Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A chance to go backpacking foiled by a party

The Man and I almost planned to return to the PCT this weekend. Then we remembered we had been invited to a party on Sunday. Phooey. We would have gone back to where he fell off Apache Peak and hiked out across Fuller Ridge to the water fountain. I will have to satisfy my need for nature with day hikes this weekend.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Returning to the PCT in August

I made a reservation for a wilderness permit to hike from Duck Pass to Bishop Pass in August. I will complete the JMT section of the PCT with this hike.

I'm hoping that in August the bugs will have diminished and the snow will be minimal if any at all. My biggest hope is that the scary creek crossings that caused me to chicken out of this stretch in the first place will be so tame by then I won't even notice them.

I'm going to hike SOBO. I got a permit for a really long time even though it's only 70 miles or so. I'm not certain how far it is exactly. I will have to research it out better as the time nears.

Yay! Something to look forward to.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Boring updates in my life

A pair of wide Chacos arrived for me in the mail. I can't believe the difference between them and my regular ones. Thank you, Crow, for letting me know they came in a wide width (I think I heard it from you first). These actually fit.

I went for a Sierra Club hike earlier today to a local swimming hole. I thought it was too cold to swim, but most of the others went swimming. Fairbanks is still winning the summertime temperatures over Santa Barbara, although we won one the other day.

The hike was much too short. I feel like walking somewhere. Why does life involve so much sitting in rooms with bullies and crazy people and so little walking?

In other news, at the same time I'm celebrating bringing another item of consumerism and plastic into my life, I got an email from the Algalita organization that studies plastic pollution in the ocean. Looks like they are getting the word out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More new shoes

I have been happy with my handmade Piper sandals. They feel good, they look good and they are made well with quality materials.

With this happy experience, I decided I would order a pair of custom-made leather shoes from Native Earth. They will be made to a tracing and measurements of my feet. They will be a simple pair of light boots with a flat, no-heel lug sole. I will use them for hiking if they fit well. Leather shoes will keep the foxtails out.

Additionally, I ordered another pair of Chacos in the wide width without the toe loop.

My plan is to eliminate all poor-fitting footwear from my closet and wear only top-quality foootwear that fits and that can be resoled and repaired. The initial cost will be worth it if the shoes are long-lasting and can be repaired. No more disposable, ill-fitting, over-engineered, plastic running shoes for me.

That's my plan anyway. I do not know if after all these years of wearing low-cut shoes I can go back to ankle-high shoes. And I don't know if I can deal with leather after enjoying breathable mesh. The boots may be for the cooler months and the sandals for warmer.

Goodwill got a lot of my old shoes when I came back from hiking the PCT. They're about to get more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


How we're doing so far in the arctic south:
DateFairbanksSanta Barbara
Jun 23, 201073°71°
Jun 22, 201075°66°

On another even more boring topic, Blogger updated the blog templates they provide. I kind of liked this one so I thought I would try it.

Surviving mosquitoes

What really works to protect against mosquitoes is a physical barrier, lots of layers.

To survive the ferocious Oregon mosquitoes I wore pants and a skirt over them (they bit through my pants alone), a T-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt over it (they bit through the long-sleeved shirt without the T-shirt.) I wore thick socks with my shoes (they bit through my shoes!)

My shirt was buttoned to my collar and the sleeves were buttoned at my wrists. I wore a headnet cinched at my collar with my collar turned up so there would not be a gap (they still bit me at the tiny little triangle exposed at my collar button and where the headnet cinched.) I tucked my shirt in so they would not fly up my shirt and bite my chest (they would do that.)

I held my trekking poles so that the straps flapped over my exposed hands. I sprayed 40% DEET on my hat, my shirt and pants. I put some on the backs of my hands and the heels of my hands (they bit the palms of my hands even when I held trekking poles.) That much DEET made me feel sick sometimes.

When I had to pee I used a urinary device so that I could pee standing up without exposing any skin. I made sure to apply DEET strategically in my tent before getting out of it in the morning to begin my hiking. I wanted to be ready for when I needed to do more than pee. I would dig my cathole away from my pack, hoping my pack would serve as a decoy. I would run back to my pack before using my cathole, then run back, hoping the mosquitoes would be confused for a moment and give me peace. That didn't really work, but DEET did.

I lived that way for a month through Oregon. I saw the whole state through a green haze of mosquito netting and DEET-induced nausea. I'm pretty certain that no matter how safe anybody says it is, DEET is quite toxic. At least I have pictures so I can see what I missed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Solstice from somewhere colder than Fairbanks

The Man works with a software engineer from India whose parents came here to Santa Barbara to visit. They are leaving early. They say that this is a very unpleasant place. They've never been anywhere so cold. Here it is the first day of summer and it's colder here than it ever is in winter in their home town.

Well, okay, they are from Mumbai, India. I've been there in January and it was in the 90s during the day. But they are right. It's the little secret of Santa Barbara. It is cold here. It feels coldest in summer when you are thinking it just shouldn't be cold anymore. Average daily temperature is 70 degrees year round. Yesterday at 5pm it was 62. Today, the first day of summer, it is 66 degrees. I wouldn't be surprised if it was 70 last Christmas Day. Summer just sucks here.

I must admit that one of the many reasons I hiked the PCT was to have a summer. I got two summers in a row and loved it. I'm not happy to be so cold here at home again.

Happy Solstice from somewhere colder than Fairbanks, Alaska. There it is 75.

P.S. I've decided to keep a log. Years ago I kept a log of how foggy it is in Santa Barbara. There was morning fog 40% of the days. This summer I think I'll keep a log of how often Fairbanks is warmer than Santa Barbara.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More footwear testing

I did another test walk in yet another pair of sandals. This time I walked for an hour wearing some $10 Teva knockoffs. These knockoffs had very little shape to the footbed. There is no heel rise or arch. There is only a sort of design stamped in it with small bumps where the toes go. These felt really good for most of the walk but at the end I felt my sesamoid injury.

So here are the results of my tests:
Arch support
Moderate heel rise (3mm)
NOSesamoid pain
NOAchilles tendonitis pain
NOBehind the knee pain
NOToo small toebox
NOToo much toespring
YES Chafing
Feelmax OsmasMoccasin-like shoe
No arch support
No heel rise
YESSesamoid pain
NOAchilles tendonitis pain
NOBehind the knee pain
YES Too small toebox
NOToo much toespring
Brooks CascadiaStandard trail running shoe
Not a motion control shoe
Standard running shoe features
YES Sesamoid pain
YESAchilles tendonitis pain
YESBehind the knee pain
NOToo small toebox
YESToo much toespring
Piper SandalsNo heel rise
Arch support
NOSesamoid pain
NOAchilles tendonitis pain
NOBehind the knee pain
NOToo small toebox
NOToo much toespring
YES Chafing
Imitation TevasCheap sandals
No arch
No heel rise
YESSesamoid pain
NOAchilles tendonitis pain
NOBehind the knee pain
NOToo small toebox
NOToo much toespring
YES Chafing

So what's the lesson? It could be any of these:
  • Freedom of the feet and toes to move is the most important thing
  • If shoes can't be foot-shaped, people without shoe-shaped feet should wear sandals
  • Low/no heel is good
  • Arch support helps my sesamoid injury
  • Too much shape in the footbed is bad (that toespring thing where the ball of the foot is in a depression with toes pointing up is extremely damaging)
  • Chafing is the main problem with sandals
  • Cost does not inform about the healthfulness of the shoe

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hike to Dabney Cabin

The Man and I went for a 12 to 15 mile hike today, depending on whether you believe the trail signs or the Sierra Club hike list. The Man wanted to see how his sprained ankle was healing. It seemed like quite an ambitious thing to do.

The trail was along a creek to an old historic cabin. The trail itself was mostly flat. The Man's sprained ankle seems to have the most trouble going up hill, so this flat trail was a decent choice for him to make. But the lengthy miles and the rocks in the creeks did seem to offer quite a big challenge.

He made it, though. He was struggling toward the end but he appeared to be very happy he has healed enough to accomplish the hike.

I enjoyed the hike very much. I was surprised the weather was so nice. I expected it to be very hot but it was mild. There were still wildflowers in bloom so I took lots of pictures. The water in the creek felt good to walk in.

I wore my Chacos the whole way. On the way to the cabin I went sockless and walked through all the creeks. There was some chafing. At the cabin I put bandaids on the sore spots and on the way back I tried to rock hop over the water to keep my feet dry. That worked pretty well, but I missed a spot with the bandaids and was eventually rubbed quite raw. At the last creek crossing I put my socks on and walked the final mile. I wished I could wear socks the whole way, but the foxtails make it quite impossible.

During the final mile I felt like I could walk all day. I'm becoming a convert to hiking in sandals. I thought my toes would have more trauma but I have never hit my toes on anything. I feel so safe now I don't even flinch at the rocks on the trail. Aside from the chafing, the only problem wearing sandals for hiking is when foxtails get between my toes.

When I reached the car I sat in a sliver of shade beside the car and waited for The Man to arrive. The creek burbled below and the stellar jays yelled at each other in the sycamore trees. I felt so content. It is good to just walk and do nothing more. There are no wants, there is only contentment. I felt I could have set up my camp and gotten up to do it again tomorrow. Sadly, I have to go to work instead.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trike ride to Lake Casitas

I rode my recumbent trike to Lake Casitas from Ventura today. I went with a group, although I hardly saw anyone most of the day. I saw them at the beginning, at one break in the middle, and at lunch. Otherwise I rode alone.

Most of these riders are very slow. Some are so slow they've taken to starting out several hours early so they stand a chance of reaching the lunch stop in time to eat with the others. Being slow is not so bad but I have ridden with this group for many years now and over all these years they have only gotten slower and more hill-averse. This is not a fitness-oriented riding group.

A few of the riders are very fast. I have no hope of keeping up with them but occasionally I try. Not today, though. Some of these really super fast guys have cancer or other terrible illnesses. Most of them are quite old. They keep me humble.

But whether people in this group are fast or slow, they are still bike geeks. There's something I just don't quite get about bike geeks. I find the whole subject of bike parts and new bike technologies incredibly dull, but bike geeks can't get enough of that stuff. For them, the purchase doesn't stop at the bike. It continues indefinitely as they spend huge amounts of time poring over improvements and gadgets and enhancements they can make. Trike riders seem worse than other bike geeks because not only are there regular bike geek things to obsess over, there are special trike paraphernalia like flags and whirly-gigs to make a statement about visibility and dorkdom.

It's like the bike isn't a tool for these nice folks to go out and have adventures. All it seems to be is a huge shopping (and eating) opportunity. And for that reason, I often feel I have little in common with these folks. So I usually show up for my ride, do my best to get a little exercise, try not to get too glazed over when one of them discusses bike geek stuff with me, and then I go home.

Today had a bright spot when I learned that one of them rode his trike from Astoria to San Francisco. He had stories to tell of riding his trike all day on a sort of cycling PCT, the Pacific Coast bike route. Hundreds of people ride this route every year and he had a wonderful time meeting other riders on this route, spending time with them in town stops and leapfrogging them on each day's journey. There were moments like stopping at a roadside rest stop and being surrounded by huge RVs and realizing how different it feels to travel with so little. Moments spent camping in hiker/biker sites surrounded by people whose ideas of camping were to go outside and cook something then eat it inside the RV in front of the TV and realizing how few kids every really get to see the stars anymore. Every day he churned his granny gear up long climbs that lost him tons of weight and granted him freedom to eat as much as he wanted.

In other words, it was my first ride with this group where I actually related to someone. When I mention my PCT hike to the others they say things like, "I bet you are glad that's over and you can get back to doing regular things now." Here was someone who understood and who could tell me stories of an adventure that was the same and also very different from mine. It was a nice time.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More boring footwear experiments

I have now run four tests on four different pairs of my shoes. I have gone for a walk in each pair for either one hour or two (depending on whether the tide was too high to walk on the beach.) I've noted whether there was any pain on each walk.

I walked in Chaco sandals, Feelmax Osmas (very minimal moccasin-like shoe), Brooks Cascadia (trail runners that I wore on the PCT, a new pair) and my new Piper sandals.

The Chacos have a bit of a heel rise and a strong arch. The Piper sandals have no heel rise and a small arch. The Feelmax are completely flat without any support at all. The Brooks Cascadia are typical trail runners but they're not motion control shoes.

I limped and felt a lot of pain wearing both the minimal Feelmax shoes and the chunky Brooks Cascadia. My sesamoid injury hurt, my achilles tendonitis hurt, it felt like my left foot was rolling inward, behind my left knee it hurt. I limped because it felt like my left foot was falling into a crater in the Brooks. It really bothered me the way the ball of my foot sunk into a cavity with my toes pointing up. In the Feelmax there was some pain on the ball of my foot where a bone seems to crunch there.

In both of the sandals I had none of that pain, except maybe a little bit of the last one, with the bone on the ball of my left foot. There was no limping, no foot turning in, no sesamoid pain, no achilles pain, no pain behind my left knee. No feeling like my left foot is falling into a crater. I felt straight and true.

I don't know what the secret is. Is it the freedom the sandals offer for my toes? Is it the lack of EVA foam? Is it the relatve flatness and simplicity of the footbed? Maybe I don't need an insert for my shoes, maybe I just need to stop wearing shoes and wear sandals instead. I'd like to see if I could get a pair of custom shoes for hiking. Something that truly fits my feet. Maybe my problem is they just don't make shoes shaped like my Hobbit feet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oil spill

The thing that really bothers me about the big oil spill, aside from the destruction and pollution, is that everyone who is upset about it seems to think there should have been better technology to deal with the spill. That if only they had thought about technology, if only government regulators had insisted on it, things would not be so bad. But maybe the honest truth is that there is no technology to deal with something like this. Sometimes I think we get in over our heads and we are blinded by a belief that with technology we can solve anything, control everything.

What makes me angriest, aside from the raw destruction of the natural world, is that big companies get to reap the profits while the rest of us have to eat all the risks. They privatize the gains and socialize the risk.

Nature, quietude and leaving things alone can never win in a world controlled by people who favor technology and profit above all else.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Boring foot problems

I think I need some sort of orthotic insert for my left foot.

I have been running some experiments on myself. Not really scientific, but trying to understand what is wrong and how to fix it. I did go to the doctor a while back and he diagnosed me with sesamoiditis and tendonitis but offered little for a cure besides rest and ibuprofen. So I've been searching for something more mechanical to help me since rest hasn't really been that successful.

I decided to experiment with various kinds of shoes. My latest experiment was to take the same two hour walk two days in a row with different shoes. The walk involved one big hill of sidewalks and asphalt, lots of flat sidewalks, one dirt trail and a mile and a half or two miles of walking on the beach. Lots of variety of surface, in other words.

The first day I wore Chaco sandals. The second day I wore moccasins (Feelmax Osmas which are pretty much moccasins in construction and feeling.) I wore these so I could see if the technology of the Chacos really makes that much of a difference over being essentially barefoot. Next I will try the walk wearing the hiking shoes I wore on the PCT, a pair of Brooks trail runners.

The first day I was a little tired at the end of my walk and had one blister from the straps, but otherwise, I had no real problems wearing the Chacos. Chacos are great. I completed the walk essentially without pain.

The second day I hobbled home at the end. I felt a lot of pain the whole time. My left foot turns inward and I can feel it on my sesamoid bone. There's also another spot that hurts. I think the resulting limping and compensating makes the tendonitis in my right foot hurt.

Now I understand better how the PCT beat my own minor foot problems into major ones. I could probably have walked to the mailbox for a lifetime without problems, but walk 3000 miles like that and look what happens.

So, since the Chacos seem to hold my feet in a good position so that my injuries aren't stressed, it would be nice to find something I could stick in my shoes that would do the same thing. I went down to the shoe repair place where they have a machine you stand on that then recommends an insert for your shoe.

I stood on the machine. It formed a red place on the image of my left foot where it sometimes hurts. So far so good. But then the lady said the machine indicates I have a low arch. I find that hard to believe since my arches seem pretty high to me and the image on the screen didn't look like my arch was low. I wondered if the machine came with instructions to tell everybody something like that.

She brought out some inserts to try out but they were terrible. I put my foot on them on the floor and my feet fell over the edges. They were too narrow for my foot. Inside the shoe it didn't feel like they kept my foot from rolling inward. I could feel pressure on my sesamoid bone. The inserts were really thick and padded. They took up a huge amount of room in the shoe and made my shoe feel too small. So I decided not to buy them.

I might have some Superfeet somewhere, or at least the hard plastic part. I might give that a try, see if it helps putting only one in the left shoe. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with my right foot so why interfere with it. I did use Superfeet in 2008 on the PCT but I still limped and had a lot of foot problems, so I'm not convinced they're all that great.

I might also try a real podiatrist but I'm afraid that if they bring out the same huge, spongy inserts that it will be harder to say no. They wanted $70 for these little pieces of foam at the shoe place. I can only imagine what a podiatrist would charge. I don't want to feel pressured into buying something that might just be a gimmick. I'm no longer convinced doctors know all that much anymore. It's kind of like how to a man with a hammer everything is a nail. To a man who looks at diabetic feet all day, what will a woman who walked 3000 miles look like?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Easy hike today

I led a Sierra Club hike today. It was a relatively easy hike, only about 3.5 miles round trip. We were home by 12:30 p.m.

I think maybe leading easy hikes is the key to having a better experience. I have always led the super strenuous hikes that I personally enjoy. But even with all kinds of warnings in my hike write-ups, people would show up without water, without appropriate footwear or gear and complain when I'd tell them we wouldn't return home until late in the afternoon. On my easy hike, I didn't have to worry about any of that.

Even nicer, The Man with his sprained ankle was able to come. He served as my sweep. He felt good to be back on the trail.

I need to hike more, walk more, get more exercise. I've gained back all the weight I lost on my thru-hike last year and then some.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Making better use of the "disposable" plastic in my life

I reuse bags as much as I can. I used to buy pre-made frozen bird food for my pet birds. The bags it came in were so heavy-duty I started buying the ingredients instead and making the bird food myself. I also reuse other bags that stuff comes in as much as possible. Recently I learned that you can fuse plastic bags together with an iron and sew the pieces together to make things. I use a cloth bag for grocery shopping, but as I walk to work I find plastic bags in the street every day. I'm going to sew a backpack out of plastic bags and be the envy of all my environmentalist hiking buddies.

I also reuse plastic bottles. Instead of Nalgenes I use Gatorade or similar bottles. I've got a Naked Juice bottle I was given for free in Stehekin Washington while I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I drank the stuff inside and still use the bottle. I also found a nice 1-liter bottle on the trail. I washed it and used it on my trip and still have it. I rarely buy plastic drink bottles myself since I don't like caffeine or corn syrup.

I'm going to start carrying a set of eating utensils with me and I already bring a cup if I'm going somewhere for coffee. A lady came on one of my Sierra Club hikes with her sandwich wrapped in an air-tight, reusable wrapper. It was some kind of red-checked cloth coated in plastic. I might try to make something similar, minus the coating. I might make some cloth produce bags, too, for the farmer's market and bulk foods at the grocery.

As a backpacker I have been wondering if perhaps a woven reed mat would work as well as a foam pad. I've been thinking about weaving one myself out of cattails or tule someday. It might be too heavy, but it wouldn't hurt to try. I once took a basketry class. I might be able to figure it out.

But I'm only one person in a sea of 6 billion people. The amount of plastic everywhere in Mumbai alone -- knee deep in many places -- is very depressing. I wish more people cared and not just sensitive white American bird-lovers like myself.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gave an ultralight backpacking presentation tonight

The Man and I gave a presentation of our ultralight backpacking gear to some boyscouts tonight.

I had never been to a boyscout meeting before. It was kind of strange. They are pseudo military with their little color guard, but they have no discipline. They did have more discipline than a bunch of pre-teen and teen boys would be expected to have. Organized chaos in a way I guess.

Somehow we held them spellbound with our gear demonstration for an hour and a half. We brought our packs and The Man went first, unpacking his gear and showing it off. He has some high-tech stuff and the techie boys in the group were very interested. I have mostly homemade/recycled and minimalistic gear and I seemed to hold them spellbound by talking really fast.

I think I disappointed one of the troop leaders because I hardly pack any first aid stuff. What else do you need besides a few bandaids, some gauze and tape, a few ibuprofen and other pain killers, a needle for poking blisters, my pocket knife and a little neosporin? I could use my bandana and shirt for bleeding, my pad for splinting. My reading glasses were extra strong so I could see the splinters in my fingers. Anything worse than basic boo-boos and I'd be too far gone to help myself, I'm afraid. In that case, I'd have to use my phone or hope someone would come along who could go for help. I never needed anything from anyone, though, in all the 3000 miles I hiked.

We talked too long and could not show any pictures. The boys might have been bored with pictures anyway. I had hoped to show pictures of other hikers, of the places where we stayed, the water caches and how my tent is set up with trekking poles. I also forgot to give out my handouts of links to good web sites for gear. I gave them to one of the leaders to hand out later.

I hope they enjoyed our presentation. At least one boy wanted to ask more questions afterward. He really wants to hike the PCT one day. I'm sure that he will.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

My new purple Piper sandals

My New Purple Piper SandalsI ended up ordering a pair of these sandals from Piper Sandals.

They look exactly like the picture. They are exactly that color. It's a perfect color. I normally wear brown colors and when I wear brown, they look sort of brown and fit right in. But they have color so they aren't boring.

Supposedly the footbeds will mold to my feet in about a week of wear. It feels like they will do that. The tread on the bottom is pretty much flat, so I don't know how they would do for hiking. Probably not that well. But you never know. Doesn't really matter because these are for everyday and I have Chacos for hiking.

I am enjoying "summer", if you can call it that here in Santa Fogra. It's freezing in the morning and hot in the afternoon. My feet are in sandals every day, my toes are free. I'm hiking in sandals and going to work in sandals. Little-by-little I think that maybe I'm really starting to heal my foot problems from the PCT. Maybe I will never wear shoes again and have happy, free feet forever more.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Birds should have rights

Pelican in oil spill with big eye I've been thinking about this picture since I saw it on Saturday in the Los Angeles Times. You see, I have never had children. Instead I have shared my life with birds. Right now I have two budgies, a conure and a big white umbrella cockatoo.

Birds always look at you with one eye, just like the one in the oil spill (you might click to see the picture full size). They are also incredibly human-like and intelligent. I believe a blazing intelligence is apparent in the pelican's eye just as much as it is in the eyes of my own birds who peer at me with their little wheels cranking as they figure out ways to lie, cheat, manipulate and steal from me. This bird, of course, doesn't want to steal anything. It just wants to get away but cannot.

I think that birds should have lawyers. If they had lawyers, the lawyers would be able to argue that they have the right to full bodily integrity, that they should not have their lives and homes ruined by oil spills, that they should have real food to eat, not plastic bags, caps and lighters, that they should have clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe, and that they should have clean wetlands and intact old-growth forests to raise their babies. If lawyers argued for the rights of birds, we'd all be better off.

If birds had access to lawyers, they'd probably succeed where environmentally-minded humans have failed. Because the compensation a bird would want is not financial but simply their natural birdness fully intact. It's what we humans should want, but we've long forgotten what our natural humanness is and can no longer ask for it. I believe hiking a long trail gives you a glimpse of what that might be, and that might be why it is so hard to come back to a world that as a matter of routine produces such horrors as the image above.

Walker Pass Ruck

I'm not sure what a 'Ruck' is supposed to be, but if this weekend's Ruck on Walker Pass was typical, it appears that it's a bunch of car campers feeding hikers and hanging out having a good time near the trail. That's where I spent the weekend.

The Man wanted to try hiking on the trail so we hiked about 4 miles round trip southbound from Walker Pass and back. The trail was full of wildflowers and the sun was very warm. His ankle was pretty sore afterward.

One of the thru-hikers at the Ruck was a nurse/paramedic and he gave The Man some advice. It seems that they tell you sprained ankles take 6 weeks to heal but the reality is closer to 8 months or more. Anyway, at one point while we were hiking The Man said to me that his feet my be dragging but his spirits were soaring. Yep, that's what the trail is like. Somehow, someday we will both be back.

We met lots of hikers. Seemed like a good many of them had already hiked the Appalachian Trail. They all seemed to be loving the PCT, except maybe for one man from England who didn't like how dusty and sandy the trail was. All the hikers were incredibly dirty. I kind of wonder if all the water caches has made them oblivious to the natural water sources available for washing up. I know if I had been one of the hikers on this fine, hot weekend at the Ruck, I would have marched immediately down to the cattle trough and washed off all the dirt, washed my hair and possibly even my clothes. It would have felt great.

I met a lot of former hikers at the Ruck. Meadow Ed said that at times at these events there can be more former hikers and support people than hikers and that was almost true for a few moments, but hikers kept trickling in and out and there always seemed to be a dozen or so. I met Yogi. Warner Springs Monty was there. He introduced me to someone else as Piper who hikes the trail every year. I had to laugh. Maybe I should think of myself that way even if all I do is a little section here and there. Might cheer me up against the painful reality that most of my time is spent staring at a computer screen behind a cubicle divider.

There was a ton of food there. We brought two big boxes full of avocados, fresh fruit and cold drinks. The avocados seemed well-received and some of them were even ripe. The infamous donuts that Switchback brought were long gone by Saturday afternoon when we arrived. The hand-cranked milkshakes were still being prepared.

The Man and I camped out next to a Joshua tree. Our Lunar Duo seemed to fill with condensation even out on this hot night in the high desert. Even though our spot appeared perfectly flat, I ended up, as usual, with about 11 inches of space and The Man's big puffy Neo Air shoved up against me, smashing me up against the trekking pole holding my side of the tent up. Will I ever have more than 11 inches of room in our tent?

I slept well enough anyway. Every time I woke up I could hear people talking in the main camp. Some of the hikers didn't go to bed until 4AM. In the morning The Man and I helped a little with breakfast and then people started packing up all the canopies and food. We packed our things and left the Pass and the nice people we had met. We took the usual long drive through the 100 degree Mojave desert, seeing no hikers anywhere to pick up, and then home to the fog. It is always sad to come home from the trail. It's like we were so close to the trail, but not close enough to make our escape.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Plastic bag ban in California?

I sent a letter to my representatives to support a ban on plastic bags in California. Trouble is, my representatives are republicans. I have pretty much zero faith in getting politicians to support the environment or people over industry and less than zero faith in getting republican politicians to do that. So I have no hope that such a ban will pass here.

The fog is thick today. I hope we are going to Walker Pass to hang out with hikers. I could use some sunshine.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Plastic bag bag

Plastic bag bagI was poking around the Internet on the subject of plastic and found videos on how to make sturdy, reusable bags out of plastic grocery bags. I decided to give it a try. That picture is what I made.

We used to have a cupboard overflowing with bags but The Man recently cleaned it out. I do not know where all the bags went. I searched around in closets and found enough to make a bag of bags.

Basically the tutorials I found online, including this one, tell you to follow the following simple steps:
  1. Cut the bottoms and handles off plastic bags.
  2. Turn the bags inside out so the ink is on the inside, otherwise it will melt on the paper and make a mess.
  3. Between sheets of wax paper, iron 8 layers of bags until they fuse together. Set the iron on something between polyester and rayon.
  4. When the plastic is fused, you will have a strong material much like tyvek. Check the fabric for places that did not get fused and try not to over-do the fusing because that will make the material lumpy and hard to work with.
  5. With the fused fabric, sew whatever you like out of it.
My iron did not have a setting for rayon so I set it on polyester. That seemed to be slightly too hot, so I set it lower. But even at a lower setting, the wax paper melted so I switched to newspaper. This caused the newsprint to get all over the plastic. In the future I think I should use paper bags for the fusing process.

The resulting material is smaller than the original plastic bags and it is stiff. It turned out a bit lumpy and I think there are a few places where the plastic didn't fuse. I figure that for a small shopping bag, this isn't a big deal since the original material was only 1 layer thick and worked just fine for shopping.

To make a bigger bag I would have to sew several fused pieces together. It would be nice to have a full-size bag. Of course this means that I will have to find a way to collect plastic shopping bags. We've already made the switch to reusable bags. It's easy to find plastic shopping bags, though.

It seems to me I could fuse long strips and then weave with it like a basket. Or create very thin strips and twist them to make a sort of twine and weave that. If I had a collection of nicely colored bags instead of the rag-tag bunch of white ones I had with logos on them, I could create nice bags that even my fashion-plate sister would like. If I could get the fusing process down so that it didn't come out so lumpy.

But, best of all, though, since the material created by fusing is so much like tyvek, I could make hiking gear. Perhaps a hydration pack or fanny pack, maybe a dry bag or camera bag, or really funny would be a rain jacket. I ordered a bunch of mosquito netting so that I could sew my own mosquito tent so maybe I can use fused plastic bags for parts of my tent.

Doesn't solve the plastic problem on the Earth, but I feel better about it knowing I can turn something that might otherwise choke and kill birds and turtles into something useful.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Plastic movie

I hate our way of life. The President said it was non-negotiable but I disagree. I am waiting for the day we can negotiate. Are we getting closer? I'm ready.

Getting on the trail quickly

It usually takes me 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to get going in the morning.

Things I do to save time:
Rinse my breakfast bowl with a small amount of water and drink the water. No elaborate dish washing. Or I eat no-cook food or eat while walking down the trail.

Pack everything in the same order every day. Unpack everything and leave it in the same place every night.

I usually do not camp near water. That wastes time. Instead I bring enough water at the end of the day to get through dinner and breakfast.

I might brush my teeth in camp or I might do that on the trail instead. If water is scarce, I won't do it at all. Brushing my hair wastes time so I have a hair style that requires a minimal amount of that.

Hot breakfasts and coffee waste time. But they are nice luxuries. Campfires and picnic tables also waste time and cause you to spread your stuff around making it harder to keep track of and locate.

I save time on clothing by sleeping in my hiking clothes. No change of clothing means no time spent changing clothes.

I save a lot of time by not being sentimental about my camping location. This sounds silly, but sometimes it seems like people are simply reluctant to leave. Once my stuff is packed I put my pack on, take a really quick look (really quick because I haven't spread my stuff out all over the place) and then I just GO.

When you are hiking a long trail, you are on a hiking trip, not a camping trip. So while this list may sound austere and punishing, it is really just a set of things to do to help maximize the hiking and minimize the camping. Now that I hike shorter trails, I do not do these things as much anymore. I drink the coffee, brush my hair, camp near water. Different techniques for different kinds of backpacking.

Finding injury and relief from different kinds of shoes

From trial and error with different kinds of footwear I've come to the conclusion that I overpronate in my left foot. I'm finding Chaco sandals to provide tremendous relief but I am not sure I would be able to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or long distances with them. I had to modify them some, too.

I wore a wide variety of shoes on the PCT. I had a lot of success with a couple of different brands of shoes and some terrible failures. Everybody seems to love the Montrail Hardrocks (or at least they did a couple years ago.) Those sent me off the trail with stress fractures after I had been doing so well in other shoes. I learned from them that I can't tolerate shoes with too much stiffness or other corrective properties (motion control and all that stuff.) I also had a lot of trouble with shoes that were too narrow. I spent a lot of time with my womens size 7 feet wearing mens size 9 or 10 shoes and feeling great. Then I found some 4E mens shoes and was in heaven. But even after finding shoes that didn't hurt me too much I still ended up injured because hiking the PCT is a repetitive stress injury machine. In my search for relief after the trail I've tried the motion control shoes again (reinjury), I've tried moccasins (some relief but not enough) and Chacos (hooray, relief at last.)

You have to do what works and be willing to get rid of or make modifications to any shoes that are giving you trouble out there. No matter how much you paid for them, no matter how much other people rave about them, no matter how much you like them, if your shoes are causing you pain you must get rid of them quickly and move on to something else. I used to walk into shoe stores and let shoe salesmen fit me. No more. I know so much now about my feet I tell them what I want and they look at me like I'm nuts but in the end they say, "wow, I thought you were nuts but I think you are right."

So really I don't have any advice. After all I am injured (tendonitis and sesamoiditis). But whenever I hear someone say the answer is boots I have to say something because it's not. Boots are tight, stiff, hot, have tremendous toe-spring, immobilize your feet and would have driven me off the trail in 3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Winter, again

Winter has returned to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara's winter that other people get to call summer has arrived. June Gloom. We didn't see the sun until 6:30 last night and then the fog rolled back in an hour later. It's so cold. Time to get out the down jacket and shiver all the way to work, then shiver inside the office because most people set the air conditioner based on the calendar and not on reality. Most people never go outside so there is no reality for them. I spent two glorious summers in a row having a real summer. I love summer. I wish we had it here. May Gray, June Gloom, July Gray Sky, Fogust, September (don't have a cute one for that month, but rest assured it's just as gloomy), NoSunber and finally the sun returns in December. Nothing left to do but wait for December.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Memories of the PCT flash into my mind

It's been a year since I left for my hike last year. I left on May 25, which was Memorial Day. This year Memorial Day was the last day of May. Last year I had hiked all the way from Santa Barbara to Hikertown on this day.

Every now and then I get these flashbacks from the trip. The other day I was just minding my own business when suddenly a vision of myself sitting in the sun looking at the Columbia River flashed over me. I was suddenly filled with amazement that I had ever been there at all. It's a long way just to drive and I walked there. It's an incredible feeling.

I miss hiking the trail. For as unhappy as I was much of the time, it was the greatest experience of my life. I hope some day that I can return.

I think all the time of how can I return. Could I live somewhere closer? The Man dreams of buying this dude ranch that was for sale near Burney Falls. I wondered today if I could get a job in Mt. Shasta City. The Man says encouraging things lately. His sub-200 mile trek on the trail gave him the bug and opened his eyes. He is much more relaxed. I think he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. He did the math and knows he could live on renting out his house. He's home free. So when can we leave?