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Backtrack - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2009

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City: Fairbanks
State: Alaska
Country: US
Begins: Apr 22, 2009
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Mon, Jun 8th, 2009
Start: Water is good weight

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 466
Journal Visits: 1,520
Guestbook Views: 65
Guestbook Entrys: 3

Pacific Crest Trail Map

Journal Entry

Walking through the desert every hiker has learned the value and weight of water. Valhala and Freje from Denmark mentioned over breakfast how they neer imagined how significant water could become in their lives when in their own country water is so plentiful. Water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter. I don’t know why American hikers measure water in liters rather than quarts or gallons. Water is heavy and how much is needed is triangulated at each water point between the PCT water report from the internet, the 3 different and sometimes conflicting guidebooks and atlases and the hikers own experience.

Poor calculation can be literally backbreaking for a 20 mile dry stretch. I am usually a poor guesser and end up at the next water point with an excess which means I needlessly carried an extra 2-4 pounds. Each hiker has their own method of calculation with base points being 1 liter every 3-5 miles or 1 liter every 2 hours. This goes down if the temperature is cool as it has been in the last couple days. I have miscalculated twice and had to hike without water for a fair bit. Other hikers mention in retrospect mention that they have also gone thirsty and for which stretches. I can somehow rationalize my suffering in silence but it is strange to hear that during different stretches of the trail I was unknowingly amongst other thirsty hikers. If asked hikers would have willingly spared water but personally asking for water would have been an ego buster and ruined my sense of self-sufficiency. People think of thirst as having a dry mouth but there is little mention of how bitter thirst tastes and how it has more of bite over time. Equally, quenching thirst is not do just affect the throat but the whole body breaks out in a sweat of relief.

Good triangulation to avoid thirst focuses on the web-based Water Report that is updated by other thru-hikers. This list of water points and their current condition are the holy codex for hikers. The report is rather funny with repeated entries of seasonal stream – not running. Much to the annoyance of Big John I was saying this everytime we passed over a dry stream bed. Seasonal stream – not running. Equally important were appealing entires such as:

· Pioneer Mail Picnic Area – hideous horse trough, Rodriguez Spur - Water [CONTAMINATED with dead rats & mice - PURIFY WELL!,

· Bike Springs - The water was the most filthy, unappealing, and horrifying I have ever seen,

· Oak Creek – ‘Brown & Stagnant – oily and manure upstream’.

There also was an entry : ‘Maxwell Trail Camp ‘ water in guzzler 20 yds. Below trail. Naively I thought this was another more bubbly word for spring while in reality it is a cistern filled with pollen, insect and pine needle infused water collected from the cement catchment slab. The water tasted surprisingly untainted and sweet. I am told that guzzlers were originally made for cattle and wildlife.

Water caches and how well they have been stocked are also a part of the triangulation. Water caches are places where 'trail angels' have placed jugs of water and sometimes beer, fruit, cookies. The caches are often placed in sections where was is limited to help the hkers along. However, as I am presently in the back of the pack relying too much on caches could be dangerous as other hikers could have emptied it before me. In theory hikers have water and use the caches to top up. I have adhered to this up until the past waterless stretch. The Weldon's are real trail angels and stock two caches regularly with more than 50 1 gallon milk jugs each. The sight of all of the jugs sitting in the shade of a tree is a really welcome sight but also represents alot of work as well as passion for the trail.

Our process of triangulation and appreciation of water makes me think about the early settlers. I assume they also through a similar process with more life threatening consequences. Calculating how many barrels of water a family and livestock would need seems like a daunting task. I also can now appreciate the flurry of activity that must have happened at each water point. At each water point, in a ideal world, I should clean my face and hands, soak my feet and wash any dirty clothes as well as fill my water bladders. It doesn’t always happen like that and more than once I have cursed myself for not having washed one of my mere three pairs of socks. I imagine a water point for the early settlers would similarly involve bathing, washing clothes and filling water barrels. The implications of miscalculating water seem hard – choosing between the oxen carrying the settlers and the settlers themselves and rationing of water. From my experience in the refugee camp, I can imagine the challenge of a explaining rationing to thirsty child.

I will enter into the Sierras in a couple days and paradoxically the challenge of lack of water in the desert will tun into too much water in the form of snow and ice. Rumours of hkers waking up in snow.....

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Pacific Crest Trail - 2009

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more:


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