T-Minus 6 Days – And 8.4 Ounces Lighter

I spent a good two hours going over everything to try to find ways to lower my base weight.  After some effort, I was able to cut 8.4 ounces or slightly over half-a-pound.  Doesn’t seem like much, but then when you are going to walk 5.5 million steps, half-a-pound is pretty significant.  I’m still 3.2 ounces over my 15 pound limit.

At this point I would have to cut something significant. Can I skip taking my glasses because I’m wearing contacts?  That is 3.4 ounces.  Maybe I’ll just wear my glasses.  The solution is water and water is heavy.  I walk slower in my glasses.  At some point I just have to stop worrying about it.  I’m really close and I can decide better once I see what I’m using and what I’m not using.

I can say that I’ve gone through absolutely everything.

With that I’m focusing on getting my food packed and spending time with my family.  They are going to miss me, and I’m going to miss them.  That is what I’m going to do until I leave.

T-Minus 7 Days – Pack Weighs too Much

Today is my last days of work.  At five o’clock, my profession will be backpacker.

Last night I put all my base weight in my pack and got on the scale.  Up to this point, it was all really a thought exercise.  I used Lighterpack and a small scale to weigh everything.  Now I’ve taken everything and put it in my pack and with the help of my daughter weighed it proper.  It is not where I want to be.  I have three days left to science the crap out of this pack.  I’m at 15.8 pounds.  Time for aggressive measures.

Now, there are some simple ways of reducing pack weight.  When I look at gear lists, I see what other people have done.  I can do some magic and move items out of the base weight category.  For example, I could say that I’m wearing my down jacket and reduce my pack weight a quick 8.5 ounces.  However, that is the same thing as saying that I’m going to save money by taking beer out of the entertainment budget by moving it to the food budget.  One could say, “Look I reduced the entertainment budget!”, but it was just accounting trick.  No, I need to find some ways to cut more weight.

As I have written before, I’m made some decisions that come at a weight penalty.  My pack weighs 49 ounces, but it has a carrying capacity of 40 pounds and has enough room to hold my bear canister.  Many of my sisters and brothers have much light packs, but with much lighter carrying capacities.  My pack can also take a beating.

I have dry bags for my clothes and quilt.  I could just use a garbage compactor bag, but I’ve see what that does to your quilt.

I could squeeze all the Neosporin out of the tube and into one of the small zip lock bags I have bought.  The tube weighs something and the zip lock bag is lighter.  Every little bit helps.  However, a tube with a cap is much more secure.  One accidental squeeze and the zip lock bag opens and I have Neosporin all over the place.

My battery is bigger than I need.  I am taking contacts and glasses.  That weighs something, too.  I have three days to figure this out.  I have some ideas, but not much time to implement them.


T-10 Days

Sitting on the living room table is a resupply box addressed to me.  My address is General Delivery, Warner Springs, California.  In it I have a set of maps for California, Section C and five days worth of breakfasts and dinners.  I will buy my lunches at the Warner Springs Community center.  For the whole trip, I will only need to send about ten boxes from home, but the first one is 109 miles in.  I will send it on Saturday.  With that, there is no more planning.

Looking at the calendar, my last day at work is Friday.  There are events every single night this week.  I hope to hike some Ice Age trail on Saturday morning.  There is no more time left to train.  Since I started training to hike the PCT, I have hiked about the distance of the PCT spread out over three years.  I will begin the hike with good muscle mass on my legs and strong ankles.  I have no foot or knee pain.  With that, there is no more training.

I have taken the time to tie down all the loose ends in my life.  I have handed off all my responsibilities other than husband and father.  It is very strange to look at my calendar and see every single day open through October 1st.  With that, I have just one focus.

Next Monday, I will spend the day laying out my gear one last time.  I will strive to reduce it some more.  I’d like to be closer to fourteen pounds.  There is a hiker who is leaving the same day named Chloe.   She shared her kit that weighs nine pounds.  I set her list next to mine to see what the differences were.  From an item to item point of view, there were not many differences.  It was all about choices.  Her pack weighs 18 ounces and mine weighs 48.  Hers is made of light weight materials and she removed the metal supports.  That means that it will become uncomfortable above 25 pounds.  Mine is a tank, ready for a beating and is comfortable up to 40 pounds.  She is going stove-less.  I would like a warm meal at the end of the day.  That is 1.1 additional pounds.  I wear contacts and am taking a pair of glasses.  That is half a pound.  She is taking a smaller battery.  Mine is probably too big for what I need.  That would save me 1/4 pound.  Her first aid kit is just 1.8 ounces.  Mine is 7.6 ounces, but has stuff I know that I will encounter on the trail like poison oak.  She is depending upon electronics.  I have backup paper maps.  We have the same clothes, but hers weigh less because she is smaller.  All that being said, she has an emergency beacon, and I do not.  It is all about choices.

Next Tuesday I leave.  I will wear clothes that I will throw away when I change into my hiking gear when I reach San Diego.  I am so ready to go.

T- 15 Days. Loose Ends Tied Down

The time draws near.  The excitement grows.  It is hard to sleep!

My focus has turned from training to tying down loose ends.  I have only six days left of work.  The firm I work for isn’t very good at thinking ahead.  I told them that I was going for a hike November 2nd, and only now does the urgency kick in.  I’ve heard rumors of how they are angry.  They didn’t think I was actually doing this.  Now they are trying to take notes.  When an employee gives five months notice, it is really the organization’s problem, not the employee.

My good friends at the Presbytery gave me what every backpacker needs in their backpack — a rock!  It is the Rock of Faith.  It weighs just one ounce.  It is not a want.  It is not a fear.  It is a need.  Therefore, I am taking the Rock of Faith.  To make room in my kit, I needed to take out one ounce, so I removed the hydration sleeve on my backpack.  It weighs 1.4 ounces, so adding the Rock of Faith decreases my base weight by 4 ounces!  They also gave me a beautiful send off.  With their prayers, how can I fail?

On Saturday, I will send a box to Warner Springs with plenty of time to get there.  I have decided to take breakfasts and dinners for five days and I will buy lunches along the way.  I was going to send two days of food to Mount Laguna, but I know I can buy stuff there.  The advice from those that have hiked before is to buy along the way.   I should follow their advice.

I have a couple of more church meetings and emails to do, so there isn’t much time to train.  At this point, I’m ready to go.  If I wasn’t ready now, I certainly would not have enough time to get ready.

Wow!  Fifteen Days!!!

T-18 Days and Counting

After I finished writing my blog yesterday, I spent about an hour trimming the Orange Superfeet insoles.  The arch seemed to be in the wrong place.  I decided to go to a local shoe store that sells this product.  I should have done that in the first place.

Before I started training, I wore a 9.5 shoe.  Three years later and over a thousand trail miles, I now wear a 10.5.  That I knew.  What I didn’t know is that I am also a wide.  Switching to a Green Superfeet wide resolved the problem.  With that, the only lagging equipment issue is resolved.

The success of this massive hike is completely dependent upon the health of my feet.  Until I started training, I never had problems with my feet.  They were mostly ignored.  They are now equal to my eyes, heart, lungs and brain.

T-19 Days and Counting

The weather in Southern California has changed a bit.  There is been rain and snow. That is good news for me because that means some of the seasonal streams that were dry two weeks ago may have water when I’m there.  It was bad news for my sisters and brothers who have already left.  Many wrote that they stayed in town to let the weather pass and that is always a good decision.

Unfortunately, one of the hikers I was quietly cheering on, a Navy Veteran like me hurt her knee and limped into Mount Laguna (mile 42) and was looking for a ride to the hospital.  There is enough time for her to heal if it is something minor.  I have my fingers crossed.

Not much left for me to do.  I have pulled out all my gear and put my name and phone number on it like my Mom was sending me to camp.  Everything is in one of two bins, that which I am taking and that which will be shipped to me later.  I have food that I will ship to Mount Laguna and Warner Springs.  I’ll send those boxes next weekend.

I continue to make minor adjustments.  I’ve lightened my first aid kit, removing stuff I do not need.  I’m pretty much dialed in at this point.

Life wise, I have been saying goodby to friends.  I am a Ruling Elder of the Presbytery of Milwaukee for the PC(USA), and I have a number of churches I walk with as they go through transition.  I seem to do a good job at it, as I was elected to be Co-Moderator of the Commission on Ministry despite the fact that I’m leaving for six months (hopefully).  I’ve said my goodbyes to Faith Springs in Pewaukee, 1st Presbyterian Church in Clinton and I will be saying good bye to Calvary Presbyterian of Milwaukee on Sunday.  I told the Presbytery that I could continue to walk with them, but I was told no.  I told them that I am obeying in protest.

At this point, I have no responsibilities other than Dad and this hike.  It is a weird feeling.  I have to keep in mind that even in life, the lighter the load, the faster and farther you go.

T-Minus 24 Days

I updated my training log and I’ve completed 250 trail miles since January 1st.  Those are miles with at least thirty-five pounds on my back.  I’ve been pretty lucky.  It has been a low snow year and the trails near my house have been open all winter.

I will train in most conditions.  Rain, snow and cold do not stop me.  They are opportunities to test my gear.  The only condition I will not train in is ice where I cannot wear my micro-spikes.  I’ve quit my job effective March 30th.  I’m not going to hurt myself now.  Crashing and burning before I even leave would be too embarrassing.

I did back-to-back nine mile days with forty pounds.  After adjusting all the straps on my backpack, I have it dialed in.  Yesterday, those forty pounds were nothing.

I have an event tonight, but I will be able to hike tomorrow and Thursday.  I’ve set a goal of 100 miles before I leave.

T-Minus 25 Days

I upped my training pack weight to forty pounds, the maximum recommended weight for my ULA Catalyst, and I’ll do my practice hikes at that weight level until I leave. Unfortunately, where I live is flat, so the best I can do is carry more weight than I will every carry and go faster than I’ll ever hike to simulate going up hills.

At forty pounds, my pack did become quite uncomfortable, especially my shoulders, so I went to the ULA website and watched the fitting video again.  At the maximum weight capacity, making sure the pack is properly fitted is critical.  Every strap is important.

So, my normal nine mile hike consisted of me adjusting all the different straps seeing what felt best.  I have a tendency to tighten the straps too tight.

Normally, I will leave a resupply point with twenty-eight pounds.  That is roughly 15 pounds of base weight, two liters of water (five pounds), a fuel canister (1 pound) and four days of food (8 pounds).  There are two areas where I will need to carry near the maximum capacity of my pack.

One area will be the 43 mile no water stretch.  The good news is that most of what I will be carrying is water, and the weight will go down rather quickly.  I will loose 2.5 pounds per five miles or so.

The second area is the stretch of passes in the Sierra Mountains.  There water isn’t the problem.  It is food.  The PCTA recommends a one pass per day strategy.  Depending on how you look at it, that means I will leave with 8 days of food, plus a bear canister, micro-spikes and some warmer clothes.  I often wonder how my sisters and brothers will handle these sections with their light-weight gear.  Eight days of food is 16 pounds.

That is a worry for another day.  By then, I will be so much stronger.  I will have plenty of time talking with others to figure out what I’m going to do when I get there.

Train, train, train.  Wait, wait, wait.

T-Minus 30 Days

I did 45 trail miles last week as I ramp up my training.  My nine mile hike is nothing at this point.  I want to add more miles, but I’m still a dad with a job and some extra-curricular activities that I’m still responsible to attend.  Two-to-three hours is all I can dedicate in a given day to training.

The time draws near!

T-Minus 33 Days and Counting

I haven’t had much time to update my blog.  I’ve been walking in my spare time!  I did my normal nine-mile hike with 40 pounds five times this past week.  I broke the five day trend because the family wanted to see the Black Panther.  I won’t hike today because it is my daughter’s birthday.

I received my approved permit to enter Canada, so that is now done.

Finally, I put in my 30-day notice on Wednesday.  I requested a leave of absence from my long-time employer on November 2nd, after I successfully signed up for my thru-hiking permit.  I gave them four months to decide how to respond.  I asked both my supervisor and human resources three times each over those four months.  Finally, I was told that they had not decided to approve it or not.  I believe the thought was that I wasn’t actually going to go through with it.  Clearly, they don’t understand me.  I said I was going on a hike in 2018.

So, my last day is March 30th.  That is the last day of the quarter, so I usually end up working 12-to-16 hours that day.  They could escort me out of the building I suppose.  That would be kind of awesome!  However, I don’t expect that to happen.  Don’t be sad for me.  The unemployment rate in my field is less than 1%.  I do not expect to have any difficulty finding a new job once I return, victorious.

With my last day the 30th, and it a late night that night, I will have three days to get everything ready.  There isn’t much left to do.  Mostly I will crank up my mileage those days.

Now to spend some time with the family.