Last Box of Gear

I received my last box of gear.  Four pairs of Darn Tough 1/4 Cushion socks and a set of Orange Superfeet for my Altra Lone Peak 3.5 shoes.  I’ll take two pair of socks on the hike and keep the other two in reserve for when I need them.

I walked the dog for an hour last night and they felt great.  The plan is to do my nine mile training hike with 35 pounds tonight and see how I feel.  With that, I have all my gear except my bear canister and ice axe which I’ll order once I’m on trail.

At this point, I could leave tomorrow.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to train until April 6th comes around.

T-70 Days

Today marks 70 days until the hike begins.

The last of my orders have been make.  I purchases four pairs of Darn Tough hiker socks.  Two will go with me.  Two will stay behind to be shipped when I need them.  With that, my kit is complete.  There is nothing more to do there.

I received by 20 Good-To-Go dehydrated meals.  I’ll leave Campo with six and pack six in a box I’m shipping to Warner Springs.  That will leave eight.  I’ll start getting my two boxes ready.

I’m still waiting for the approval to enter Canada.  That isn’t an issue I’m worrying about.

At this point, all I can do is train.

Application to Enter Canada Submitted

I knocked off a couple more items off my checklist last night.  I filled out the permit for permission to enter Canada from the PCT.  As I do not have a criminal record this is a formality.  If for some strange reason I’m not approved, I will hike to the Northern Terminus, celebrate and backtrack.  Some hikers have to do that.  I shouldn’t, but if there is a mix up somewhere, I might have to adjust.  I’ll know for sure in a couple of days.

I ordered twenty meals from Good-to-Go.  Without a doubt, their meals are my favorite. They have spice.  They have flavor.  They are a bit more expensive, but they have a 25% off sale going through the month of January.  My primary strategy is to buy along the way, but that doesn’t start until 180 miles in at Idyllwild.

I also learned that the Mount Laguna Sports has closed permanently, and that might impact my resupply strategy.  What I was going to do until I got to Idyllwild is pack about 1,500 kCals of food per day.  I would then supplement along the way.  My 1,500 kCals would be my breakfasts and dinners, and I would supplement it with snacks and lunch along the route.  I know that I will have sources at Lake Morena (20 mi), Mount Laguna (41 mi), and the Stagecoach Trails Inn (77 mi).  Now that Mount Laguna Sports has closed, I’ll need to make sure that I have enough.

The lesson to be learned is that resupplying on the way is the best strategy.  You don’t want to ship a box only to never end up getting there.  Resupplying along the way keeps you moving.  Unfortunately, not every place has good resupply options and Warner Springs is one, so I’ll send a box there.

I Got Bit By a Mosquito

Today was an unusually beautiful day in Wisconsin.  It was sunny and warm with a high in the mid-40’s.  It was the perfect day to do some real trail miles instead of my urban trail hike.

I took this as an opportunity to adjust the weight in my pack and stretch myself out and see what I could do.  I took out the thirty pounds of water bottles I normally carry and put in my 13.2 pounds of gear, a half empty gas canister, two liters of water and some lunch.  I parked my car in the Emerald parking lot near the Monches segment, my favorite segment, and hiked south for seven miles.  I hiked at a backpacker’s pace.  I wanted to see how I felt after it was done.  I committed myself to hike to 11:30, make myself some lunch, and hike back.  I needed to be home by 3:30 p.m.

I wore what I intend to wear on the trail, a base layer shirt, my outer shell, and a pair of quick drying athletic shorts.  In about twenty minutes into the hike, I was glad I was wearing shorts as my outer shell was unzipped because I was so warm.  I easily made 7.5 miles by 11:30 and sat down on a bench a Boy Scout built for the trail.

As I cooked, I felt a sting.  It was a mosquito.

Let me put this into perspective.  I was hiking in shorts and I was bitten by a mosquito.  In Wisconsin.  In the middle of January.  I may have been the only person to ever say that they were bitten by a mosquito on the trail in Wisconsin in the middle of January.

I hiked back at an even faster pace.  The 25 pounds on my back felt like nothing after hiking with 35 pounds I normally carry.  I stopped briefly at the end when a small group stopped me to ask if I was training.  I said “I am.  I’m hiking the PCT this year!”  We talked for a little bit.  I think at least some of them will go some day based upon their interest.

When I got to the car, I was barely even sweating after 15 miles.  I drove home, took a shower, and then took my son and his six friends to laser tag where I ran around for an hour-and-a-half.

That is where I am.  I can hike 15 miles of trail with 25 pounds and still have plenty of energy to play laser tag.  My concern is that even the Ice Age Trail is pretty flat compared to the PCT.  There just isn’t a place around here to get that up-and-down.  Still, 15 miles like it was nothing gives me some good confidence that I’m close to where I want to be.

Leave No Trace – Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

As I have said before, one does not plan to hike the PCT.  One can only prepare.  I have spent the past three years researching, studying and reading about this trail.  I believe I have the correct tools for the hike.

The first and immediate concern is staying up-to-date with the latest regulations.  I am not a big fan of going stove-less.  I nice hot cup of coffee in the morning is a luxury I’m willing to carry.  However, if a section is closed from any fire source, including my tiny three-ounce stove, I will follow those regulations.  I am depending upon the PCTA to keep me informed.

My Guthooks app is great.  It provides important information like where I can find a privy instead of digging a cat hole.  It provides more possible camping locations than the paper maps I am also taking.  I will, to the best of my ability, stick to places where people have already camped to reduce any damage I do to the environment.

I do have a bit of concern when it comes to the principle that I should repackage food to minimize waste.  I recognize that by removing the wrappers from all my Clif Bars I will significantly reduce the chance that part of the wrapper will go flying in the wind, I’m still increasing the amount of waste by using zip lock bags instead of keeping the bar in its original wrapper.

I know that I don’t know everything, but I know where to look.

How to Turn Your Android Phone into a Weather Radio

Many years ago, before I took up long distance hiking, I used to canoe and camp.  My girlfriend at the time and I had a special island in the Boundary Waters that we liked to call our own.  It was secluded and the northern part of island was a small cliff where we liked to set up a hammock and watch the wildlife.  It would take about two days to get there from where we parked the truck. The seven day forecast called for a slight chance of rain later in the week.  As this was prior to smartphones and my ultra-light ways, one critical piece of equipment I took was a weather radio.

We were packing up on day five and were planning on paddling back early the next morning. That slight chance of rain carried on for the week.  As the day wore on we could see from our perch that a pretty big storm was coming.  We talked about maybe leaving early and finding a campsite on shore.  We turned on the weather radio.  It told us that the slight chance of rain turned into a storm, and it was going to be massive and it was approaching fast.  We decided to dig in and packed up everything we didn’t want to get wet.  We pulled out and tied down our canoe and huddled in our tent.

The storm was the very worst I’ve ever been in.  The waters were white.  The wind blew down our tent.  The trees bent.  Two large limbs fell in our camp.  We huddled in the lowest part of the island that wasn’t getting washed over from the waves in our outer shells.  The kicker was that lightning struck a tree no more than 100 feet from us.  My ears rung.

This went on for hours.  The lightning was so constant that it was like twilight, even though it was the dead of the night.  It was terrible, but it would have been much worse if we would have tried to make it to shore.  We would have been caught up in the storm and surely we would have capsized before we made it.  We survived, in part due to that little weather radio.

So, it is 2018 and I am an ultra-light backpacker.  I carry all of the world’s knowledge in my pocket.  I still want that weather radio.  I know that it is still important.  So, how do you turn your Android Phone into a weather radio that doesn’t need the Internet?  Turns out that it is cheaper than you think and doesn’t require you to take anything you will not already be taking.  It also meets the backpacker’s budget.  If you have the phone, the conversion is free!

To make a weather radio, we need just three things:

  • An Android Phone with a charge.
  • A pair of headphones.
  • The app Next Radio.

Per the specifications for a phone to be an Android phone, it must be able to receive FM-Radio.  It is built in there for you.  What we need is an antenna.  That is where the headphones come in. Plug the headphones into the headphone jack and you are good to go!

I bet you thought you were going to have to MacGyver something.

The problem with receiving FM signals on an Android phone is that both the manufacturers and the carriers do not have much motivation promoting it.  While your phone may be able to receive them, either the carrier or the manufacturer may lock them down so that you cannot use them.

I have an unlocked Samsung Note 8.  It is unlocked, which means it is a universal phone not locked down to a carrier.  It is one of the phones that has its FM chip activated.  You can click this link to see if your phone’s FM chip is also unlocked.

Install the Next Radio app from the Play Store. Start the app.  Then follow these steps:

  1. Click on the menu in the upper left hand corner.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Turn on FM only mode.
  4. Turn off Stream Only on Wi-Fi.
  5. Turn off Prefer station stream over FM.

Click on the menu again and select Basic Tuner.  Plug in your headphones. Select a station you know in your area.  Turn off Wi-Fi and mobile data to test it.  You know it is working if when you unplug your headphones and the radio stops receiving a signal.

To make it work you cannot have your phone in Airplane Mode.  You can still save power by turning off Wi-Fi and mobile data.

The range of FM-Radio is much longer than a 3G or 4G signal.  While you might not have a good signal to use a browser, you still might have an FM signal from a local station.

As always, do not be afraid to take an extra zero before going out when conditions are going to be bad.  Still, sometimes conditions change drastically.  A slight chance of light rain turns into a massive storm.  A backup method of getting local conditions that doesn’t require anything other than what you are already taking is a pretty simple solution.

See you out there.

Note to Apple Users.  This also works for you, but I do not have an iPhone.  You’ll have to figure it out yourselves.  The Next Radio website can help.

Just 28 Five Day Hikes

When I talk with people about going on a hike like this I get the same type of question over and over.  “What if X?”  What if my shoes fail?  What if my water filter freezes?  What if it gets really cold?  What if?  What If? WHAT IF!?!

It is not possible to carry every single “what if” in my pack.  The answer to this conundrum is to imagine this not as one big long hike, but 28 five day hikes.  If something terrible happens, I will look where I am and either deal with it and continue on or turn around and go back.  I need to have faith that my sisters and brothers will help me.  I promise, I will always help them.

If I have to deal with it, I only have to deal with it for two days because that is really how far I am away from civilization I will ever be.  I can deal with an awful lot for just two days.  If I have to look to my sisters and brothers for help, then I probably should choose to be nice.  Fortunately, I am nice and I share, so that will not be too difficult.

I enjoy seeing the fear in the eyes of people I talk about what I’m doing this year and they are amazed at the courage I must have.  Don’t get me wrong, this is going to be real.  Once I realized that I can count on my sisters and brothers, then my pack became much lighter.

The lighter the pack, the faster you go.


California Fire Permit Issued

I knocked off the second of three permits this morning, the California Fire Permit.  This allows me to light a campfire and use my stove in California.  It was simple and free.  You go to the site, watch a video, take a quiz and they give you a link with your permit.  It is good for the year issued, so I had to wait until after January 1st to get it.

That leaves just the Canadian Entry Permit.  Getting that done requires me to gather and scan some documentation, but I do not expect any issues as I do not have a criminal history.  I hope to have that done by next week.