Micro Spike Training

My goal on Saturday was to begin to put it all together.  I would hike the Ice Age Trail with my by Campo start weight of 35 pounds.  The weather was in the high-30’s and cloudy.  I planned to do 15 miles and have my wife pick me up at the end.  I got up early, added water bottles to my pack to bring the weight up, and off I went.

When I pulled into the parking lot, it was a sheet of ice.  Fortunately, I took my new micro-spikes even though I’m not taking them when I leave.  I put on my pack and off I went.  I never took off my micro-spikes the entire day. The whole trail was a sheet of ice.

2018-02-24 10.03.37.jpgEventually, I reached a point of the trail where it was no longer a sheet of ice but practically a lake.  I knew it was at least a foot deep as I’ve walked this place a few times before.  It also wasn’t fully frozen and the ice could not support my weight.  I crept up as the ice cracked underneath me.  The sound was amazing.  I even saw a tiny fish dart under the water.  After a bit, with no end in sight and cold wet feet, I decided to turn around.  Ice on ice with a layer of water is extremely slippery, even with spikes.

There really wasn’t much value hiking through.  There were more hills where I came from so I started back.  I didn’t hike the 15 miles I planned, but I had a good three-hours of up-and-down hills with micro-spikes.  Today I have no residual soreness.

On the gear front, Costco had a set of convertible pants for $19.99.   I’ve decided to wear them instead.  They weigh about twice my running shorts weigh, but they have pockets.  Now I have the option of shorts or pants.

Still waiting for my permit to hike into Canada.  I have two boxes to pack as well, but it is too early.  All I can do is train and wait…

Common Question: Your Wife is Letting You Go?

When my adventure comes up in conversation, there are a number of common questions.  Are you scared?  Are you clinically insane?  Are you hiking alone?  Are you going to take a gun?  Are you taking a satellite phone?  One of my favorites is why is your wife letting you go?  Most of the questions express that individual’s fears, but this one is worth answering.  So, why is my wife letting me go?

When someone loves you and truly understands you, they know things that even you do not know.  In my case, my wife knows that I have a fundamental wanderlust.  I need to see what is on the other side of the mountain.  I try and contain it, but it bubbles over.

We also trust each other.  She knows that I love her and I have never done anything to break that trust.  I also will never do anything to break that trust.  That being said, she has given me two rules I may not break for this hike.

I will not allow my ego to exceed my ability.

This hike is a race.  It is not a race one wins in any given day.  I will need to push myself every day, but also stay within myself.  There will be situations I will run into where I will have to choose to go forward or go back.  I have a hard deadline of October 1st.  After that conditions are not safe to travel any longer, even for someone experienced with hiking in the snow.  I may have to accept that I cannot continue and return home.  The bottom line is that the goal is not worth giving up my life.

I may not share a hotel room a just one female.

To reduce costs, hikers share hotel rooms.  We all are carrying sleeping bags and are comfortable sleeping on the floor.  I will share a room with a whole bunch of people I do not know.  I might find someone on trail who hikes the same speed I do.  I may end up on a hiker family.  I don’t know what is going to happen.  I can share a hotel room with two females.  I can share a hotel room with eight females.  I just cannot share a room with just one female.

I’ve agreed to these two rules.  Did I mention my wife is awesome?

 

Section Preparation – An Example

T-Minus 46 days and counting!  I really have only three things left to do, train, send a couple of boxes and wait.  So, while I wait, now would be a good time to discuss my strategy to complete the first section, Southern California Section-A.  It is how I will approach all my sections.

This section starts at the Southern Terminus at the Mexican border and ends in the town of Warner Springs.  Warner Springs is the only town in Southern California where it is recommended that I send a resupply box which I will do before I leave.  It is 109 miles long and should take 5-to-6 days to complete.

So, I need to either take or acquire six days of food.  A rough estimate is that a day’s worth of food is two pounds.  If I decided to carry all six days from the start, I’m looking at 12 pounds!  That wouldn’t be so bad if there was water to be found every ten miles.  However, there are two big stretches without reliable water and this is shaping up to be a dry year.

The first dry stretch is right out of the gate.  After I leave Campo, there is no reliable water until Lake Morena at mile 20.  Because of this long dry stretch, I’m looking at starting with six liters of water and dry camping at mile 15.  The second dry stretch is a 32 mile span from mile 77 to mile 101.  Water is heavy.  It weighs roughly 2.5 pounds per liter and I need a liter every 5 miles.  I do not want to carry a ton of water on top of twelve pounds of food.

So, the logical thing to do is find ways to acquire food on trail.  The first strategy is to look to places to resupply in between.  Mount Laguna (mile 41) has a post office, so I can send a box there.  That means I only need to carry 2 days worth of food to begin.  I can reduce that more, because there are burgers in Lake Morena (mile 20) and a C-Store with food, snacks and a deli.  So, I will leave Campo with two dinners, snacks and a lunch.

The next place I can stop is at mile 77.  There is a store at the Stagecoach Inn and RV Park.  There is a store with a deli.  If I stay there, I can get a pizza that evening.  Another choice is to hitch twelve miles into Julian.  Julian is a hiker friendly town with full-service amenities, but it is 12 miles away.  My plan is to skip Julian at this point, but I will play it by ear.

The last stretch from 77 to 109 includes a long no water stretch.  The good news is that I do not need to carry much food here.  If I spend the night in the RV park, I would need just one day worth of food and I would be able to buy dinner in Warner Springs the next day.  That leaves more room for the extra water I will have to carry.

By decreasing the amount of food I carry, I’ll significantly reduce my pack weight.  The lower the pack weight, the faster and farther I go.  The faster and farther I go, the less food and water I need.  The less food and water I need, the lower the pack weight.

More Tasks Checked Off

I received a couple of packages yesterday.  I now have my bear canister and my micro-spikes.  I also needed to buy a new water filter because I was stupid…

My original plan was to wait to buy the gear I needed for the Sierra Mountains.  After calculating the time that it would take to get to Kennedy Meadows, I began to realize that there really wasn’t much time to do that.  Shipping stuff home and then to Kennedy Meadows two weeks in advance takes time.

The Bear Vault BV500 is heavy and carrying that through the mountains is going to suck.  It weighs 41 ounces.  My backpack weighs 49!  I’m not sure how I’m going to store up to eight days worth of food in there.  By then I’ll have hiker legs and some real thru-hiking cooking experience, so I’m not too worried about it.

My Kahtoola micro-spikes are something I can use in Wisconsin, so they are not just for the Sierras.  It is possible that if there is a late snow in Southern California, I could end up needing them early, so they are good to have.

Right now, I didn’t order and ice axe.  We’ll see how things shape up.  Most people in 2015 didn’t need one, and 2018 is looking more-and-more like 2015 for snow in the Sierra Mountains.

I’ve updated my Will.  It needed to be updated now that my kids are much older.  The only change really has to do if both my wife and I pass away at the same time.

Oh yeah.  My water filter.  Um.  I broke it.  As I wrote on Sunday, I gathered everything together and reweighed it.  I packed it up like I will hike on April 6th.  I slid my water filter in the back pouch.  Monday, I did my normal nine-mile hike with my pack on.  The temperature was in the single digits and the water bottles started to freeze.  What was in the pouch?  My water filter.  Freezing the filter breaks it.  I connected it up and tried to run water through it, but it started to leak out the side.  So…  That was dumb.  It was a good hike, though.  Nine miles in 2.5 hours or about 3.5 m.p.h.

That is an important lesson I’m glad I learned before I was on the trail.  I won’t do that again.  This weekend is shaping up like a good weekend to get in a 15 mile hike.

 

Planning Weekend

This weekend was dedicated to preparation instead of training.  There was much work to be done there.

First, there were the finances.  I did the family’s taxes. Normally, I procrastinate, mostly because I do them myself using software and I want to make sure the software has had all its bugs discovered.  After that was done, my wife and I went over the bills.  That has traditionally been my job, but she’ll take over for that while I’m gone.

Then, I started to actually estimate when I expect to be in Kennedy Meadows.  I used Craig’s PCT Planner to help me with that.  I do not want to get caught into the trap of over planning this hike, however, I do need to roughly know how many days there are between stops.  Assuming I’m able to pound out 18 mile days like I have done in my shakedown hikes, I will arrive in Kennedy Meadows about May 24th.  This is a conservative plan with six zeros.

Kennedy Meadows is a checkpoint.  I am leaving earlier than an optimal start to give me time to get used to the trail.  Normally, you don’t want to leave Kennedy Meadows until June 15th, but as I’ve discussed before, this seems to be a very low snow year and that moves the checkpoint closer.  I researched the blogs I followed in 2015, and both hikers left around May 28th.

Now that I estimated when I expect to get to Kennedy Meadows, I broke down and ordered my bear canister and micro-spikes.  I wanted to wait on buying them for a couple of reasons.  First, I want to make sure I got there.  Second, everything I have bought up to this point I can use on the Ice Age Trail.  The bear canister and the micro-spikes are two items I need exclusively for the PCT.  (That is assuming that don’t become completely addicted and decide to hike the CDT.)  However, even using a conservative 18-mile day to Kennedy Meadows, there isn’t really that much time for the equipment to be ordered, shipped to the house and then shipped to Kennedy Meadows two weeks ahead of time.

I decided not to buy my ice axe at this point.  The 2015 hikers didn’t need them, so I decided to wait on that.  It is possible for me to by that in Kennedy Meadows.

I resubmitted my application to enter Canada.  I followed the directions this time.

Finally, I laid out all my gear, updated my gear list, and packed it.  You’ll see that my pack weight went up a pound in the process.  Mostly that was administrative.  I listed a number of items in the consumables that were moved to gear carried.  However, I did find a number of errors in my weight measurements.  That puts me back in the business of finding ways to lower my base weight.

I have 53 days left to do that.

A Look at the Weather

This hike is a race.  I have to finish it before October 1st when snow conditions in Washington will be too dangerous to continue.  So, why didn’t I choose to leave March 15th to give myself enough time?  Because I have the Sierra Mountains to cross and the rule of thumb is that you cannot enter the them until June 15th.  That was especially true in 2017 when there was record snow there.  In fact, most hikers of the Class of 2017 skipped that section, hiked to the Northern Terminus.  Some went back and finished what they missed, but many chose to end their hike there.

My start date is April 6th.  In general, it takes about 40 days to get to Kennedy Meadows.  With an April 6th start, I would expect to get to Kennedy Meadows about May 20th or so.  I left a bit early because it is not possible for me to train going up and down mountains in Wisconsin.  That and I’m not 20 years-old any more.

What would I do if I cannot enter the Sierra Mountains for nearly a month?  Visit friends!  I lived in California for ten years.  I might even go home for a bit.  It is no big deal.

It is February 8th.  How is it shaping up?  Some pictures will help.  Here are the current snow depths in the mountains.

Sierra2018

Now we need two examples.  The first is last year, a high snow year.

Sierra2017

Clearly there is a big difference there.  What is the first year that looks the same?  That would be 2015.

Sierra2015

2015 was a big drought year. That year it was pretty much safe to enter the Sierra Mountains right away. That is good news for me. That path is being made clear.

That being said, there is a side affect to all of this. Less snow also means less water on the trail. I will have to carry more and water is very heavy. My base weight of 15 pounds is equal to six liters of water. I might need to carry six liters regularly if conditions are similar to 2015. So, the good news is that the path through the Sierra Mountains looks safe. The bad news is that it is going to be hot and water will be scarce. I wanted an adventure. I’m going to get one.

T-60 Days

My adventure is drawing nearer and nearer.

My application to enter Canada was not approved.  I made the mistake of not following directions by trimming the images of my passport and drivers license.  I was worried that the files were too big, so I cropped them.  I’ll re-image them and send it again.

I will start putting together my two boxes this week as well.  I will send a box of food to Scout and Frodo where I am staying the night before I begin.  That box will need me going for all the California Section A from the Southern Terminus to the small town of Warner Springs at mile 109.

I know that I will be eating at a restaurant at Lake Morena (mile 20), Mount Laguna (mile 41) and the Stagecoach Trails (mile 77).  This means that I will not be carrying three meals per day.  I’ll probably only carry breakfast, snacks and dinner.

My plan is to buy locally and ship boxes from the trail where needed.  I hope to only ship boxes to 10 to 12 stops.  Warner Springs is one of the places I will need to ship a box, and the only place I need to send a box in all of Southern California.

I will ship that first box on March 20th.  That should get to San Diego in plenty of time for my April 6th start.  I will ship my box to Warner Springs on April 2nd.  With that, there is no more planning.  After that, I go wit the flow.

 

New and Improved PCT. Now 0.09% Bigger!!!

Halfmile released his 2018 maps yesterday and there is one significant difference.  The trail has grown an additional 2.5 miles.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!  Are they trying to kill us!?!  2,650.1 miles was long enough!  Now it is 2,562.6!?! You can’t just change the trail like that.  If you are going to add 2.5 miles in one place, you need to remove 2.5 miles from another.  Besides, 2,650.1 miles rolls of the tongue.

Two… Thousand… Six… Hundred… And Fifty… Point One…

That Point One? It was the cherry on top.

I already dropped a butt-load of money on two sets of maps — which are completely wrong now I might add.  The black-and-white copy fills two 2-inch binders, because this is no walk in the park.  That and I enjoy saying “I’m going on a hike, do you want to see the maps?”

“Sure!”

Thud!

“Oh. My. God.”

“Wait…”

Thud!

“Are you mad?”

But what really pisses me off about this is that I already bought 100 “I Laughed When He Said He Was Hiking 2,650.1 Miles” T-Shirts for those who don’t believe in me.  (You know who you are…)

The new section is in California, mile 1203.4.  The new 6.9 mile trail is much more ascetically pleasing and replaces a 4.4 mile section that was mostly a road hike.  It is a good thing, and 2.5 miles is another joyful hour on the trail.  The last one off wins.

T-minus 63 days.  Looks more and more like it is a drought year.  That means that I won’t die getting washed down in a flash flood in the mountains, but I’ll die of thirst in the desert.  Until then, I train and I dream.