Man, this is a tough post to make, but I am going to put this entire venture on hold.
I spent two nights at Colorado Bend State Park on a solo trip this past weekend and I had a lot of time to think out there.
The trip was great and I really got some gear and routines starting to dial in, but the time has come to step back and take myself out of the running for a thru hike this year.
A lot of factors went into this decision.
One of my main reasons for hiking the PCT was to better appreciate my off-trail life. I realized that the last year or so of my life that I’ve been planning for the thru hike has also been one of the best years of my marriage, career, and just life overall. I don’t see any reason to disrupt it right now.
Also, when I got back from Colorado Bend, I found out that my company was going through a massive transition and was laying off a sizeable portion of our employees. I am safe for now, but my work situation went from a great time to leave and hike to suddenly a horrible time to leave. I wasn’t going to have a leave of absence, so I would have had to quit and then come back and hope to get re-hired. Suddenly that seems like a much slimmer possibility.
There were other factors in play as well, but the bottom line is that now is just not the right time to attempt this.
I may decide to attempt a thru in the future or I may just section hike and take bites out of the trail over the years. There are tons of people who section hike the long trails over time and that also allows you to cherry pick sections during specific weather windows and times of year, which allows you to appreciate those parts of the trail at their best.
I’m still coming to grips with all of this, but for now, I’m staying put and continuing to visit national parks and hike as much as possible.
Thanks to anyone and everyone that supported me through the preparation for this crazy dream and I’m sorry that you won’t be able to follow along with the adventure. When and if I make further decisions, I’ll post it here.
Thanks again for believing in me.
Saturday, February 1, 2020
Went out for my first solo overnight on Saturday and it started off well, but didn’t end in spectacular fashion. I hiked in 4.5 miles from the Cedar Breaks Trail Head, as I have multiple times before. The guy at the gate said I was the only overnighter to have checked in so far when I got there around 3pm, so I was hoping to have my pick of campsites.
Twas not to be. When I arrived 1.5 hours later, there were about a dozen people already setting up camp. I inquired as to where they came from and it turns out they had entered the trail from a non-official trail head a couple of miles back. Not a huge deal, as I still scored a decent site by the lake, but I’m somewhat of a stickler for rules at times. To be fair, this site doesn’t require reservations.
I set up camp quickly and the sun started to go down around 6. My tent was fantastic. Easy to set up and very cozy. I didn’t feel too closed in (I’m used to at least a 2 person tent) and I discovered a few new interior pockets to store gear in.
I didn’t end up using my stove for dinner, as I ate a large late lunch right before I headed out, so I wasn’t super hungry and just downed a protein bar instead.
I will say, I was bored. I brought a book (which I will not be doing on trail) and also had good cell signal, so I basically read a bit and tooled around on the internet for 3 hours after the sun went down before going to bed at 9pm (also known as hiker midnight).
I learned overnight that I am a cold sleeper. The temps only got down to the low 40s, but my feet were numb. I am used to sleeping with Courtney and the two dogs when we camp, so being solo, I didn’t have the advantage of those warm bodies and I guess I need a bit more warmth than I thought.
Clearly I don’t have my quilt and sleeping pad system fully dialed in. I’m going to practice this at home over the next couple of weeks. Also, I bought some down socks to wear at night and I’m also going to put my sit pad under my feet for some extra insulation, as well as stuffing my extra clothes sack down by my feet when I sleep. Hoping this will do me well.
I tried sleeping on my side, but I woke up every hour or so with sore shoulders, so on the advice of my PCT buddy Mac, I’m going to practice sleeping on my back only. He said I’ll get used to it. I tend to sleep on my back sometimes anyway, so I don’t think this will be a huge adjustment.
By 6am I was praying for the sun to come up. I was cold and on very little not great sleep. I kept my pack under the vestibule of the tent, so it stayed dry, but my rainfly was soaked and my camp shoes as well. Not a big deal, but I think if I had been further back from the lake, maybe I could have avoided some condensation.
It’s all a learning process. Even after 7 years of hiking and camping, there is still a ton to learn, especially when it comes to back country camping. I’m looking forward to learning more when I get out on the trail!
January 23, 2020
Two months, or 8 weeks, until I start from the border. And February is a short month, so really, 59 days.
I watched the 2019 PCT Water webinar last night (for the second time) and also the 2019 Sierra webinar. These are both invaluable resources for hikers on how to use the water report (www.pctwater.com) and also just general thru hiking strategy and safety tips.
I don’t think people realize what a logistical challenge this endeavor is, at least if you want to be smart and safe about it. That is one of the more attractive things about the PCT to me. It reminds me of my tour managing days. Plan, but be flexible. It’s a weird skill that I actually do very well when I want to.
Ok, that’s all I got. Just wanted to document the negative 2 month mark!
January 20, 2020
Did another full pack hike today out at River Place Nature Trail and my hip belt was great. Only 6.5 miles, but a ton of stairs and elevation gain (for Texas). All things considered, I felt great and it was, as the kids say, cake.
I think the last hike I was wearing my pack way too high. It was resting at the top of my iliac crest instead of being centered on it, which I think caused the massive chafing. I should have known better, but for some weirdo reason I didn’t.
I’m also posting this from the mobile app, since I need to start getting used to posting from the trail. So far it is taking forever to load just the first three photos. I’m not on WiFi, but still, not super promising.
The water was flowing a bit and it was a very pretty January day. Luckily it was a Monday (MLK Day) so the neighborhood association wasn’t collecting the $10/person/pet troll toll.
I’m posting this on Tuesday and am actually a bit sore. Gotta keep up the longer hikes. 61 days from Campo!
Sunday, January 12, 2020
This will be one of the main trails I use for training the next couple of months. The entire thing is a 26 mile loop around the lake. Today I did about 9.5 miles total, out and back.
I went out with a full pack and a couple of pieces of gear that I hadn’t tested yet. The main one being my new Gossamer Gear shoulder strap pocket. I bought the medium one first, which said it would fit iPhone X models, but I guess they didn’t mean X’s with cases. I upgraded to the large version and it works great. Phone with case fits easily and my inReach Mini rides in the front mesh pocket, while my earpods (with their own waterproof case) hang off the side on a carabiner. I also brought my umbrella for the first time, but didn’t use it.
I also tried out a different anti-chafing element on my hips and I don’t know if it was the balm or a combo of other factors, but my hip bones got WRECKED on this hike. I’ve gone 10 miles with a full pack before and never had it this bad. I really hope this won’t be the new normal, as I might have to get a whole new pack. They don’t really hurt now, but they are bruised to hell. I’ll spare y’all the pics.
I’m going to get a pack shakedown this week from my buddy Mac, so maybe that will help some, though I don’t think weight is the problem. Mac might be going for his Triple Crown this year with the CDT (Continental Divide Trail). He’s already hiked the AT (Appalachian Trail) and PCT, so just has the CDT left.
The hike itself was great. It’s a super warm January so far. The high as I type this in my office today is going to be almost 80. Here’s a video and a few pics. Good wildlife on this hike.
Oh! Side note, I got approved for my Canada entry permit! Guess I did everything right. So now I just need my California Campfire Permit, which I can get online and I’m done with permits!
Saturday, January 4, 2020
Ian, Court, Biff, and Finn
We went out to my parent’s cabin near La Grange over the weekend and took the dogs out on one of our favorite hikes nearby at Buescher State Park. Part of the park burned a few years back and the trails haven’t been completely restored yet, but it’s still a good 6 mile loop.
It wasn’t much of a training hike, as I just had my regular day pack, but it was good to get out in the nice January weather and get a hike in regardless. Every mile counts!
I also got my first hike with my new insoles (Superfeet Green) that were recommended by my sports doctor when I went to get my feet x-rayed to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture. All was clear, but he told me my feet are a bit flat and those insoles should help in the long run. They felt fine, but I think I’ll have to size up when I get my new pair before the PCT. Hoping my feet don’t swell too too much because I think La Sportiva doesn’t make the Ultra Raptors in anything bigger than 47.5 and I’m at 47 now.
I’m also riding and working out on our Peloton at home 3-4 times a week, as well as doing core, lower body, arm, and full body work outs. I’m going to start adding some meditation. I bought Court the Peloton last Christmas and it really is awesome. We both use it almost daily. Highly recommend.
Now we’re all going to be like the Gatsbys right? With the beginning of the New Year, this hike is starting to get really real. I had a dream last night that I was starting at the Mexican border with a couple of practice hikes, but that won’t be the case. Once I get started, it’s on!
I’m going to ramp up the training this month and of course make sure I’ve got all my gear odds and ends sewn up. Among other things, I need to seam seal my tent to make sure it is fully water proof. Also, I’m taking a wilderness first aid course through REI at the end of February.
I need to find time on the weekends to get out and do some solo overnights to really test my gear and of course get used to being on my own. I’ll probably try to hit Lake Georgetown and maybe a state park or two, though the weather may dictate some of it. It’s been a pretty mild winter so far and it would be nice if that continues, but I have a feeling it might not last.
I’m hoping to get the blog to a point soon where I’m happy with the basic content. I’m sure it will continue be a work in progress though.
Til we meet again!
Friday, December 13, 2019
I went to FedEx Office the other day during my lunch break and scanned the required documents (ID, Passport, and 2 pages of application) for my permit to enter Canada at the Northern Terminus of the PCT.
The terminus and Monument 77 are pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so there’s not a manned border crossing. It is illegal to enter Canada from the US via the PCT without this permit. Canadian Government doesn’t mess around, as I learned back in my tour management days, when I almost got denied entry at Niagara Falls going to Toronto. I was 27 or so at the time and had an incident of youthful indiscretion way back when I was 17, but they were well aware and took me back into the back office to question me. Luckily I didn’t lie to them and they decided to let me in.
This permit had some very specific rules (ALL CAPS ONLY, for example) and the word is if you make one mistake they reject it and you have to start all over. Pretty sure I did everything right. I’ll find out in 8 weeks or so apparently.
I think it’s kinda nuts that you have to apply to cross the border 8-10 weeks before the START of your hike, even though you won’t be crossing for another 7 months or so.
Anyway, one more step accomplished for my pre-hike prep. I’m a little over 3 months out from my start date. Still a bit terrified.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
March 23, 2020. That’s my start date from Campo, California on the US-Mexico border. This blog will serve as my journal and a way for friends and family to track my progress and join in the adventure.
A quick note on how I got here. I started hiking regularly in 2013 and have been following PCT hiker blogs (and other trails – AT, CDT, Te Araroa, etc) ever since. However, the PCT has always been the trail that has captured my imagination.
I don’t know exactly when I finally decided I was going to seriously attempt a thru-hike, but I’m going to say it was somewhere around 2016 or 2017. Since then I’ve been gathering gear, going on hikes, and mentally preparing for this epic adventure and now that I have my permit, it’s starting to get real.
I applied for my permit from a small lodge on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park on October 29th. That was the first day the permit application portal was open for 2020 and I happened to be in Yosemite for the wedding of two of my best friends.
It was a nerve-wracking morning, as I was placed in a virtual queue on the website with several thousand people (it ended up being far fewer) all vying to get permits themselves. I was logged in on three different browsers, giving myself three virtual spots in line. My best spot was 3,264. Didn’t seem like great odds, considering there are only 50 spots per day available (35 until January) on each day. However, when my turn finally came up 2.5 hours later, the day I was planning on, March 23, still had 6 spots available.
I filled out my info, submitted, and received confirmation a couple of weeks later that I was good to go.
The blog right now is in it’s infant stages, so the layout and content will evolve in the next few months. I will include posts on my training, any additional gear purchases and testing I do, and anything else leading up to my start date that seems interesting. Once on trail, I don’t intend to blog every single day, as some of the blogs I’ve followed in the past have tried to do. I feel that’s a way to get burned out. Indeed, many of those blogs started strong and then somewhere around Northern California or Oregon they started to fade out and the updates were less frequent, if not altogether absent. I will certainly try to blog as often as possible in order to maintain a good record of my trek and also to keep friends and loved ones apprised of where I am and what I’m doing.
Finally, I want to give a big shout out to Rozanne, aka MukMuk (PCT 2013), for being one of my main inspirations. Her blog was (and still is) a great source of information, wisdom, entertainment, and just an overall wonderful expression of life on the trail. I gave a wink and a nod to her blog with the title of this site. Thanks Muk!