Friday, February 27, 2009

I am getting excited

I am getting excited about my hike. I might go to the Kick-off. I talked to Tony about it and he wanted to go. I told him if he wanted to hike Section A, we could do it if he wants. We could also not hike at all if that's what he wants. He said not hiking would be silly. I told him to decide what he wants to do and we'll do it. I really don't care what we do either way.

I read in my book today:
It's not about what you do, but about who you are. I came to understand that it was my willingness to face the truth about myself, and to show up as authentically as possible that would make the difference in having a meaningful life. I try to live from my core and my spirit, versus doing something because someone else might like it.
(Emphasis added.)

Since I've been home from the PCT I've been working part-time and temporary jobs. I started out making no income. Then I was making a couple of hundred a month. Then a few hundred more. Lately my income has been pretty good. Almost like money falls from the sky. I don't know how it happened, but I think it has something to do with just being who I am rather than worrying about what I do.

I'm reminded about a web page I found about a couple that decided decades ago to live a simple life and that to make it work has often relied on faith. You just have to trust that it will work out. It seems to be working out for me.

Here I am, getting ready to hike again, going to school, learning new things, my whale job was supposed to end but now we've got a ton of new work so it continues, checks came in the mail for my book and some other things, my freelancing work continues to bring in a tiny little bit here and there. It all keeps working out.

I now see my hike as being part of the flow of my life. I'll complete it this year. In the middle I've gotten to learn a few things about not defining myself by a glamorous job and about having faith that things will work out. After the hike, everything will continue to work out. The whales will still be there. School will still be there. Freelancing will still be there. Great jobs will still be there. I will still be there, forging on like always

So, feeling free and like I'm doing the right thing, I now feel much less ambivalent. I feel excited about getting back out there to complete the trail. I'm looking forward to it. It seems less like an escape from a bad situation and more like walking onward into the continuation of my life.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trail Journals

I've decided to try Trail Journals this year for my hike. Here is the link to my trail journal.

Although I have not done a good job of this at all so far, I do plan not to write too much in my journal. I plan to keep the details on paper and put only a few highlights in the journal. Then if I write another book I won't have given it all away.

I may rue the decision to sign up for Trail Journals. Now I have this blog, my hiking web site blog and Trail Journals to keep updated. Thank goodness I like to write.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My proposed itinerary

This is my attempt at plotting my entire hike. As you can see, no zero days have been included, so these dates are not at all accurate. I also have decided that I will skip from Lone Pine to Tuolumne Meadows and from South Lake Tahoe to Quincy. If my mother is not in Alaska when I come through Chester, perhaps she can drive me ahead to Dunsmuir. However, I'm not going to plan this because I really enjoyed the Hat Creek Rim and Burney Falls and would not mind hiking there again.
Approximate DateLocationMile on the PCT
05/24/09Santa Barbara
05/25/09Blue Canyon
05/26/09Matillija Creek
05/27/09Beaver CG Sespe Creek
05/28/09Sespe Hot Springs
05/29/09Intersection Buck Creek
05/30/09Cienega CG
05/31/09On the PCT!
06/02/09Tylerhorse Cyn541.4
06/05/09Golden Oak Spring583.4
06/06/09Waterhole Mine608
06/07/09Bird Spring Pass631.4
06/08/09Walker Pass651.4
06/09/09Spanish Needle Group673.2
06/10/09Kern River698.8
06/11/09Kennedy Meadows702.8
06/13/09Cow Creek719.4
06/14/09Diaz Creek741.2
06/15/09Lone Pine744.8
Bus to Tuolumne Meadows
06/16/09Tuolumne Meadows941.6



06/21/09East Carson River Trail1027.6
06/22/09Eagle Creek1055
06/23/09Pond-blessed Saddle1080.3
06/24/09S. Lake Tahoe1094.5
Bus to Reno, then to Quincy
06/25/09Near Q-LP Rd1232.7



07/03/09Old Station1377.7
07/04/09Hat Creek Rim1403
07/05/09Burney Falls1423.6
07/07/09Ash Camp1476







07/18/09Seiad Valley1662







07/27/09Crater Lake1820




08/01/09Shelter Cove Resort1912.2








08/11/09Cascade Locks2154






08/18/09White’s Pass2302






08/25/09Snoqualime Pass2400




08/30/09Steven’s Pass2476








I feel ok about skipping the miles I have already done most of them. I do not want to still be hiking in October. I don't want to be out there that long and I know that Tony would not like it. I don't want to be away from him and my birds for so long. I don't like being away from them and I don't like knowing they don't like me being away, either. I will already be thinking about them and worrying about my selfishness. I don't need to drag that out longer than necessary.

I also feel ok about redoing some of the miles at the beginning. I need the miles to gain fitness and strength. And these are great miles to do right in the thick of the main group of hikers. I will get to go to Kennedy Meadows with all the hikers and enjoy hanging out with them. I hope that there will be other thru-hikers on the trail once I skip ahead so that I am not too lonely.

I also don't mind redoing some of the miles throughout because these were some of the places I liked best. I will get to see them again.

In thinking about what is important to me, being with other hikers was one of the bigger joys of the trip. So hopefully my itinerary preserves some of that. Maybe I will end up at the front of the pack in Oregon watching all the fastest hikers walk by me each day. That will work out fine.

Also, it is not important to me that I hike the entire trail in one season. It's not even possible at this point anyway, since I didn't do it last year and I wouldn't be planning to start at Campo again this year. What is important is that I will have hiked almost the entire trail in two years. I will have all those memories. I will get to be out there for many months, living the life of the vagabond. That is what I loved most. Living the life, not so much whether my steps were perfectly continuous.

And so here I am, full of anticipation and hope once more, ready to put myself through all the agony again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Going to Canada

I did a rough calculation of estimated dates to Canada. The absolute earliest I would get there is 09/28/09, and that leaves out all the zero days. So it looks like I'd end up there in October! Brr!

So, I know it's a sacrilege, but I could shave 3 weeks off the immensity by taking the CREST bus from Mojave to Bishop and rejoining the trail where I got off last year in the Sierra. I would have to haul my sorry butt up and over that hellish Bishop Pass, but I think the 150 miles of hiking just to get to Mojave might put me in decent enough shape to do it.

Another option is to just let it go. I mean, that section of the Sierras. Start at Tuolumne Meadows. Forget about Evolution basin. Completing the JMT can be for another time.

There are so many things to consider and so little time. Should I decide now or decide when I'm there? Will I miss out if I don't go to Kennedy Meadows and meet my fellow hikers? Will I struggle without the physical training that the build-up to and through the High Sierra provides?

It has felt remote to me, the idea of hiking the PCT again. I have been thinking maybe I do not want to do it.

I have some exercises for trying to figure out what your intuition says is the right thing to do. One of them suggests coming up with alternative scenarios and imagining your feelings. I thought about my start date for taking my hike coming and passing without going. How do I feel? Let down.

Then I'm supposed to imagine the same scenario but now a few weeks later. How do I feel? Again, let down. Lost. What am I supposed to do now?

Then 6 months later. How would I feel? I would feel like a huge opportunity passed me by. A door slammed. A heavy weight of sadness falls on my chest. That is NOT how I want to feel!

Imagine myself setting off and I feel light and excited and scared. Imagine myself a few weeks into the trip. I'm probably hot, worried, wondering if I'll make it. Six months down the line? I will have made it. I will have achieved something I never though I could. I will feel ready to get on with life and succeed at my next goal, whatever that may be.

At least that's how I hope I will feel. I have no idea if I will make it. But if I don't, I will at least not have let an opportunity pass me by. I will know for sure it was not meant to be and I can get on with my life.

I think I finally have an answer to what to do next. I will get some computer science courses under my hat so I can get on a technical track at some company and then I will live the life of a computer geek who works all day, saves all my money and uses every spare vacation day to get out in the wilderness.

Having a plan for after the hike may be the thing that was missing from last year.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ultralight compression-sack backpack idea.

I had a crazy idea to use a compression stuff sack as an ultralight backpack. I tested it by putting all my stuff inside. It all fits.

So I tested it further by adding some nylon webbing to the compression straps on the back of the stuff sack to form backpack straps. I also added a waist strap to hold the pack to my body.

The result was a pack decent for a quickie overnighter that weighs about 6lb with food and 8oz of water included. Here is a picture:
picture of my stuff-sack backpack

In real life I would carry a larger water bottle.

Inside the pack is a torso-length of a z-rest pad, a bivy sack, a 20-degree down quilt, toiletries, full roll of TP, jacket for wind and light rain, down sweater, cooking set, fuel, matches, Aqua-mira, a day's worth of food and on the outside is a free-standing bug net. Missing is a poncho to use as a shelter. I don't have one yet. But I think I could replace the whole tarp/bivy/bug net idea with my The One tent anyway. It'll fit, too.

The whole thing works, meaning that I can wear it and my gear fits inside. But it isn't very comfortable. I think if I can find a decent old pack in a thrift store I could put real backpack straps on for a much better fit. As a test, however, it seems promising so far.

As for this post meeting the requirements to be categorized as boring news, the news is that today is my birthday. I'm 44 now. Half my life may already be over.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Positive feedback about Piper's Flight

I received an email today from someone who read my book. He wrote:
You were also brave to tell the truth about Agua Dulce and Donner Pass. These things needed to be said and I don't think I have ever heard anyone else do so in a public forum. Most of all, of course, I enjoyed reading about the trail, the familiar places seen again through another human's eyes. You did a terrific job of relating your physical experiences along with the mental and spiritual challenges life seems to throw everyone's way.
He also said that he's going to complete the PCT very soon as a section hiker. He began the trail with his wife in 2001. But they quit after the High Sierra. His wife hated the High Sierra as much as I did. I guess I'm not crazy after all.

I think that completing the trail as a section hiker takes much more dedication and perseverance than as a thru-hiker. Even though I have been planning to go back this year and finish the trail, I often have doubts whether it is the right thing to do. Actually, I know it's the right thing to do. I feel it in some place deep inside that this is the life I was born to live. But on another level it feels so irresponsible. I should be working full-time and succeeding like everybody else. I keep slipping further and further away from that, however. I feel so conflicted!

I had a flash of thought today. What if I began my hike in Dunsmuir, right where I left off? I could start there in July, finish at the Canadian border, then find a way down to Sonora Pass where I could hike southbound all the way home, finishing the portions I skipped last year and connecting the trail to my front door. I will have to think about this.

Anyway, It's nice to get positive feedback about my book.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vivid dreams last night

I had vivid dreams last night. I dreamed I was sleeping in my quilt and bivy sack at the PCT Kickoff. It's strange to dream that you are sleeping. I guess I'll have to go to the Kickoff.

I dreamed about my whale job. I was just working away.

I left work today after only 4.5 hours. I hope they don't give away my remaining time to someone else. I felt worried about what I'm going to do once my job was over. Panicky worry, breathing fast.

I worried about my test all day in my database class. It is hard to concentrate on such things as studying. I'm so used to the find what you need and get it done approach that I've been doing for so many years. I took the test and thought I did ok. I did not do as well as I thought I did but at least I passed.

I got a check in the mail for royalties on my book. It's my first check. It's not enough to live on, or enough to thru-hike on, that's for sure, but fine for a hobby and a labor of love.

I got a call out of the blue from a head-hunter. He said someone recommended me as a brilliant programmer. I felt panicked about that, imagining myself being locked in the prison of another corporate environment. I don't know what to do about this. I mean I felt like hyperventilating and everything. How will I ever get back into the system again? How will I survive? Tony's going to hate me.

Too many worries. I'm scared for my future. As I rode my scooter to my class I looked at the road. I imagined myself walking a long, straight path. Direct, slow, simple, a pure direction to a pure destination. Clarity and mindfulness. I like my present too much.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Whale job coming to a close

Well, my work with the whales is coming to an end. I will have no job probably by the end of the week. I do not know what to do next. I am hoping something good will come my way. I guess I'll go down to the temp agency and see what they have that I can do.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Doing vs. having

"Doing what you want can make having things you want seem a lot less important."

I read this sentence on a web site about living the simple life. It is so true. It's a lesson you learn very concretely on the PCT. It's also easy to forget once you step off the trail and start sinking back into your normal life.

On the PCT you are doing, not having and acquiring. It's the happiest way to live, in my opinion.

Once you settle back in to regular life and the TV starts working on you again, and you start feeling like a loser because you don't have an iPhone or you don't have any shoes that aren't for sports, and you start getting back in to having money and the means to buy things and pretty soon you are thinking maybe the cubicle is calling and it might not be so awful this time, it's easy to forget that doing is better than having.

And pretty soon you will have sold your time to someone else again. Time is the only thing in life you really have, and the easiest thing in the world to lose. And then what will have happened to the Trail? Did you bring it home or did you leave it behind?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Prelimiary Itinerary from Santa Barbara to the PCT

I've plotted a very rough estimate of my itinerary for the leg of my journey to the PCT. If I am lucky and can do the miles I have plotted, I should take about 8 days to reach Hikertown. If I leave on May 25 I will arrive in Hikertown the same day that I did last year.

Here are my planned daily mileages. I will probably not stop at exactly these places. It was just a rough guide to figure out how long it will take.

Camp Daily Miles
Blue Canyon 8
(Trail miles–does not count miles from my door to trailhead.)
Matillija Creek 14
Beaver CG Sespe Creek 16
Sespe Hot Springs 20
Intersection Buck Creek 20
Cienega CG 19
On the PCT!
(22 miles from Cienega CG to Hikertown)

That's 8 days minimum to my first resupply. These mileages may be way off and the trails may be too difficult to achieve these mileages. I will have to bring a lot of food. Fortunately it will be the start of my journey and I won't be as hungry at first.

By being able to arrive at the PCT on the same day I did last year, I know if continue onward doing all the miles I already did plus the ones I skipped, I will fall behind of where I was last year by about a week.

I have been considering taking the CREST bus from Mojave to Lone Pine. This will reduce my journey by 11 days. Another option is to see if there is a bus I could take from South Lake Tahoe to Quincy. This would cut off about 8 days of my journey. It may not be enough days to cut off to make any difference in arriving in Canada in time for the season, but it could help.

Reasons to skip ahead:
Getting to Sonora Pass at the same time as last year when the flowers were absolutely perfect
Insurance toward reaching Canada before winter
Skipping parts of the desert I did not like

Reasons not to skip:
Having a pure hike
Making friends
Enjoying the desert

Monday, February 09, 2009

Good-bye to the birds

Yesterday was my last day working at the pet shop. I tried to play with the caiques before I left. I loved them, but I traumatized one of them when I had to clean their cage. I still could not regain her trust. It was sad to say good-bye to them.

It was stressful working there because the owner did not like to talk on the phone. I had to screen calls and make up excuses when she did not want to talk to people who called.

Worse, sometimes I had to parrot a conversation back and forth. And sometimes I had to make up stories to in-person visitors while the owner hid in the office.

Everyone there was always sick. I think it was stress or negativity that caused it because I never got sick once while I worked there. I felt like I didn't fit in because I didn't complain about stuff all the time. Maybe if I had I would have gotten sick, too.

Nobody liked me there. Nobody spoke to me. I didn't speak Spanish so I could not talk with the others there much. One day the others told the boss I stood around doing nothing so I felt I could not trust them. I had done a lot of things that day to get the store ready. Why they said that I did not understand. I think there was relief when I quit on both sides.

My last day was strange. At first the owner would not speak to me. She would ask someone else to go get her things, not me. Eventually she talked to me, but instead of treating me like crap like she normally did she was nicer to me. So the day ended on a somewhat positive note.

I kept all this inside the whole time I worked there. I never told anybody about how I felt.

I have a positive feeling that other money-making opportunities will come my way. At least I am hoping it'll all work out. I've been surprised at how well things have been working out so far. So why shouldn't it continue that way?

I think I've finally worked out a good answer for what to do next, the question I had been hoping my hike would answer. I'm going to keep taking classes at SBCC. Maybe I will work at Greeneridge listening to whales again to support myself next winter. Maybe I will get home from the PCT in time to take Fall classes. I don't know the details. But eventually I'll get another IT job. I like the IT field. It can be very fun. It pays well and I tend to get so sucked in to my work that I end up with a month's worth of vacation time saved up before I know it.

So I'll take my months when they accumulate and go hike medium-length long trails. A whole month on a trail will be a wonderful way to relive the thru-hike lifestyle from time-to-time. Meanwhile, I will have weekends and holidays to do overnights and shorter trips.

I want to make living in the wilderness more a part of my life. I've been sad that it hasn't been enough of my life since I got home from the PCT. My book on living my authentic life says I have to stand up for myself and say this is the way I want to live my life. I want to live my life in the wilderness as much as I can.

So if my trip this weekend into the backcountry is still on even if there's a chance of rain, and even if Tony doesn't want to go, I'm going. Even if I have to go out one night by myself. I'm going.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Gourmet salt can stove

I made my own stove. And I took a lousy picture of it.

It's not terribly light, but it solves an issue with the dang pot stands. Pot stands tend to be the weakest link in a stove. They are shaky or get in the way or burn away after a while. My stove has the pot stand built in.

I used a small can of gourmet French sea salt from Trader Joes. The can was lined with plastic and the top was partially plastic so you could see the gray salt inside. I removed the plastic (and the salt) and drilled holes in the sides. There are three nuts screwed into the top of the tin, their heights adjusted by extra nuts. The pot rests right on the nuts without extinguishing the flame or toppling over on some rickety stand. I can refill the stove without burning my hands trying to remove the pot stand because I don't need to remove it. And the whole unit fits right inside my pot.

I tested it and it did boil water. I did not time it, however, as the time is not important to me after a point. It'll boil water as fast enough. It's really just a basic, unpressurized alcohol burner.

I also tested it without the screws and after it heats up it works great with pretty blue jets coming out the holes. I may remove the built-in pot stand. I'll have to see how things really work on my trip next week.


It has been raining here the last 3 days. That's good news. We need the rain.

I woke up yesterday jazzed about the rain. It occurred to me that I should be out there in it as preparation for my hike. So I hopped on my bike and rode to work in the rain. But it stopped raining as soon as I got on the bike so the only rain I got was splatter from the tires.

As soon as I got inside the office, it poured like mad. On my way home from work, it stopped raining again. I seem to have some kind of magic rain stopping powers.

This morning it was still raining so off I went for a walk with my umbrella. The rain was light. I walked some without the umbrella. My new Houdini jacket worked great. It's perfect.

I believe that you cannot stay dry in rain. Anything powerful enough to keep you dry will make you sweat and then you'll just get drenched from sweat. My plan is to use very light protection, in this case the Houdini, and an umbrella. If the rain is just too miserable, I will seek better shelter in my tent.

I have hiked with an umbrella before. I love hiking with an umbrella. It's just so sensible and fun.

I'm all jazzed now about the Pacific NW rain. I'm going to love hiking and camping in the rain. It's going to be beautiful, peaceful and mystical.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Gossamer Gear G4

Tony bought me a Gossamer Gear G4 backpack for my birthday. He gave it to me as soon as it arrived. I'll be able to use it on our trip over Presidents Day weekend. I'm a little worried about that, though, because our backcountry has snaggy scrub that tends to tear our packs. But our leader for the trip (it's a work trip) insists that it'll be fine.

My z-rest pad is 12 panels long. I like a long pad because I like cushioning under my heels. The backpack uses your sleeping pad as a frame. It provides stretchy fabric to slip the pad in between the pack and your back. But 12 panels is too thick and the pack feels odd pushed so far from my back. Also, it bows outward toward my back and therefore doesn't feel like it is doing anything to provide support for the pack.

So I put the pad inside. I arranged it so that 4 panels lie flat against my back and the other panels form walls on the sides of the pack. This has the benefit of providing rigidity.

I look forward to testing the pack on our trip. It's a rather large pack so I just stick everything inside. Without pockets or a lid on the pack, it seems odd to me to just toss everything into the pack. There are all kinds of little bags of things in there. It's messy and disorganized. But I'll get used to it.

I'm going to try not using a Camelback on this trip, too. Last year on the PCT I usually carried my 2.5 liter Camelback, a 2 quart bottle and possibly another liter. It was more than I ever needed and awfully heavy.

My plan this time is to fill up two 1-liter Platypus bottles and carry a 20 oz bottle for drinking and making lemonade. Whenever I arrive at a water source, I will drink deeply to make up for carrying less. Where water is plentiful I won't even have to fill all of that up. I may also carry an empty 2 quart bottle for those really long waterless stretches and the ability to walk on after dinner to a dry campsite.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I have been considering ponchos. There are some out there you can set up as shelters. There are some you can set up like a flat tarp and others, like the Gatewood Cape, you can set up like a little tent. I went to the store today to look at a poncho. Being short I decided that a poncho big enough to serve as a decent shelter is too big on me to serve as a decent poncho.

Years ago I decided I wanted to move out from my Dad's house and get my own apartment. I wasn't having any luck using the classified ads so I went downtown and walked up and down the streets where I wanted to live looking for For Rent signs. It turned out to be the rainiest day I've ever seen in Santa Barbara. I walked around in a poncho and umbrella. I got soaking wet from head to toe, but I did find a great apartment I lived in for almost 7 years. Anyway, after that experience, I'm not so sure that ponchos perform very well in real rain. So, given all that, I don't think I'll bother with a poncho.

I did see a really nice Patagonia jacket in the process of looking at ponchos. It weighed almost nothing and appeared to be coated in a way to provide adequate shelter in the rain. I am seriously considering replacing my lined Marmot windshirt with it. That would solve my upper-body rain issue and reduce some weight in my pack. But it would set me back $200.

As for shelter, I'm left with a difficult choice. I have a tarp, bivy and bug net. Together they weigh more than my Gossamer Gear The One tent. Together they give me adequate bug and rain protection. Separate they give me choices. I can skip the tarp and bivy most of the time and just use the bug net. But the bug net is small. I can lay down and be protected and that's about it. So if I the bugs are bad, my world is rather constricted. My tent gives me rain protection and a spacious palace away from bugs but no option to sleep under the stars.

So my shelter situation isn't quite resolved yet. At least my local backpack trip is coming up in a couple of weeks. I'll get to try the tarp and know if tarping is for me.

On another gear-related note, I decided the problem with my Jannd pack was that it leaned too far away from my back. Other packs solve this issue with load lifter straps. I sewed some leftover nylon webbing onto the pack to make static load lifters. I can't adjust them but I sewed them to where I would have adjusted them. They seem to help immensely. They move the pack closer to my back and move the weight forward so that instead of falling over my shoulders it rides more frontward. I think I'll give my Jaand pack a try on my trip in a couple of weeks. It's a great pack for our local, overgrown trails.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sourdough bread and voluntary creative simplicity

Tony found this nice article online for me yesterday. I truly think this is the best way to be happy and survive in our broken, modern world. I wish that we could move toward this. Have you any idea how much stress is expended in our home over prescription meds intended to help us deal with the stress caused by workplace and financial woes (of which we actually have few, but the threat of losing everything always looms)? Moving toward a life like this would end that kind of madness.

Read about how a couple moved from industrial society enslavement to voluntary creative simplicity.

I hope Tony doesn't go out and buy the book Your Money or Your Life because he already has it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

My bivy and chaps arrived today

Today my rain chaps and bivy sack arrived.

I love the rain chaps. They are much nicer than they appear on the web site where I bought them. They are a nice green instead of blue and they don't look as cheap. They also don't make me look like a cowboy like the web site said. They seem very nice and like they will do a perfect job. They make me hope for a little rain so I can use them.

The bivy sack is perfect, too. I worried that with a mummy bag cut I might not be able to fit my z-rest pad inside. My down quilt attaches to the z-rest which means that it would not be optimal to have the pad outside the sack. The good news is that the z-rest will fit inside.

Both these items are made by Equinox and both are of sil-nylon. They seem like they will work perfectly.

Now I'm wondering if I should find a smaller tarp. The tarp I have is 8x10. This will work perfectly for Tony and I when we hike together. But it may be too big for myself. I will decide that later after we have had a chance to use the tarp later this month. Technically I don't need a tarp since I have a great tent already. Technically I don't need the bivy sack, either, since I have the tent, but my plan is to use the tarp for rain and the tent only when I don't feel like sleeping out in the open. But that is a lot of unneeded weight and bulk to carry around.