Training Update

The combination of the holidays and sub-zero temperatures have slowed my training a bit. I bought some micro-spikes at Costco for $9.99 and I did some hiking in the snow last week and I hope to do more. They are great for the urban trail, but they would last about ten minutes on the PCT.  They are very light weight, however.  When it gets below zero with a wind chill of -25, it is best to stay inside.  It is supposed to warm up next week.

With three months to go, I have worked with a trainer and put together a more aggressive workout program that I will start January 1st.  With my legs tested with back-to-back 18 mile hikes, I can focus more on my core to help improve my endurance.

I still need to get my permits.  I need to get a box together for Warner Springs, one of the only towns I’ll send a box.  I haven’t thought about what I’m going to wear other than my base layers.  All my gear is purchased.  In theory, I could leave tomorrow.

So, I wait…

Shakedown Hike Day Three

Today is a much shorter day.  I promised to take the kids to see Thor and we prefer to go to the matinee, so I will be ending my hike early today.

It is sleeting hard this morning, but the ground is warm enough that it is melting right away.  I pack everything inside my tent where I am dry.  I had put up my tent on top of a hill, so I had plenty of air movement and the condensation was limited.  I’ve learned from previous hikes to use my garbage compactor bag over my feet to keep that part dry.

I did a much better job of packing up.  I’m ready to go in just fifteen minutes.  I unzip the tent, toss my pack outside, and in wet weather gear crawl out.  My tent is packed in mere moments, I count my stakes, and pack it in my backpack.

I have a method for packing my backpack.  My quilt is on the bottom.  It makes the bottom of my pack softer and more comfortable.  On top is my tent.  If it is raining (or in this case sleeting) It is the first thing I can get to.  I hike down to the shelter were I meet my backpacking friend I made last night.

We eat, drink coffee, and I ask to take a picture of him.  I want to remember him, but not share him to the world without his permission.  I know his first name, but I do not know his last.  It isn’t important.  This is the type of friendships that I will have on the PCT.  I will meet someone just once and never see them again.  As we are all hiking the same trail, we all have something in common so friendships are created fast.  However, everyone is also hiking their own hike.  These friendships are not meant to last more than this moment.

He offers a hand to shake, but I have not showered in three days.  I offer an elbow.  He asks for a hug.  Hugs I can do.

I’m a bit stiffer today, but I warm up in due time.  The sleet stops.  I text the wife where to pick me up.  As I get closer, I send a text with a Google Map link so she can find me easily.  I reach the meeting point first.

Not a terribly long hike, but I put in two 18 mile days.  Still, it is a good nine miles.  I’m in good shape for the hike.  This proves that I can do it.  There is still work to do.  I want to loose another 18 pounds before I start, but with five months to go, there is no reason I cannot be successful.

Lessons Learned

I learn something every hike.  My feet held up well.  No blisters.  No pain from Plantar Fasciitis.  I lost no equipment.

  • The quit and sleeping pad are much more effective if I properly set them up.  That means using the straps and snaps.
  • I need to figure out what I’m going to do to correct my vision.  I prefer contacts when I’m hiking, however, they do require maintenance.  Glasses are easier.
  • Slow and steady really do win the race.  Hiking just to the point of sweating meant that I was able to hike for eight hours straight without getting tired.  I still had some gas in the tank.  Trying to muscle through with a 3.5 m.p.h. pace simply killed me.  Cruising at 3.0 m.p.h. was much more efficient.

Shakedown Hike Day 2

I woke up at 6:30 a.m., but it was still dark.  I waited until it was light enough to put on my contacts.  As I knew that it was going to get below freezing, I had my phone in one pocket of my jacket and my water filter in the other.  I forgot about my contacts and when I opened the case, the solution had froze.  Fortunately, they were old, so I put on my spare set.

I got up and stretched.  I was expecting to be sore from the 18 miles the day before, but I was not!  I did my stretching exercises as I boiled water for coffee and ate two Cliff bars.  Shelter #2 is eight miles away.  Shelter #3 is 17 miles.  Shelter #4 is 22 miles.  Because of the early sunset, my only real goal is Shelter #3.

It takes me an hour to get packed up.  I’m going to need to improve that on the PCT.

The hike goes smoothly.  I make Shelter #2 by 11:30.  The sun came out and it was just warm enough to take off my jacket as long as I was out of the wind and in the sun.  I sat and ate my lunch there.  It was beautiful.

I hiked another three miles to a water source.  I ran into two day hikers there.  I filled up my water containers there as Shelter #3 is a dry shelter.  I continued on.

I made Shelter #3 at about 4:30 p.m.  As I approached, I saw another backpacker crossing to the shelter.  Technically, you are supposed to reserve these campsites. I didn’t because I didn’t know how far I would go and it is late in the season.  Its freezing and it is raining.  You’d have to be mad to hike and camp in these conditions.

I had no real choice but to approach.  It was getting dark.  Hopefully, the other backpacker is cool.

Turns out, he was.

He had reserved the site, so I paid him half.  We put up our tents and started to collect wood for a camp fire.  We ended up staying up to nearly 11:00 p.m talking.  It was a great time.

When I went back to my tent for the night, this time I properly set up the quilt.  Instead of using it like a blanket, I used the straps and attached it to my sleeping pad.  That made a huge difference!  I stayed much warmer that night.

My contacts?  In my jacket this time.

Total miles: 17.6.

Shakedown Hike Day 1

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.