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
Snickers and Paydays
Pro Meal Bars
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”
“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:
When delving in to the world of long distance hiking, you almost immediately encounter endless gear lists and a near religious obsession with pack weight. I get it. If you are going to carry something for any significant distance, it makes good sense to have everything deliver value exceeding its weight (and the space necessary to bring it along). Some things are non-negotiable like backpack, sleeping bag, and shelter aka The Big Three.
As a Boy Scout in the late 1970s, enormous, external frame packs reigned were de rigueur and while some attention was paid to weight, ‘Be Prepared’ often translated into bulky, heavy packs. Fast forwarding to more recent times, pack frames went internal and most all equipment became smaller and lighter. Even so, my ‘old school’ mentality resulted in trips up Mt Rainier and elsewhere lugging 60+ pound loads even while appearing more streamlined. That I looked better doing it did not necessarily mean it was any easier.
Confronting the challenge of thru-hiking the PCT, it seems prudent to rethink my approach. Being mistaken for a day hiker with a tiny pack appears to be the ultimate form of flattery for the new breed ‘ultralight’ hiker. These folks worry their loads down to fractions of ounces and often compare their lists with others online. A ‘pack teardown’ is when one hiker critiques the gear choices made by another hiker with the goal of reducing to the smallest and lightest load possible.
I must admit I got caught up a bit in the mania and have published a preliminary gear list. Indeed, there’s an app for that too. I am not much interested in measuring and comparing ‘pack’ size but I am all about gear choices that serve as efficiently as possible. Let me tell you, outdoor gear has come a long way since my days as a Boy Scout. I pulled out all my existing gear and almost to an item, technology and design has improved.
If you peruse my list, you can see that I’m not necessarily solving for smallest and lightest. It’s more like smallest and lightest that will make the hike not just bearable but also enjoyable. I am trying to get my base weight – all equipment but no food or water- down to under 20 pounds. For those who know me well won’t be surprised to find camera and electronics make up a significant percentage of clearly extraneous pack weight. What can I say? I like my gadgets and I want to use what I can to share my adventure with others. I’ll carry it and you will benefit. Good deal no?
Tomorrow I complete my journey of 24+ years working for Microsoft and I am eager start my next chapter. Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Mexico to Canada will fill my immediate future and after I make it back home, I’m confident that I’ll have some insight into what comes next.
Lots more about the trail, planning, and logistics later but for now, here’s the brief note I sent to all the amazing, talented Microsoft people with whom I had the privilege of working:
Interestingly enough, I began my Microsoft journey precisely 9000 days ago(!) so today marks the close of a big, personal chapter. I carry forward great memories of changing the world with the likes of you all and wish everyone nothing but continued success in whatever stirs your heart.
As for more me, I’m off to realize my long held dream of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. I start north on May 9th and will finish sometime mid-September after 2650 miles, ~6MM steps, and >600K calories consumed. If so inclined, you can follow my story at www.walkingmywayhome.com. Honestly, the blogging seems much more daunting to me than the hiking but I’m committed to discovering whether or not that’s true.
Let the journey begin!
I hope you didn’t miss the part above about my fear of blogging. I have little idea what I’m getting into and ask for your patience as I discover my voice and learn the ins/outs of WordPress. My first attempt did not go so well when my first and all too clever blog name- walkingawayhome- had my wife convinced I was angling for divorce. Rest assured dear reader that nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, Katrina’s blessing for my happy little dream stands as further evidence of my great good fortune in life. I’m a lucky man.
If you choose to come along, I pledge an honest account of both trail adventure and self-discovery. Who knows what we’ll find? I hope you will join me as I walk my way home.