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Large snake seen on today's Pleasanton Ridge training hike
Introducing Split and Two Step
Once on the trail, I plan to write a journal entry every day. I usually do this after Two Step and I set up camp, and while she is making dinner. Although this might sound sexist on my part, Two Step is our chef, meal preparer, and dinner mostly requires rehydrating her delicious homemade masterpieces. She is very happy with this particular blue/pink division of labor.
In this final week prior to the start of our hike Im not as committed to writing a journal every night. Today was not particularly exciting; another 10 mile training hike with a half a mile of elevation change, more resupply packaging (including the blue job of measuring and packing all the precisely counted and folded toilet paper), finalizing our gear list and weighing every item, and finally retiring to our back porch to enjoy a fresh (non-dehydrated) dinner and the last hour of the longest day of the year and the start of summer.
Instead of trying to make this sound interesting, I'm going to repost below the introduction to our 2013 PCT journal. If you're this far into our CT journal and haven't just jumped forward to the exciting part where we start the trail and experience the inevitable challenges that immediately start on the trail, since "There are no easy days on the Trail", then maybe you'd like to know something about the history of these two hikers you are reading about. Enjoy...
Split and Two Steps 2013 PCT journal introduction:
Welcome to our 2013 PCT trail journal. This journal is intended to be a daily summary of our trials and tribulations as we travel north on the Pacific Crest Trail. Our start date is April 15th, just a few days from now. But before we start our daily log, wed like to supply you with some of our personal background.
We are Chris and Becky Haynam, college sweethearts at Miami University (Ohio) who married shortly after college, following in a long string of alumni who become Miami Mergers that include my brother (Doug) and his wife (Pam).
After college I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago and studied physical chemistry and laser spectroscopy while Becky brought home the bacon as an accountant working downtown at Standard Oil. Anticipating graduation, I interviewed at locations from coast to coast across the United States, but eventually got a dream job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). In addition to being located in the fabulous San Francisco Bay Area, LLNL had all the best toys, including the worlds highest power lasers and highest average fluence lasers. My job would be to work on and lead teams to design, build, commission, and operate these monstrosities. The combination of working on cutting edge technology and living in a nearly ideal environment was irresistible.
We moved to California. I developed lasers to explore cutting edge spectroscopy, isotope separation, and eventually laser fusion. Becky meanwhile worked at a number of start ups, including some in the heart of silicon valley.
We worked hard, but also developed a number of hobbies. After Becky got her MBA, we both took up competitive couples dancing, and eventually won a number of world titles in the United Country Western Dance Council. Dancing together developed another aspect of our partnership, and also created many long term friendships. Through it all, we played in the California sunshine and hiked throughout the East Bay Regional Park system, one of the largest park systems in the nation.
Years ago as a teenager in Cincinnati, Becky read about the completion of a new National Scenic Trail on the west coast. Stretching from the Mexican/US border in southern California, this trail wound through the mountainous regions of California, Oregon, and Washington, and thus was called the Pacific Crest Trail. Becky imagined in passing that hiking this trail would be a great adventure, but she had no experience and no desire to backpack. On the other hand, I was a former boy scout and from an early age had participated in numerous camping adventures culminating in a ten day hike through Philmont, New Mexico, the Scouts' premier high adventure wilderness base. After moving to California, I continued to do occasional multiday backpacking treks in the mountains around Yosemite with family and friends. Becky and I frequently did ten to fifteen mile hikes throughout California and the west coast, but we would always return to the comforts of home or hotels in the evening to enjoy a good meal, and a shower or even better a hot tub!
This abruptly changed when Becky read about Ken and Marcia Powers. This adventurous couple lived in our home town of Pleasanton, and had decided, at an age similar to our current age, to thru-hike a number of Americas National Scenic Trails, becoming well known in the long distance hiking community. Becky saw a write-up of their PCT thru-hike in the local newspaper, and we eventually attended their lectures and presentations at our local library and at REI. Their talks were inspirational, and their enthusiasm for long distance hiking was contagious.
Bitten by the hiking bug, Becky read everything she could about ultra-light backpacking, lurked in a number of hiker forums on the web, and began to think about long distance hiking. We bought gear, did numerous day hikes, and then did our first overnight trips on the Ohlone Trail. The thirty mile Ohlone Trail is nearly in our backyard, but is also relatively isolated and sparsely traveled, and was a perfect starter hike.
Eventually we built up to a six day trip in Californias Trinity Alps, and then two 20 day trips on the John Muir Trail. The John Muir trail extends ~210 miles in the Sierra Mountains from the Yosemite Valley, winding South through Kings Canyon, and finishes on top of the highest mountain in California, Mount Whitney. The majority of the John Muir trail is shared with the PCT, so it was also our first significant exploration of this longer trail. We enjoyed every step of this spectacular journey.
Our second John Muir Trail excursion started in early July after a near record snow year, and we spent the majority of the trip walking on and through snow, constantly navigating to find the trails, and passing the majority of 2011 PCT hikers as they headed north after a very late start due to the deep snow. After surviving one of the most difficult portions of the trail on a high snow year, we finally felt like we were ready for a PCT thru-hike.
At the beginning of 2012, we started preparing in earnest. Becky developed experience at freezer bag cooking, and dehydrated or prepared a large assortment of dinners for our trip. We planned to send food to about 33 locations along or near the trail, mostly post offices, as our strategy to resupply. Soon we had boxes of food stacked high in our living room. We bough specialized equipment for the terrain we planned to traverse on the PCT. We bought fall-arresting devices (whippets) and micro-spikes for the snowy Sierras, and brought French Foreign Legion type hats that covered our heads and necks, as well as copious amounts of sunscreen and electrolytes for the weeks we would spend in the desert.
We got our lives and home in hiking order and declared our start date to be mid-April of 2012. We talked a good friend into house-sitting for five months. We went to a number of going away parties. We even had a generous offer from Ken and Marcia Powers to pick us up along the trail and take us back to the Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off party at the end of April.
But the best laid plans often go astray.
With less than one week left before our departure, Becky developed a health issue that required immediate attention. We were devastated to have to cancel our hike at the last minute, but our attention turned to getting her well. Gradually, it appeared that her treatment would be concluded in about two months, but that precluded the possibility of a PCT thru-hike. Although there are some super-hikers who can break the mold, the majority of PCT hikers follow a set of guidelines. We start the trail at the US/Mexican border in mid to late April in order to arrive 700 miles later at the start of the Sierras in early to mid June. This allows enough snow to melt to allow hikers to navigate the high Sierra passes and also not be overwhelmed by the river crossings fueled by the snow melt. It is then a race to get to Washington before the snow falls. Snow can come to the northern climes as early as September, but more usually holds off till October. Still, it is safer to reach Canada by late September.
Our forced two months' delay made it impossible for us to achieve our goal of a continuous end to end thru-hike of the PCT, but with 150 days of food scattered across our living room, we were motivated to find another outlet for our pent up energy. After looking at many long distance hikes, only one seemed to fit our goals. We decided to hike the~2,200 mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. We were acquainted with the more popular AT, since many hikers do this trail before they do the PCT. In some ways, the AT is a good starter hike. It is not as remote as the PCT, making it easier to resupply by just buying from stores along the way. This significantly simplifies the trip preparations. There are also outfitters who are directly on the trail, particularly in Georgia, making last minute gear exchanges possible if one chooses to do the overwhelming popular south to north hike. At 2,200 miles the AT is quite an undertaking, but it is still significantly less than the 2,700 mile PCT. Depending on when and where you start the AT, you can usually avoid deep snow, and the mountain elevations seldom exceed 5,000 feet, whereas the PCT often exceeds 10,000 feet, resulting in lower oxygen concentrations making the hiking significantly more exhausting. Due to our late start, we decided to start in Maine so that even though we might not finish the AT until November, there was unlikely to be an issue with snow in Georgia. (We would eventually find out that the unusual can happen, when Superstorm Sandy dropped feet of snow in the Smoky Mountains just as we were passing through. But that's another story.) With two additional months to prepare, we were in very good shape, and fairly confident of our ability to tackle the AT. We headed east and started our Appalachian Trail hike on June 19, 2012.
What we found when we entered Maine was a terrain totally foreign to our California hiking-trained minds. We were somewhat stunned at first, and often regretted being on the wrong trail. But we came to first appreciate, and then delight in all aspects of the AT. That adventure is the discussion of our AT trail journal that you can find in a link at the bottom of this site.
We also received our trail names on this first thru-hike. It is a tradition for all AT long distance section and thru-hikers to adopt a new name by which they are known on the trail. Becky became Two Step, partially due to the thought that A journey of two thousand miles begins with two steps, and partially because she is a World Champion Two Step Dancer. I became Split partially because I was the anxious half of the partnership that was always saying Its time to split!, and partially because I am known for doing splits in our dance routines. There are a number of people on the AT who know us by no other names other than Split and Two Step, and we plan to continue to use these trail names on the PCT.
We completed the AT on November 19th, 2012, having made friends and memories to last a lifetime. One of the greatest moments of our AT hike was meeting my sister Pam and my nephew Andy for our last day of hiking. They drove down from Ohio to share our trail completion by hiking the last sixteen miles of our journey with us, including the summit of Springer Mountain in Georgia. Finishing the AT with our family and our great trail friend Turtlebox is a memory that we will never forget. After our AT completion, we were swept away from the end of the trail by Pam and Andy, and we were instantly in another world. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in Ohio with our family, and then returned early in the new year to our California home.
By the time we returned to California, we were already in planning and preparation mode for the PCT. In some ways acquiring and preparing all the food for the resupplies was easier the second time around, but Becky still spent months getting it all together. As of this writing, she is furiously sealing the resupply boxes in preparation for shipment days, weeks, or months from now, timed to reach a nearby post office as we walk by. Our resupply angel this year will be our friend and house-sitter Ron. He is well acquainted with the job, having helped out numerous times last year.
In the parlance of a long distance hiker, a zero day, or more simply a Zero is a day spent not hiking any miles down the trail. For Two Step and I, our allotted 146 zeros have nearly passed. With 4 zeros left before the start of our PCT adventure, the anticipation is growing.
Preparing for the CT,
Split and Two Step