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City: Walnut Creek
Begins: Apr 22, 2018
Date: Sun, Jan 21st, 2018
Start: Walnut Creek, CA
End: Walnut Creek, CA
Daily Distance: 0
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Pacific Crest Trail Map
Welcome to my Pacific Crest Trail blog. Although the idea of hiking the PCT has been haunting me for over five years, and Ive been planning for it pretty earnestly for the last year, I didnt want to start my blog until it was a reality. Last Wednesday I confirmed my permit through the PCT Association, and I will begin my attempt to thru-hike the PCT (northbound, or Nobo to PCT trail rats, from Mexico Campo, CA - to Canada Manning Park, BC) on Sunday, April 22. It is ON! Over the next 3 months, I hope to update this periodically as my physical and emotional preparation progress and then, once the approximately 5-month adventure begins and subject to the limitations of cellular technology I hope to provide periodic updates along the way. And whereas this blog is intended to be a way for the three or four of my close friends and family to experience the adventure with me, make no mistake that it is primarily for me; a way to sort through all the things going through my head and my heart, and maybe even be the basis for my first book, The Geezers Guide to the PCT. Hey, it could happen.
I mention physical and emotional preparation because this adventure will require both, in spades. The physical part is the easiest I think, although I still have a long way to go before I'm ready. Id say at this point I have about 90 percent of the gear I will need including a trusty and well-used backpack, trekking poles, water filter, cook gear, shelter, sleeping bag/sleeping shroud (more on that in a later entry), very cold/cold/cool/ideal/warm/hot/very hot clothing (all pretty much the same stuff), trail first aid kit, and very good walking shoes. When I finally did the math, it occurred to me that I will actually wear out as many as six pairs of shoes, so I went to REI this weekend and picked up what will be my inaugural pair, some La Sportiva trail runners with hard soles and separated heel and sole. While we were there, I also started checking out GPS equipment, and although as a geologist and fairly good map-reader I am less concerned about navigation, my lovely bride Jill has pointed out that being able to reach me with word from home, or me being able to summon help should the proverbial stuff hit the fan in a big way, would represent some all-around peace of mind.
Physically, I view this trek as something of a marathon in that theres really no way to prepare for a 2,650-mile walk beyond being in good physical condition, doing local weekend hikes with a full backpack load, and then when the time comes, putting one foot in front of the other. Ive spent the past 15 years doing everything I can to stay in shape and, although I didnt really know it, to be prepared for this adventure. Ive been on several fairly arduous backpacking trips over the past 5-6 years, and I feel prepared to face any kind of terrain, under any kind of conditions. What is it, you may ask, that makes me think the I can hike for five months straight when Ive never been out for more than a week at a time? I would say there are two answers: A little voice burning deep in side me that says I can, and I absolutely don't know.
I still have much to learn about resupply, and the logistics of maintaining adequate provisions along the way. Im actually working my way through, for a second time, what many consider to be the Bible of PCT thru hiking. Its called Yogis Guide, and it is updated annually by Jackie McDonnell, who has thru-hiked the PCT at least twice and provides in her guide all the critical information one needs to do it successfully. Yogi, her trail name, along with 4-5 trail rats with similar experience, provides guidance on essential gear, resupply logistics, water supplies, interesting (and must-do, in my opinion) side trips, use of Half Mile Maps (included with the Guide, they are detailed topographic maps of the PCT in 15-20 mile chunks), and how to maximize the all-important and inevitable zero days (when no mileage is gained, either to resupply and do laundry, rest, and/or both). Many thanks to my dear friend Mike Blanchard, a PCT veteran, who turned me on the Yogis Guide, and who is a major reason why I am doing this. Mike, Ill let you know in September whether that was a good or bad thing.
And beyond the preparation specific to the thru-hike, there are all the things I do back home that someone else, namely my lovely bride Jill, will have to pick up. All of these things are fairly mundane, such as getting the trash and recycling/green waste taken to the top of the driveway every Wednesday, mowing the yard, maintaining the pool and the finicky irrigation system that was the inspiration of my dear father-in-law Bob, mowing the yard, paying the bills (electronically and the old-fashioned way, with checks and stamps), balancing the checkbook, and dealing with the plethora of things that require matter over mind. That same dear bride has informed me that I will need to create the mother of all lists, replete with photographs and detailed instructions. I've been advised that making it so is the best way to keep from coming home and meeting the 23-year old pool boy/gardener/all-around handyman Fernando...
And then there is the concept of quitting work. I have no problem not working, as I have a million interests and namely thru hiking the PCT. Yeah, not working isn't the issue; it's not making any money. I hesitate to use a term like "retiring," because that sort of connotes a certain financial independence that I'm not really sure I've achieved. I plan to give this a lot of thought on the trail, and my hope is to come back to the real world with a plan for what it is I will do next to help Jill keep the lights on. I've always wanted to teach school, and friends who are teachers in the Bay Area indicate that high school geoscience and chemistry teachers are in high demand. I believe I have the energy and excitement to be a good teacher, and most certainly I hope to have a good story to tell. Much to be considered, and much to be decided, but not today...
By far the most daunting part of planning for this adventure is the emotional preparation involved. This is, by far, the most selfish thing Ive ever planned to do. Im essentially abandoning my family to pursue a long-time dream, and the cost for those left behind doing business as usual (twice the business as usual, to be fair) will be high. Im not sure I will ever fully come to grips with that, and perhaps it is appropriate that I never will, but I am trying. My hope is that Max, and Nate from Portland to the extent he can, and our few but dear friends in the area will step up to be of assistance and to provide moral support. You will all have my undying devotion, and will have earned unlimited goodwill capital. My dad will be 90 in July, and although I hope to hop off the trail and make my way back to Oklahoma for some kind of celebration, he will never understand what it is I am hoping to accomplish. I have not yet broached it with him. And then there is my own self-doubt as to whether I can really make it. A very real possibility is that I will find myself sitting in the middle of the trail, 100 miles north of Mexico and 50 miles away from anyone who cares or could help, crying for Mommy. According to Yogi, everyone - EVERYONE - wants to quit at some point, and of the some 1,500 people that start each year, only about a quarter of them actually finish. As I noted, this blog is mostly for me, and one of my primary motivations is to make my goal public enough that I wont be able to quit for fear of having to own up to it. I guess we'll see.
So there it is, my first PCT blog. I hope this engages you and compels you to see whats next. Wade into my braided stream of consciousness, and float with me downriver for a while. A quote from Red in Shawshank Redemption, one of my very favorite movies, comes to mind.
"I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain."