Ray Jardine mylar-covered umbrella trick. The mylar tore right away and it was a pain to carry the umbrella. So much heat rises from the ground that I'm not sure how much it helped. I think it helped a little. Eventually I figured out how to make the umbrella hold itself up. I took off the mylar. Not only is it fragile it's also noisy. I will have to make a better mylar covering if this is going to be successful at all.

Yesterday I went to the Deckers outlet and bought a pair of Teva sandals. They are almost shoes, kind of like those Keen shoes a lot of people like. I really enjoyed wearing them. After 4 hours of hiking my feet got a little sore. So did my back. I think both my feet and back are a little weak from so much cubicle living. Hopefully they will strengthen. I like the feeling of having unencumbered feet. It makes me feel much stronger than big old boots. The Tevas are men's size 7 and feel wonderful.

Taking a hike and mailing my taxes was the only thing I did to prepare today.

I almost forgot to mention that I saw a big rattlesnake on Tunnel trail. It scared me! I'm just walking along and suddenly there's that rattle you can't mistake. I jumped back and waited, trying to decide what to do. The snake kept rattling, then decided to amble across the trail. It was pretty big. Not huge, but big enough. As it crossed to the other side it kept rattling. I heard the rattles moving away but then they stopped and not far enough away for my comfort. I pounded the ground with my hiking sticks and my feet, moving ever closer to where it was. When I heard nothing I figured if I ran through I'd be ok. I was.

It was a beautiful snake, by the way.


Part of doing this big hike is trying to live up to my values. I believe we Americans spend too much of our precious time on Earth trying acquire and protect stuff. And here I am trying to prepare for the big hike and I'm spending a lot of mental energy worrying about stuff!

Do I have enough shoes? Do I have enough socks? Do I have enough of the right kinds of pants or shirts or little doo-dads? Should I bring this thing or that? Will I need it? What if I don't have it and I do need it? What about stuff I've never in my life used that other people swear by? Will I be sorry if I don't bring that stuff?

I have to remember that there are trail towns along the way and if I forgot something I can always pick it up along the way. I can also ask family to mail me things I need. More than likely, I will discover that most of the stuff I bring isn't necessary.

If I let my Nepal trip be my guide, there's not a lot of stuff I actually need. I brought way too much stuff to Nepal. I used almost nothing of what I brought. The only thing I wished I had brought but didn't is my Sierra stove that burns wood for fuel. I could have made my own hot water for bathing. Otherwise, I could have sent home more than half the stuff I brought and been much happier.

Stuff is the bane of existence, really. Look at my house. What a mess!

Monday, March 24, 2008

So far so good

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the logistical preparation piece to all of this. But other than that part, things are coming along well.

I've made a little bit of dried veggies. I have some zucchini drying right now. It's more cost-effective to buy it already dried at the store but they don't have peppers, onions and zuc so I'm supplementing. The Asian market had dried onion so I'll probably buy some of that rather than continue to stink up the house. And some dried tofu, too. The dried tofu looks quite promising. I wonder how long miso would last unrefrigerated.

I've also discovered Israeli cous-cous. It's kind of like tapioca pearls. It cooks very fast. Looks like I'll have a lot of variety. I probably am worrying too much about food, but I don't think I can complete the hike on Little Debbie and beef jerky like these silly fool 20 year old boys can do.

Today I made a giant mylar shower-cap for my umbrella. It actually does feel cooler underneath. I hope this will help in hot weather. I'm going to test it out on a backpack trip this weekend to Hurricane Deck.

Hurricane Deck is behind the burn zone so there won't be any shade now, not that there was any before. No shade, no water. Should be very hot. I'll have a chance to test out everything on this trip, including my body. 

The first day is already more than I've ever been able to accomplish on the Manzana trail. All the way to White Ledge in one day? Yikes! Then all the way across the entire Hurricane Deck on Saturday. Sunday will just be from Schoolhouse back to Nira. That I know I can do. I will have to practice what I've been preaching, which is that if I'm prepared to walk 10 hours I don't have to go that fast and I will make it without killing myself.

I've been trying to get my body back in shape somewhat gradually. I haven't hiked every day, but I've hiked most days. I feel pretty good but suddenly I'm starting to feel my fitness kick back in. It's amazing how cubicle life takes its toll on your fitness. Just the dreary fluorescent lights (if we were ever lucky enough to have them turned on) and lack of sunshine is enough to drag a body down.

Yesterday I hiked Blue Canyon. This is a pretty easy hike, but it's remote and wild enough to bring the zest back into life. I feel so alive and happy now. I love my new life. I don't want it ever to end.

When I'm out there I'm so happy and fulfilled, even if I have to push through spider webs and poison oak on the trail. Back in real life I have to read how the Bush administration wants to put power lines through Joshua Tree and basically destroy all that makes me personally wealthy. People have to wake up. More plastic trash and gadgets is not the answer to happiness. Fresh air, sunshine, birds, flowers, creeks with frogs and a long trail through beautiful places are the true riches in life, the true path to happiness. And if you disagree with me, then please don't destroy my riches for your temporary gain. On your death bed you'll understand how it wasn't worth it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New cookware, socks and more


I've started testing my food and cookware to determine what's the best to bring with me. I decided that my cup-shaped pot is not very good because, due to its narrow shape, too much heat escapes as flames wrap around the pot and escape into the air. So today I purchased a 3-piece, titanium cookware set that is more pot-shaped, low and wide. 

I will leave one of the pieces home and just take the bigger pot and the lid. I figure maybe I can justify the extra weight of the lid by eating off the lid while a second pot of water is heating. Also, the lid has pot grabbers and one thing I tend to do a lot when cooking is burn myself so anything to help keep me from burning myself is good.


Yesterday's test demonstrated that quinoa and red lentils cook up as soon as the water is boiling after soaking for several hours. I will definitely order some in bulk from the co-op. I also determined that the $6 pint-sized containers of dried vegetables and fruits at Lazy Acres are more cost-effective than trying your own. If only they had onions and peppers!


Good news! My favorite backpacking store finally carries my favorite socks. I told them every time I went in that they should have them and now they do. I like the ones with all the toes because my little toes tend to curl under my other toes, which hurts very much. The toe sections keep my toes separated.


Yesterday I set up my tent and applied seam sealer to it. I left it set up over night. The sprinklers came on this morning. One of them was spraying directly into the tent. It's almost completely dry inside now though and the tent held together just fine. It's a Gossamer Gear "The One".

Monday, March 17, 2008

I seam-sealed my tent today

I just finished spreading the seam-sealing goop all over my new tent. I hope I did it right. I have to let it dry for 3-6 hours.

Meanwhile, I'm testing some possible trail dinners. Looks like the lentils will be a winner. I've soaked them only and hour and they are already starting to look cooked. If I can make some kind of spicy concoction to add to them, I can have some delicious daal for dinner. If daal is good enough for porters in Nepal it should be good enough for me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Too heavy!

I stuffed all my things into my backpack and put it on the scale. Without food and water my stuff weighs about 18 pounds. There are probably a few things I'm forgetting too, which means my stuff is probably 20 pounds. That's too heavy!

I'm sure Ray Jardine is one of those high-metabolism types who is toasty warm sleeping at night with just a light quilt. I'm not like that. I freeze to death in June going out for coffee at the Daily Grind. I'll probably be one of those unlucky people who gains weight hiking 20 miles a day on 2000 calories.

I'm not sure what I can possibly economize on. I guess I'll just hike slow.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I added mesh to my backpack

Here is the mesh I added to my backpack. 

I'm not an expert seamstress. I got a D in sewing. I don't have a sewing machine. But I don't let that stop me from sewing things.

To add this mesh I bought a mesh duffel bag for $5. I'm lucky they had one red duffel bag among all the ugly white ones. Buying a duffel bag was cheaper than buying the mesh as raw fabric.

I split the bag lengthwise. I threaded elastic (not visible in picture) through the drawstring area so that around the top it will be stretchy. Then I sewed it down the sides of the backpack and along the bottom. There's still quite a bit of fabric left over because I had to also cut off the bottom of the duffel bag. It was too long. I could make other things with the extra.

Now I can stuff extra things into my backpack.

My backpack is kind of small. It's intended for weekend trips and it's not really big enough to take everything you need even for the weekend. I usually end up stowing my kitchen in a bag attached to the outside. With the mesh I will have an easier time stowing things that don't fit inside the bag.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Last day completed

Well, I finished my last day of work. I didn't make it through without tears. I will miss the wonderful friends I made there.

This was the first job I can remember where the women were great to work with. I will miss working with such great women. Women who were smart, capable, ambitious and not raving lunatics yelling at people at the top of their lungs or plotting evil psychological schemes against their enemies. How refreshing!

And I threw it all away to chase a dream.

The Callings book said sometimes the reason people don't follow dreams is because the sacrifices are too great. I swear I stumble through life completely blindly. Sacrifices? What sacrifices? I guess I'm so blind I have to find out what they are after I make them. Chancing working with fire-breathing harpies and grabby lechers again is a risk I realize I've just taken. Leaving smart women who could have been decent role models for me is a sacrifice.

So, the PCT adventure really begins now. No more excuses for not assembling my gear and getting in shape. 

What did I do today? I bought a mesh duffel bag intended for storing balls, like volley balls. I needed some mesh fabric and this seemed like the cheapest way to get it. I am going to enlarge my backpack by sewing the mesh on the outside to form pockets for holding more stuff. The fabric is red like my backpack.

Last day

Today is my last day at work. So far it's a rather routine day. I even got a new project to work on.

I've been working on my good-bye letter. I didn't write a good-bye letter at my last job. I think people want one at this job so I'm writing one. I at least want to let people know how to reach me.

As I near the end and begin to ponder going without income for a while, it does get a little scary. But it's a necessary transition, I think. I feel my attitude toward work is changing and that this separation from the old way is part of the change.

I am starting to understand now that work is just one thing that you do in life and that it should be a facilitator of life, not an interference.

Work should also be interesting. If it no longer interests you, it's time to find something new.

Doing new things doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you a creative and interesting one. There will never be one thing that holds your interest for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 40 years. So staying interested and passionate about what you do each day should involve changing what you do. Hiring passionate, interested and interesting people should be what hiring managers do. If not, then that's the wrong company to work for!

Work at a job is also a business relationship so there's no need to fill the experience with emotional baggage from when you were a kid. I signed an at-will contract and my will has run out. That does not make me a bad person. They're not going to yell at me and send me to my room.

They left me an invitation to call up and inquire about a job when I get back. I hope to go back to work when I return, but on my terms. I want to maintain my status as a temporal millionaire. It's possible I will "wise up" and go back to the grind. Perhaps I will do another 10 years of it to save up for the next big adventure. But in my heart and attitude I will not go back the same. I own my time on Earth now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One day left

I have one day left at work and then I'm unemployed. Time to get in shape. I'm so flabby.

When I went to the doctor the other day they weighed me. I got on the scale and purposefully did not look. But the nurse read the number aloud anyway. I hope 6 weeks is enough time to get in shape for my hike.

I brought my shopping bag into work today to take home my books. I've carted around my Edward Tufte books to two jobs now. They make me look intelligent and they are beautiful books, but honestly, I have never read them.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

As the Crow Flies

I found this cool blog. As the Crow Flies. Lots of tips on long-distance hiking and on having a long-distance hiker lifestyle. I admire this woman a great deal. I like her cabin.

I went to the doctor today. My last doctor before my unemployed life begins.

He froze off some pre-cancerous skin lesions. Ouch that hurts on my upper lip. Now it's getting all hard and stiff.

I also got a couple of travel prescriptions for in case I get an infection or something.

I've been corresponding with a friend who has hiked the PCT a few times. He's surprised I don't have more questions. Perhaps I'm under-estimating this, I don't know. But aside from a few questions, I'm not sure what else to ask. I learned a lot trekking in Nepal and from our shorter trips. It seems you just put what you need in a pack and away you go.

One thing I liked that the Crow flies lady wrote is that happiness is all about your present state of mind. She says, "Keep yourself happy, well fed, and hydrated and you will be fine." That's really all it takes in real life, too. It's not about money or possessions or elusive "security". A beautiful sunrise can bring happiness and if you feel happy, you are happy.

Only 3 more days of working after this one is over and I'm free.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Putting on the guilt

The Callings book says that when you finally decide to follow your dream all the demons of hell come out to meet you, to send you back to safety. "Bring it on," I thought in my head when I decided to do the PCT. I have some curiosity what the demons of hell are for me. Well, some things I've noticed:

Everybody is so nice to me at work. They really don't want me to go. It's so much easier to leave a job if I hate everybody. But everybody is so nice and they like me and hate to see me go. This is hard to deal with. I feel so guilty.

The mail now is full of 401K rollover forms and "don't let yourself go without health insurance" forms. How could I be throwing away a safe and secure future for unknown and danger? What if I get hurt? Like sitting in front of a computer for years and years can't hurt you? But I do fear the lack of money and the "what now" at the end of the big hike.

My birds. What about my poor birds?

Tony. What about my poor Tony? Will he be able to handle the birds on his own? Will everybody be sad without me?

Then there are the "signs." Like the air-conditioning that drove me to leave isn't as cold, and the web design email list I tried to unsubscribe to didn't unsubscribe me but somehow the PCT one did. What's up with that? Is that a sign I'm making a terrible mistake?

Ah well, if I don't follow my dream because of my fears then what will become of me? I'll become one of these people who start thoughts with "if only" and "what if I had" and who sit in rocking chairs at the old folks' home without stories of adventure to tell. Isn't that worse than a couple of pangs of guilt?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Stuff. What's the point?

I read this sentence on Steve Pavlina's blog, which I have been reading the past couple of days:
What is the point of a life dedicated to the acquisition and protection of stuff?
I have been pondering this question ever since watching The Story of Stuff and reading about the Little Brown Dress project. I feel my big hike is a direct answer to this question.

On the flip-side, is there more of a point to a life dedicated to the pursuit of experience? Is following dreams truly better or is that just another consumable?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Let the Hike begin here

I just noticed a few posts back that I had written about my New Years' Resolutions:
  1. Do some career exploration
  2. Reduce consumption of material things
  3. Go backpacking more
It seems I'm doing well on all three.

Career Exploration
I have been taking a class titled "Callings" which is intended to give you tools to find your true callings. This is not specifically a career class in that we're not trying to find the best job for our personalities or something similar. It's a little deeper than that.

The instructor has had us do many different exercises as well as reading a book titled "Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life". The book is very good, very poetic. It gets you thinking. It also seemed to have a lot of themes that kept popping up for me. The same themes kept popping up in the different exercises we did, too.

For example, when given the scenario:

"You wake up to find you are being escorted by an angel down a long hallway toward a light. The angle, who is holding your hand, turns to you and asks, 'So, what did you like best about it?' What is your reply?"

My immediate, uncensored answer was "the birds".

A few days before that class I took a break sitting in my car at a nearby park. It was raining at the time. I felt lonely, depressed and lost about the direction of my life. A flock of beautiful little birds had flown down to pick and peck around on the ground nearby. I just sat watching them feeling such joy at their tiny little bodies and their apparent joy in scratching around looking for food in the rain. They peeped at each other. Some stayed in the trees. One was an extraordinary yellow color. I felt such love for the birds.

While reading "Callings" for the class, themes of nature kept bubbling to the forefront. I'm sure there are lots of themes in the book. It's written like a poem. But the nature ones kept thumping me on the head. That and a passage on stillness and silence.

Gradually, as the classes kept meeting, the themes of nature and silence and sunshine on my face were echoing constantly in my head. More and more I became angry at the neon tube lights, the darkened office, the gray cubicle walls, the multi-tasking that disallows creativity and thought, and most of all the freezing cold air conditioning that had me wearing a scarf, hat, coat and gloves even on sunny beautiful days. I was angry I was trading all my life energy away in order to make someone else wealthy and myself completely impoverished of the things that matter most to me.

One evening, the teacher of the class mentioned the recent movie "The Bucket List" and asked if anybody had anything on their own bucket list. Instantly I just blurted out without thinking that I've always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

It's true. I have always wanted to hike it. At least since 1975 when my dad recieved a National Geographic book about it. I read that book many times over, eventually stole it from him (still have it), painted pictures of the pictures in the book and generally thought about it all these years as a "some day" thing. I remember even reading about a 66 year old woman who lived on the trail during the warm seasons with her goat, and lived on Social Security in a trailer park during other months. I used to have that article in my cubicle at work as my unofficial retirement plan.

I told the teacher about the trail, about my long-held desire to do it, about trail angels and the 66 year old goat lady, and about how wonderful life would be to have a pizza parlor in some little trailside town just to have hikers come in for resupply and share stories of their hiking adventures with me. I said I thought one could build a life around that trail. The teacher remarked how lit up I was talking about it. It was obvious this is my calling. Then she asked, "So what's stopping you?"

I was stunned for a moment. Then I realized it: Nothing. I have the money, can make the time, have most of the gear. And that's when it all started falling in to place. The direction I need to go became as clear as a well-worn hiking trail through a forest.

It's not the whole calling however. It's just the start. And I'll write about the rest later. On to the other resolutions.

Reduce consumption of material things
I have been doing this and it is not hard at all. My only splurge was to buy a Mountain Dulcimer. Music is something that's recently been awakened in me. The book said that sometimes rekindling things we once did in childhood starts us on the path to finding our callings. Perhaps that is what my recent return to making music has done for me. I'm not a great musician and have no desire to make a career as a musician. I simply enjoy it.

I wanted to reduce my consumption of material things as an environmental goal and also as a statement against things in our culture that bother me. It's actually not hard to do at all. Except that I do need a few items for my big hike, like shoes and socks.

I see that this resolution is a piece of the larger puzzle for me as far as my calling goes. I see the reduction of material consumption as a personal value. I see rampant over-consumption as a root of many cultural and environmental problems. If one purpose of my life is to love the Earth and over-consumption is destroying what I love, I need to do something about it. I'm not sure what exactly that will be at the moment.

Reducing my own consumption is a way to "put my money where my mouth is". The hike itself is literally about "walking my talk". When I get back, I hope to have my ideas more fully formed on this subject and then I can "talk my walk" about it, hopefully to inspire some change in other people's lives.

Go backpacking more
Need I say more about this one?

Journal or blog?

I'm trying to decide if I should write about my PCT trip in this blog or in a paper and pencil journal. I won't have Internet access while away and I probably won't be committed to transferring hand-written content to a blog either. So it may not be worthwhile to blog about it.

However, I like writing in a blog (when I do it anyway) and there may be people out there who would find it worthwhile. Perhaps I could find a way to post some content during the hike from Internet cafes, if there are any. I couldn't imagine there being more than a handful, but that could be enough.

I do have a lot of thoughts rolling around in this pre-hike stage. So maybe I should just start and see what happens.