Taping up my resupply boxes over the weekend felt like commitment. At some point all the researching, planning, and preparing gave way to a centered calmness knowing that I am ready to walk. The chaos surrounding my little bubble elsewhere in life tells a different story.
Never ones to play small, Katrina and I set about reconfiguring our cirucumstances to accommodate my absence for 4 months, Hanna heading to college come September (UW, woot!), and life after the corporate desk job. Everything from installing security cameras, building flower boxes, doing finish electrical/plumbing/carpentry, and moving furniture, each day has reminded me of both the satisfaction and toll of physical labor. Just as I have my plan for the trail, we have sketched out our audacious plan for life’s next chapter. I complement Kat’s exquisite design sense and human touch with a stubborn ‘we can do it all’ attitude.
My optimistic approach shows up in my plan for the PCT too. I am starting out later than the conventional norm of early to mid April. Ideally you want to time your entry into the Sierras at about mile 700 to balance the creeping heat of the Mojave desert with the snow melting in the high mountains. Think oppressive, dry desert walking with scarce water versus abundant water although in the form of hip deep mushy snow and high running creeks. With super high snowpack this year, I’m betting a later start makes good sense. Even so I expect my pace will be faster than the average bear driven by my desire to get home (see site title) and I hope to hit the Sierras mid/late June. Combining all those factors, an admittedly unachievable schedule emerges (yep, there’s an app for that too) and I can guess where I will be and when. Lots of folks have expressed interest in meeting up somewhere along the way and this stands as my best albeit preliminary estimate. It presupposes at least 20 miles per day and does not account for any days off so while I know it’s not right, I’d rather my food boxes be waiting for me than the other way around. Interestingly enough, only 4 of the 29 boxes I will be sending go to Washington addresses pointing out the immensity that is California.Now all that’s left for me to do besides the waiting is to stuff my backpack, bring all my resupply boxes over to my momma’s house, and get on a plane. Oh, that and the umpteen other things on my list(s):
I have always been a bit of a map geek. Some would say, “John, you are being way too specific.” I liked to claim control of the old AAA triptiks from the back seat of the family wagon (green, paneled and of the station variety) following our progress as we cruised across the country on family road trips. Flash forward to my days as a junior product manager working on Microsoft Access and Foxpro when the coolest demo we could devise to demonstrate our speedy database was to plot every U.S. zip code on a blank white screen. With “Rushmore(tm) technology(!)”, eventually you could make out the shape of the U.S. after drawing something like 50,000 points. Woot!
In the heady days of CD-ROM multimedia titles, we had a terrific team working on Microsoft’s mapping products some of whom you see pictured below. It was one of those rare and coveted career times when the relationships established endure long after the team disbands.
We did a lot of great work together building new business for Microsoft including adding a GPS puck to our Streets and Trips product. Now the hardcopy AAA triptiks of old could be replaced by a blinking cursor on a scrolling display if you could somehow figure out a safe way to power and position your enormous laptop safely inside your car. Convenience was not part of the value proposition.
Fortunately technology marches on and I won’t need to lug a PC on my hike. Garmin now makes a handheld satellite device called an inReach Explorer. For a mere 8 ounces (along with a spendy satellite data plan), anybody so armed can be located anywhere on the planet with timely accuracy. In addition to the old outdoor adage of ‘staying found’, messages can be sent and received conveying everything from a daily “all is well” update to an urgent SOS. At any given time my current location will be available here.
Of course technology fails so I will also have paper maps and a compass should I ever need them. 2650 trail miles makes for a lot of paper maps. The kind stewards of the PCT (big props to Yogi and HalfMile) make it easy to obtain and organize all the trail maps so they sent in resupply boxes.
So wheeerrre’s Johnny? Asked and answered.
If you have yet to notice, this blog abounds with Springsteen lyrics, anecdotes, and other references. Just as Bruce’s concerts and music have punctuated my life for the past 32 years, my heartache and triumph on the trail this year will assuredly bring his poetry to mind. Meeting him this last October in Seattle while he was promoting his autobiography ‘Born to Run’ was electric. The raw honesty and personal introspection found in his book helped provide encouragement for this blog.
So when it came time to figure out a distinguishing mark for my resupply boxes, I did not have to reach far for inspiration. Because so many people attempt to thru hike the PCT every year (maybe as many as 2500 will start this month and next) the towns and post offices along the way get inundated with Priority Mail flat rate boxes full of food and equipment. Locating your boxes amid the onslaught makes baggage claim at a busy airport seem trivial. My solution was to 3D print a handy stencil adapted from Annie Leibowitz’s iconic photograph and et voila:
Not only am I sure to locate my boxes but I bet I also discover more than a few fellow fans with their own stories to tell. Talk about sustenance.
I expect I will need 30 or so resupply boxes each packed full of food and other supplies. The goal is to get the most palatable calories in with the least amount of weight. The humble almond turns out to be the hero of all trail food packing 170 calories per ounce. I have devised what I hope to be a sufficiently varied menu consisting of:
- Vegetarian chili with Just Veggies
- Dehydrated pinto beans
- Red beans and rice
- Ramen with smoked salmon
- Triscuits and peanut butter
- Mixed fruit and nuts
- Peanut M&Ms
- Snickers and Paydays
- Pro Meal Bars
- Instant oatmeal
- Starbucks Via
- Veggie and ahi jerky
- Tuna in oil
The target is about 4000 calories per day with each day’s supply weighing about 2 pounds. Here’s what a 3 day resupply box looks like packing almost 12,000 calories:
It was quite a bit of work to repackage Costco size bulk into more manageable sizes. 25 pounds of M&Ms anyone? 30 pounds of mixed almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios?
I have my Mom lined up as my resupply angel at home ready to send these boxes where and when needed. Thanks in advance Momma!
” I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side. You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride”
-Land of Hope and Dreams, Bruce Springsteen
“Because I say so” seems like the last refuge for exasperated parents faced with endless “whys?’ but a subtler truth lies therein. Declarative language holds the power of creation. Whether envisioning new software products, changing perspective on shitty circumstance, or self-generating motivation to tackle big challenges, for me, everything starts with words. As humans with integrity and who always like to be right, we often do everything possible to live into the reality of our words for good or ill.
Invictus, a Victorian poem by William Ernest Henley, has shaped this approach to my life ever since I first encountered it in high school. (Huge props go out to Bruce Saari, teacher of the humanities, Sammamish High School 1985). While it won’t help you escape death, the poem captures the idea that we can choose how our life will be using the power of personal conviction.
So what the heck does all that have to do with hiking the Pacific Crest Trail? Well, when I declare to people I’m doing the PCT, I am met with incredulity, envy, and/or enormous support. I worry that I am not being thankful enough for that last bit. Should I respond to every supportive blog comment or will an endless stream of ‘thank you’ be a bore? While I will certainly try to answer any questions, let my boundless gratitude here suffice for one and all. Simply telling everyone that I’m thru-hiking translates into the motive power I need to accomplish it. Indeed, as you have read above, this blog and your unwitting readership underpin the creation of my personal experience and inspire- breathe life into- its becoming a reality. Hey, thank you very much.
Therefore, I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail because:
It’s been a long held dream.
I have the time.
The pictures look spectacular!
I read countless trail blogs from others.
I like cool new gear.
I watched ‘Wild’.
I say that I am.