Friday, April 30, 2010

Hiking plans

This weekend I have to lead two Sierra Club hikes. Next weekend I'm hiking with a friend in the San Rafael. The weekend after that I would have tried to meet Tony out on the trail somewhere. Maybe he would have been in Agua Dulce or Green Valley. My how quickly the hike goes when you are not on the trail!

Perhaps I will go to Green Valley and just hike a Friday/Saturday/Sunday all by myself. Or even better, maybe I'll go out towards Hikertown and hike toward Green Valley southbound. Maybe I'll fill the car with goodies to give away when I'm finished.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Good-bye to the PCT

I have felt such profound disappointment over the end of The Man's PCT hike. I guess I understand why he didn't want me to come home early. You really can vicariously live someone else's hike.

Even though I was only the support person, there was a thrill in sending the packages and looking at his schedule and wondering where he was. I felt connected to the trail. Now there is no more connection. It's very sad.

I have a nice backpack trip coming up in the San Rafael. A couple of day hikes to lead this weekend, too. Will I ever hike the PCT again? I hope so, but at the moment, it feels like it is a million miles away and I have nothing more to say because I have nothing more to do with it. Because real life is out on the trail and the trail is home to me, where am I now? Where is home now?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Man has returned

The Man is home. His ankle is very sore. Fortunately nothing is broken. He plans to have a doctor here look at it to see if there was any damage to tendons or other soft tissue. If it heels pretty quickly, he wants to return to the trail. He was just getting into the swing of it. He made lots of friends. He seemed to be having a good time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Man is coming home early

The Man has to end his PCT hike. He fell on Apache Peak and sprained his ankle. He called me from the hospital in Hemet. I guess this makes it his second helicopter ride. He seemed in good spirits.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making hiking clothing from scraps

A while back I led a Sierra Club hike on a primitive trail to a special place called Gorilla Rock. Along the way I tore a hole in my hiking pants. I hiked along for quite some time before the guy walking behind me finally said something about the growing hole in my pants. By the time he said something, the hole was about 6 inches long.

When I got home, I tossed my torn pants in a corner thinking I'd either toss them or fix them. Well, now that I have a sewing machine what I did instead was harvest them.

I recently bought some nice Ex-officio pants from the thrift store. When clothing companies that specialize in outdoor clothing make things for men they make them with reasonable waistlines, full length pants, useful pockets and a cut that accommodates physical activity. When these same companies make clothing for women they usually include none of those things, but they do use the same good fabric. These pants had very short legs (do women hikers somehow not mind sunburn and mosquito bites?), but the waistline was somewhat reasonable (a tad bit of gap-osis to show off my underwear to the world, but there are belt loops). The pockets are useful for small things, and there's one zippered pocket on my thigh which I like. In other words, they could work with a little modification.

So I made frankenpants out of them. I cut the legs off the torn pants and sewed them onto these Ex-officio pants. The pant legs are gray and the Ex-officio pants are khaki, but it doesn't look any more stupid than if I wore knee-high gaiters.

I was just about to throw out the rest of the pants but then I noticed they have good pockets. Perhaps I can harvest the pockets for my future hiking skirt project.

I also edited a Patagonia skirt so that it's actually useful for hiking. It was so narrow I couldn't even walk up stairs. I added a panel of nylon from the pants to flare it out so I can actually step over a log or something. I also fixed some casual pants.

By the way, I had a chance to try out my bomber hat this weekend. I wore it to bed when I camped out on my bike ride. It's very warm. It's also very big. My friends were polite and said nothing about how silly it looks on me. But I'm happy with how warm it is. It's a good addition to my sleep system.

This is very fun.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I completed the Wildflower 50 mile bike ride

I drove up to Creston for the San Luis Obispo Bike Club Wildflower ride. They had three rides, a 50 miler, 75 and 100 miler. I signed up for the 50 and brought my recumbent trike, a Catrike Pocket.

I signed up back in January or February or something like that. I really expected I would get more training in, but I didn't. I think the Widlflower ride was something like the 4th ride I've done all year.

I drove up on Friday afternoon and slept next to the Fire station. The whole little town was full of RVs and tents all over the place. Seems they don't really mind since all these riders converge from everywhere and spend money. There's a spaghetti feed the night before the ride that is run by some organization in town, so they get that money. Then there was a bake sale in the morning that benefits the elementary school and later the lunch helps the fire department. A hundred people camped all over town? No problem.

I camped with a fellow recumbent trike rider who I sometimes ride with. His wife was there, too. They had a little utility trailer to sleep in and I just camped outside. In the early morning, our other trike riding friend and his two trike riding brothers met us. It was very foggy in the morning. And very cold.

We set off for the ride through rolling oak woodlands scattered with wildflowers. What I could see out my fogged up glasses in the fogged up landscape was beautiful. We climbed just barely into juniper and pine country.

I had eaten a fairly light breakfast, no dinner the night before. A couple of cups of coffee had me scrambling for a bush on the side of the road. At the first stop I made sure to drink something hot as I was freezing and I ate a quarter of a bagel with peanut butter.

I was glad I brought a bunch of layers. In addition to my riding attire, which was a pair of capri running pants and a long sleeved Patagonia base layer (no bike clothes for me) I had a colorful vest I bought at a previous Wildflower ride, my fleece balaclava, my Houdini jacket, my cap and some arm warmers. With all that on I was barely warm enough at stops. I took some of it off to ride.

The fog didn't want to let up. It was still foggy after we rode through Shell canyon to the lunch spot in Shandon. Shell canyon had lots of great wildflowers. It was a little past their prime, or maybe there had been too much rain that favored the grasses which were long and starting to turn brown. Still, there were tidy tips, owls clover, lupine, pin cushion and mustang mint amidst the rolling hills and cattle.

The road in the canyon was in poor condition. It rattled me so much I could hardly see where I was going. The flag on the back of my trike fell off somewhere. My rear view mirror dangled, having come unscrewed. It felt like my sinuses were going to rattle out of my nose and it was so cold and jiggly that my feet become numb. It looked flat but felt like hard work.

At the lunch stop I made sure to eat light again because there were big hills coming. Just as we were leaving, somebody on a bike got hit by somebody on a motorcycle. I didn't see what happened, but I hoped everybody and both bikes were okay.

I began the after-lunch stretch at a slow pace. I usually ride with some of these guys and they have a tendency to kind of push me a bit. They don't try to, I just feel like I have to go faster than I really want to for various reasons. I decided I would do this whole ride at my own pace and if they happened to be around me fine. I think they kind of waited for me here and there. Anyway, I went at my own pace and waited until lunch kicked in when I got my energy part way up a big hill. I cruised easily, spinning my legs quickly and easily. Not that I was fast. All day I think I heard the words "on your left" about a million times. But I was faster and feeling no pain at all. I enjoy the big hills better than anything else.

The first big hill went through soft hills of green grass and owls clover. It looked like the Carrizo Plains. At the top, I was looking forward to a big downhill, but it was too short. Still, it was fun.

Then the final really big hill loomed. I felt great. About 50 really cool motorcycles went by as I chugged my way up to the top and the day's last rest stop where they had lemonade, snacks and chairs. The sun had finally come out, my feet thawed and I could feel my toes again. I drank some water and ate some sodium Clif Shot Blocks. Those are really yummy.

Then the final descent back to Creston. My knees were starting to feel a little tired. But I was joking during the final miles that I should have done the 100 miler because I really expected for my 4th bike ride of the year to be bleeding and crying and feeling like I might not make it. Instead, I pulled in to the end feeling better than I had on any of the previous bike rides like this that I have done.

They had a barbecue chicken 2nd lunch at the finish. I sat and talked with the others and with another friend from Santa Barbara who happened to be there. Then it was time to go back home.

My PCT hike seemed to have taught me a lot of things. One is to just go at your own pace always. If you do that, you can climb any mountain. You can climb mountains all day over and over and climb more mountains tomorrow.

Another thing was how to feel comfortable just about anywhere. I have this gear that took me to Canada. I use it for bike riding and it works just as well. I know how to switch layers around and work with what I have on to stay reasonably comfortable. Maybe not always perfect, but I don't feel that bad when I'm a little miserable. I'm used to that. There's a difference between discomfort and danger.

I guess the last thing I learned is that when I am in decent physical condition, I feel free. Unlimited. If this weekend I want to bike ride, I go bike riding. If tomorrow I want to run, I will go running. I'm not athletic, I'm never going to win any races, but I'm physically capable of what I want to do.

On the drive home I thought about The Man. He might be on his way up the Apache Peak section of the PCT. I hope he's having a great time. I hope he comes back feeling free and happy and wants to do more of the trail with me. Maybe if he makes it to Kennedy Meadows, he and I can hike together from Kennedy Meadows to Lake Tahoe someday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Secret pleasures of backpacking

These are things I really really like about backpacking that don't usually get mentioned:
  • I love washing my feet in ice cold snow melt streams. I like the pain and the pleasure of it.
  • I love feeling cold air on my face in the morning. I love it when my cheeks are cold.
  • I love to start climbing again. Going downhill feels like I'm not going anywhere. Going uphill feels like forward progress. I like settling in for a long climb, putting it in low gear and forgetting all about it. It's meditative.
  • I love going to bed in pain and waking up good as new.
  • I love being toasty warm under my quilt. What I mean is, there's a certain measure of warmth where I just feel this huge pleasure come over me.
  • I love to walk along knife-edge ridges, especially with a strong wind so you have to brace yourself with your trekking poles. The Goat Rocks in Washington was a supreme experience of this.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

High mileage days

My two highest mileage days on the PCT had nothing to do with trying to get to pizza.

I hiked 35 miles one day simply by psyching myself into it. I decided that 30 miles was probably a psychological barrier so rather than think of the miles I was completing I decided to change my focus and think instead of chipping away at the miles remaining to the next town. Toward the very end of the day, I passed by a place I could have camped, and then I was stuck hiking for another hour through an area with absolutely nowhere to camp. Finally, just as the sun was setting, I reached the perfect campsite and my first 35 mile day.

I hiked 36 miles one day in Oregon. It was a relatively flat area of trail between Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood. I just kept hiking. I didn't feel like stopping. I finally only stopped because I needed the final waning minutes of light to kill any mosquitoes that might follow me into my tent. The next morning I hiked easily to Timberline Lodge where I stood on the balcony and looked in absolute amazement at Mt. Jefferson way in the distance, thinking to myself, I can't believe I walked all that distance in only two days. I knew not a single other person there would understand that feeling. It was one of the best moments of the hike for me.

I made a bomber hat

I successfully sewed a Ray Jardine bomber hat. A friend was kind enough to send me a kit he had never used. I can't believe I actually managed to do it. I'd probably get a C in sewing this time around (I got a D in high school, the worst grade I ever got.) But it works and looks pretty decent.

As for the hat itself, it feels quite warm, but I think I like my homemade fleece balaclava better. The balaclava covers my face and neck. The bomber hat only covers my head. The bomber hat is also noisy. As I move and breathe the nylon makes noise right up against my ears. The fleece is quiet.

I think I will try using the bomber hat anyway. Because I made it myself and that feels good.

I want to sew a hiking skirt next. A bias cut, A-line simple skirt but I want to add some pockets, at least one zippered pocket, so that it's handy like pants. It has to have belt loops, too, because if you hike long enough, you lose weight and need a belt. The other thing I want my hiking skirt to have is a modesty closure like they have for some kilts. I don't know if I'll actually sew a skirt or just buy one at the thrift store and modify it.

The Man has hiked to Warner Springs

The Man has hiked all the way to Warner Springs. He got there in less than 5 days. He says he's not tired or sore or anything. The hiking has been easy. He's very strong.

He says he has been trying to advise people on how to take advantage of the water on the trail. Too many hikers seem to just blow by the natural water sources on their way to the ones published in various books and online resources. Suffering in the heat, suffering under the weight of their packs loaded with water and struggling with hot, sore feet, they just walk past all the nice little creeklets on the trail. He suggests people stop at the natural water and soak their feet. Put their shirts in the water to cool off. You can't regret this, he says. He's right, of course.

He met Billy Goat, Unbreakable and No Trace, three people who I met last year. They remembered me. Billy Goat lost his hiking poles when he left them by a tree and someone took them to try to find their owner up the trail. He's got bamboo poles now and doesn't want metal ones again, even though someone tried to give him some.

The Man is soaking now in the hot spring-fed pool and enjoying the luxury of the resort. He plans a zero day. He'll probably be in Idyllwild this weekend. I wish I was with him.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I dropped The Man off for his PCT trek

On Thursday afternoon I drove The Man down to Lake Morena, making a pit stop in Warner Springs to pick up a couple of section hikers and drop them off at Pioneer Mail Picnic Area. We finally pulled in to Lake Morena after 10 at night. I led the way to the backpacker site I remembered and we set up our tent next to a couple others and went to bed.

In the morning, we met two of the hikers there, a couple from the UK. We left our tent and sleeping bags set up and drove to the border. There were about 3 other hikers there being dropped off by Scout, a PCT trail angel who lives in San Diego. We took pictures and signed the register (that's two sign-ins for me at the Mexican border and none at the Canadian border.) I said good-bye to The Man and drove off to park the car, stopping to get coffee at the Circle K in Cameron Corners. I parked near the Border Patrol office and met The Man as he came down the trail. He looked happy, exclaiming his surprise at how pretty the trail was here.

I hiked with him for about three miles, until there was a stinky chicken ranch in view. I had joked at the border with Scout how glad I was not to be the one doing this hike, feeling happy to not have to walk all day anymore. But as soon as I was on the trail again, I felt like I had come home and I was suddenly very sad that I was not coming on the hike with The Man.

Everything seemed so green and pretty. Flowers were blooming on the sides of the trail. Creeks and little creeklets flowed often. We joked he was probably the first hiker in the history of the trail to leave the border carrying no water. I had a liter, but didn't feel I needed it at all. The water was evenly spaced just right so you could drink just when you felt thirsty.

After 3 miles, I turned around. I ran back to the car. I drove the car back to Lake Morena. I went over to the ranger station and paid for the campsite for both nights as we were planning to stay again tonight. I parked outside the campground so we could stay in the hike and bike site. Then I jettisoned all the extra gear in my pack and hit the trail with just a liter of water and a few other items.

I decided to run again and try to meet The Man in Hauser Canyon. I ran all the way to Hauser Canyon, walking up the steeper hills. I got to Hauser Canyon and fixed a drink mix and refilled my liter bottle. I waited for a while, but The Man didn't come, so I decided to hike further. I hiked all the way up to the road and a little bit past it up the trail a short distance when The Man came smiling around the corner. We hiked together back to Hauser Canyon for lunch and then on to Lake Morena.

When we got to Lake Morena, the campground was all of a sudden full of RVs. There was loud country music blaring. It was awful.

We met another woman named Jan staying there. She probably saw our tent in the hike and bike site and thought we had the whole site to ourselves because she had set up her tent in a little strip of land next to the campground street. We offered to drive her out with us to Cameron Corners for burritos as we remembered a good burrito stand that was there in 2008. Alas, the ownership has changed and the burritos weren't as good. I had a burger. Hard to ruin that.

After dinner the din of the campground seemed even worse. When the lady across from us yelled to her friends, "Are you ready to party?" I just knew we'd never sleep. I wondered if The Man had heard it. It turned out he had, because after she said that, he walked down the road and around the corner to see if there was a quieter space. He came back shortly and said let's pack up and get out of there. So we packed up our stuff and walked down the PCT a short distance until we found a flat, quiet spot. We slept well. It's a waste of money to stay in campsites. It's a waste of money ever to pay to sleep anywhere. This I learned last summer. I have become a bit like Billy Goat and Crow. Town stuff is to be avoided. It's rarely worth it.

Condensation formed on our tent sleeping in the meadow. In the morning, as soon as we got out of the tent, the condensation turned instantly to frost. I rolled it up and ran back to the car, tossed it into the trunk and drove off to Cottonwood Creek bridge on S1, parking off the road. I walked down to the creek below the bridge and made my breakfast and waited for The Man to arrive.

As I ate my breakfast, I watched the Border Patrol trucks go back and forth over the bridge. I had that old familiar feeling of not belonging to that world, to belonging to this world of the trail and nature. I watched birds go down to the water to drink and thought about the drive down yesterday.

We had driven through so many ugly towns. McMansions covering what once were rolling hills of wildflowers and blocky, beige shopping malls all with the same red logos of the same big corporate stores. Town after town, all the same. Every want and need met by some corporate behemoth. It made me wonder why we do it. Seeing the border patrol I realized. It's like how where I live, there are lots of very wealthy people living next to much poorer ones. They hire private security and put up walls around their property. Large sums of money and human energy are spent protecting their wealth and property. As a nation we are like that rich person, our private security the border patrol and our fence the ugly shipping container fence at the border. It all exists to protect our wealth and property. But all around us the real riches go unnoticed and worse, they get trampled upon. The birds, the quiet sound of wind in the trees and water flowing in a creek. The wildflowers and oaks in the meadow. The simple needs of a quiet place to sleep and some breakfast in the morning easily met with very little. Real life is on the trail. It's not out there. I felt sorry once more that I wasn't partaking in the journey with The Man, that I'd be returning to that other life in a few days where I'd get up every morning and go through the motions of pretending to care, pretending that making money for my boss was important to me.

I decided to walk south and meet The Man. I passed a dead duck on the side of the road, hit by a car probably. I walked along the trail, anxious to see what I could no longer remember about the trail. It was so beautiful, the white rocks and the hot pink flowers, the blue ceanothus and the tiny little creeks flowing through tiny little meadows. I met The Man as he was coming along a long tunnel cut through the chaparral. He was eating a Yucca flower. He said he was enjoying sampling the food growing along the trail.

We walked together through the Cottonwood creek oak woodland meadow, past Boulder Oaks campground and up to Kitchen Creek where we stopped for an early lunch. On my hike in '08 I had missed stopping at Kitchen Creek, assuming the trail would cross it. I hadn't learned yet how much the PCT avoids creeks, especially in hot and dry southern California. This time we scrambled down to the creek, took our shoes off and munched on wild onions as we ate lunch and dipped our feet in the cool water.

After lunch, I said good-bye to The Man and headed back to the car at Cottonwood Creek. Along the way, I gave a liter of water to a trail runner. When I got to Boulder Oaks he was waiting for me, ready to pay back the water. I asked him for a ride to my car instead, which he gave me.

I drove up to Mt. Laguna and got us a room in the lodge. There were lots of hikers at the lodge, including Jackass and Molasses who I met several times on my hike last year. I sat around on the porch enjoying the friendly trail culture, the camaraderie of the hikers, but really I longed to be on the trail and not in a trail town. So I said good-bye to everyone there and hit the trail for some more hiking. I hiked south, descending out of the cool forest of the Lagunas and dropping into the dry chaparral. I saw a lone tree and decided that would be my goal. I would wait for The Man there. Around the corner he came just as I was getting close to the tree. We hiked back to Mt. Laguna together.

We went to the wrong restaurant for dinner. Apparently there's a good weekend dinner place a bit further down the road. It is too early in the hike for The Man to have his hiker hunger so we didn't care that we missed the all-you-can-eat spaghetti. We enjoyed some more talking with the hikers and then we retired to our room.

The Man fussed about with his gear. I would be leaving in the morning so he would have to have all his gear settled once and for all. Car camping really sucks because it is too easy to leave stuff in the car. We had been trying to be self-contained, even me as a dayhiker, because leaving stuff in the car all the time was annoying.

I felt very tired. Even though I had been dayhiking, I had put in a lot of miles, many of them running. My ankles were sore. I was wearing new trail shoes. I bought the least supportive shoes I could find, since highly supportive shoes have injured me every time. I have some new muscles in my feet and ankles getting a good workout. It was a good soreness, but I had to take ibuprofen so I could sleep.

In the morning, we hoped maybe we could get a hot breakfast, but the restaurant wouldn't open until 10AM. So I made some coffee on the porch while The Man finished getting ready. I tossed some food in my pack and off we drove to Desert View Picnic Area where The Man had left off yesterday.

We hiked together to the lookout spot near Laguna Campground. We hiked for maybe two hours. Then we said good-bye once and for all. It was likely I wouldn't see him again for weeks. I ran and hiked back to the car. I hoped I could drive to Pioneer Mail in time to meet him there, or if not meet him, to get there before him so I could leave a note. I did that. I left a note. Just as I was punching the information in to the car's GPS and getting ready to turn the key in the ignition, The Man came smiling around the corner. We sat in the shade and ate a snack and said one more good-bye.

He walked away and I drove away. I had heard of a new campsite called Sunrise camp where the hikers were planning to stay and get water. I hoped to find it along Sunrise Highway. I thought I might leave another note. I didn't see the campground. I considered driving out to Scissors Crossing to leave him a note, but at the last minute, I decided just to go home.

I drove back through all the clutter of modern life, wishing there was a better way to live life than this. It all exists just to make a few people at the top rich, and all of us just a little richer than the people below us. It's a terrible waste of energy and time. We could be living more simply and more fully, enjoying the beauty of the trail and of nature. We shouldn't have to live like this. I drove home sad and not looking forward to the coming weeks of loneliness.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Off to Campo with my new fingerless gloves

I'm heading down to the border sometime today to drop off The Man on his big adventure hiking 700 miles of the PCT. I hope we leave soon because otherwise we'll get there in the dark.

I'll be bringing hiking gear so I can hike a little with him. I will probably hike an hour with him in the same direction, then hike back, move the car to the next night's location and then hike south until I meet him on the trail, and hike back to the car. I'll do this Friday and Saturday. I might hike with him a little while on Sunday, but then I'll have to turn around and go home.

I'll be bringing a pair of fleece fingerless gloves I sewed myself on my sewing machine. To make them, I laid my hand on a piece of paper with my fingers spread wide and traced around them with a pen. Then I added about a quarter inch around the tracing. Then I cut out the tracing and traced it on to the fleece with a marker. Then I added a little more edge as I cut it out. I pinned the two sides together and sewed with a somewhat narrow and short zig-zag stitch as close to the edge as I could get. Then I turned them inside out and cut off the finger tips. I tested them riding my Vespa and while they are close-fitting they are warm. This fleece sweater I found at the thrift shop that I've made a few things from is the warmest, lightest, thinnest fleece I've ever seen. I wish I could find another sweat shirt, but I guess I'm out of things to make.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hiking with long hair

I have long, straight, fine hair. It can get incredibly tangled. It's also brittle and prone to static electricity, especially around the types of synthetic fabrics used in backpacking gear.

I used to have short hair. But with hair like mine, if I put on a hat, it would put dents in my hair. Hat hair. That sounds so vain, but I get killer hat hair. It can be so bad that even wetting my hair won't take out the dents that form. Worst of all, if my hair is short and I wear a hat, I look bald. I decided at one point that short hair and backpacking just don't work for me so I decided to grow my hair long.

Now it is very long, down to my waist. It clogs the tub and breaks the vacuum cleaner every time I vacuum. But it's perfect hair for backpacking. All I have to do is put it in a pony tail, then braid the pony tail. I don't have to comb it for several days. The braid keeps it tangle-free and clean. Sometimes, even after several days, I can take the braid out and still smell the shampoo. Sometimes I can take the braid out after one day and my hair is still wet from the shower. A braid really keeps my hair safe.

The only trouble with my hair being so long and with it also being brittle, is the weight of the braid can not only cause a headache pulling on the top of my head, but hairs break from the weight. I always have short hairs around my face that can't be pulled back in the pony tail and that blow around in the wind and tickle my nose or get stuck in my teeth or eyes. The only solution I have found for that is to wear a headband to keep those hairs pulled back.

A braid, a headband pulling the stray hairs away from my face and a hat is my hiking hair management system.

My sewing machine is fixed

My new old sewing machine is fixed! The man who came out to fix it said it's a good sewing machine, better than the new ones they make nowadays. It's probably from the 1950s, possibly the 1960s. I paid $35 but he said it was worth a few hundred dollars. Even if it was worth only $100, then with his service call, I paid exactly what it was worth.

Now I can sew something. I really want to make a Ray Jardine bomber hat or perhaps even better, an insulated balaclava that my friend has a pattern for. But I'll probably start with boring stuff like hemming my pants.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Hummus is a paste of chick peas and sesame seeds with a little garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Maybe other things as well. You can buy powdered hummus in boxes in the supermarket or in the bulk bins at the health food store. All you have to do is add water. Olive oil is optional. A little hummus powder goes a long way and takes more water than you think to reconstitute.

Hummus is like miracle food for me. I ate it often on my PCT hike with crackers or fried pita chips. I could just crumble the crackers into it and eat it with a spoon. Add olive oil for extra calories.

Now that I'm not living on the trail I put hummus in a big tortilla with fresh onions, lettuce, tomatoes and anything else that looks good like cabbage or red bell peppers.

I can eat a hummus burrito and hike for hours with no hunger and plenty of energy. Of all the foods I ate in the middle of the day, hummus seemed to provide the best energy to lack of stomach rumbling ratio of anything I ate.

Broke my sewing machine.

Well, I already broke my new sewing machine. I don't know what I did but nothing works now. The feed dogs won't come up, the needle hits the bobbin case and I can't put the bobbin in anymore. I hope it's repairable. At least I fixed my thrift store pants and can wear them to work.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I bought a sewing machine

I bought a sewing machine! I bought it from an estate sale for $35. I also got a little table and all the bobbins and other things that go with it. It is a Pfaff from probably the 1950s.

This little sewing machine actually tells a small piece of the story of the woman's life. It is clear she had been using it up until the end. It was last serviced one year ago. How quickly a life can end. It is quite sad.

It's also clear from the sewing machine that this was a thrifty woman who took good care of things. The sewing machine came with many of the original items, including the original measuring tape. This was not a woman who threw things away or misplaced things and bought new ones to replace them. How different people are nowadays.

The machine is built like a tank and weighs a ton. There is very little plastic. No plastic gears, only plastic knobs. This machine was built to make clothing for the family and last forever. It works, too. I fixed The Man's backpack and I sewed some belt loops onto some thrift store pants I bought. It seems the latest fashion for women is to build pants with big bellies and skinny legs, so, because I have big thighs and have to buy pants with huge clown waists, I have to either pin the waist, put elastic in the waist or use a belt to keep people from having easy viewing of my underwear.

I may try to make some backpacking gear with it. I'm very happy it is mine now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Boring update about my new shoes

So my new Feelmax shoes which seemed fairly wide and possibly too big are actually too narrow. And my new NB MT100s which looked too narrow actually fit perfectly. I went running in them today and they seemed to be exactly what I want from a trail shoe. They don't get in the way, they are flexible and I can feel the ground under me. They would be terrible for someone wanting stability and support, which I do not want. I really liked them. I like the Feelmax, too, but wish they made them wider. They are okay with thin socks but not toe socks. I wear them a lot for walking. It's clear I don't know how to walk right. Too much pounding on my knees. It also feels like I'm getting stronger both in my feet and in my ability to run up hills. But I'm very sore, too.

Going light doesn't have to be expensive

My tent and quilt were the most expensive things. The next most expensive were my two jackets and my titanium pot. Everything else was pretty cheap.

My clothing was either old stuff I've had for years or stuff I bought at the thrift store. I made a fleece balaclava out of an old fleece sweater from the thrift store. I also cut the sleeves off and used them as arm/leg warmers. These turned out to be really useful and light, serving also as a pillow and a pot cozy. I probably could have found jackets to use at the thrift store. I still have a down jacket that I used to always use that I bought at a thrift store for $10, but my new one is warmer and lighter.

My pack on the PCT was only $80 new. The pack I use now was only $40 from the PCT Kick-off ULA bargain bin.

For sleeping, I used half a z-lite which was a costly $35 but I also used half a blue foam pad from K-mart which was less than $10 new.

I used a few tiny containers that once held other things like medicine for my pet bird or visine. I refill my little travel-sized toothpaste over and over. I even refill a sample-sized foil pouch of anti-biotic ointment. It's tricky but can be done. All my hygiene and first-aid stuff is tiny and there isn't much of it.

I only brought one stuff sack (that's another place people waste a lot of weight), which was a pocket shower. Basically a dry bag with a shower nozzle. I put my sleeping bag in it when I thought it might rain and used it for a shower once. It was kind of wasted weight, except that it did work for my sleeping bag. For other stuff sacks, I just used ones that other things came in. I only had one other stuff sack anyway, which held all my hygiene items. Otherwise I used trash compactor bags for food and clothing. Compactor bags last a long time and if they get a little hole, just patch with duct tape. I used a trashbag for a pack cover. I paid the lady at White Pass a quarter for it.

Containers for drinking once held Gatorade or Naked Juice. I did have a few Platypus containers but they are relatively inexpensive and last a long time. I got the Naked Juice container in Stehekin for free because the juice inside was expired by a day. I still use it.

As a backpacker, I feel like the queen of trash, the dumpster-diver of backpacking. Going light can be way cheaper than going heavy because you need less gear overall and much of it can best be found by scavenging.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Washington resupplies

Washington is quite a bit more remote than Oregon. When it comes to resupplies, you end up sending boxes mostly. But do remember the guidelines:
  • Don't ship candy, cookies or other junk food. That stuff is everywhere.
  • Any place that has people will have food of some sort available.
My plan for Washington was to do as the Yogi book said and shop in Cascade Locks for all of Washington, assembling boxes and shipping from Cascade Locks. I found the town names in Washington to be incredibly confusing. Here's what I planned:
  1. Send box to White Pass to the Kracker Barrel
  2. Send box to Snoqualmie Pass to the Post Office with a note to keep it behind the counter at the Chevron
  3. Send a box to Skykomish Post Office
  4. Send a box to Stehekin
Here's how it worked out.

1) Picked up box at the Kracker Barrel
The Kracker Barrel is a minimarket at a gas station. They actually had a decent supply of food. You could almost shop here. What you could do is consider the food you can't live without and send only that. For me that was hot dinners. Then buy junk food for all the rest. I learned in Washington that you really can live on junk food.

2) Picked up box at the Chevron in Snoqualmie Pass
The Chevron has a huge mini-market. The post office is inside the mini-market, that's why they'll put the packages behind the counter. Actually, they put them in one of the beer coolers.

You could resupply here easily. There was all kinds of stuff in the mini-market, even shoes, clothes and books. There was also a grocery store, but I never looked inside. You could definitely skip sending a box.

3) Picked up box at Skykomish Post Office
This is a stop I kind of have mixed feelings about. But you kind of have to stop here. If there is a closer post office than Skykomish and you don't feel you have the need for a zero day, I would suggest you send your box there instead of going through the rigamarole of Skykomish. Skykomish is to the west of Steven's Pass where the trail emerges. Some people go east instead to another town that I forget the name of.

If you go to Skykomish, the host family actually drives you to another town further west called Baring. There's a post office there. I'm not sure why you wouldn't just send your stuff to that post office instead. Anyway, with all the driving around and having to wait for rides between the two towns of Skykomish and Baring, it almost isn't worth it.

Both towns of Skykomish and Baring have very small stores. You could probably make do if you are not picky, but sending a box of good meals is probably a good idea.

4) Picked up box at Stehekin Post Office
Some people try to resupply with just stuff from the bakery. Baked goods are heavy and are not as good the day after they are made. Day old pastries taste day old even on the trail. They have a restaurant and store. The store had a small selection but probably not enough to adequately resupply. You could do it if you had to, though.

After that, it's only about 4 days to the Canadian border and you are finished.

About those remote, Oregon resupplies

When I went through Oregon, it wasn't quite as remote as most resources out there led me to believe, as far as resupplies go. Yogi's book suggested I buy all my food for Oregon in Ashland and ship to various suggested locations throughout the entire state. So that is close to what I planned. However, not all my plans worked out and I also had time to observe a few things.

My planned Oregon resupply:
  1. Ship to Crater Lake
  2. Ship to Shelter Cove Resort
  3. Shop in Sisters
  4. Shop in Government Camp
These were all viable things to do. What I ended up doing:

1) Stopped in Fish Lake Resort for a meal.
They had a small store with food I could have purchased for hiking. They had a great breakfast and according to the hiker register, great lunch, too. They also had a full hiker box as apparently many section hikers do the whole state of Oregon and Fish Lake is their first stop.

2) Picked up box in Crater Lake post office
Mazama store had enough food to shop. I could have skipped sending the package. I was glad I sent my bounce box, though, because I needed my cotton skirt to protect me from mosquitoes that bit through my pant legs.

3) Picked up box at Shelter Cove Resort
It turned out Shelter Cove had a small store that was better stocked than expected. I could have found enough to eat there with a little flexibility. They also made a great cup of cafe Americano. Best I ever had. They also had a t-shirt and DEET to protect me from mosquitoes biting me through my shirt.

4) Stopped at Elk Lake for emergency shipment of a new tent and shoes, shopped in Bend
My tent zipper broke and the mosquitoes would have driven me insane without refuge, so I had a replacement tent shipped there. Also asked The Man to send some new shoes while I had to wait anyway. They had almost no food at all in their store. This was probably the only place on the whole trail with so little food for sale. Only candy bars, chips and granola bars.

There is a restaurant at Elk Lake Resort. It seems the biggest meals are the burgers and they're pretty good. The beer is great.

While I was here waiting for my tent and shoes, I learned it is easy to get a ride from Elk Lake to Bend which is a good-sized city with major grocery stores. They have an REI, too. I ended up going to Bend and shopping there instead of Sisters.

5) Skipped the trip to Sisters

6) Stopped in at Big Lake Youth Camp for a meal
Turns out you can send a box to Big Lake Youth Camp. The meal was excellent, cheap and all I could stuff into my belly.

7) Attempted to stop at Ollallie Lake for a meal or snack
They were closed. I was like a lost puppy searching for food. It's not that I didn't plan enough, it's that there was simply never enough food. More was always welcome.

8) Shopped in Government Camp.
I hitched down from Timberline Lodge. Government Camp is a ski town. They have a mini-market and a small grocery store. There was ample food available for the two days to Cascade Locks. I made sure to eat at Timberline Lodge, too.

With the last two days completed from Government Camp to Cascade Locks, I was finished with Oregon. I learned a lot in Oregon about how hiking the trail is a lot like regular life. When you get hungry, you go get food. Plans can easily change and it doesn't ruin anything. Everything works out.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Resupplying and planning on the PCT

I'm watching The Man planning his hike on the PCT. It is hard not to butt in with advice. At some point, people have to do their own thing.

How resupply works
Here's how resupply and planning ended up working for me after I got the hang of it all.

All you have to do is take the distance you have to the next town and divide it by your daily pace. Carry that amount of food.

What is your daily pace? You'll get to know it after the first section or two. Plan the first two sections based on what you think you can do, then plan the rest of them after you know for sure what your pace is. That way you won't end up with too much food in your resupply boxes or become a slave of the post office, forced to time your schedule around the hours/days the post office is open.

To give you an idea of pacing on the PCT, before around Big Bear, my pace was around 15 miles a day.

After Big Bear, my pace was 20+ miles a day. Usually I did just a little more than 20.

Once I hit the High Sierra, my pace went back down to around 15. That took me by surprise and I ran out of food. Next time I will know and plan better.

After the High Sierra my pace started to rise to over 25 miles a day. Except for a few times in Oregon, my pace stayed around 25-30 miles a day.

Figure out how many days it'll take to the next store and buy that many days of food. It's that simple.

You will soon learn that most towns have grocery stores and even those that don't will have small markets. Many of these little markets are well aware they are on the PCT and try to carry stuff that hikers will eat. That's usually Pop-tarts, pasta sides and similar items.

With a little research, you can learn which towns have better stores. Then you can shop at those stores and from those towns, send ahead a package to a town that has limited supplies. By doing this, you don't need to rely upon a person at home to mail stuff to you. Also, if you do this a lot, that is to say, if you ship a lot of small boxes to little places in between the big ones, you don't have to carry as much heavy food.

Where do you find info about towns? The Yogi book is good. I also found good info on the Purebound PCT resupply page, As the Crow Flies resupply page, and Mara Factor's page. Sometimes towns change, stores go out of business, better stores open etc. But when people live somewhere they usually have to eat, so as long as there's a town there will be something to eat. And the bigger the town the less likely it is they'll lose their grocery store. Plan accordingly.

Towns with big grocery stores:
  • Tehachapi
  • Mammoth
  • South Lake Tahoe
  • Chester
  • Ashland
  • Bend
Towns with medium-sized, full grocery stores:
  • Idyllwild
  • Big Bear Lake (different from Big Bear City)
  • Wrightwood
  • Agua Dulce
  • Lone Pine
  • Bishop
  • Bridgeport
  • Burney? (Not the falls but the town)
  • Etna
  • Cascade Locks
Anywhere else will have a medium market, small market, mini-market or less. You can usually make it with what's available at these kinds of markets if you aren't too picky.

How does the daily mileage planning really work?
If your pace is 15 miles a day, you have to do at least 15 miles a day. Every mile less than that is a mile you have to add to the last day. So try to add miles to each day to chip away at the last day.

Once you reach your maximum speed, you can risk putting the pressure on yourself. For me the pressure was 25 mile days. Despite a little anxiety that it might be too much pressure, I was able to achieve it. The sad thing is that a 30 mile day doesn't chip much off that last day, but it sure does add a lot to the day you're doing it!

A few more general rules and tips for resupply
  1. Never ship candy, cookies, junk food. You can get that everywhere.
  2. Don't ship Pop-tarts, Pasta Sides, instant rice or similar hiker fare except to some of the more remote locations in Oregon and Washington.
  3. If there's stuff you can't live without, it is worth it to make resupply boxes of it to ship.
  4. Sometimes you can just bounce a box of special stuff. For me that was powdered Nido milk, Just Fruits, Emergenc-C and a few other similar items.
  5. Learn to be creative. You can carry peanut butter and a loaf of bread or bagels, breakfast pastries or muffins, takeout pizza and sandwiches, even pancakes.
Really, it's a lot like regular life. You don't plan your resupply for regular life. You just look at the empty pantry and refrigerator and go to the store. It's the same on the trail. Really.

I think I have all the shoes I need now

I just received what I believe will be the first pair of expensive New Balance shoes I will ever like. They are the MT 100s.

They are designed for ultramarathon races. They are relatively flat (very low heel), relatively not cushioned, and very light. There's no insole inside. There is no foam in the upper. No foam on the tongue or anywhere else that I can tell. They do not feel stiff. Even the top part, the fabric, is not stiff, which is good because they are fairly narrow. I hope that won't problem. The fabric seems stretchy and it's not like my feet feel scrunched. It feels like a slipper.

It's a stinky shoe, though. I have them sitting outside to air out the chemical smell. Smells sort of like bandaids. If you touch them and then put your hand near your face, you can't get the smell off of you. You can even taste it. It's pretty awful.

I'm looking forward to hiking in them. I think I will like them.

So now, with my barefoot Feelmax Osmas, the cheap New Balance flat shoes I bought at the thrift store for jogging, these new New Balance shoes I bought for trail running and hiking and all the other shoes I own, I think I have all the shoes I need for a while. No more shoe shopping.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ultralight backpacking - why

Of the people I know who go ultralight, they do it expressly so that they can do the following things:
  1. go farther in less time
  2. get to places they never could get to before
  3. play with gear, be gram weenies, invent new things, play with new technologies
  4. have the flexibility to add extra mileage, change the route, do some exploring
  5. do more with less
The last one is sort of hard to explain, but it has to do with the "stuff" you want to bring with you.

Many of us ultralight backpackers have learned by leaving "stuff" home that it isn't about the stuff you bring at all. The less stuff you need, the closer you are to the nature you came out to experience. The less your trip is focused on stuff, the sharper the experience feels. It's about your skill, about feeling at home in the wilderness, about shedding not just the weight but the insecurities. When you reach the point where you're no longer packing your insecurities, you experience a special kind of freedom that has to be experienced to be understood.

I like going ultralight so I can bring luxuries, too. I brought a cup last time. I can hear you laughing. But since I don't need a cup, I don't usually bring one. Having a cup this time brought me great joy while I lingered over a hot cup of coffee. I also brought an extra pair of shoes. I'm choosy about my luxuries. They have to enhance the experience, not take away from it.

I like hiking and I like my hiking to be comfortable. The lighter my gear is the more comfortable my hiking is. It feels exactly the same as dayhiking when I go out for a weekend. I can't imagine a more comfort-driven system than that. Warm, safe, dry and it feels like dayhiking. That's what comfort is all about. It's not about being a beast of burden laboring under a heavy, uncomfortable load. It's about luxury where it matters and having fun the whole time you are out there. With only two days a week to enjoy ourselves in our work-driven lives, you have to maximize the fun. The fun really does go up when the weight goes down.

Getting back to life after the PCT

It's hard coming back from such an adventure as hiking the PCT. Real life is on the trail. This other life is just waiting time until you can get back. The sooner you accept this, the better.

I actually got me a job, but a part-time job. Seems better that way, but I blew it. I should have asked for less days per week instead of less hours per day. I still have to try to cram backpacking trips into a two-day weekend.

And two-day backpacking trips are what I'm doing now. As many as I can.

Fortunately I talked about my hike enough to make The Man want to try it. He's leaving in about a week. It's my turn to ship the packages and be the support person. I'm going to go down to Campo and hike with him the first two days. If I can do it, I'll try to meet him on the trail on weekends if he's near somewhere I can get to. If not, then I'll just do another two-day backpack trip or set up a lemonade stand for thru-hikers.

I've been trying to get involved in things. Music, classes, stuff like that. I decided I liked being able to walk 30 miles in a day so I've been dabbling in trail running and might try an ultramarathon someday.

You have to get involved, stay active, do the things you enjoy. Keep living life to the fullest.

Monday, April 05, 2010

I'm just a trail angel now

It's kind of exciting that The Man is going to be hiking the first 700 miles of the PCT. The day to drive him to the border is fast approaching.

It's going to be very lonely here at home with the birds all driving me nuts because they misbehave unless he is home. But I'll be looking forward to the weekends so I can drive down to the trail and try to meet him or maybe to drive to other spots on the trail and hand out lemonade or maybe even do an overnighter here and there.

The plan is to drive him to Lake Morena after work one day next week. Then the following morning, drive him to the border and bring the car back to Lake Morena. Then I'll dayhike down the trail until I meet him and then we'll walk back to Lake Morena together. Then we'll spend the night at Lake Morena together.

In the morning I'll do it again, this time driving to Mt. Laguna and then hiking south on the trail until I meet him and walk back to Lake Morena.

He's hoping he can time his hike so that he reaches Warner Springs on a weekend. Then I can drive down and meet him and soak in the hot spring with him. Somehow I think that's probably not going to work out, but we'll see.

He wants me to come visit if possible, but it's probable that he'll never be anywhere I can get to on a weekend. But if he is, then I'll make an effort.

I remember that I worried about doing my hike alone and wished he could come visit me, but after a while, I liked it that I was doing it all by myself. I think he'll enjoy that, too.

It's fun looking forward to being a trail angel of some sort. I at least want to try and wait by some road somewhere with cold drinks and see him come by with his new hiker trash friends and his new hiker trash persona. It would be fun. I hope it works out I can do that at least one time.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Backpacking in Feelmax shoes

I took my new Feelmax shoes backpacking. The Man and I did a 14 mile each way trip on the Sespe Creek. The trail used to be a road long ago, so it is gently graded. There were a lot of creek crossing that were deep so we had to take off our shoes to go across.

I wore the Feelmaxes for about 4 miles on Saturday and maybe 3 miles on Sunday. I put the hard plastic part of a pair of Superfeet insoles under the thin flimsy insole the Feelmax shoes come with. I was worried I might hurt myself on rocks on the trail. I think I worried too much about that. I took the Superfeet plastic out at one point and while I could feel the difference, there wasn't any pain.

They feel like being barefoot without the fear of hurting your feet on little rocks. They kind of smooth the rocks out. You can still feel everything underfoot, except for those little rocks that stick to your feet and hurt the most. Without the fear of pain, you are free to experience walking with your feet as god made them.

I really didn't want to get them dirty, which is kind of silly if you are going backpacking, but I took care to keep them clean. We took a side trail to a hot spring and I tried not to step in any mud or get them wet. The hot spring was wonderful. What a luxury to sit in a hot pool of water looking at snow on the Topatopa bluffs above!

After a soak in the pool, I continued to wear them as we hiked cross country to avoid two creek crossings. The feeling of walking through an old pasture in them was extraordinary. I could feel the softness of the dirt. As we continued toward rejoining the trail, we crossed some rocky section of an old trail and then bushwhacked through a flat area with small shrubs. About this time I started to feel like my feet were getting tired and I put my regular shoes back on.

When we finally found our campsite, I used them as camp shoes. They feel nice as camp shoes.

On the way home, I waited until there was a long stretch without creek crossings and tried wearing them again. Now I could feel how sore I was. There are all kinds of muscles in your feet and legs that don't get used when you wear regular shoes. All kinds of things were sore from the thighs down. It wasn't the sore I get from wearing motion control shoes, the absolute pain and agony of my feet being injured. It was the sore of working new muscles. It was also the soreness of bad habits formed from wearing chunky shoes. All that crashing on the heels walking fast is really hard on the knees and you notice it in these shoes.

My hope is that my feet and legs will get stronger. I think it might actually work.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Feelmax shoes

I bought some Feelmax Osma shoes. They are made in Finland and are specifically designed for people who want to have as minimal a shoe as possible. I bought them from Extreme Outfitters.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. They are much like moccasins that look sort of like running shoes. They don't look quite like running shoes because most running shoes look really disco space-age plastic with big rubber heels, but they come close. I got the green ones. They match everything I wear because I always wear green and orange and earthy colors. They have a thin, rubber-like sole that wraps up around the edges, so they aren't exactly like moccasins. But the sole is very thin and quite flexible without a heel rise or arch support so your feet are left to their own abilities.

The Osmas are supposed to be for running. I will try running in them soon, but so far all I have done is wear them around the house and to Trader Joes on my scooter. In order to wear them on my scooter, I put the hard plastic parts of superfeet insoles into the shoes. It's the only way I could put my scooter up on the center stand wearing these shoes. Putting it up on the center stand requires standing on the kick-stand while I push the scooter back. This takes a bit of force.

Still, even with the hard plastic insoles, it felt much like being barefoot. A lot more like being barefoot than I expected. I often walk part of the way home from work barefoot, but other than that, I don't go anywhere barefoot. This was my first time in a public environment like shopping with such minimal shoes. The soles are only a few millimeters thick. There is no built-up heel. I could tell that my ankles and feet are not used to being so free. Not used to being held up by stiff shoes. I kept thinking as I walked the aisles of Trader Joes, "Let the healing begin!"

What healing? Well, 3000 miles of walking has impacted my feet quite a bit. Although doctors might tell me to put all kinds of orthotics in my shoes and tell me to get all kinds of supportive shoes, I'm pretty sure the opposite is a better course of action. Ray Jardine said that if you want to avoid ankle injuries while backpacking, forget the big boots and instead wear low-cut running shoes to build strong ankles. I'm going to move one step forward from Ray Jardine's advice. I want to have strong feet and ankles so I am going to strengthen them in barefoot shoes.