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Mark "SlowBro" Hurd
Begins: Mar 9, 2017
Date: Sun, Jan 8th, 2017
Entry Visits: 626
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I aways agonize about the start date for a long hike. Starting at the wrong time may put me in the path of dangerous storms, deep snow, dry water sources, or a host of other calamities that the News Agencies covering my rescue will say "could have be avoided if he had only started a week later..." Of course I check the common wisdom on the internet. When do people usually start, why, and what happens when they delay or go earlier. And weather varies year to year so what worked 2 years ago may not be possible this year. On the PCT I started the Sierra in the last week in May, possible to do in 2014, a low snow year, but crazy to attempt in even a normal snow year. So I look at past accounts, projected climate data, "official' recommendations, and common wisdom. Then I put all the info into a propriatary spreadsheet, crunch the numbers, and after careful analysis I pulled a date out of a hat. Because, it turns out, the date does not have to be right or even close, you just have to start sometime. Pin a start date to a calendar and you can project forward all the way to the end of the trip. I figure 20ish miles a day and resupply every 5 days on average with a couple of days off (zero days) along the way and "presto!" you have an itinerary. This whole iterary can then be shifted forward or back to accomodate issues like geting to a town to pick up a resupply box on a Sunday when the post office is closed, etc.
So I picked the 7th of March to start. It seemed like a reasonable time. A bit early, so there may be snow up high, but water may be more plentiful. However, to look forward sometimes you have to look backward and it turns out my start date needed adjustment.
The AZT crosses the Grand Canyon and Grand Canyon National Park has very strict camping regulations with high demand and a limited number of campsites. Apparently to secure one of these rare sites you have to apply 4 months in advance-on December 1st for a chance at a campsite in April. Even then there is no guarantee. Unfortunately I didn't even find out about this until December 13th! So on the 13th I applied for two sites down in the Canyon, Bright Angel CG and Cottonwood CG, for a range of dates the 3rd week in April. My plan had been to hike from the South Rim down to Bright Angel, about 7 miles, and camp. Then, the next day, to hike to Cottonwood, about 7 more miles. The third day would be about 7 miles climbing to the North Rim and out of the Canyon. For several weeks I anxiously awaited the NPS email which came at the end of December. There was bad news and good news. Bright Angel was booked, but Cottonwood was available on April 20th. The ranger also mentioned that if I get to the Backcountry Office "early" I might be able to get a "walk-in" site at Bright Angel for the 19th. Well, at least I can get through the Canyon even if I have to do it in 2 days instead of 3.
So back to my itinerary. To make my present plan work with the April 20th campsite reservation in the Grand Canyon, I just had to shift it two days forward and start on the March 9th. Everything else falls more or less into place. By pinning a date near the end of the trek I was able to set the start date. And so goes long distance hike planning...
SlowBro's Arizona Trail Journey
"I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days." -Daniel Boone
"The Journey IS The Reward" -SlowBro
"If you feel like quitting, just keep walking." -Gypsy Spirit
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