Now with my start date secured, the preparation truly begins. The good news is that based upon the two PCT Class of 2018 groups on Facebook, I am well ahead of many of my fellow hikers. I have been physically training now for two years and my entire kit has been purchased and is in my possession.
My gear has a base weight of 13 pounds, 11 ounces. Ideally, I would section hike some of the PCT to get more experience with the ups-and-downs I will have to do, but that isn’t feasible. I do have my local national trail, the Ice Age Trail.
My goal for this hike was three fold. First, I would test my gear under some colder and wetter conditions. Second, I am going to cook meals as though I bought them in a store instead of freeze dried backpacking food. Finally, I want to put on some miles and test my legs.
The best place for me to do that is to drive up to where I work in West Bend and park my car there. My office is just over a mile away from the IAT. In this section, I have limited options to lay my tent. I can only camp at designated shelters. In many ways that is good. I’m going to have to hike at least 17 miles today. I also have to battle the dark. As it is late in the season, it does not get light until 7:00 a.m. and it turns dark by 5:30 p.m.
I stopped in my office for a quick bit, and I started to “Walk in a Relaxed Manner.”
My first shakedown hike back in August was up in Taylor County. The conditions of that hike were rough. I pushed myself too hard too quickly. I would hike 16 miles, but I was sweaty and pretty much destroyed.
I was given a book named Walk in a Relaxed Manner from my Pastor friend Ann. It tells the story of the exploits of a 60-year-old nun hiking the Camino Trail in northern Spain. She was told at the start of her hike by a wise old man to drink plenty of water and be relaxed as you walk.
I did not walk in a relaxed manner in Taylor County. I’m committed to doing that today. I’m going to hike just fast enough that I do not sweat. The slower pace suits me much better.
I entered a park where they are doing construction. One workman is trying but failing to start a cement cutting saw as his co-workers stands over him. They stopped and look at me. Without thinking as I pass them I say, “the saw won’t start until I’m back on the trail.” I walk past confidently. They keep on pulling the starter, but it wont start.
My foot hits the trail again. The saw starts. I hear one say “Whoa!” and the others chuckle. They are going to have an interesting story to tell at lunch about the backpacker with the Jedi mind skills when it comes to machinery.
Strangely, I knew it was going to be that way. The trail did not want my meditation to be interrupted.
I hiked until noon. On the top of an esker, I found a bench and ate my lunch. I ate and rested for about fifteen minutes before I packed up and continued. By two-thirty I reached the Designated Camping site. It was a dry site that did not allow for a camp fire. As it was early and couldn’t light a fire, I decided to continue to the next shelter.
I made it to Shelter #1 by four-thirty. There was water nearby. I put in a good 18 miles. I could keep on going, but Shelter #2 was eight miles away and I wouldn’t make it until after dark. In less than 15 minutes I had my tent up, my bed made, and water boiling for dinner.
For dinner I had instant mashed potatoes and bacon. For dessert, I mixed instant pudding mix and powdered milk so that I could make pudding by just adding cold water. It was dark by six. I sat and read until I was ready to fall asleep. Because it was going to be cold, I was wearing my down jacket and thermal base layer. In my pockets, I had my water filter, cell phone and spare battery. Unfortunately, I forgot to put away my contacts.
I woke up once rather cold. Cold air was getting into my quilt. I got up in the middle the night, did some jumping jacks and climbed back into my tent and ate a Cliff Bar. That warmed me up enough and I was good for the rest of the night.
Day #1. 18.2 miles.