Saturday, May 31, 2014

Getting Rid of Some Weight - Take 1

As a thru-hiker from the minute you put your pack on and walk your 1st mile. You are already brainstorming on how to make your pack lighter. Is there anything I really don't need? Are there things I'm not using that I could send ahead to myself? How uncomfortable would I be without XYorZ? Luxury item or necessity?
It's an evolving process and involves being able to let go of the very few items you carry on your back that you may become attached to or on the other spectrum despise because of the discomfort of the extra weight it adds.

I haven't gone a lot into description about my gear and/or specific weight items. But I will just a bit here. Starting out I wanted to have my base weight down to 18 pounds. I started at 22 pounds. That's four pounds to shed somewhere. Your base weight is things that you always carry with you, it's the constant that never changes. Unlike food, water, and other resupply items that fluctuate day to day. Also your total pack weight should never be heavier then a 1/3 of your total body weight. For me that's 46.5 pounds. Starting out on day 1 my pack fully loaded with 6 days of food and 20 miles worth of water (the first day is a bear with no water resupply for 20 miles) was 50 pounds. 3.5 pounds too heavy then I should ever carry.

Water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter on Day one I started with 5.5L that's 12 pounds of water. So you learn how to carry the bare minimum of water to make you comfortable and safe. For me that's 1L for every 5 miles in the desert and an extra 1.5L if I would be camping without a water source nearby. I've learned if I drink 1L for every 5miles I stay well hydrated and haven't had any bouts of dehydration yet. Also if it is super hot desert day and water is far between I may carry an extra .5-1L of electrolyte drink with me. To me downing a liter of electrolytes is like receiving a liter of normal saline (yes that's the nurse in me) and literally it perks me right up when feeling beat from the heat.

Food...when I resupply I eat my heaviest items first. Also still in the early stages of learning what I need, so far I made it to my resupply #1 with just the right amount. If I pick up mileage, eventually I may need less food, if I have less days between resupply. I love food it's my passion and I'm determined to have the best food on the no skimping here and no hungry bellys in my tent.

Now on to the big 3: shelter, sleep system, and pack, these are the 3 heaviest items you will carry, the should be a cumulative weight less than 9 pounds.
My pack: Dueter ACT Lite 60+10, 3lb 12oz
My sleep system: North Face Cat's Meow Women's Long, Sea-to-Summit silk liner and compression sack, 3lb
My tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2, 1lb 15oz (not counting tent stakes)
For a grand total of 8lb 11oz.
My pack is a little on the heavy side and my bag is on the heavier side as well, I'm happy with both right now, but if I need to replace either, I would look for a pack about a pound lighter and a bag about a pound lighter.

So what did a shed for weight my first go round? My Crocs, replaced by lighter weight cheap flop flops (thanks to Dale's suggestion at Mt Lagunas Outfitters), extra tent stakes and the tent stake bag, a bungee holding my thermalite sleeping pad together (I had 2 I got rid of 1), a 250g backup fuel canister, replaced by a 100g canister (I'm still on my 1st 100g canister and it's been 10 days) and last but not least one pair of underwear. (I did leave myself 1 pair-but honestly wearing underwear went out the door on day 2- sorry if it's TMI for some of you, but I'm sure lots of people-woman especially want to know). So everything individually weighs nothing, but add it all up and I probably got rid of just over a pound of weight. There are other things that once I run out of I won't replace, like my backup batteries for my headlamp, my facial sunscreen (just 1 will do the job) and once my feet toughen up I can lighten my 1st aid kit a bit. So that's what I got for round 1, I'll update you again once I let some more things go.

All sent home to shed weight.

Friday, May 30, 2014

My 1st Zero-Day 10

I did not start out the day with intentions of taking a zero, but it just happened that way.

I spent the night camped outside Paradise Valley Cafe, in order to have breakfast and find a ride to Idyllwild, there is a section of the PCT that is closed due to wildfires last year. In order to avoid road walking majority of hikers are hitching from Paradise Valley Cafe to Devils Slide Trailhead in Idyllwild. Devil's Slide is a 2.5 mile climb up to the PCT at the saddle junction of PCT mile 179.4.

While I was enjoying my breakfast and catching up on texts with friends and family, a local woman, Lou, was having breakfast with her husband, Larry, and friend, John, started chatting with me and asking about myself and the hike. Without even asking, a ride was offered and I graciously accepted. 

Cyndy my awesome server from yesterday and accommodating host was also my server this morning. I, of course, asked for a picture. And graciously thanked her for everything.

Cyndy and I-Paradise Valley Cafe

My good old American Breakfast.

Larry and Lou and their friend John and I all hopped in the truck. John was dropped off at his place down the road and Larry and Lou brought me up to Idyllwild-the fabulous trail angels they were, gave me a quick tour of town and dropped me off at the post office per my request. We exchanged hugs and well wishes and I was on my way.

My intention was to spend half a day in Idyllwild then hit the trail mid afternoon for  a late day/evening hike.

1st stop Post Office to shed some trail weight...see Getting Rid of Some Weight Take 1 post to follow. Postman told me to make sure I checked out the local library next door, free used books for hikers and to check out Nomad Ventures, the local outfitters in town.

2nd stop pharmacy...loading up on fixing the feet and keeping free of infection 

I don't typically use OTC pain relievers but I have been taking ibuprofen before I go to bed as an anti inflammatory and to help with the foot pain. I didn't take any last night because I ran out and I didn't sleep well at all. Until things settle with my feet, I'll continue my once daily dose of Vitamin I.

Then I went to Nomads to exchange my propane canister for a smaller one (another weight reducing measure). The guys in the store were super friendly and happy to see another thru hiker. They had me take my pack off and sit down and chat and hang out for a bit. I had Greg who is a local climber and backpacker look at my feet and right away suggested a few things: wool socks and taking a few days off. "You mean you wouldn't hike today?" I asked, "No way" and Clark and the other guy in the store agreed. We all agreed nothing looked infected, so after some discussion  I was convinced to take a zero. Hard to accept at first, but glad I did in the end. I also bought a thin wool sock to try it for it's wicking capacity. 

So after I came to peace with my zero day I enjoyed what Idyllwild has to offer, a mocha at the Higher Ground Coffee House, a sandwich at Nature's Cafe, my free book from the library, some kombucha and salt and pepper kettle chips from the health food market. My $3 campsite at the state park, a special rate for thru-hikers, and my $1 5-minute hot shower. Today was the first shower I had in 10 days!!! Oh yeah and some FaceTime with my brother, Eric, who's currently in London and FaceTime with Dad, Mom and my Izzy girl.


I met Dawson, another thru-hiker outside the library eating a half gallon of ice cream straight out of the container. I said "Oh yeah! Your hiking with Sandra, right? You guys have been right ahead of me in the trail logbooks." Sure enough Dawson and Sandra! They're thru-hiking for 3 months as Dawson is a school teacher and will go as far as 3 months will take them. They took a zero yesterday and were getting a ride from trail angel David this afternoon to Devil's Slide trailhead. David gave me his number and said he'd be happy to give me a ride in the morning if I needed a ride to the trailhead.

Something also really cool happened today. As I was checking into the state campground and signing the PCT logbook, a park ranger came up to me and asked if I would mind having my photo taken for an article she was writing on thru-hikers. I told her I would love too. She came down to my campsite and we chatted for a bit and she interviewed me about my journey and we took some pictures. She (Julie) is a journalist from New Zealand who's been in Idyllwild for the past 9 months working part time in the park and is free lancing and writing this article for a local Riverside paper. I was happy to share my story with her and others. She agreed to send my info once it's published.

Idyllwild is an awesome place to take a zero, the locals love thru-hikers and are willing to help out and also just sit and have a conversation with you with genuine interest. Local restaurants all have welcome PCT Hikers on their doors and most offer 10% discounts. A happy day in my books!!! And thank you everyone for your words of encouragement.

PCT day 9

Day 9
21.65 miles
PCT mile marker 151.9

I was eager to get to Paradise Valley Cafe, to get my new shoes and socks. I did however have a hard time getting up, mainly just frustrated by the limitations my feet have been giving me.

Once I was up and hiking it was a beautiful day. I hiked 6 miles to Tule Spring to resupply on water and cook myself some breakfast. I also had a real treat Via Caffe Mocha...trail angel Mike's had a whole box of them, I grabbed hindsight I wish it had been a few more I had grabbed, yummy...I haven't had any coffee in at least 3 days. I have it but drinking hot coffee in the desert has been less then appealing.

As I was heading out of Tule Springs I met some day hikers, who were out doing some research on Pinon Pines (spelling?) we chatted for a bit and then headed our separate ways.

Another 6 miles and pit stopped at Hiker's Oasis Water Cache. I signed the log book and was the 611 person to do so in 2014. I'm quite certain there are many more that either didn't stop or sign the log book.

Hiker Oasis Water Cache

I really lucked out with weather, as I did not need to take a heat of the day break today. 

The last 5 miles coming into Paradise Valley Cafe were difficult to say the least...darn feet.

Almost there!!!

But the reward was well worth it!!! New shoes and socks. And more then accommodating hospitality, a huge shout out to Cindy and the rest of the cafe staff.

New shoes!!!! Thank you Adam, love you bunches, I promise I'll be done in time for your wedding.

Burgers and salad seem to be the theme

When can you ever say: yes to dessert and whip cream...I could afford the calories 

PCT Day 8

Day 8
16.5 miles
PCT mile marker 133

Tough day, lots of climbing. Wanted to push for 22 miles, but once I started descending it was incredibly painful on the feet. I was being less the productive putting miles on and doing no damage then good to my feet. So I pulled off trail once I found a stop to fit my tent on a dry river bed.

Great views made all the climbing worth it! I actually prefer to climb then descend.

Hope to make it to Paradise Valley Cafe tomorrow. That's 21+ miles. Water stops are closer together so I'll have less weight to carry. 

Midday rest stop

Hanging at trail angel Mike's 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

PCT Day 7

Day 7
16 miles
1500 ft elevation gain
PCT mile marker 115

Wow, it's hard to believe I've been at this for a week now. Honestly I am enjoying almost every moment of it. If it wasn't for my feet, I wouldn't have a care in the world. I love setting up camp in a new place every night, experiencing this world and majestic beauty of the wilderness so few get to experience. I am grateful everyday for this journey.

Today was resupply and shower day at Warner Springs. I was on the trail by 6:30 this morning. As I left camp, I saw Rusty (another thru-hiker) was still there. The 9 miles to town were a little bit more of a struggle on my feet then I would have liked. Once to Warner Springs. I walked the mile to and from the post office to get my resupply box. Then headed to the community center. The Warner Springs Community Center has temporary accommodations for thru hikers for the months of April and May. Serving food, hot showers, and a store of items hikers frequently need. As I arrived to the community center, Rusty was already there. To our dismay it was closed. Totally bummed out we both set up shelter in the shade of an oak tree and waited for the heat of the day to pass. Luckily there was an outdoor electrical outlet, so I was able to get everything recharged. I found a hose and made a makeshift bucket out of a recycling bin to soak my feet. Despite no shower I did wash my hair. It felt amazing washing my head and hair with cold water.
The closed community center 

Fueling up

Camping out in the shade

Keeping those feet and legs elevated.

After reorganizing my pack with all my new resupplies and food. And getting rested up I headed out for a few more miles this evening around 5pm. The disadvantage of coming out of town with all new resupplies, your pack is HEAVY. I also had 17miles to the next reliable water supply and was loaded down with water too, I managed and made it to camp. Tomorrow morning will be lighter as I will leave camp only with the 2L of water I need to get me through to the next water supply in 11 miles.

Camp for the night.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PCT Day 6

Day 6
19.5 miles
2182 elevation gain
PCT mile marker 101

Woohoo!!! I hit 100 today. I was actually pleased that the heat did not seem horribly bad today. This is the 3rd day in a row of pure desert hiking with no shade. 

I got my earliest start so far 6:50am. Still trying for 6am start time, I'm not one to immediately jump out of bed when I wake up. And I have a process in the morning of packing things's a learning curve...I'll get there soon. 

Today was a breakthrough with the tape or bandages...blisters are healing. Hiked 1st 10 miles into the 3rd gate water cache. I rested in the shade and ate and drink for about an hour then pounded out another 4 miles, after that things got tougher, it was the heat of the day and my feet again were starting to hurt. Rested at mile 15, then after that I just pushed through to hit mile marker 100. Yippee!!! And then called it a day at Barrel Spring, mile 101. Rusty, another thru-hiker who I met yesterday as I was leaving Scissors Crossing, pulled into camp shortly after me this evening.

I have to give a huge shout out to my brother, Adam. He was reading my Facebook posts about my feet and stepped up ordered me a new pair of socks and 1/2 size bigger shoes, which will be waiting for me at mile 151, Paradise Valley Cafe.

Resting in the shade at 3rd Gate Cache

Selfie at 3rd Gate

3rd Gate Cache

Barrel Springs, spring fed trough

Monday, May 26, 2014

PCT day 4

Day 4 
21.4 miles 
2200 ft of elevation
PCT mile 68

Came into camp just trashed, legs, feet, and me dead tired. Pushed the mileage to camp at a water source. Today was the first real day of desert elements. All day sun, no shade the entire 21 miles. Put up tent and crashed. Trail mix for dinner no energy to filter water and cook. Heard my first rattler today...he was behind me and I ran quickly a few steps when I heard it. Looked back but didn't see him. Later crossed paths with a 2nd snake...gopher? 

Morning view 

Sure happy to find this cache to resupply water, instead of having to filter from here:

Day 5

Day 5
13.5 miles
1600 ft elevation
PCT mile 82

After coming in last night in so much pain and useless for anything but to set my tent up and lie down. I decided to let myself rest and not get up early to push high miles. My feet were the source of my pain and my legs were compensating for my feet so my entire lower half of my body was trashed. I did figure out that one of the pair of socks I was switching out back and forth may have been the main culprit. I have 2 of the same brand of socks one is super thin and the other is slightly padded. The padded ones are no good for my feet. The challenge now is keeping my feet dry with one pair of socks and nothing to switch back and forth between during the day. The drawback to desert hiking, even my feet are sweating tons, the benefit take my socks off put them on a rock in the sun and they're dry again in less then 5 min. So until I can acquire another pair of socks, this should do the trick.

I woke up this morning actually feeling much better then I thought I would. Got a late start didn't start hiking until 8:30 and hiked the 9 miles to Scissors Crossing, PCT mile marker 77. I am now in full-on desert hiking, hot, no shade, and hot, hot, hot, did I say hot. No more late starts for me, early rising is key... Hike to the midday heat, rest several hours and go back out late a afternoon.
The road to Julian
Putting the feet up at Scissors Crossing
Scissors Crossing under a hwy bridge

So I pulled in to Scissors Crossing and rested for several hours, before heading back onto the trail. As I was leaving another thru-hiker, Rusty, was coming in, we chatted for a few and then I took off.

 Had a beautiful evening hike which climbed 1000ft into the San Felipe Hills, where I set up camp, with a beautiful view of the horizon.
Campsite view 

Gourmet camp dinner!

 Little lighter on the mileage today but am listening to my body, after yesterday and the desert heat, playing it smart and learning the elements and what's going to work for me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

PCT Day 3

Day 3
17 miles
Elevation Gain 2916
PCT mile 47.5

Pretty tired to write much today. Feet seem to be fairing better. Stopped in Mount Laguna for lunch had quite the tasty burger and salad, and topped it off with a Mexican Mocha for dessert. Had a little bit of light rain during the last 1/2 mile of my hike tonight and during camp set up. Going to be chilly tonight. Last night got down to 36 degrees at 4100ft and tonight I'm camped at 5500ft. Here's some pictures of my day.

   Mount Laguna Area
   Pine House Cafe Mt Laguna
   Chariot Fire 2013 burn area