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Graniteandterrapin - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2009

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Granite & Terrapin Flyer
City: Northampton
State: MA
Country: USA
Begins: Apr 20, 2009
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Wed, Nov 19th, 2008
Start: Florence, MA
End: Florence, MA
Daily Distance: 0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 2,007
Journal Visits: 2,007
Guestbook Views: 138
Guestbook Entrys: 1

Pacific Crest Trail Map

what's happening/what's next

Terrapin here. I'm finding myself with a little time on my hands and will try to get some things down in our new trail journal. Our next big endeavor is a Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hike, from Campo, California on the Mexican border, to Manning Park, just over the Canadian border. The blurb that automatically appears at the bottom of this journal site's pages sums it up rather nicely, plus there's a link for more info about the trail. Another great feature of this site is the link for a map on the right side of the screen. You can look at a topo or satellite version as well. For those who don't know, a thru-hike is an end-to-end hike of a continuous trail. In our case we'll be camping along the way, resupplying periodically in nearby towns, and carrying all our supplies and gear on our backs. We're starting our journal now so we can document (and so friends can follow along with) our preparations.

First, an update on our recent life:

Erik and I moved to Northampton, Massachusetts in September, 2007, after completing our Appalachian Trail hike. We subsequently moved to Florence, a village on the northwest end of Northampton, in March of this year. This last move was so we could have a dog. She's an Australian Shepherd named Sky, very smart and a sweet little personality (she's a force of nature).

Our plans until recently were that Erik would be applying to med schools this year, hoping to start classes in fall, 2009. Given the timing of the prerequisites he just finished, we realized that he'd be a very late applicant in a very competitive process for this year, so after much consideration he decided to postpone the application process until the fall 2010 cycle begins this spring. This leaves us more than a year in which we have no relocation plans for school. We could stay here in Florence and work....or we could go for another hike! We had thought that we would be on the med school track starting next fall, followed by three years of residency, followed by many years of indentured servitude due to student loans. This would have meant waiting at least 15 years to do the PCT (that means at age 50 for me!). This timeline was not appealing. That's not to say that we've altered med school plans to accommodate our hiking bug, but we couldn't avoid seeing the possibilities after we'd made the decision to postpone the application. :) The altered plan allows us to depart Florence for the PCT in April, 2009, hike until sometime in September, and then work until Erik potentially starts med school the following autumn. We'd give up our apartment and put all our stuff in storage while we're gone. Sky and our cat, Spider, will each need foster care while we're away. Anyone interested in a temporary dog and/or cat?

The hardest part of preparing, actually, will be finding a place for our two pets. They don't need to be together. They get along well but I don't think either of them would suffer emotional harm over a temporary separation from each other. Spider Monkey is a very clean and fastidious adult cat, an indoor guy with all his claws. He mostly leaves our furniture alone. He's very personable and affectionate, but not really a lap cat. He likes to be on laps but won't lie down if he's being petted or scratched. He has lived with other cats without any problems after the initial growling and posturing. He's much more frightened of strange dogs but would get comfortable eventually. Sky is naturally higher maintenance than Spider. She's 14 months old and an Australian Shepherd, which means she has a lot of energy. We find that if she doesn't get a solid hour of exercise every day, she can become a little too busy for a mellow home environment. This is expressed in our household as a preoccupation with managing the cat, who likes to taunt her whenever she seems in danger of losing interest. We exercise her strategically, which means early in the day, out for a run, to the dog park, for a swim, or for a hike. These activities are enhanced by the presence of sticks or tennis balls, she is obsessed with games of fetch. She loves playing with other dogs, and having another dog in the house to play with would probably reduce the need for routine exercise sessions. A couple people have expressed interest in Sky, but there's nothing firm, yet, and we're needing to follow up on that. It might be good to have a back-up plan as well.

Aside from the need to find foster care for the pets, our preparations are going smoothly. We are upgrading some of our gear in order to lighten the total load. I'm going to sell the backpack I used on the Appalachian Trail, and have replaced it with one that weighs 3 pounds less. I'm giving up some capacity, so I have to make very good choices about my clothing, shelter, and sleeping bag. We need to be able to carry clothing for a variety of weather conditions, our tent and sleeping bags, cooking gear, and water treatment filter, all while carrying up to 10 days worth of food and up to8 liters of water apiece. We'll be documenting our gearlist on this site. I'll discuss food in our next journal entry.

For now, were working and saving whatever money we're not spending on gear and household bills. I'm working as a nurse at Cooley Dickinson Hospital's Emergency Department just a mile from our apartment. I gave my Clinical Director verbal notice about two months ago. The maximum leave of absence allowed at CDH is three months, so I'm going to have to resign from my position. If there is an opening in the ED I can probably get my job back, otherwise I'll just look elsewhere. Even in this economy, I'm not too worried about getting work, though it might not be in my preferred specialty or preferred schedule. Meanwhile, I've added to my qualifications by getting certified in Trauma, and hope to get certified in emergency nursing by February (this would involve passing a certification exam).

Erik's been doing carpentry on a house in Northampton. I was acquainted with the owners, Jeff and Tala, from my days at Baystate, and we've all become good friends since Erik started working there. They're remodeling an old post and beam two-family, making it more energy efficient and using green products. It's a big job, and it's been fun to watch it evolve from bare studs to habitable space. Erik's also doing substitute teaching on occasion for Northampton Public schools. He's been called in for 1st grade through high school. His third job is teaching the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) prep class for Kaplan two evenings a week.

When not working we are spending our time researching and collecting gear, doing a little training, trying to preserve food, spend quality time with friends and family, and get our life organized so it will be easier to stuff into a storage unit next spring. One of the most complicated tasks will be figuring out where to mail our resupply packages, and how much food we'll need for each section. Many of the towns that serve as resupply points for PCT hikers are much further off the trail than most Appalachian Trail towns were, and supply points are fewer and further apart. We expect to be averaging 20 - 25 miles a day, which will reduce the number of stops we need to make. The number of stops will be about the same as those on the AT, even though the PCT is about 500 miles longer.

This hike is going to be unlike anything I've experienced before. The southern part of the trail is through desert, where temp's can get up to 100 degrees during the day in April, and down to the 20's at night. I'm used to the temperate forests of the eastern U.S., and all the associated wildlife. All the flora and fauna in the desert will be foreign to me. Further north, we'll climb into the Sierra's, where winter's snow will still be clinging to the passes, and we'll be fording strong streams full of runoff. We'll be above treeline much of the time, and exposed to the sun and winds without the shelter of the forest. Hikers carry ice axes in the Sierra so they can self-arrest if they lose their footing and start to slide uncontrollably. I have a fear of falling, and will be taking a mountaineering class this winter to prepare for that terrain. I'm just as intimidated by this trail as I am excited to experience the incredible scenery and the challenge of hiking its length. Stay tuned for more details and projections!

Terrapin Flyer

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Granite & Terrapin Flyer

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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