May 09

09MAY2021  The PCT trail awaits me. I leave in 50 days.

I plan to return to my mission of eventually hiking through the entire Pacific Crest Trail, section hiking it over several years’ time. I would have preferred to have thru-hiked the trail in a single season, which I attempted in 2019. That ended up in an aborted mission for a number of reasons, the greatest being that it was a very high year for snow, and most of the people that I hiked with were either flip-flopping or dropping out. I ended up skipping around a bit, and yet the snow still seemed to be a deterrent issue, either from failure to melt creating dangerous conditions or from recent melting causing the number of mosquitos (misery) to be intense.

This year, I hope to do several sections. I plan on starting from Walker Pass and working my way up to Donner Pass. I am not totally decided on whether to go from Donner Pass to Old Station this year, being that resupply may be slightly problematic. If I skip Donner Pass to Old Station, I will jump up to Castle Crags (Castella, I-5) and proceed up to Callahans (I-5 in Oregon/Ashland). After coming home, I would like to complete further sections of Washington State. I have changed my plans a number of times in the past few months. Should I resupply over Kearsarge Pass/Independence, or push on? Should I stop at Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) or go another day and resupply at Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR)? VVR is much more friendly to thru-hikers, but is slightly more off of the trail, and demands yet another mountain pass and 20 more miles of hiking, which is added on the 156 miles you’ve already gone from Kennedy Meadows South without a resupply. Should I stop at South Lake Tahoe, which demands a hitch-hike to and from the trail, or should I do a limited resupply at the Echo Lake Resort? Other decisions will probably be best made while on the trail.

Many further decisions await me in the weeks ahead. Exact equipment remains a question. I’ve tried out several other packs and love the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I’ve strongly considered switching stoves but ultimately decided on sticking with the JetBoil stove that I’ve used before. It heats water faster, uses less fuel, handles wind better, and only weighs a few ounces more than the more popular trail stoves. It is not as good of a cooking stove since you cannot simmer the heat, but then I generally do minimal cooking on the trail outside of heating up water or cooking Ramen noodles. How should I carry my bear canister? Inside or outside of my pack? What foods am I going to prefer to eat, knowing that one’s appetite seriously changes while on the trail? Questions, questions, questions.

Because I am going to be hitting a more challenging portion of the trail immediately after starting, I realize the importance of getting into trail shape. I plan on doing an overnighter or two. I will continue to run (more like… 1-2 mph crawl) up trails in the area at least 2-3 times a week. Hopefully, that will also get my excess weight down, and it seems to be working. This activity has also been fun and has allowed me to explore a lot of new trails in Western Washington.

Assembly of resupply boxes has occupied some of my time. It is hard to predict exactly what is going to be needed for each new segment of the trail. So, you over-plan a little bit, knowing that some of your goodies will be left in a hiker box. Too much of anything can become nauseating on the trail, and balance is most important. A person’s physiology changes drastically while on the trail. In 2019, I discovered that I was getting profoundly hypotensive, which ended when I stopped my anti-hypertensives and stayed only on aspirin and a few general vitamins. Like many hikers out there, aches and pains force one to consume mass quantities of vitamin i, ibuprofen.

I will not be doing hike-a-thon activities this year.  In 2019, I was participating in a hike-a-thon for Huguenot Heritage, an organization that is dear to my heart and worth hiking for. We did not coordinate well enough the development of a support structure, were late at setting up the structure for raising support, and then struggled with a terrible year to actually hike the trail (because of snow). Because this year is going to be piecemeal, it will add to the complexity of raising support. So, I am not going to engage this as a possibility for Huguenot Heritage or any other worthy organization.

Betsy has been my greatest support through all of this and has put up graciously with my adventure. She does not share my passion for the trail, preferring to engage in gardening and home pursuits. I am able to reassure her of my personal safety through the use of new technology, the personal locator beacon (plb). I have my Garmin InReach mini set to send a satellite signal every 30 minutes while I am on the trail, identifying my location. Thus, she is able to see my progress as I move further and further north. I am also able to send her messages via satellite, and she is able to send messages in return. As an aside, a few people will be receiving my daily plb notifications. PLEASE DO NOT respond unless it is vitally important or an emergency: each response takes up electrons on my device and I don’t have a wall socket at night to recharge anything. I will be up to 11 days away from the ability to recharge my devices. Back to Betsy. Part of the rationale for me section hiking rather than doing a pure thru-hike is that I will still have a moderate amount of time this summer with Betsy. She just happens to be my most favorite person in life, and life on the trail is always thinking of her.  She also contributes to my hiking by mailing resupply packages at the appropriate times, and for dropping me off and picking me up from the train station. Bless her soul for helping me.

I will be departing to Walker Pass with much less anxiety than in the year 2019. By now, I am most familiar with the routine of thru-hiking, waking up before dawn, sometimes heating up a cup of coffee, taking down the tent and packing your pack, taking off on the trail, singing the doxology, gloria patri and Constantinopolitan creed, walking for 2-3 hours at a time before stopping to rest, eating food that would normally be completely unacceptable off the trail, constantly watching your Guthooks app to make sure that you are on track, going occasionally to the point of exhaustion before stopping, setting up camp, cooking supper, settling in the sleeping bag, killing all the mosquitos that happened to stray into the tent, writing the day’s trail blog, and then quickly drifting off to sleep. Each day repeats itself with new segments of the trail, new challenges, new discoveries, new horizons, new vistas, new photographs. Someday (soon?) I will have reached an age that will no longer permit me to go long distances on the trail. It’s hard to know when that day will come. Until then, I keep my head held high and walk with a thankful spirit that God has granted me the ability to do what I am doing. Cum deo ambulo. Deus mecum et vobiscum!

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