1 day closer…

Thus far Andy has done all the blogging. On the trail we will figure out how to both share our stories and experiences. 
First let me admit that it is weird and scary for me to share my thoughts, fears, mistakes and accomplishments with a group of people. I consider myself to be an open person but usually one on one. It is terrifying to write about my emotions and struggles and send it out to the world. This PCT journey is going to one of stepping out of my comfort zone into the unknown and enbracing discomfort, so why not start with blogging?!

Afterall, you are my community. 

Here I am, sitting on a plane flying down to LA for my first Armenian wedding experience, 1 day of throwing food in boxes and one last night in the comforts of a familiar home.

There are so many emotions swimming around my head and heart I don’t know where to begin. I look forward to the silence and expansiveness of the southern Californian desert to devote some time to process all that has happened in the last few months.

Leaving a 5+ year life in San Francisco, friends, a predictable routine, and most difficult of all, a mother with compromised health – all for the unknown adventure – is terrifying. There will be moments of excitement, sadness, nervousness, self growth, humor, fear, playfulness and physical, emotional and psychological exhaustion.

 I am glad I have a way to share it all with you!

Planning for a Thru Hike

We are ready to hike.

Ready to be done planning.

Ready to be done moving.

Ready to clear our minds and just walk.

It takes a lot of effort, time, patience, deep breaths, dedication and planning to leave the city life – even if only temporarily.

“The struggles will be worth it.” That’s what I keep telling myself. It’ll all be worth it when we’re finally out there walking.
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This post will get you caught up with where we are at this point (more or less), with less than a week til we start hiking!!

Leaving Our Lives In San Francisco Behind

The carpet – vacuumed ✔

The closet – empty ✔

The bed – missing sheets, pillows and a comforter.

And the walls – naked, ready to host another person’s memories and ambitions.

I have left my apartment. I am officially homeless. On purpose!

And Laurie will join me as we embark on the dirtbag life April 2nd when she leaves her apartment.

Resupply Boxes

We will be sending ourselves nearly 60(!!) resupply boxes along the way. And putting these boxes together has been one of the most time consuming, tedious and daunting tasks I have ever undertaken.

Why?

Since we are sending ourselves almost all our food, it makes sense to include most of the items we will need to hike the next section too – including toiletries, maps, information about the next town, other vital information, vitamins, water purification and many, many more things.

Having all these items will allow us to actually rest when we roll into town, and eat(!!!), or head back onto the trail sooner since we will spend less time running around in towns looking for supplies.

At the same time, we’ve had to figure out where to ship these boxes. We called many of the places (listed in guidebooks and websites) we will be shipping our boxes to ensure they still accept them and how they prefer said boxes be mailed (USPS Priority Mail or UPS/FedEx) to ensure delivery.

Our efforts will hopefully translate to our packages arriving at their destinations and into our packs without issue.

Food, Food, Food

By a country mile, the most arduous component of the resupply boxes has been piecing together our food.

Who knows what we’ll want to eat a few days from now let alone a few months from now?

Many hikers who’ve come before us warn would-be hikers to not plan all their food because taste buds change and many people get sick of their food.

Anticipating this, we have been focusing A LOT on variety.

Sweet, salty, savory, meaty, even sour – you name it, we’re gonna be eating it! Pasta sauce ‘fruit’ leather anyone?

If we haven’t mentioned this yet, the reason we are sending ourselves most of our food is because I care greatly about the quality of the foods I eat and Laurie is gluten intolerant. In short, we anticipate options will be very limited in small towns.

We’ll let you know how it goes. Stay tuned…

Below are a few pictures in which I tried to capture the enormity of the food we have amassed the last few months, and the boxes we have to squeeze them into.

It’ll all be worth it!

It’ll all be worth it!

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Mountain Education Snow Basics Class

When considering a thru hike, a person needs to get in hiking shape, create a hiking plan (resupply, miles per day, etc) and develop a well rounded skill set.

I’m in decent shape and we have a plan. But I can always learn more mountaineering techniques. So I decided to brush up on my snow travel skills by registering for a snow basics course. Ned Tibbits, who leads Mountain Education courses hiked the PCT in the 70s and is a member of two Search and Rescue Crews in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Day 1

Carson Pass to Winnemucca Lake (2.5 miles)

We met at the Carson Pass Sno – Park and got right to it. Before we left, Ned touched on the differences between microspikes and crampons.

Long story short, if you are ahead of the herd, take crampons. The sideways stepping when breaking trail will require them.

But if you are in the herd and there are established steps already, microspikes are fine.

Once we started snowshoeing, it was pretty straightforward. Lots of hard packed snow which meant little postholing. And this was good because we were traveling over 5 feet of snow.

We took lots of breaks to learn about the trees in the area and do some route finding. Using Halfmile’s maps and points of reference, we figured out where we were and set a course toward camp. This is what I came to learn!

I need lots and lots of practice, but hopefully I’ll get there.

Another useful piece of information Ned bestowed upon us was that winds from storms come from the south (and southwest) while fair weather winds come from the North.

He also talked about what type of clouds indicate storms on the horizon.

The wind was howling all day, and as I write this cacooned in my sleeping bag, it continues to pound my tent. Thankfully I brought earplugs!

I’m hoping to stay warm through the night. Done should help with this.
I tried our homemade (and dehydrated) gluten free pasta with bison beef. Delicious!

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Day 2

Things learned during the night:

When camping on snow, my inflatable pad – with a R value of 3.5 is not sufficient enough to insulate me from the frozen ground.

With the relentless wind blowing cold air into my tent all night long too, my feet never got warm.

I wore Laurie’s fleece pants and my windshirt over my wool Long Johns, along with my buff around my neck and over my face to finally get the rest of my body warm enough to sleep. 

According to Ned, the coldest it got last night in his tent was 30 degrees at 7am but it sure felt colder in mine with the nonstop, bone chilling wind.

Everybody slept in this morning except me. I got my usual 1 hour of deep sleep, followed by constant tossing and turning and light sleep, until 6am. I finally crawled out of my tent to greet the morning sun around 6:30.

Besides the wind, it’s really quiet here, and it feels so good. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed it. It’s blissful.

Around 8 am I noticed Ned shoveling away in the distance. Curious, I laced up my boots and walked towards him. He was making a kitchen! Eager to help, I jumped in to form the backrest and wind break for our stoves.

I was hungry this morning. Which is a good sign given my funky stomach the last few days. I almost bailed on this trip fearing that whatever my system is fighting right now could lead to an unpleasant 3 days in the wilderness.

So far so good. And I’m glad I didn’t bail.

Today was travel day – of sorts. We snowshoed about 1 mile, stopping every so often to learn about the conditions and what to look out for in different seasons when traveling on snow.

Great takeaway message from today: When you see shine ahead, prepare for it. Same with signs of snowballs rolling down the mountains. This can mean icy and slippery conditions. Get ice axe / whippet out and have it ready just in case.

The wind was howling all day today. It made for chilly snowshoeing but pretty nonetheless.  We snowshoed to a high point from which we could see Lake Tahoe. So beautiful.

Oh, on the way up, we chatted up two snowshoers headed down. The gal’s trail name was Epic and she hiked the PCT last year! Small world.

We enjoyed snacking and taking pictures from the mound. We had reception so I sent a text to Laurie and my dad. Then I took out my maps and started to orient. Practice, practice, practice! Because practice makes better 🙂

Around 2:30pm we headed down the mountain, across frozen lake Winnemucca and toward our campsite. My insides were not happy and I left the group to go dig a hole. I usually don’t get attacks like that, where I have to go NOW, so something still isn’t right.

An hour later, I had to go again. Ned asked me if all was well and I had to admit that it wasn’t and ask for more tp as I was out. I had packed more than I thought I would need, but it wasn’t enough. Lesson learned. This wasn’t much fun for my ego, but hey, beats using snow to clean my bottom.

As we relaxed at our kitchen for about an hour, unbenounced to us Ned was digging a massive hole to teach us about avalanche dangers and how to spot them. The hole he had dug was tremendous – 5 feet deep and about 7 feet long.

He said he didn’t want to over exert us and that’s why he did it all by himself.

After a thorough review of what to look for and what judgment calls to make, we shoveled blocks of snow back into the hole and went for dinner.

Sunset was amazing again. The wind was almost nonexistent while Ned and I enjoyed good conversation over good food. The others chose warmth and cooked in their tents.

I’m hoping the wind doesn’t kick our asses again tonight. For my feet to be warmer, I’ve put a waterproof trash compactor bag over my sleeping bag. It should be very windproof also.

We’ll see…

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Day 3

Up at 6 am once again. This time to total silence. The wind was fairly calm last night. And my feet were warm! I think the lack of wind coupled with the extra protection from the trash compactor bag worked!

Before I continue, allow me to introduce my classmates. I realize I haven’t mentioned anything about them thus far. Bob is a Bay Area resident embarking on his own PCT thru-hike this April. He is starting 15 days after us, so I hope our paths cross.

Emily is from Arizona and plans to hike the John Muir Trail this June. As with Bob, I hope to run into her in the snowy Sierras as she makes her way toward Mt. Whitney.

And Cathy is from Illinois and wants to hike the PCT next year. Go Cathy. Make it happen!

We enjoyed another easy morning. No real rush today. On the docket was learning (and practicing) how to self arrest, then hiking back to our cars.

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. Ned is a great teacher. He is very patient and willing to go over things as many times as it takes for us to get it.

It took many, many practice runs, but I finally left the slope confident in my self arrest abilities. For snow travel, this skill is a must. I’m hoping I don’t have to do a self arrest on the PCT (or ever) but I’m confident I’ll be able to should the need arise.

I also learned a few things about my gear. Mainly that my ice axe is too short to use as a walking stick while traversing steep slopes – is not intended to be that. But this was a problem because I found myself slouched over constantly as I sought contact with the slope for safety, which put me at risk of falling even more.

The biggest take away from this weekend for me was that no matter what ‘the experts’ say on blogs or forums or groups, until I try it for myself, I won’t know what works for me.

So instead of dropping your hard earned $$ on gear and equipment based on the experiences of others, I highly recommend taking classes such as those offered through Mountain Education to find out what works for you.

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From left to right : Bob, Emily, Cathy, Ned and yours truly