Aug 26

It is now 5 months later and 1002 miles of the trail completed. I certainly wished for more miles, but a combination of factors prevented that from happening. At this time, I have no intention of attempting to put on more miles this year. What I would like to do in this blog is to summarize matters, including a) what were the problems with the hike, b) what did I learn from it all, c) what equipment did I like and dislike, and d) what positive good came out of it all. This is a really long read, so I know that most of you will probably not read it all. That’s ok. It was written mostly to consolidate my own thoughts.

Problems

This was NOT a good year for thru-hiking the PCT. As a veritable matter, it was probably one of the worst possible years to do the PCT. I didn’t think that could happen. a) Record Snow Two years ago, the high Sierra (central California) had record snowfalls, and so I felt that we would not see a high snow year in a while. I was truly fooled there. Starting in central Oregon and south, the mountains recorded record years for the amount of snowfall, including the amount of snow water content. This extended all the way down to Mexico, so that in three areas, Mt. San Jacinto (around Palm Springs), Mt. Georgiono Wilderness, and around Mt. Baden Powell, were areas of the desert that had dangerous snow build-up, especially the first and last regions mentioned. I had to carry Kahtoola microspikes (crampon like spikes that you fit over your hiking shoes) through much of the desert from Idyllwild to just past Mt. Baden Powell, and even with the microspikes, the steepness of the snow led to some very challenging situations and extreme danger. Your speed of travel drops at least in half. Your ability to find the trail is dependent entirely on your cell phone and the Guthooks app on your cell phone. After dropping off Mt. Baden Powell, I determined that I would not subject myself to extreme snow situations again on the trail. Even still, in northern California, out of Burney Falls State Park, reports had it that the snow was gone, and yet I hit about 4-5 hours of hiking through very challenging snow situations. The prospects for much more snow further on in northern California and southern Oregon were daunting, and at least a few people soon around the time I was coming through were injured and helicoptered off of the trail in southern Oregon, Second Chance being an easy example of that. Not cool. b) Mosquitoes Who would ever think that such tiny little beasts could create such misery. When I consider the worldwide fatalities from mosquito-born illnesses it leaves me no wonder. Yet, even without the diseases, mosquitoes can be a source of intense misery. Truly, one must keep every possible skin surface covered because mosquito repellent has only limited efficacy. Mosquitoes will bore through your clothing, such as through my hiking gloves. At night, no matter how hard you try to keep the mosquitoes out of your tent, you will still spend an hour swatting the residual mosquitoes that snuck in while you were entering. You can’t cook a meal or relieve yourself without vicious attacks. Unfortunately, this year was reported to have record numbers of mosquitoes on the trail. I can believe it. c) Early onset of fall Somehow, it seems like the weather got chilly much sooner than normal. Having lived for most of my life in the northwest, I’m used to fairly dry Augusts and early September. Now, it just feels chilly whenever one goes outside, and the sense that fall is in the air. Leaves are already being to turn color and fall. It just doesn’t seem like we had as long of summer as usual. It must be global cooling? d) Major areas of burn from recent years I was surprised how often I would be hiking through major forest burns. They were very frequent in the desert, but also frequent as one moved north. Most of these burns happened within the last few years, and almost certainly related to bad forest management rather than “global warming”. There is a sense of eeriness or spookiness from walking through a burn area. I oftentimes think that I am seeing a person standing just off the trail when it is actually nothing but a tree stump. The more troubling aspect of walking through a burn area is that you are getting no shelter from the sky. Whether it be the sun or rain, trees are highly protective. When the trees are gone or burned, it is like walking through a desert. It’s just not fun. e) Record number of people injured or bailing from the trail. This issue probably relates to all the other issues above, especially with the snow situation. A number of my friends with whom I hiked were later removed from the trail because of injuries. I have heard of only several trail deaths yet, thankfully. The attrition rate secondary to so many factors was a little discouraging. It also created heightened worries from Betsy about me being injured. So, multiple factors led to a disappointing performance on my part.

What did I learn?

a) trust in God You don’t have much to think about when spending all day walking. I’m used to reading books, listening to music or audio lectures, watching a movie, or something of that sort. The trail removes one from electronic media and leaves a person alone to their thoughts. My thoughts usually would go to God. It might be thoughts of contemplating the beauty of God’s world, or praying for friends or family, or singing to myself a favorite hymn. Always, I was seeking God for strength to continue on my journey, and I feel confident that I could not have walked a thousand miles without His divine intervention. It is a lesson to continue leaning on the Lord for strength in all of life’s ventures. b) friends abound Almost everybody on the trail were friendly and helpful. It was a touch amazing that there was a sense of family and helping each other out while on the journey up the trail. In fact, while you may not be hiking with any specific person, there is what is known as the trail family associated with those people moving about the same pace as you and encountered by you in camp or in resupply towns. Many of these people I have stayed in touch with. c) backpacking style Ones’ backpack style of necessity must change while on the trail. Early on, most people that I encountered were doing ultralight packing. Once into northern California, Oregon and Washington, it was not unusual to see many folk backpacking in an older traditional way, with 50-60 lb packs, loaded as fully as possible and as much strapped on the outside of the pack as possible. At the Mexican border, I had a base weight of about 19 lb. Base weight is not well defined, but usually means the weight of all that you are carrying excluding food and water. People usually do not include the weight of your clothes or shoes. Things shed as I moved northward. Stuff sacks were seen as useless added weight. I left my wonderful ultralight camera at home in preference for using my iPhone for photos. I used trail running shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) instead of my standard hiking boots (I never got a single blister while using the Altras). Every fraction of an ounce was carefully reviewed. A 2.25 inch mini-Swiss army knife was used instead of the standard size 3.5 inch knife. At every town, I’d ask myself what else I could ditch, and then mail it back home. Hydration was another issue. I was using a 3 liter hydration pack which fit into my backpack. The problem was that I could never tell how much water I had left. When refilling the bladder, it was a challenge to remove the bladder to fill it, and if I’d fill it in situ, would never know if it was really full or not. So, I went with an outside hydration unit with a bladder, and kept a 1 liter SmartWater bottle for when my pack was off of me. Distances became different. Typically, I’d hike a 15 – 20 mile day, but got up to 28 miles when I was coming to a destination town. On flat roads such mileage is easy, but on the trail it was a concerted effort with minimal dilly-dallying to achieve those distances. Not that I would not enjoy the scenery, and a beautiful scene was an excellent excuse to stop and take a photograph. d) knowing my own personal limits Before this adventure, I had no idea what I could handle for a thru-hike experience. My expectations were uncertain and I could only guess at what my actual performance on the trail would be. In the planning phases, I definitely over-estimated my hiking strength and thought that I could carry on easily hiking 20 miles a day for weeks on end. I anticipated that I would acquire my “trail feet” within the first two weeks, and then proceed with bold abandon. I learned very quickly the virtue of a day a week rest, which became my norm. The Creator’s instructions include a day in seven with minimal activity and clearly He knows best for us. Why we always question His wisdom and instructions for our lives speaks poorly of ourselves and not of the Almighty. Any question about the problem of evil (theodicy) is overwhelmed by the statements and experience of His love, goodness, kindness, wisdom and caring for us as pitiful, rebellious creatures. Trail feet are a real entity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will go faster on your feet over time. For me, it meant that I could push myself a bit harder as time went on without becoming a total cripple. e) psychological effects of the trail The psychological effects of the trail are quite extreme. Can I do it? Will I die or require rescue in a long waterless stretch? Will the snow kill me? What in the Sam Hill got into my brain to even think about hiking the PCT? How will I contend with the monotony of every day for 150+ days waking up every morning, finding it nearly impossible to get out of the sleeping bag into the cold air, pack up all of your belongings, and then start walking, walking, walking, walking, walking. Will I reach an instance where I won’t be able to find a suitable camp spot and require to spend a sleepless night curled up in my parka and hugging a tree. Hunger combined with revulsion for food hits every moment of the day. Every part of the body hurts. The feet hurt. The ankles hurt. The hips hurt. The back hurts. The shoulders hurt. The hands hurt. The neck hurts. Mass quantities of ibuprofen only slightly alleviate the discomfort. Coupled with mosquito attacks (up north), a tipping point toward total insanity was not in the far distance. Then there are worries about back home. Will Betsy be ok? Is she surviving? Are there problems on the homefront that require my presence? Am I shirking my duties as a husband by torturing myself on the trail, even though Betsy has encouraged me to do this adventure? Perhaps she was just humoring me? Too many questions… too many episodes of skirting on the edge of insanity… I spent most of my life at a desk studying, talking to patients, reading and writing reports, or standing still at the operating table, worrying more about someone else’s life than my own. Now, I have transitioned from an essentially sedentary lifestyle to one of extreme physical activity and thought processes that pertain solely to personal survival. The contrast could not be more extreme. There were other aspects to the psychological effects of the trail. At the Mexican border, there was only one thought on my mind, which was that of walking straight to the Canadian border and then celebrating. The snow situation in the High Sierras made that an impossibility for me. I would need to flip flop and leap around. The discontinuity had a significant effect on my psyche. Then, I opted (because of snow conditions) to do some north to south hiking. This did not fit, since my brain kept telling me that I should be hiking north to Canada. Then the realization that I would not complete the PCT in one season further demoralized my efforts to persist. (Actually, that was the best realization to ever happen to me as I saw the craziness of feeling that a thru-hike MUST be in one season in straight continuity. So many of the older folk on the trail were breaking up the PCT into manageable sections and actually finding their hike pleasurable!). It was comforting to know that people were praying for me as I walked, yet, those prayers were for God’s provision, which I experienced with profound portions. My appreciation for all the prayer warriors that stood before God on my behalf.

Equipment Reviews

A) Backpack I used a ULA Circuit. It is a relatively light pack at 2 lb 9 oz, and I’ve appreciated how it was designed. My main complaint was the minimal padding of the shoulder straps. The straps tended to cut into my neck and after many months of use created fairly sharp shoulder pain. I tried to prevent this by keeping the pack weight down, yet even with a base weight of 16-18 lb, when one needs to carry 5-6 liters of water and 5 days of food, a heavy (up to 35 lb) pack is unavoidable. I will probably be switching to an REI Flash 55. It is a 2 lb 3 oz pack with nicer back and shoulder/hip belt strap padding, a nice design, and very comfortable on the back. B) Tent I started with a Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 Platinum tent. It was a fairly expensive tent and reasonably light at 2 lb 10 oz. I found that it is NOT a durable tent, and the fabric tended to easily tear. You needed a ground tarp. In foul weather, it was almost impossible to set up because a wet rain fly would not fold out easily and demanded exact orientation to place over the tent, which was challenging in high winds and heavy rains. The tent did not dry out quickly and tended to hold water. For some crazy reason, Big Agnes changed the size of the clips for attaching to the ground tarp and my tent clips did not match the ground cloth clips. So, the Copper Spur flunked, regardless of its cost and popularity. I went with a Z-Packs Duplex tent, weighing 1 lb 3 oz, very easy to set up, but needing two adjustable hiking poles. It is very spacious inside and the vestibules were spacious. Because it is NOT a free-standing tent, one could not use this tent on a concrete or rock slab. The only change that I would make would be to switch out the MSR mini Ground Hog stakes which were not substantial enough, and go with the regular MSR Ground Hog stakes. The guide lines holding the hiking poles especially need to be staked down very well, which the minis did not accomplish. C) Ground pad/pillow. I started with an Exped Synmat HL MW ground pad and Exped down pillow. The ground pad was VERY slippery and formed a rip in a seam the second night out on the trail. The third night out on the trail, the down pillow would not hold air any longer. I purchased an egg crate mattress (ThermaRest Z Lite Sol) and a Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Regular pillow in Warner Springs, and they have held up well. Later, I switched back to an air mattress, this time using a ThermaRest NeoAir Uberlight mattress. It immediately developed a slow air leak, and needed to be reinflated several times a night. It was also slightly slippery, necessitating careful choice of a camping spot without a slope. There are reasons I liked the egg crate mattress in that it could also be used during the day as a pad to sit/lay down on, and was not very slippery. It was less comfortable than an air mattress. D) Sleeping bag I used a Feathered Friends Flicker UL Wide quilt, which worked wonderfully. It could be opened up in warm weather and closed down in cold weather. Only once did I need to also use my down coat with it to stay warm at night. It stuffed nicely into a sea to summit 13 liter dry sack. E) Down Coat I used the Feathered Friends EOS jacket. I did not wear this jacket while hiking, but it was wonderful for the evenings and morning. I did not use the stuff sac but simply packed it around items in my back pack. It is a perfect down parka for backpacking. F) Shoes My main shoes were the Altra Lone Peaks. They are NOT a durable shoe and wear out at 300-500 miles of use. In spite of that, I had not developed a blister while wearing these shoes, making it worth it. They are super-comfortable, to the point that I saw no use in having flip flops or slippers to wear while at camp. I used the Merrill Moab 2 shoes for a short bit, hoping that their rigidity would permit better handling in snow. Within 50 miles, I had blisters on both feet, so quickly returned to the Altras. G) Clothing Nothing special here. I used a synthetic REI long sleeve shirt that buttoned up, REI Sahara convertible pants, ExOfficio briefs, Darn Tough socks, and OR Helium rain jacket. The Helium rain jacket was wonderfully light and effective at keeping out the rain, but had no arm pit vents, and tended to create sauna like conditions when hiking. It still remained my preferred rain protection. H) Hat I used an REI Sahara hat in the desert, and had wonderful sun protection, so that I rarely ever needed to put on sun screen. Elsewhere, I used my OR Seattle Sombrero, a hat wonderful for rain, sun and the like. It is a somewhat warm hat, so that it was slightly uncomfortable in very hot weather. I) Hiking Poles/Gloves I started with Black Diamond 110 cm poles, and needed to switch to an adjustable pole when I went with the Duplex tent. For that, I utilized Z-Pack poles. I always wore OR sun gloves, and found that many other people also utilized OR gloves with their hiking poles. J) Stove I used the JetBoil Flash Lite stove, and was most happy with it. It was light, I didn’t need to worry about carrying a pot, it had a dependable ignitor, and it was extremely efficient on fuel, with a small canister easily lasting 2-3 weeks. K) Garmin InReach This is a personal locator beacon (plb) which allows for an SOS rescue signal if I ever got in trouble, and also allowed others to regularly see exactly where I was on the trail. I could also send and receive messages. It’s only problems were 1) it was heavy, and 2) though it was a Garmin product, was incompatible with all the other Garmin products, including their maps. Shame on them. If I were to do it over again, I would have used the InReach mini because it is significantly ligher. I won’t buy another plb until Garmin corrects the issues mentioned with the InReach. L) UrSack For the desert, I did not worry too much about the little critters, and simply used a dyneema food bag with an odor-proof liner. Outside of the desert, I used the regular size UrSack. The UrSack offered me protection from rats, squirrels and chipmucks eating my food (a real and serious problem), and allowed that I did not need to hang my food, but instead, I stored my food in the tent vestibule. I used an odor-proof liner also with the UrSack. M) Thru-Pack The Thru-pack is a fanny pack designed by some dude in a cottage industry. It was perfect for backpacking. I debated long and hard before the hike as to how I would carry my iPhone. The iPhone was used constantly since it was my main map system. The Thru-Pack had a pocket that very securily held my iPhone, yet the iPhone was extremely easy to quickly access. I also stored small items like lip gloss, sun glasses, mosquito repellent, and small candies in the bag. N) Pocket knife Believe it or not, some people do not carry a knife on their thru-hike. I needed the knife mostly for the scissors in order to cut things like the LeukoTape for my feet to prevent blisters. Swiss Army produces a very small 2-1/2 inch knife that has only a blade and a scissors, with a few other minor implements. This was more than adequate and worked out well for me. O) Safety equipment I carried a small amount of repair items, such as tenacious tape (which I used on the Copper Spur tent), duct tape (never used), and a small sewing kit, which was never used. For medical safety, I carried a roll of LeukoTape, which was nearly always being used on my feet to prevent blisters. I also carried superglue, blister pads, mild narcotic pain meds, antibiotics, and a sleeping pill. None of the medications were used. P) Toilet sack The toilet sac was a small stuff sac kept on the outside of my pack with a small trowel to dig holes, toilet paper, hand sterilization gel, and a small zip lock for packing out the toilet paper. The trowel was ineffective at digging a hole in northwest soil, but did allow scrapping for covering up the poo. Q) Electronics My electronics was limited to my iPhone and the Garmin inReach device. I carried a 10,000 mAh battery backup as well as the necessary cables. I carried earbuds but ended up never using them. R) Phone case I used the LifeProof Fre upon the recommendation of Halfway Anywhere, and didn’t like it. It was protective, but made the iPhone difficult to use. I just didn’t need that much protection of the phone so went back to a regular iPhone case. S) Headlamp I started with the lightest cheapest Black Diamond headlight, and noted that the case would frequently pop open. A switch to a more substantial Black Diamond light solved that problem, even though it was slightly heavier. T) Hydration system I started with an Osprey 3 liter hydration reservoir. I liked it better than the Platypus or Camelbak products, but disliked that the reservoir sat inside your pack, leaving you clueless about how much water you had left and making it very hard to refill the bladder without emptying out your pack. Outside of the desert, I rarely needed to carry more than 3 liters, so utilized the outside side pockets of the backpack, which were meant for liter water bottles. Because I like hydration systems, I found a tube system for this purpose, exchanged the mouthpiece with the Osprey mouthpiece, and utilized a Platypus 1 liter very lightweight collapsible bag for this purpose. I always carried in addition a liter SmartWater bottle but drinking when my pack was off of me. So far, this system has worked out wonderfully. U) Food choices Food is not really equipment, but it is a necessary item that weighs a lot, so it is worth discussing. I felt that it was important to eat well on the hike, and so did not consider cold-soaking food seriously. I liked a warm meal at least once a day, and was willing to carry a lightweight stove for that purpose. The popular foods that hikers used like Top Ramen were all doctored to taste better. I would add freeze-dried vegetables and beef as well as sriracha sauce to improve the nutrition and flavor. I chose foods that would require minimal cleaning of dishes, since I often dry camped, and even when camped by water, would not feel like doing dishes. I started using lots of prepared meals like the Campbells or Pace prepared foods. These were a bit more heavy but offered reasonable tasting food at the end of the day. They would come in bags that could be crunched up and inserted into my stove pot with boiling water, let it sit for five minutes, and I would have a warm meal with warm water for a cup of hot chocolate. It couldn’t get any better than that!

Positive Good of it all?

a) personal health/weight loss I was down up to 25 lb during the hike, though that weight loss was at a time when I was also markedly dehydrated. The health benefits for my heart and overall fitness were balanced by the severe strain and abuse afflicted on the musculoskeletal system. I general, I would surmise that I gained a grand total positive health effect by my activity, though it is something that only time would tell. b) spiritual growth Hiking offers the hiker must time to contemplate, reflect, meditate, ruminate, and think over one’s self, the world, and the grand scheme of things. It was a time to spend in prayer and worship. On the negative side, my brain was often in a fog, so that reading had to be forced to happen. When I was not walking, I was either eating, writing my blog, or sleeping/trying to sleep. c) Betsy My absence gave Betsy time to learn how to manage house and home. We learned more than ever that even though we often need our “space”, long periods apart become difficult. I don’t think that I’ll ever intentionally plan for more than 4-6 weeks apart. Some folk may consider that short and some long. I don’t think I could give definite times since much depends our ability to stay in touch with each other even when we are not immediately face to face. d) new friends It is fascinating how one quickly develops friends on the trail. I have yet to meet someone who is a “jerk”. Some hikers are more reclusive and wish to mostly be to themselves, some can’t tolerate loneliness, some are Macho man (or Macho woman), some are flaming drunks (just one that I met), some are quite old and putting in few miles a day, others are young jackrabbits flying down the trail, but they all are friendly folk. Perhaps because we are all striving for a common goal, we form a “fellowship” that binds us together on the trail. e) rethink of my personal Wanderlust A year ago, I attempted to bicycle the TransAm, a bicycle ride that goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It was a true flaming failure, but it taught me much about tempering my expectations, and about planning for epic adventures. I would not call this year a failure at all, even though I was slightly disappointed about having to put the reality of the weather and trail conditions together with the ability of my body to endure hundreds upon hundreds of miles of sheer abuse. I believe that I got my Wanderlust out of my blood. No more attempts EVER for epic adventures. I wouldn’t mind filling in the gaps over the next few years in the PCT, like completing Washington and most of Oregon, doing the high Sierra, and other parts of northern California. I wouldn’t mind attempting the Colorado Trail. But, anything longer than 500-600 miles will not be performed. My body has spent most of its life behind a desk, reading or writing reports, or standing still in the operating room for hours, trying to avoid inflicting harm on oneself. Unlike most older hikers, I would do maybe 2 or 3 hikes a year in fair weather lasting only 2-4 days, and that was it. I’d come back as sore as imaginable and immediately return to a sedentary lifestyle. True, the last ten years of my life involved much long-distance bicycling, but that is using much different muscles, and MUCH less abusive on the body. As I write this, I’ve been off of the trail for 5 days, and yet I still ache seriously from head to toe. I’m not taking massive doses of ibuprofen any longer, and the body is really feeling it. I have competitive passions that cannot be partaken in while hiking. I love to read, I love to listen to classical music and watch opera, and I love to play my trumpet. Those activities take a true back seat on the trail. I love bicycling, but will probably never ride coast to coast or any really long distance. I’ve lost the desire to do that. With a friend, I wouldn’t mind hiking or bicycling in Europe (Betsy isn’t into that), but not for a long distance. I don’t even have the rage like I had in the past to travel to distant lands and far-away places. I think my Wanderlust has died. f) awareness of Huguenot Heritage Ministry Those who know me know that I tend toward strong passions. The work of Huguenot Heritage is one of those passions. When Betsy and I served in a hospital in extreme North Cameroon, we noted the desperate need for theological education in French-speaking Africa. Huguenot Heritage is filling that void, by providing Third Millenium materials in the French-speaking tongue. It is a vital ministry worthy of support. Several years ago, I mentioned to Francis Foucachon who runs the Huguenot Heritage of my plan to walk the PCT, and he seemed interested in seeing my walk function as a walk-a-thon. I was to do the hike last year, but then decided to attempt the TranAm bicycle ride and put off the PCT for a year. I didn’t realize that I was going from one horrible weather year on the east coast, to a horrible weather year on the west coast. It wasn’t until about February of this year that one realized the immensity of the snow situation on the west coast, yet I had already received my permit, and planned and packed 20 resupply boxes in order to attempt this adventure. While I realized soon enough that I (and almost everybody starting the hike) would not complete all 2652 miles, it was worth trying for as many as possible. I am a touch disappointed that I couldn’t get more miles in, but grateful that I was not brought home in a body bag, or needing rescue from the trail. I truly hope that the hike-a-thon spin on my trip helped bring enhanced awareness of Huguenot Heritage, and support for their work. It’s a strong conviction of mine than when I’m dead and six feet under, the church in Africa will be the center of Christianity. Christianity is dying in the west, but growing in Africa, and one of the main languages in the African church is French. Hopefully, we can see more seminaries and bible college in Africa, like the African Bible Colleges with distinguished theologians such as O. Palmer Robertson. Christianity and the Muslim religion clash in the north (Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, etc.) and so other means of accomplishing theological education for Christian pastors becomes necessary, and Huguenot Heritage fills that void. Please consider strongly support of this vital ministry.

The Future and Summary

So, what is my vision of the future for me and Betsy? a) playing trail angel Trail angels are those people who meet thru-hikers at various places where the trail crosses a road and is known to be in an area where outside contact from the trail is minimal. Typically, it’s a place where prior thru-hikers know that they would have gone a long distance without food or water resupply, and thus welcome ice-cold beverages or a snack to eat. Some trail angels tend to be more expansive when their house is close to the trail, such as at Hiker Heaven or Casa de Luna where the host family provides more extensive care and overnight capabilities for guests. Sadly, the two places just mentioned are closing this year, and we wait to see if there is any sort of replacement. Meanwhile, trail angels will provide sporadic “trail magic” which is unpredictable, but when present, is always welcomed by hikers. I don’t plan on doing this extensively. It’s a nice gesture, and in several areas of the desert, trail magic in the form of cold pop and other goodies saved the day and so were gratefully received by me. Trail angel-ing has become a preoccupation of many in towns, and there are separate Facebook pages for various trail angel groups. Much of their purpose has been to shuttle hikers from the trail to town and back. In fact, they really don’t serve totally as trail angels because they request (or should recieve!) payment for their services. As the PCT has become busier and busier, more people are getting on the trail less prepared for the task. Many do not adequately think out their resupply strategy and depend heavily on hiker boxes at the various places where resupply packages are mailed. Others hop around the trail quite casually, calling on the good nature of other folk to shuttle them around and about, to specifically allow their hike to be tailored to convenience. Many places on the trail demand hitchhiking to get to town and back, and that is awkward enough, but still different than asking people to go out of their way in order to service your whims and recreational pursuit. Betsy and I will be spending 03-08SEPT camped at Hart’s Pass and will have goodies for passing by hikers. We’re not sure how many hikers to plan for, but anticipate no more than 10 hikers/day coming through. I can envision occasionally going up to Chinook Pass with a cooler of soda pop, but other than that, I will focus on other activities to spend my time. b) Backpack conference I will be attending a Wilderness Medical Society Backpacking Medicine CME hike on 22-27SEPT. I’ll fly back to Lexington, KY where I will meet with Dr. Peter Tate, spend a few days with him, and then go together to attend this conference. I don’t need CME (continuing medical education) credit anymore since I am retired, but I still backpack and so would like to remain knowledgeable about what is the current standard for medicine in the wilds. c) volunteering for PCTA/WTA/MORA The initials are Pacific Crest Trail Association/Washington Trail Association/Mount Rainier (National Park). All three have volunteer slots for trail maintenance, which I enjoy doing. The PCTA does a phenomenally spectacular job with their volunteer vacations at making an enjoyable week of camping, doing trail work, and meeting other hikers. Because of the infirmities of my body, hard heavy lifting is no longer possible. I will probably shift toward volunteering mostly with MORA, doing things like trail walking, and giving advice to tourists lost or confused on the trails around the mountain. d) shorter adventures next year I would like to complete portions of the PCT, including the high Sierra and the northern aspect of the PCT from Snoqualmie to Canada. I’d also like to do the Timberline Trail again. The Olympics calls for me. I will probably do these trails solo but welcome others to come with if they are able to travel light. e) return to some bicycling I love cycling and would like to not only ride my bicycle on a regular basis, but also to do some touring. Maybe I’ll do something with Adventure Cycling next year, but will have to look at their tours and think about how I can mesh a cycle tour with my backpacking. I’d also like to consider how to lighten up my entire bicycle touring apparatus, similar to what’s happening with ultralight backpacking. f) car camping with Betsy Betsy and I will be car camping next week at Hart’s Pass, doubling up as trail angels. I hope that we could get away to the beach or elsewhere to spend some time just relaxing together in the woods. We have all that we need for that, save for the time and the initiative to get off our butts and out into the woods. I need to determine ways of making camping more comfortable and fun for her, but I’ll find out next week whether some of my ideas were successful. g) Overnighters with the grandkids I would like to eventually take each of the grandchildren individually out backpacking in the woods. Ethan happens to be next on the list, and hoped to do that this year, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully, next year? h) work with outdoor club at church Our church has a youth outdoor “club”, but I’ve not been involved with it. Perhaps in the future? i) more writings on conservation/the environment/wilderness ethic It is sad to say that writing related to the environment are generally poorly thought out, or solipsistic in their thinking. Now that the environment has become a political issue, it is guaranteed to be even less well thought out. Much of the writing on wilderness ethics is very self-centered—everybody should support wilderness, but please stay away and leave it for me alone to enjoy (i.e., since I am the only person that can truly “appreciate” wilderness)—sort of attitude. Leave no trace (LNT) thinking is great, but every human involvement in the wilderness leaves a trace. On my last venture, I was looked on very disapprovingly for leaving an apple core to rot in the woods. Soon, they will be telling us to pack out our feces! The Wilderness Act speaks of wilderness being an area untrammeled by man with no trace of man’s presence, yet man’s presence in the wilderness is “trammel-ment“, and trails are distinct traces of man’s presence, let alone structures built in the wilderness, a perfect example being the hut on top of Muir Pass! All of this is highly inconsistent. Perhaps the refusal to accept that this world is anthropocentric, that is, made (by a Creator) for man, with man’s responsibility to take care of his world. Wilderness ethic implies a sentient being which has the capability of appreciating beauty and acting on that appreciation, and so restricts the beings to man alone. j) home plans My favorite moments are the time I have with Betsy. We will soon be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary, and the memories are long and fond. Betsy tends to not be so adventure minded as myself, and is content to putzing around the house, working on various projects inside the house and outside in the garden. I have a mild love-hate relation to gardening; it’s fun once in a while, but not all the time. We’ve engaged in a number of projects, the latest being that of building a backyard small raised garden for vegetables. Betsy and I also enjoy watching movies together. We do not get any form of subscription tv services and do not get television in the home, but will watch movies. Currently, we are working through the Lost in Space series from the 1960’s. It is quite corny, but also very informative as to how greatly society has changed in 50 years. I love to watch operas on our big screen, and hope to soon work through Der Ring des Niebelungen again. I happen to be a Bach and Wagner addict. I love to read, and still have stacks of books waiting for my attention. I’ll be refreshing and advancing on my French instruction, and also trying to learn a little Spanish. I hope to return to regular practice on my trumpet. I am working on a 40th anniversary get-away with Betsy. She would like to visit Lost Vegas but still have our plans wide open. I have more stuff to do now that I’m retired than when I was working. C’est la vie!

1 Comment »
Aug 23
Looking down on Sheep Lake, Mount Adams is in the background

I tried to make this blog post up on WordPress on my iPhone, but somehow the program went bezirk. I was in Airplane mode since you don’t have cell phone service in the woods, but the program kept trying to upload my posts as well as past posts. It would stall for minutes, and then eat up 1% of my cell phone “juice” every 5 minutes. That is NOT a sustainable situation, so I deleted WordPress from the iPhone and wrote everything in Pages, converting it to a blog post when back at home.

19AUG Mile 2323-2337 (Martinson Gap) It’s now been a month off the trail, and I still feel beat up from the trail. Yet, the weather is beautiful, the mountains are calling, and I am missing the backpack life. I met a high school student on a volunteer trail maintenance project last year, Jacob Conner, and he wanted to do some of the trail with me, so we decided to do it together, with the fathers’ support. Ken Gill took me up to the trailhead, along with Sam, Ethan, and Liam. The kids walked in for about 3 miles before turning back and leaving Jacob and myself to our own devices. After ascending to Sheep Lake, the trail further ascended and coursed around the Crystal Mountain ski area, and then through a large burn area from several years ago. Because we were just starting out, we decided to take it easy today, and just walked 14 miles.

Betsy doing a conditioning walk with me on the Foothills Trail
The starting crew, including Ken, Ethan, Liam, Sam, me, Grandpa Bill, and Jacob

We had some interesting people pass us including Eleven, who I met in Hiker Town. We met a couple of hikers from Montreal who we stayed in contact with through to Snoqualmie Pass. We were able to have a very relaxed evening. 

Norse Peak Wilderness beauty
Mount Rainier partially hidden from the trail

20AUG Mile 2337-2352

I was in the trail at 6:40, a little later than usual, and Jacob followed a bit later. Eventually he passed me as he is a fairly strong and nimble hiker with a light pack weight. I met a few people of note including an elderly lady named Rhinestone, hiking alone, heading south and doing about 8-10 miles a day. She immediately volunteered that she was a Christian lady and spoke much to me about her faith and appreciation of God’s handiwork on the trail. She was working on short hikes supported by her husband until she could finish the entire Washington section of the PCT. Then there was Hotrod, another elderly geezer, who noted strongly that one should always hike their own hike and not be affected by the young ones sprinting at breakneck speed one the trail. Jacob and I met up at a water hole, then at Ulrich cabin where I was able to get more water, and stopped early at mile 2352 where there were nice campsites plus the last water for 12 miles. Since there were no good campsites for another 7 miles we decided to set up camp a little earlier than intended and had a relaxed evening, enjoying cigars together and celebrating my birthday. At Ulrich cabin there was a 25 yo hiker that had celebrated her 25th birthday just yesterday. It was birthday time on the trail.

Rhinestone
Ulrich Cabin

21AUG Mile 2352-2371

Jacob wished to have coffee before starting the trail so we didn’t get hiking until 7 am. The day started beautiful and cloudless, but soon clouds and drizzle moved in. There were some beautiful scenes when the clouds broke but it was mostly hiking in cool, cloudy and occasionally rainy weather. We were able to hike quite quickly and made it through the 12 mile “dry” section without a problem. Soon, the rain became more persistent and the hills more demanding. I realized that though I wished to put in more miles I also wanted to have my tent up before I became completely soaked. So, we stopped at 19 miles where I had originally planned.  It felt like fall was truly in the air.

Misty day
Mountain beauty
A clue as to where you could find water
Jacob as spry as ever

22AUG Mile 2371-2393

It rained all through the night. I had my tent closed up and noted some condensation inside the tent. I also realized that my “mini” tent stakes were quite adequate for the desert but completely inadequate for the Northwest soil, so will swap out and use regular MSR stakes. I got up a little earlier and headed out with a very wet tent rolled up. I fortunately was dry as well as my sleeping bag. For the third night now, my sleeping pad, a ThermaRest Uberlight was half deflated and needed re-inflation at least once in the night. I think that I’m going to take it back and get a slightly smaller but more substantial sleeping pad. But, in my summary to follow, I’ll do a more complete summary of my equipment. We wished to reach Snoqualmie Pass by 4 pm and had 22 miles to hike. At first I led the way until Jacob caught up and dashed ahead at Mirror Lake. The trail from Mirror Lake was very rocky and not easy to hike through, so I dropped from a 2.5 – 3 mph rate to about 2 mph and ended up with considerable pain in the ankles. But, it was good to see Jacob, his mom, and his little brother. 

Stampede Pass in the mist
Beautiful Mirror Lake
Looking down on I-90

At this point, I had to make a major decision. First, I realized that I could not keep up with Jacob and that he had a time constraint in that he wished to get to Stehekin by 01SEPT, which I could not do. Secondly, with the body aches, especially in the neck, I wasn’t finding the hiking enjoyable, in fact, it was more a matter of constantly suppressing the pain, which usually started about 10 miles in for each day. If I was averaging about 15 mile days like most of the older geezers I passed, then all would be ok. But, this rate of hiking did not fit into what I could handle. I knew that the trail had won and that I really needed to fold in for the season. I had hiked a grand total of 1002 miles of the PCT this year. I am glad to have gotten the most challenging section over with (the desert), and would like to complete other sections of the trail in years to come, though at a slower pace than what I’ve been doing this year. Like Rhinestone, I would like to complete the Washington section of the PCT, do more of the Oregon and northern California PCT, and possibly even do the high Sierra. I will have the advantage of selecting optimal times to do each of these sections in the years to come. It just isn’t going to happen this year. My attitude toward epic adventures, whether on a bicycle or on foot, has come to an end. I will no longer seek for adventures that remove me from home for more than a month. ,,

There is a disappointment in this ending. I would have liked to have hiked more of the trail this year. As a fund-raiser hike-a-thon for Huguenot Heritage, I would have liked to complete a greater part of my commitment. If I physically could have, I would have. But, it just wasn’t possible. This was one of the worst years possible to commit to the PCT. First, there were record snowfalls from central Oregon south all the way to the Mexican border. Because of the late snow melts and massive water content, there were record hordes of mosquitoes. You already know how I felt about mosquitoes. Thirdly, the summer was unusually short, with fall settling in earlier than usual. The one aspect of the hike that was excellent was the desert, which was unusually green. The rivers and creeks that supply water for the hikers were flowing at a time when they are often dry, making water more available than other years. So, I am grateful for many aspects of this adventure. 

4 Comments »
Aug 04

A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, by John Frame ★★★★

Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heißem Bemühn.
Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor…

from Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe perhaps best summarizes my feeble investigations into philosophy, law, medicine, and theology, all studied with great zeal, and yet still left feeling like a fool. I thoroughly appreciate Frame’s approach to the history of western philosophy and his merger with theology, as they both breech similar questions and topics of thought. Oftentimes Frame is verbose, oftentimes terse on a subject in discussion. It is impossible to provide a thorough single-volume text to match the magisterial works of Copleston or Windelband. Frame is a philosopher in the school of Kuyper/van Til, though he makes it clear that he is not a rigid vanTilian. For that reason, I have a deep respect for Frame. Frame offers a fly-over view of western philosophy, starting a usual with the Milesians of ancient Greece and ending with modern deconstruction. Frame is always most kind, sometimes too kind when someone deserves to be attacked, such as the modern deconstructionists. Yet, perhaps Frame feels (as I do) that modern philosophy is more a passing fad than a system of thought to be taken seriously.

Frame takes and runs with the vanTil notion that all thought ultimately is defended by circular reasoning, and thus a defense of Christianity demands a position of Scripture as a presupposition and not as a possibility to be explored and argued as true simply through the use of reason. Yet, all belief systems are circular. The rationalists will use reason to defend their case. Like vanTil, the creator/creature distinction must constantly be held, and that the idea of God speaking to man (through Scripture) is a starting point and a given, and not something that you reason into.

More than 40% of the book is added on at the end in the form of multiple appendices, essays that Frame has written over time and now waiting to be published in a philosophical context. Frame might have served the reader better by offering an explanation before each essay as to setting in which the paper was written.

Frame is very kind. As an example, Frame has many disagreements with Gordon Clark, yet emphasizes what Clark truly got right, and how Clark was perhaps misjudged in the vanTil/Clark controversy. After each chapter of text, there is a review of terms and names, as well as questions to stimulate thought; these questions would be invaluable if one were reading the text for a course. I happen to have read it mostly for my own enjoyment and pleasure, and thus did not constipate myself with deeper philosophical ruminations. I also have this book given as a set of lectures in a course given by Dr. Frame. I will soon be applying myself to listening to Frame philosophize. So far, I find that he is easier to listen to than to read.

Do I recommend this book? Yes of course! John Frame has a brilliant mind and thinks well. I appreciate Frame’s perspectives on philosophy and theology. I would hope that the reader interested in philosophy will also find this text thought-provoking and a delight to read.

Tagged with:
3 Comments »
Aug 01

Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, by JI Packer ★★★★

I have now reviewed a number of Packer texts, and this will probably be the last for a while. Why would I read this book, a very toned down, brief summary of theology themes, when I have already took Packer’s in-depth course on systematic theology? Simple. It’s one of Packer’s texts that I haven’t read yet, and plan on using it as a book that I could refer other to in seeking for texts in classic Reformed theology. Packer is Anglican, ordained in the Anglican church, yet whose theology was formed by the Puritans and the Westminster Confession, of which he freely admits in the preface of this text. In 94 very short chapters, Packer offers a summary of many of the themes of theology. Packer’s skill is that of taking very complex theological issues and making them very simple. His longest two chapters are only 5 pages long, and they are on the church and on baptism. The book summarizes Packer’s thinking quite nicely, while also giving the reader a sense of how Packer handles hot (controversial) issues, which is, in a very gracious fashion. Thus, even Arminians might read this text and find disagreement but will feel that Packer is hard to disagree with. Throughout are little theological gems that make JI shine. It’s a book worth reading, even if you know your theology.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
preload preload preload