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Brian "Gadget" Lewis
Begins: Aug 11, 2016
Date: Wed, Aug 3rd, 2016
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Prep and Planning
I take a train to East Glacier in five days, so am in sort of the last throes of preparation. I’ve got my gear mostly laid out, three resupply boxes mostly filled (just need to get a couple of the actual cardboard boxes), and navigation plan pretty well worked out.
I’m not going super light on this trip, but not doing too badly either; I anticipate my starting base weight will be between 15 and 16 pounds. This includes more electronics than usual (and hey, my trail name IS Gadget after all) --- spare battery for my phone, a separate standalone GPS (as opposed to just using the GPS built into the phone), an MP3 player, and a folding keyboard. The keyboard is of course to make it easier to blog on the trail. The standalone GPS and MP3 player are primarily so that I can separately power those devices, i.e., my power “budget” for listening to audio books and music is independent of GPS use --- and vice versa --- and both functions are in turn power-independent of other uses of the phone.
Other uses of the phone? Well, “as a phone” is one, but it’s also my only camera, book reader, possible internet access device (not too good for internet or phone as T-Mobile is my carrier). I occasionally make voice recordings with it, and I keep electronic versions of some documents on it --- some that I have paper copies as well, others I have only in digital form.
So anyway, more weight of electronics than usual, counting charger and spare batteries, it’s 1.85 pounds worth, more than 10% of my base weight.
Clothing carried (not worn) starting out is 2-2/3 pound. I’ll add about another pound worth 500-some miles into the trip via a resupply box sent to the town of Oroville just for this reason. Because by then it should be approaching mid-September, with the Cascade mountains ahead.
I’m making two significant gear item changes from previous trips. On my last Florida trail hike with my friends Carl and Ed I decided to buy a “Sawyer Squeeze” water filter. I’ve been a long-time user of chemicals to treat water, Aqua Mira drops in particular. But the Sawyer Squeeze isn’t THAT much heavier, it has some improbably high number of gallons it’s supposed to be able to treat (basically my lifetime worth of backpacking), it’s pretty easy to use, and you can easily backflush it to keep it working. I like that I can’t run out of it, like I can with chemicals. Apart from the difficulty of predicting how much water I'll be treating over a given period, I’ve infrequently had the experience of finding one of my two little bottles of Aqua Mira a lot less full than the other, presumably due to a pinhole leak. It’s not wonderful to be a long way from any opportunity to obtain more water treatment and find that you’ve run out. So we’ll see on this trip how well I like this filter approach.
The other change is my stove. As with the last PNT trip, Lucky and I will share the stove, and thus take share the carried weight as well. For the western third of the PNT we found it worked well to share a canister stove, as analysis showed that we could buy canisters along the way when we needed them, and indeed we could for that trip.
I initially planned to do the same for this trip, but there are exactly two places one can buy canisters along the way, we would need to a canister from both of them, and I had read that there was some question as to whether you could really, definitely get a canister or if they might be out of stock at one of those places.
So --- I succumbed to the temptation to buy new gear. :-) I got a titanium Vargo Hexagon Wood Stove, along with a Vargo Titanium “converter stove”. The wood stove can stand alone using twigs/sticks to make a small contained fire to heat with. The clear advantage here is that you can’t run out of fuel, though it’s a bit more effort to collect wood, make a little fire (where this is legal …), and maintain the fire until water is heated. And it leaves things sooty, and if there are lots of bugs or if it’s raining and/or small pieces of dead wood are hard to find or are wet, then not so good. And we'll need to figure out some way of making decent tinder; okay when easy options like dry moss are around, but we neither of us carry a knife of any size at all, so this might be interesting. I'm hoping that map sheets that we're done with will be enough.
So anyway, we'll also carry the 1.6 oz “converter stove”. This drops into the Hexagon stove unit, using the latter as a wind screen. If turned rightside-up, it’s an alcohol stove, so we’ll carry a supply of denatured alcohol for this. Put it in upside down and you can use it as a solid fuel (Esbit) stove base, so I’m also bringing 12 Esbit tabs. Hopefully we’ll be able to use it as a wood stove most of the time, with the wonderful benefit that we can then heat as much water as we want, even boil drinking water that way if we come across sketchy looking sources. It will be a somewhat complicated system, however, so I am mixed about it.
The converter stove in particular gets poor reviews, but there are a couple of options to mitigate that; I’m bringing a little cut-down cat food can to act as either flame snuffer + fuel-reclaimer, or as a warming pan to preheat the stove. Complicated stuff, but shouldn’t actually be too bad in practice.
My theory is that Lucky will carry the wood burning stove part plus the alcohol fuel, offsetting things I’m carrying like Esbit tabs, cook pot, and GPS (I’m the group navigator).
I’m bringing a 30-degree rated sleeping bag. I’m sure that will be fine in August; per above, I’ll augment that with a bit more clothing in late September, but stick with the same bag throughout.
I had originally planned to bring bear spray for use in Glacier N.P. and then at some point after just (surface) mail it home. But there are three of us now, which helps reduce bear risk a little I believe, and the one time that my friend Milky and I had a serious grizzly encounter on the CDT, we both of us forgot that we were carrying bear spray until well after the encounter was over. Even the lightest bear spray can + holster setup weighs, if I recall correctly, 13.5 oz, and bangs along on my hip or elsewhere on my pack in a less than comfortable way. And I recall multiple times setting my pack down and forgetting the bear spray can which would inevitably bang itself on a rock. So going without this time.
Most of the other stuff is just standard long distance “stuff” that I bring on all trips. Ah, except I have a brand new pack. The identical model (ULA Circuit) I had been using, just a brand new one. The old one was getting worn in various ways and places, so it's now retired to use on shorter, more local trips.
Here’s a good list of resupply points along the PNT.
We plan to resupply in Polebridge, then in Eureka, then using our first resupply boxes sent to Fiest Creek Restaurant (north of, and avoiding a hitch into Bonners Ferry). Then in Metaline Falls WA, then Northport, and Republic. Our second resupply boxes will be sent to Oroville (mostly to add clothing), and then our third and last resupply box goes to Ross Lake Resort.
Because we switched to take the northern route alternate to get out of Glacier National Park, we might end up hitchhiking to and then back from Polebridge. The only other hitchhiking we have to do for this entire trip is to get into and then back out of the town of Republic, WA. I think that most people hitch into Bonners Ferry (Idaho) too, but I read multiple accounts of people having trouble getting rides, and the Fiest Creek Bar/Restaurant is supposed to be very hiker friendly, so we’ll just get a resupply box there and keep going.
I had hoped to once again use the excellent Li Brannfors maps, but no one seems to be able to get in contact with Li. I could use his 2013 versions which I retain, but instead I’ll use the Ted Hitzroth maps, which are supposed to sync up well with the Tim Youngbluth guidebook and his associated data book. I have the guidebook and maps in physical form, cut up and split into resupply boxes appropriately. I’ve also got the guidebook and associated data book in digital form on my phone. And I have the 2013 Li Brannfors maps in digital form on my smartphone. Pretty small on that 5” screen, but Li puts some very useful comments on his maps, and I envision myself reading ahead on those to more fully understand the options and alternatives.
I’ve got the waypoint plot from Tim Youngbluth (thanks for sending that, Tim!), and all of that stuff is on both my Garmin GPS and my Samsung phone, the latter as backup, but also on occasion useful because it offers (a) a bit of a larger screen (than the GPS), and (b) an alternate map source in the form of accuterra maps --- which have an extensive set of more up-to-date trails marked on the map data.
So, hopefully we won’t get too-o lost along the way! :-) One thing that will help is that we’re hiking from east-to-west this time, which is how the guidebook is laid out. It’s much, much easier following a guidebook in its intended direction! Still, the PNT is reputed to be poorly signed, often poorly maintained, and just generally more of an adventure to stay on track. I expect that we’ll have to stay fairly close together on this trip, as opposed our norm for hiking on a trail like the PCT or --- especially --- the AT, where you can hike for much of the day apart from your hiking partner(s) with complete confidence that you’ll connect up again later.
Okay, again, quite a long blog entry --- certainly longer than I expect to typically do on the trail (!) --- so I’ll stop here.
Gadget's Trail Journal
The 1200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNNST), running from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, ranks among the most scenic trails in the world. This carefully chosen path is high for the views and long on adventure. It includes the Rocky Mountains, Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Olympic Mountains, and Wilderness Coast. The trail crosses 3 National Parks and 7 National Forests. Learn more: www.pnt.org
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