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City: Los Angeles
Begins: Apr 11, 2010
Date: Wed, Oct 20th, 2010
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Pacific Crest Trail Map
Let me begin by describing some of the ideas that didn't get off the drawing board. A combination hiking pole/tent pole/umbrella/snowshoe using PVC pipe. Combination bivy/cape. combination tarp/cape. Combination bivy/cape. Combination bivy/poncho/ground cloth. Very long socks or insulated chaps - because that part of me sweats all too much. It seems like there were more unconsummated ideas but that's all I can think of now.
I should say that I am very fortunate in that Lucy is an expert at the sewing machine so all I had to do was design and she would execute, usually with improvements.
Here are some items that we made or bought and actually used but discarded at some point. The fleece skirt. Used this for a few hundred miles. It was good for walking in the cold and, safety pinned to another garment, made for a blanket. It did not work out as a sleeping pad as planned as it got all bunched up. I thought of the safety pin connection after only a couple of very uncomfortably cold nights. I was a walking experiment constantly tweaking my gear as I went. During this time, Lucy was in Colombia so I had to depend on my own resourcefulness (read pathetic sewing, taping and knot tying abilities) to realize the tweaks.
Compliment to the fleece skirt was the fleece vest. This item, rather than discarded, was morphed through several stages. At stage one, it was like a vest but open on one side with just a button connecting the open side at the top. The idea was to wear the open side in back so when worn with a backpack, which is enough insulation in itself, it could have the flaps worn in front where they would double the insulation. Also, it was to have doubled as a sleep pad but like the skirt was useless getting all bunched up. It did work out as a blanket but required a lot of safety pins so I soon made a larger fleece poncho with no opening in front and with a foot pocket attached to the bottom. This version lasted until Lucy showed up and replaced the fleece skirt, skirt poncho with a single larger garment complete with hood, waist belt and intricate three way zipper to convert from flat to long, tapered, roomy foot pocket.
Another quickly discarded item was the sun roof. This was a space blanket with duct tape attached to the corners in loops. The idea here was instant shade in a shadeless environment. I put it up once and it seemed to work OK but the second time a mean wind made short work of my handiwork. 86'd.
Then there were the insulated gaiters for the snow. A good idea I think but our prototype failed the test. They were not water proof as hoped, got torn up after one day's use and had a hopelessly complicated lacing system. The laces went under the shoe if you can imagine that. Sadly their fate awaited them in the trash can.
During that same day on the snow, I discovered that the stuff sacks I had doubled nicely as water proof socks in that they fit snug between my feet and shoes. On the other hand, they weren't waterproof as my cold soggy feet attested to at the end of the day. 86'd.
Another item that was not discarded but, rather, morphed, was the scarf. It started as my fleece skirt worn over my head and tucked in my shirt in front on a particularly cold and blustery afternoon while walking and feeling a distinct need for head protection. Later, I cut out an additional fleece rectangle which was a scarf and nothing else. At one point, I discovered another use - protection from the sun - this time worn over the head and arms. Fleece not being the right material for this, I exchanged it for a large rectangle of muslin, or 'sheet' cloth. This in turn morphed into a skirt when I made the discovery that when worn as a skirt and soaked in water beforehand, it magically made that nasty rash on my groin disappear along with immediate relief from discomfort. Not only did it cure my little rash problem but it also made going uphill in the sun or walking anytime during hot weather a delicious, rather than yucky, sweaty experience. Of course this only worked when water was available. Lucy later added a foot pocket so as to double as a blanket. It gives a little warmth but really excelled on those hot days, swarming with flies when lying down for a rest. Also acts as a kind of giant bandana with its myriad uses - towel, pot holder etc. Still use this one.
An offshoot of the scarf was the little rectangle of muslin I wore under my hat. Lucy later modified it to make it more three dimensional so as to contour to the shape of my head and neck and not flap about in my face in the wind like the plain rectangle did. This is great soaked in water as well to keep cool, to protect from the sun when its too windy to use the umbrella and to give a little warmth to the head when the temperature drops.
Complimenting the hot cold weather outfit were detachable sleeves also of muslin with stitched Velcro to attach/detach. Again, I would soak these or use them for added and balanced warmth.
Cotton t-shirt with Velcro at the sleeve ends was replaced with nylon. I know, 'cotton kills', but it never caused me hypothermia or anything close to it and that very property of heat exchange or whatever, I think made it a lot cooler, especially when soaked in water. And yes, I know we looked ridiculous, walking about in matching skirts, long sleeved t shirts and hood, all soaked in water, me with an umbrella and Lucy with a cane but we sure were cool in inhospitably hot environments. I generally changed out of my Mary Poppins attire when reaching more populated areas out of sheer embarrassment. Only on the trail can I get way with dressing up like this.
I used Injinji toe socks. They were great at preventing blisters between the toes but wore out way too quick and are expensive at like 20/pair.
Fleece hood got lost, along with like a million other things. They should call me 'loser'. But one silver lining to losing things is that you discover you don't need them after all. In the case of the fleece hood, if I hadn't lost it, I wouldn't have thought of using a scarf for the same purpose. Also, due to limited color choices, the hood was white, the vest was brown and the skirt was beige. Very ridiculous looking. Lucy called me 'cappuccino' and Warner Springs Monty called me 'friar etiquette'.
The wood burning stove. Ahhhh! I loved this one but it was replaced with 3 well chosen and placed rocks. I'm still nostalgic for it but, really, the rocks work way better.
Super ultra light ground cloth from Gossamer Gear - only 2oz! Flimsy. 86'd and replaced with super cheap poncho which shredded itself to death after a few days use. 86'd. Replaced with standard tarp material cut to a trapezoidal shape with hole cut out for head and grommet and lines tied in so it doubled, or rather, tripled as poncho and taco like open bivy bag to prevent wind from entering my quilt. It protects from the wind OK but strapping quilt, using tarp or real bivy bag accomplishes same. As a poncho it takes like a million years to put on. 86'd. Finally replaced by trapezoidally cut tyvek material which I still use. No grommets, string or hole cut for the head.
Had a better quality store bought poncho to go with all the other insulated ponchos and skirts but the first time I used it , it flapped up into my face in very gusty winds, blinded me momentarily when I wanted my vision to remain very much intact. Could be I didn't know how to use it. Anyway, 86'd. Replaced with wind bivy described above and eventually replaced with tyvek one piece hazardous materials suit. Haven't really had a chance to test it out in heavy rain though it makes a good contribution to my pillow.
The Ray Jardine backpack. Lucy made this with my help translating instructions that were so bad I can't help but think it was made so on purpose. A few simple pictures like an Ikea instruction would have done the trick, but no, it was detailed and lengthy to the extent that it was difficult to understand. It was plain ol' wrong on one important point. When it was done, I wore it for 3 hours, loaded, and never put it on again, except when I carried it for Lucy who had modified it to wear herself. I ended up using my old pack - a Moonbow Gearskin - not without its problems but which I still use. The gearskin pinches my right collar bone so after a couple hours I end up holding the strap with my hand wearing the strap on my arm to mix things up a little. The gearskin is also a pain to pack and unpack but its very versatile and were it not for the collar bone thing would be comfortable.
For a sleeping bag I used my old Nunatak down quilt which kept me warm on the AT. I froze my butt off on the PCT. I don't know if it was degraded down or colder weather and windier conditions but it wasn't enough. I tried fleece pants and jacket but I was all sticky and wet. The addition of the fleece poncho mutations acting as quilt service marginally but I think air was leaking in and I hadn't learned to strap it under my sleeping pad yet. Replaced with another RayWay product - their quilt. In cold weather it hasn't been adequate - I think it needs to be wider to allow side sleeping without an air leak. Lucy cut a hole in the center and fitted on a fleece hood and put a zipper on the foot pocket and added a waist belt which was a toasty thing to wear in camp but not wind proof and awkward to do camp chores in. I never used it to walk in, once again, awkward and besides, I looked like the Michelin Man. Replaced with insulated jacket and pants - made by Lucy and the latest - the fleece ponco which I thread through a loop on my pack so I can put it on and off easily for those days when its partly cloudy, windy and the trail is unpredictably up and down so my need for protection changes often and it would be inconvenient to put on and off my jacket. Also the material doesn't get wasted being squashed between back and backpack by being able to fold the back around front providing a double front layer. I also like the Obi Wan Kenobi look. For sleeping, camp and extreme cold walking the insulated pants are good. Lighter and warmer than fleece. Still wet in the groin sleeping but sans pants - I'm cold. So, no solution there yet. In camp the pants and jacket allow excellent mobility and sleep almost as warm as the Jardine quilt. The pants have been mostly too warm to walk in and, like I said, both jacket and pants are inconvenient to walk in being relatively difficult to put on and off.
I used two ultra light Gossamer Gear foam pads - 1/8 inch I believe. Unbelievably uncomfortable and cold too. Switched to the air mattress I used on the AT. Unbelievably comfortable being 2 and a half feet wide and 6 or more feet long. Honest, I'd rather sleep on this than on a normal bed but sleeping in a bed with Lucy trumped that for the past five years. This mattress is like a tougher version of something you might float on in a pool. A hassle to blow up and kinda heavy but worth it. While I never had a problem with puntures or anything on the AT or in seedy Colombian hotels it only lasted a few nights on the PCT getting punctured by something sharp in the desert or, getting man-handled by my dad who was schlepping it around for a while. Hard to say. Anyway, it was a sad moment when I woke up on that deflated thing. Replaced it with one, then two standard foam pads. Not much more comfortable than the Gossamer Gear ones. Side sleeping put my shoulder to sleep - you know - pins and needles, numbness. Even sleeping on my back, which never lasts that long anyway, put an annoying pressure on my coccyx, I think its called and of all wierd places, the back of my heels. I finally broke down and bought a pair - one for me, one for Lucy - of expensive air mattresses. The Neo I think its called. Its narrower and much shorter than my old air mattress - it only reaches to a bit below my hips. On 8oz. I roll up my pack to support my ankles and my shoes for my elbows. When I turn on my side I have to reposition the shoes and pack. I definitely feel restricted in my movement but it does the job. And, hey, it only 8oz. I did however screw up my back the first night I slept on it. It took like a month for that kink to resolve itself. And it also took me a while to figure out the elbow and ankle support solutions. That may be why that first night did a number on my back.
My tarp is roughly based on Henry Shire's tarptent design with some modifications. I made, or I should say Lucy made the floor shape trapezoidal, the foot end lower than the the head end and used the bug netting commonly available in Colombia. It might let in tiny pests but I haven't encountered any that small yet. The netting extends far enough to provide about a foot of flooring around the perimeter. Actually the only modification on this was a laundry line added along the ridge line and also different knots for the lines. Oh, and also the cut off top part of a plastic soda pop bottle with cap to act as an adapter between the front ridge loop and a tent pole. This tarp actually failed me on the two occasions I actually needed it. It partially collapsed as the wind pulled some stakes out of the ground. Lesson learned - in windy conditions use rocks and choose a site with protection from the wind. I added a bivy bag the extra warmth and the fact that rain can slant in either triangular end with only bug walls. Even with all these problems I'm very fond of this tarp - its roomy, airy, light and all the knots are cool.
I started without crocs, soon craved them and then added them. A little luxury that isn't often used. Then, one day I discovered I only had one. The other must have fallen off some miles back. So I learned to live without them, doing more things barefoot and brushing off my feet afterwards. Its really not so bad. Speaking of shoes, I still use the New Balance 374 running shoes but with a piece of leather sewed onto the inside back where a hole was growing.
A lot of things were lost just because they were dangling haphazardly from my pack and fell off without my realizing it. That is, not until too late. Like the expensive Patagonia windshirt Lucy modified for me by putting in a full length zipper. She made another one for me thats just as nice. Or the sun hats. I lost 3 or so of those. The umbrella is great sun protection - I haven't got burned and I don't use sun screen or sun glasses - but it doesn't work if the wind is too strong. My wallet, which had everything in it and I mean everything, was in a belt pouch. That fell off. Thank you so much Don't Panic and Smile Train for picking it up and returning it to me the next day. You see, going slow does have its advantages. The Gearskin's virtue is also its fault. Easy access to lots of items but the dangle factor is way high. Other things were lost due to carelessness. I hope my can opener, stocking hat, shorts, knife, scissors, nail file and tent stakes find a happy home. I did without these items except the stakes, which I replaced and added flagging ribbon to. Now I don't lose those. And Lucy made me another pair of shorts and I got a Baklava for head warmth.
There were lots of little doodads I carried with me at the start but no longer do. I made a list of all that stuff before I started but I can't remember all of them now. A plastic jar for pickles and other liquids - 86'd. Maps, except for a few areas - 86'd. I carry Ben Go and Yogi's books and use them along with some common sense when I get to junctions. Compass - 86'd. Candle - 86'd. Paper to write journal - 86'd. Books mostly 86'd. Crossword puzzles - 86'd. Personal checks - 86'd. scouring pad - 86'd. Small vial of water - 86'd. Silk long johns and shirt - 86'd.
Things I added. Used peanut butter jar to put small vials of liquid in - soap, bleach, insect repellant. Another PB container for regular butter or other unctuous substance. Carmex lip balm. Straps to roll up foam pad - I still carry the pad cut to shape to protect the air mattress and as a quickly made bed or chair. Long underwear. warm socks, fleece gloves, cell phone and charger. D rings to keep water bottle, gloves and hat more handy on belt.
That leaves what I started out with and still have. Wind pants - Montane, Superfeet, my 2 liter pot, my pot cozy, stuff bags, trowel, tp, hand sanitizer. Isn't that amazing? How little remains?
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: www.pcta.org