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City: Palm Springs
Country: United States
Begins: Feb 22, 2018
Date: Sun, Feb 18th, 2018
Entry Visits: 668
Journal Visits: 1,079
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Okay, so I am finally getting around to starting another long hike and another long hike Postholer Journal.
I feel a bit superstitious about even saying out loud (let alone typing for all to see): I want/hope/plan to hike the Arizona Trail and if all goes well (the Continental Divide Trail) in 2018. But there it is. I said it.
I do not have a lot of backpacking experience but that didn't stop me from taking on the crazy notion of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (back in 2011). And despite the daily calamity I experienced on the PCT the seeds of another hike have been trying to germinate for the past 7 years. There is the tiniest, tender, bud threatening to poke its head above ground and let’s just say I am excited, amazed, anxious, fearful, and grateful....
I had a teacher once tell me writing purges your soul so I will warn you (here and now) my Journal entries can become wordy and emotionally messy (at times). If you are more of a "just the facts" type of person my Journal may not be of much use or enjoyment for you. Thank God for the "just the facts" folks that are able to provide factual hiking bullet points from their journeys, I am just not wired that way.
I do have a bit of a love/hate relationship with words: they don't come especially fast or easy for me, but I do find if I sit still long enough the words will finally come and in the end I am left feeling the exercise was worth the extra time and effort. The problem with trying to chronicle a long hike, though, is time, energy, and online accesses are often times in short supply. I am not sure how well I will be able to keep up on the Journal but I do hope I am able to take and/or make the time to record some of the memorable moments and emotions along the way.
I did finally break down and get a smartphone but tech is not my thing and time is sort of running out on me so I am not sure how well I will be able to make use of all the Postholer site has to offer. I plan to pack a few blank pages and a pen in my kit and, hopefully, I will figure out a way to get my thoughts re-recorded on here on a regular basis.
I also picked up a new digital camera that I can hardly operate. I should be reading the manual right now but I ran into a couple people, last night, who encouraged me to start up another Journal before I take off. Thanks to the “12 steppers” (you know who you are) who gave me the spiritual nudge I needed. I hope to hear from you at some point during the summer.
[For the record, I have been clean and sober for 31 years and though AA meetings are not the priority they once were, 12 step meetings (contact with people in or needing Recovery) is still a very vital part of my ongoing recovery. So, if you are a friend of Bill or Bob do say hello, it will surely make my day].
I tend to hike solo (for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here) so my camera is sort of my hiking partner. I have been using Canon G series cameras for years and decided to switch to a smaller/lighter point and shoot camera (a Sony RX100V). Leaving home without the good ole Canon and taking the new unfamiliar Sony is a risk I hope I don’t end up regretting. I feel odd feelings of grief, leaving such a familiar (favorite) item at home.
Speaking of grief, the thought of leaving my 12 year old dog (Teddy T-bird) behind is currently ripping my heart out. I haven't been able to look him in the eyes for months. I feel the same way about my roommate (Pete) who over the years has become closer than a brother. I do need to say I feel especially blessed that they will both be looking after one another while I am away. [Pete: I have installed a number of nanny cams in the home so you will be busted if you deviate from Teddy’s nutritious (albeit boring) dry dog food regime. You guys be safe and come see me if you ever get tired of the heat].
In the way of trying to fill in the 7 year gap between long hikes: Following my 2011 PCT hike I experienced a freak accident at work in which much of my body was sprained and strained. I ended up getting trapped in the truly dysfunctional Work Comp System, for nearly five years. Still seems like a lot of senseless suffering to me but maybe my thoughts will change over time. It was one of the most difficult stretches of life I have ever had to endure and I have had more than my fair share of challenges. There were many days (in the past five years) where I was not able to walk my dog, let alone carry a backpack, so this long hike is a long shot.
Also, in the midst of my Work Comp Hell I was diagnosed with a fast moving form of prostate cancer. My dad had prostate cancer but it occurred much later in his life. He was able to get away with the radioactive seed implant procedure but it wasn’t really an option for me, things had progressed too far along. I had to have the organ removed. I think I made the right decision but the aftereffects have been life altering and unwelcome. Recently, I was hoping to get a clear bill of health from my Urologist but for the first time in nearly 3 years my PSA test came back with "numbers" as opposed to being "undetectable." The doctor says the change could be caused by a new way of processing the data and "not too worry" to which I say “whatever dude.”
Actually, the medical practitioner carrying my case has been one of the few I believe really know what I am going through but he deals with so many cancer patients that the signs, symptoms, and side effects I consider so disturbing he can't help but describe as "normal." For me, it is anything but normal. I share about the cancer (with all of you) to remind myself why I need to be bold and courageous, at this time in my life; taking a long walk is my way of saying “f*** cancer.”
I am one of those folks that have always been prone to depression (unless I am able to remain fairly active) and my injuries and ailments have rendered me especially inactive over the past few years. I share this deeply personal issue because I have learned that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” for my depression and for me that means both getting out in the sun and being willing to say out loud I suffer from mental illness. For those of you who suffer, too, embrace your “beautiful mind” and the chemicals that are in short supply (as best you can) and fly your freak flag (proudly) … there is no one quite like you.
Finally, I had to have my knee operated on, a couple months ago. I have been doing what I can to strengthen and heal the joint. I told my doctor the other day that if I had to give the knee a grade (for normal everyday life) it would be a B- which is actually pretty good since the knee has kept me from making much progress in recuperating from my 2014 spinal fusion. With respect to the rigors of backpacking day after day, though, I am afraid I would have to give my knee a C- grade. All of this to say I am not especially confident about my physical conditioning going into this hike.
I gained about 30 lbs over the past few years but I have lost about a dozen in trying to get myself back into the habit of walking longer distances. I have not done much in the way of training on hills or bearing extra weight but I have done enough to know I have pretty slim chance of being successful with both the AZT and the CDT in one season. I do believe that (if I am careful and lucky) I could surprise myself. I didn’t really believe I could hike the PCT till a couple days before I finished so I am going to apply the same “one day at a time approach” and see what happens. They say the best training for backpacking is backpacking; I am about ready to test that out.
Don’t get me wrong I have been out walking as much as my body will allow. I have been getting professional physical therapy, doing my at home exercises with vigilance, and subjecting myself to an especially cold pool in the hopes that my knee won’t have to bring my long walk to an early end. I am REALLY grateful for the help I have received from the therapists, at Bodyworks (in Palm Springs). Mahalo to the Healers, may you be richly blessed. (It’s time to find out what Mother Nature can do for/with me, now).
Time permitting I will do a gear list (for the gearheads out there). I have been truly crazy when it comes to packing and unpacking my pack. I have had my pack base weight down to 10 lbs and back up to 20 and it looks like I will probably end up somewhere in the middle. It is difficult for me to leave perfectly good/useful gear and clothing behind.
I would really like to bring a solar panel set up I recently purchased (so I can limit the time I have to spend sitting by a power socket when I get to town). I like the idea of harnessing the sun. I don’t like the actuality of having to carry more weight and more techy gadgets. There is a freedom in having less stuff to keep track of and fuss over. I have decided to put the panel in one of my early resupply boxes, give it a try, and send it home if it doesn’t work out.
I am trying to limit my mailing costs (as you might expect) the costs are piling up here and there. I ended up having to get a new passport (and passport card) and I hope it arrives fairly soon.
I sprung for an AZT mapset and Garmin maps for my GPS. Then I turned around and decided to leave the Garmin at home (at least for the AZT portion of my trek). I got the AZT Guthook app for my phone and I think I should be okay with the paper maps and Guthook.
I decided against paying for SPOT which for those of you who are unfamiliar with the item is a techy gadget which can communicate your location to friends, family, or emergency services. The problem is you have to pay a yearly membership fee and I just could not justify the cost this time around. I want to see if I can get by without. If so, I will have a SPOT CONNECT and an earlier model of the SPOT device for sale, at the end of the summer. It really is a slick item for those who have a spouse or partner who would appreciate a little extra assurance you are safe and sound. I got the item to help my re-supply person keep track of where I am and when to send the next re-supply package. I am leaning toward doing more “buying as I go” on the CDT so, again, it just didn’t seem worth the expense.
I put together 10 resupply boxes (for the AZT) with the thought that I will save some time and maybe some money resupplying that way. I also am not one of those who can eat a lot of sugary stuff without having my blood sugar crashing on me so I made tried to make some healthy choices rather than do the snicker diet.
I plan to leave a day early in the hopes of being able to drop off a resupply box at various lodging establishments in Superior, Kearny, Oracle, La Posta Quemada/Colossal Cave, and Patagonia. My roomey will mail boxes to Roosevelt Lake, Pine, Mormon Lake, and Grand Canyon Villiage. I will buy on the fly in Flagstaff.
I love to cook at home but am not really much for cooking at the end of the day (or the middle of the day for that matter) when I am backpacking. I don’t plan to bring a stove or cooking stuff other than an old plastic Dole peaches jar (that worked pretty well for me on the PCT) along with a long handle spoon. Seems like I can rehydrate oatmeal, grains, couscous, type stuff in the Dole jar. I also learned on the PCT hike that I enjoy crunching on dry Ramon and dehydrated hashbrowns, rather than slugging down rehydrated Ramon or hashbrown mush. Admittedly, I have a ways to go on the food thing. I am hoping to learn a lot from my fellow hikers along the way, so I can keep things interesting.
I did spring for a variety of condiments at Minimus.com, which for those of you who are not familiar is a worthwhile site to check out. They have lots of mini size portions of condiments, toiletries and such.
I have been trying to adjust to a new wrinkle of late; I have an unavoidable appointment I have to return for around April 10. I have to finish the Arizona portion of my trek a couple weeks sooner, but will only be able to start a week sooner. I already knew I was facing a bit of a tight rope when it comes to the ongoing challenge of enjoying the hike, preventing overuse injuries, and covering the miles before the snow flies but this is a little extra pressure. All I can do is take my best shot at getting the AZT done by April 7. I plan to start the hike on 2/22 (most likely hiking a half day on the 22nd) so maybe I will see some of you guys out there, real soon. If If I can’t get the AZT done I will have to figure out a way to “get er done” later on in the season or some other time.
I feel like I have been pretty productive the past couple of months and (ready or not) I am going to embark on another long walk (outdoors) in a few days. I hope you enjoy my Journal entries; hopefully they won’t all be as long as this one but I felt obliged to share some of my prep and planning process and hopefully I will have inspired you in some small way. I am not too proud to say I'd appreciate your prayers and good wishes. I sincerely believe that sort of stuff really makes a difference, as illogical as that sort of thing can seem. Say "hey" if you care to....
[Special thanks to Pete and Teddy for putting up with me when I was at my worst. Oddly enough, I already miss you guys and I haven’t even left yet].
Crazy I Know
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