New Gear

•September 3, 2010 • 2 Comments

Brian and I were able to go backpacking in desolation wilderness this weekend. We went to lake Aloha. A lake that looks exactly like the face of the moon would look if it was filled with sparkling snowmelt. We had some new gear to try out ( I will be making a gear list soon). The most exciting being our super light weight osprey exos packs ,

our six moon designs lunar duo shelter

and our caldera cone alcohol stove.

The packs feel like nothing at all, and have a lot of cool features that other packs of this weight do not (Extra pockets, ice axe strap, mesh back). The stove was unbelievable. We have been using msr firefly /propane for our backpacking careers and are now totally converted. The pepsi can stove weighs nothing and the cone is such an ingenious design I believe we could be cooking a hot meal in a windy downpour. It is incredible to me that we have been carrying propane when we have had the technology for this stove for decades. We had issues with the shelter because we were camped on moon rock and therefore could not get the stakes in. We tied the lines to rocks and managed to erect the tarp, however it was not tight and flapped like crazy in the wind. This lead us to cowboy camp on granite slopes of  the lake, which was beautiful and we did not have to turn on our headlamps on all night the full moon was so bright. Obviously we are going to have to work out this problem before we hit the pct, as I am sure there are a few rocks along the way.

Mountain Lions

•July 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We went on a 7 mile hike from the steep ravine trail in marin to stinson beach this weekend. I had a pretty hellish work week and was so excited to finally be out on the trail. As I was considering this about five minutes in, I tripped over a root and sprained my ankle. I wasn’t about to let that ruin my day off so I foolishly hiked the rest of the 7 miles on it. I paid for this the next day when I had to call into work because I couldn’t put any weight on it. The hike was incredible, pretty hilltops with ocean views into rainforest groves and suddenly you are in downtown Stinson beach. We watched the surfers and ate sandwiches in the sand.

On our hike today we encountered warning signs for Mountain Lions, Rattle Snakes and Great White Sharks. This sign for mountain lions assured us that mountain lions were an important species to the area and although they sometimes attack humans, you are very lucky  to see one. They urge us to report to the forest service if we do in fact get attacked by one on our hike.

My number one fear on the pct is mountain lions. While seeing a mountain lion  is rare I have heard it said that if a mountain lion lets itself be seen it is because it is ready to attack. Mountain lion attacks have been on the rise, between 1990 and 2003 there were seventy-three recorded mountain lion attacks in north America, 10 of which were fatal. One guess as to why this is happening is the ever expanding suburbs are pushing the animals out of their habitats and into the wilds. Supposedly mountain lions usually go for children, which doesn’t make me feel much better considering I am only 5 feet tall.  They tend to sneak up behind you and bite the back of your neck, neatly severing your spinal cord. If you see a mountain lion you are not supposed to act afraid (easier to read in your Guide book than do in real life). You are to make yourself big , make tons of noise and act aggressive. You should never run , these are just big cats and a running signals prey. As my favorite line in our PCT guide book says, “if attacked fight back, To flee is to die”.

Pack-Weight

•July 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Brian took me hiking to Point Reyes national seashore for my birthday. We had an incredible hike overlooking the ocean bluffs. The fog rolled in an we could only see a few feet in front of us, and there for were very surprised when we ran straight in to a heard of elk. ELK? Is this Canada? No, apparently there are Elk in California. These ones looked like deer jacked up on steroids with serious antlers. Luckily they were a good ten feet off the trail and we didn’t have to maneuver around them.  We hiked and talked about what sort of gear we will bring on the pct. As you can see in the top right photo of this blog we were carrying some serious gear on the JMT. This was our first foray into the wilderness and we subscribed to the school of thought, “wouldn’t it be nice to have all the comforts of home out on the trail?” and also the school of “the wilderness is a big scary place, bring more shit and you will be more protected”.

According to thru-hiking guru Ray Jardine, these fears are all a product of advertising.  I.e., “Tame the wilderness with your 5 pound fully suspended back pack” and “Mother Nature has a bad attitude, you need blank 4pound tent to be protected”.  There is a thru hiker idea that your fears will be directly represented by your gear. Afraid of things that go bump in the night? You will have a tent instead of a tarp. Afraid of being too cold? Too many clothes.

You are not at home; you are carrying your home on your back. So every pound you carry is multiplied by 2,655 miles. This graph was taken from Ray Jardine’s new book Trail Life and pretty much says it all. At any point in this graph, Jardine says you are expending the same amount of energy.

So you can hike 10 miles with a 60-pound pack and use the same amount of energy as if you hiked 30 miles with a 10-pound pack.  This seems like a huge point if you have to average 22 miles a day like we do. So we have to get our pack weight down. We want our base pack eight (that’s pack weight minus food and water) to be under 13 lbs. That does mean some replacing of gear but more than that it means some addressing of fears and letting go. More on our gear to come.

Pacing

•June 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today we went hiking in Muir Woods which happens to be in our back yard. It is “The best tree lover’s monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world”, according to John Muir. Apparently in the 1850’s lumber was in high demand for the booming new cities around San Francisco. However because of inaccessibility caused by the steep slopes around it the ancient redwood grove survived.

We did a 6.5 mile loop starting from the grove and continuing up Boot Jack Trail. The trees are so tall and branchless for the first hundred feet that they create a perfect cathedral as you walk under them. The light shines through the stained glass leaves and gives the whole place a luminous sacred glow. Everyone walking through did not speak above a church whisper.

Now only 10 months away the Pacific Crest Trail dominates our hiking conversation. There is so much to think about when planning a hike of this magnitude. What are we gonna do with our apartment? What are we gonna  eat? Where are we gonna get it? How do we avoid getting eaten by bears? How much money will we need to be away from work for 6 months and get a new apartment when we get back? How do we plan for unreliable water sources on the trail? Is Eleni even tall enough to ford raging rivers? Where are we going to get insurance? What bills need to be paid? Why doesn’t Brian like tortillas? Who is going to call the cable guy? Should we bring a tarp or tent? Do we need practice self arresting with our ice axes? How many squares of toilet paper do we need to each use per day?…. And on and on. Hopefully many of these issues will be addressed in this blog. At the beginning it is all very overwhelming so I will start with what we were talking about on our hike today, pace.

We have 2,650 miles to cover in about 5 months. If we leave any earlier than mid April the snow in the sierras is likely to be impassible. If we leave any later the dessert is likely to frizzle us like fritters. If we get to the northern cascades after September we are likely to hit winter storms and the cascades and be stranded like the Donner party . This means we have to hike at least 6 days a week with a zero day (no miles covered) every 7th day. We have to cover an average of 22 miles on every hiking day. (A little under a marathon a day). Let it be known that as hiking savvy as Brian and I pretend to be we have never hiked a twenty mile day. Not once.

Hiking 22 miles a day is no problem! According to thru hiking guru Ray Jardine (much more on this man later) anyone can do it , even your grandmother! It is just all about pacing. You simply take the hours you will be hiking and monitor yourself at various half way points during the day. So if we need to hike 22 miles today and we will be hiking from 6 am to 8 pm with a fifteen minute break every hour. Minus breaks that is 10.5 hours of hiking. At 1 o’ clock we need to have covered eleven miles because this is our half way point during the day. Which means by 9:00 am we should have covered around 5.5 miles and by 5pm 16.5 miles ect ect. All of these miles will be at a very modest pace of 2miles per hour (which is about the speed of any day hiker). According to Jardine by monitoring your self like this you will never have to push your pace to make the miles, which is bound to cause injury and exhaustion, and you are able to hike all day (sun up to sun down ) without major fatigue. This theory sounds fool proof while I sit here on my couch sipping my cold beer, we should make it to Canada no problem!

Now my soul has elbow room

•May 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Every time I actually get outside and on the trail I am completely verified in my decision to hike the PCT. Back at home it becomes a mind game between my head and my heart as most things do. Which goes something like this

Mind: What are you thinking about taking 6 months off right when you could finally have opportunities to get your career started?

Self: I don’t want a career.

Mind : It isn’t always about what you want!

Self: But it’s my life

Mind: So you are going to be a waitress for the rest of your life?

Self: What’s wrong with that?

Mind: No one will respect you!

Self: But I don’t want to work ten hours a day in an office.

Mind: That is what life is! You still have weekends.

Self: I want weekends all the time.

Mind: You are such a child.

However when I get outside like today,( I hiked in the Marin Headlands) my mind is beaten to submission by all that beauty and as William Shakespeare put it, “ my soul has elbow room”.

Today was one of those spring  days that could only be described as “Glorious” or maybe “dazzling”.  The kind of days where it is warm but there is enough wind and water in the air that your whole body feels like mint. The headlands gave a magnificent display of the first day of May. Everything was green and the ocean breeze carried a heady scent of flowers. Flowers everywhere. I felt as drunk as the honey bees flying around them. The hills ablaze with golden poppies next to dark purple lupines.  Yellow and blue Irises exploding like fireworks from tall green grasses.

I realize that every day on the PCT will not look like this, a scene out of Bambi. I realize that sometimes it will be horrible and ugly or freezing and raining. But the thing is, even a horrible ugly freezing raining day in nature is better than a ho hum day in a cubicle. I say this because in that horrible ugly freezing raining day at least you know you are alive. At least at that moment life isn’t  passing you  by in a colorless haze.

The wilderness brings you a heightened sense of awareness. Brian and I play this game sometimes. I will say, “Brian, what were we talking about when we were coming up the second set of switch backs  after Shadow Lake on the John Muir Trail?” and he will answer immediately, “We were talking about Sean Connery in The Rock”. Then he will ask me what we were talking about in some random place on the trail and I will tell him. We can remember every moment of those 3 weeks and they were over two years ago. I don’t think I could tell you one specific thing that happened to me in “the real world” even a month back. I can see how easily my life could wash past me this way and I don’t want it to. I would rather be cold and wet and dirty in a tent somewhere than zoned out infront of sitcom. I just want to experience this beautiful life.

thwarted by evil cows

•April 17, 2010 • 3 Comments

First Day of Training!! So the best way to train for a thru hike is to backpack. If you don’t have enough time to do a backpacking trip then the second best thing to do is fill your pack with a bunch of stuff and go on a long day hike. I stuffed a bunch of clothes in my pack and a ridiculously  extravagant  lunch and a few liters of water (hopefully about

20 pounds in all) and took the Bart to Orinda station to Hike to Berkley on the De Lavaega  trail.

This trail starts at a very steep climb to get over the east bay hills. I am tremendously out of shape. The birds were drowned out by my wheezing and puffing for air. It is just beautiful in the bay area this time of year. The hills are green and comely covered in brilliant california poppies, lupins, buttercups and blooming oak trees.

All was going well until I suddenly come over a hill and am face to face with a big Bull and a baby cow. I was verysurprised and immediately  retreated back down the trial to consider my options. After a little self pep talk I decided I would walk by them. As I approached them they looked wary. The Bull lowered his impressive horns to the ground and started snorting menacingly. I turned right around and went back up the trail again to reconsider.

I feel like such a wimp.I am supposed to be training for the pct! I can just imagine telling people , “we were going to hike the pacific crest trail, but there was this cow…”. I decided I would not be thwarted. I scrambled off the trail  onto the steep slope through tall grass and some spiky thorns and went around the Bull.  I found my way back to the trail and was feeling very proud of myself when I approach thirty more cows and bulls spread out in a line half a mile across the trail in each direction. (so I guess that wasn’t just smelly mud I that I fell in) Damn. I tried to approach again, more menacing snorts. I tried to climb down the ridge again but was faced with impassible bushes. I tried to climb over the ridge but the herd seemed to extend for miles. I gave up and had lunch on a rock in a beautiful poppy field.

Why are animals so much more menacing in the wilderness? I drive by cows all the time, “Look at the lovely cows!” I say. They were illustrated so peacefully on the very cheese I was scarfing right now.  They seemed misrepresented. Feeling dejected I decided to go back the way I came. I can hardly imagine myself skipping nonchalantly passed angry rattle snakes or scaring off 300 pound bears if I can’t even man up around a domestic animal. Maybe I am just a silly girl after all.

On the bart ride home I sat next to a group of pretty girls on their way into the city for a night on the town. One of the girls changed seats. I couldn’t blame her, I was sweaty, my shoes were leaking water  and I was covered in mud and cow manure. Her disgust did make me feel slightly better though.

in the beginning

•April 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Said Lao Tzu famously. I am sure he would agree that a journey of 2,655 miles does as well, even if it’s a baby step. So here it is, the first step, (metaphorically that is, the first actual step will not be for  over a year) a little announcement. (No Mom, Dad, I did not get a job with my shiny new college degree, and Brian and I aren’t getting married).

We are going to hike the pacific crest trail.

For those who don’t know, the pacific crest trial is 3 foot wide 2,655 mile long trail that runs from mexico to Canada . It crosses three states, three national monuments, seven national parks, twenty-four national forests, and forty-seven federally mandated wildernesses. Along the way it ascends more than fifty-seven major mountain passes, and innumerable bodies of water. Temperatures on the trail range from over 100 degrees in the deserts to below freezing in the high sierra and North Cascades. The trail’s lowest point is 140 feet above sea level at the Columbia River Gorge and it’s highest point is 13,200 feet at Forester Pass in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Why?

I like to walk.

I feel compelled by this trail. The moment I first heard about it I knew for certain that hiking it would be true. It has somehow always lingered in the peripheries of my life. Drop everything “important”  and just walk. Walk and  feel truly connected to earth and myself and to the beautiful present moment. Walk for a real life adventure and for the simplicity of life. Walk until my feet bleed and then some more, just to walk.

phew, second step: getting my butt off the couch . Training starts the day after graduation.