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Professor - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2014

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Michael "Professor Errant" Slusser
City: Running Springs
State: California
Country: United States
Begins: May 17, 2014
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sat, Dec 21st, 2013
Start: Running Springs
End: Running Springs
Daily Distance: 0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 768
Journal Visits: 8,727
Guestbook Views: 645
Guestbook Entrys: 7

Gear list

Pacific Crest Trail Map

Pre-Trail Reading

Being both academically inclined and anal retentive, I've been reading about the PCT for years in every form I can muster. It started with the Southern California Wilderness Guide, which I've used for many local hikes along the PCT in Big Bear, Lake Silverwood, and Whitewater. I thought at the time this was the end-all be-all of guides (and it remains by far the most detailed guide, though the bits on geology left me feeling slow and confused).

Then come the unending string of trail journals. There's a vicarious thrill to following the adventures of other hikers that simultaneously fills me with elation and intense, bitter jealousy. I would gorge on readings for hours, then stay away for days, alternately excited and defeated by the exploits of those who went before. Of these, my favorite was Muk-Muk's journal from last year; something about her personality, her writing style, and her honesty really brought home the PCT as a journey of the spirit as much as a journey of the body. I scour other journals for their gear and advice with some consistency, although--being an English professor--the writing quality can make an enormous difference in how devoted I am to that particular hiker.

Of late, I've been reading some books by hikers. I figured I had to read the famous ones just so I'd know what those off the trail might be most familiar with (if anything at all). I enjoyed Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, though his snark can sometimes be wearying. Strayed's Wild will probably have more impact on the trail than any other book in recent memory. I was drawn into the story, though I didn't think the writing particularly stellar (and, in fact, was annoyingly repetitive much of the time) and I was more gripped by her personal problems than her trail experiences. Keith Foss' The Last Englishman was probably the most detailed description of the trail and the journey itself. I read many samples of other hiker books (all available on Amazon and the samples are free on the Kindle), a few of which grabbed me. As I'm hoping to write a book of my own, I considered this research into how to (and how not to) write about the experience.

Now I'm on the training manuals of sorts. After weeks of searching, I managed to track down an affordable copy of Ray Jardin's Beyond Backpacking (that venerable reworking of his original PCT guidebook), which I've found to be one of the best purchases I've made. I don't know that I'll follow all of Uncle Ray's advice (and he suggests that this is perfectly acceptable), but much of the thought and experience that has gone into the work have made an impact on me. More than any other source, this has made me want to figure out how to pitch a tarp, at the least.

Yesterday, I got my copy of Yogi's Pacific Crest Trail Handbook in the mail and have been devouring it since. Really, it's wonderfully concise and to the point about actual issues PCT hikers face and has a variety of opinion from successful travelers. For me, it's a real challenge to take the valuable lesson--that everyone has their own way of making the journey and there is no "right" way to do so--and not fall into the trap of feeling like I'm always doing something wrong. That's one of the personality bits I'm rather hoping is reshaped by the trail. (And I'll end on the note that "trail" and "trial" are so easily swapped in typing, and suggest that this is probably not without meaning...)

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Professor Errant

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