Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jones Hole

4.2 miles (easy, one-way)

During our first visit to the Green River, the shop manager at Trout Creek was like, "You girls should really go to Jones Hole. You hike in 4 miles the the confluence of Jones Creek and the Green River. The hike is beautiful, petroglyphs line the canyon walls about two-miles in and the fish are huge." Well, it sounded great but we had just drove 5.5 hours to fish the Green River. Jones Hole would have to wait for another time. Little had we known at the time that we would be back 3-weeks later.

We took advantage of some time off of work and headed down to Jones Hole Hatchery.

The trail starts out at the hatchery, meandering along side rows of rainbow, brown, and brook trout before disappearing into the lush green trees within the canyon. As the trees grew thick around me the snap, crackle and pop of tiny cicadas sang louder in my ears, and the sound of the rolling creek drowned out the sounds of the restz of the world.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Where are we Exactly?

A few weeks ago I stated that Cori and I had been offered jobs at a fly shop and outfitter in Utah for the summer, a few things pending. Things, for the most part, have fallen into place and Cori and I have driven back out to Utah to work for the summer, but where is that exactly?

We are both working for Trout Creek Flies & Green River Outfitters which is located near the Flaming Gorge Dam. I'll be doing a little bit of everything; driving shuttles, working in the store, etc., and Cori will be working in the Fly Shop.

The Dam, and the shop is surrounded by National Forest land. We're essentially living in the middle of nowhere, where the only things to do is hike and fish. We're living in our tent, rent free which we had planned to do anyways, and living off our maildrops we put together for the PCT so nothing is wasted. Its going to be the perfect summer.

The Dam

View above the dam. Photo courtsey of the Utah Park Service

View of the Green River from Little Hole

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lovers Leap

Miles: 4.5 loop trail (Moderate)
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,068 ft.

“This is the most beautiful place on Earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.” --Edward Abbey

The clouds hang heavy in the sky like cotton balls soaked in oil.The air is cool and damp against my skin, and a slight breeze makes the tiny hairs of my arms stand at attention as if on the lookout for something unknown to me is about to happen. We step across the pavement and over a small wooden bridge. I am wrapped up in a lush blanket of green, and the river is rushing by me. With each step the smell of damp organic matter saturates my senses as it squishes beneath my feet. I am in the Appalachian mountains, walking along the Appalachian Trail. I am home.

To be more exact, I'm in Hot Springs, NC, walking alongside the French Broad River. We are climbing relentlessly upward as we make our way North on the AT toward the top of Lovers Leap Rock. I can feel the the effects of three weeks in a car. I move forward without stopping but my calves are burning and I'm moving slower the usual. Which means I'm moving pretty slow.

We reach the top of lovers leap after a mere 0.3 miles. From here there was a birds-eye view of the French Broad River, 500 ft. This iconic landmark gets its name from a Cherokee Indian legend that tells of a maiden who threw herself from the steep cliff after learning her lover had been killed by a jealous beau. Such a sad legend for such a romantic sounding place.

View of the French Broad River from the top of Lovers Leap Rock

From here we continued upward for nearly another two miles, discussing the recent catastrophic earthquake in Nepal, and the hypothetical future of Mt. Everest. Our hearts are with the victims families of everyone affected, and we are grateful for the safety of friends that have just made it home safely.

We took the Pump Gap Trail back down to the parking lot. The downhill was long but easy. As we neared the bottom we passed two small concrete buildings, which are old bunkers that were used to hold explosives.

There were also several water crossings and I managed to keep my feet dry until the very end. I regret not getting a picture, but the crossing was wide (maybe ten yards) but shallow. F** - it. I walked right on through. Shoes and socks will dry and my feet will eventually regain feeling.

Post trail refueling consisted of a salad, grilled chicken, and a beer from the local Spring Creek Tavern in "downtown" Hot Springs. While we enjoyed our meal on the outside porch we noticed the rather large group of thru-hikers gathered on the front porch of the Hiker Ridge Ministry across the way. "We should buy them beer when we go to the store" Cori suggested. Brilliant. We picked up a 24 pack of Yuengling on the way back from Dollar General and cheerfully delivered it to the very appreciative group of hikers...and bikers! That's right! There was a couple there that is currently biking the Trans America Trail, and they took a little detour to the south. The TransAm trail is something that Cori and I have talked about doing for the past four years. It was actually on our list to do before the PCT and it fell by the wayside when I went to work for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia in 2013. Tonight's encounter has definitely resurrected the interest and has it back to the top of our list once Cori gets her whole rib/heart thing under control. I'm also slightly terrified of road biking so some short trips will be needed before jumping I to a three month cross-country biking trip. Guess that means it's time to start planning a short bike trip! Highway 12 in Southern Utah sounds good to me ;) Stay tuned!

Fishing in Cherokee

May 3, 2013

I just dropped back to sleep when the alarm clock buzzed at 6 am. Uuggghhh. One if these nights I'll actually get some sleep. I pushed myself up, pulled on my long johns, and stuffed all my miscellaneous stuff back into my backpack. Cori and I were meeting Leeland on the river ( Cherokee/Raven Fork) in 15 minutes. It would be a long day. A very, very long day.

Today's Highlights
I saw a rainbow trout jump straight up out of the water like shamu. It was huge and it's belly shined the color of blood.

A heard of elk walked up to the rivers edge to say good morning to us. Leeland yelled at them to chase them off.

I practiced my casting. It was a hot mess.

I now have a pair waders to wear (thanks to Cori) so I wasn't to cold for too long.

Stone flys were emerging from the river and Leeland picked one up that had just floated to the top of the river. He handed it to me and I watched it has its wings finished uncurling and it took off to its next stage in life.

I watched Cori get taken for a swim by a horny head sucker fish. I wish I could have videoed it.

After lunch we drove to Portsmouth, OH to spend the night with Nutmeg, whom we haven't seen since Maine on the AT.

I neglected to take pictures of all the cool things I saw today. New goal: take at least one picture a day.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fly Fishing in Utah

Anyone who knows me, knows that fishing is not my favorite thing to do. It's kind of a time suck. I could be working, hiking/exercising, writing, reading. Essentially anything else other than fishing. Ever since Cori got into fly fishing last August she's been begging me to try it. Today, I agreed to go on a guided trip through Circle Valley Anglers. Admittedly I was kind of excited.

Our guide Lenny, took us to Mammoth Creek. The creek meandered along the backside of some private homes, down some dusty dirt roads in the middle of nowhere town Utah.The sun was shining, and the river was peaceful. It was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Arches National Park: Delicate Arch

"A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches - that is the right and privilege of any free American." --Edward Abbey

Delicate Arch
Miles: 3.2 (Moderate)
Elevation Gain: 670 ft.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bryce Canyon

My eyes popped open at 7:30am. I wanted so badly to sleep, but my internal clock was saying "haha! sucks for you!" I moved in slow motion, in a haze, stuck somewhere between sleep and a daydream. Cori was still asleep. I was full of jealousy. I can't remember the last time I slept through a night. I stumbled out of our musty motel room, and greeted by the cold morning air. It was 31 degrees in the high desert, blindingly bright and breathtakingly beautiful.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Zion National Park

Angel's Landing
Miles: 5.4 (round trip - out and back)

Are we there yet? Breathe. Oh my God don't look down. Breathe. Sweet Jesus it's hot. Just breathe. Kids hike this?!? No Fing way. Just freaking breathe. Move forward; one step at a time. Oh thank God a traffic jam, we can stop for a minute. Breathe. Look at all those happy people coming back down; so relieved that the rock scramble is almost over. We're moving again. Breathe. Are we there yet?...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Death Valley National Park

After leaving Mono Lake we headed toward Death Valley National Park to camp for the night. We were somewhat on a time table that allowed us solely to enjoy the park by car. I was okay with this since (#1) it was getting late and (#2) the temperature outside was somewhere in the 80's and the thermostat got higher and higher the closer we got toward the park.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mono Lake

We left Shasta Trinity National Forest and headed back south. Under the advice of both friends and friendly strangers, we stopped by Mono Lake on our way to Utah. We weren't really sure what to expect but it kept being mentioned so we figured why not stop through.

The lake is located just to the east of Yosemite National Park, and serves as a major stop for migratory birds. Following our trend, we had gotten the there a few weeks before the huge influx of birds but there were still a few lingering out on the dry landscape.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I woke up this morning wanting to rip someone's face off. I needed to exercise. This sitting in a car thing is killing me, and unless I'm hiking 15 miles a day I'm not gonna keep the crazy away. Luckily, the hotel Siena Spa and Casino (Reno, NV) where we stayed last night had a gym, which had a treadmill. I jogged out the demons for about 30 minutes before heading to breakfast. I should be good for a few hours.

We've spent a lot of time focusing on logistics the past two days, but we finally have a new plan in place. We're heading back down South to National Park hop our way through Utah and across southern Colorado. But before we left the evergreen trees of beautiful Northern California we spent the night in Trinity-Shasta National Forest with the hope of getting some better views of Mt. Shasta. I say hope because a storm was rolling in, smothering Mt. Shasta in a swirl of grey and white.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Redding, CA

There is no National Park in Redding, CA, I know. We took a slight detour. We were actually on our way to Lassen Volcanic NP only to realize 1.5 hrs before our arrival that the main road through the park was closed and so were all the campgrounds. We've grown so accustomed to summer weather (by Boone standards) that we didn't really consider that winter, unfortunately, is still upon Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately this means no Crater Lake, Yellowstone, or Grand Tetons which is a little disappointing, however, it just means we need to stick to the southerly route on the way back to North Carolina.

Friday, April 10, 2015


After taking refuge in Madera, CA to wait out a passing snowstorm we headed North to Yosemite National Park. The recent snow event caused some roads closure including Glacier Point where had planned to spend the afternoon so we headed into Yosemite Valley instead.

I'm overwhelmed by the amount of people here in Yosemite Valley. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like in the summer time. Even in early April, traffic is bumper to bumper. Short trails leading to popular attractions are nearly shoulder to shoulder. There are lines for a deli. There is a grocery store. Lodges. I understand these things exist in a National Park, but to experience the reality of it is a bit of a shocker. I feel like I'm in an amusement park.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

After rounding up some packages in the desert Cori and I headed North, but not without stopping in the Mojave one last time to get my picture with a Joshua Tree. I'm not exactly sure what my fascination is with these odd looking trees, but I've always been intrigued by them. To me they look like alien palm trees, but in fact are the largest species in the Yucca family. They exist mostly in the Mojave Desert, the hottest desert in North America, and their pollination is solely reliant on the female pronuba moth that lays her eggs on the yucca seeds which then hatch and provide food for the larvae.

Our drive into Sequoia meandered through the western foothills of the Sierra Mountain range. Here, elevations below 5,000 feet are too dry to support much vegetation beyond grasses and shrubs. I was surprised by this, thinking that we were far enough north to be out of the desert. I guess I'm spoiled by the lush green vegetation of the Southern Appalachians. Still the tall grass rolling hills were a welcomed change of scenery.

It's so hard to believe that these grassy hills lead the way to some of the largest organisms in the world. Mind boggling really. This past year I read The Wild Trees_by Richard Preston, a novelistic style non-fiction book about the Redwood and Sequoia's of Northern California. An excellent read for anyone interested in the adventure and science of these trees. My mind kept regressing back to the books passages about the discovery of the groves, their magestic nature, and the thrill of discovering such a magnificent organism! And here I was, wiggling around in my seat like a two year who has to pee. I was just giddy with excitement. "Redwoods! We're going to see Redwoods!" I exclaimed. "No we're not", Cori replied, with a thin lined smirk rising across her face. "We're going to see Sequoias. Not the same thing. " Leave it to the plant physiologist to bring me back down to earth. She's correct though, although easily confused and often described interchangeably, they are in fact different species. One of the most notable differences is where they are found. Sequoia's are found on the western slopes of the Sierras between 4,000 - 8,000 feet. The Redwoods, on the other hand, are located along the Pacific Coast. There are also many other physical/biological differences that distinguish each species. You can read more about their differences on the National Park Service website if you're interested.

It was the end of Easter weekend as we pulled up to the park entrance. I was hoping to get a campsite in the Lodgepole campground to sleep near the trees, but the welcome sign noted that the site was full. Bummer. We quickly snagged a campsite at Buckeye instead which is in the foothills. More desert. Yay!!! (Please note the sarcasm). Honestly though, this worked to our advantage since the night temps would drop below freezing up at Lodgepole and we would be much warmer camping at 2,900 feet than at 6,500 feet. Thank you fate.

After securing a spot to camp we headed North along the Generals Highway, stopping to get a glimpse of Moro Rock and it's neighboring peaks.

The drive up to the Giant Forest was slam-on -the-breaks spectacular. Thank goodness for pull-offs.

Sequoia National Park is the nation's second oldest National Park, and the first National park created to protect a single living organism. So it seemed fitting to make our first hike to see General Sherman, the largest (by volume) and one of the oldest trees on earth. General Sherman stands nearly 275 feet tall and is 106.5 feet across at its widest point. The tree is estimated to be between 2,300 - 2,700 years old.

The tree itself is fenced off for protection which was understandable but still slightly disappointing. Luckily there were plenty of other trees to admire up close and personal.

The second largest tree, General Grant is in Sequoia's neighboring park, Kings Canyon. The Grant Tree is the largest tree within the Grant Tree grove and is currently the second largest tree in the world. It stands 267.4 feet tall and measures 107.6 around its base.

A snow storm is moving into the region so we drove out of the park a day early and took refuge at a Quality Inn (Thank you Christine for the hook up!). Next stop, Yosemite!

Plan B: Western National Park Tour 2015

How do you grieve the death of a vision? I could dwell on what I "should" be doing (literally walking my ass off from Mexico to Canada). I could spend the next several days sobbing and being full of resentment as I make my way back to North Carolina. Or, I can look at my new found situation as an opportunity to see places that are on my bucket list. Why not? We paid to come all the way out here, and we're in no great hurry to go home. Bills are paid for the next five months and the dogs are being well taken care of. There seems to be no better time then the present.

I can't really take credit for this fantastic idea. I was pretty ready to be a sorrowful individual, but Cori came to me with the suggestion that we take this crappy situation of not hiking the PCT and try to take advantage of being out West to see some the world's most beautiful and historic places. It took awhile for the new plan to settle in, but when I could let go of my ego momentarily I had to admit that this new "Plan B" (as we've come to call it) actually sounded pretty awesome.

We came up with a short list of National Parks; Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Rocky Mountains. Cori would rent a car and we would travel to each park spending a day or two in each one, and camp each night. If we wanted to stay somewhere longer or add places to the list we could always extend the rental car reservation. I know this means we just get to dabble in each of these places, but it still gives us the chance to see areas that we've never been to, and we get to experience them together.

Usually I use this blog to talk about my trail adventures, and driving across country doesn't really fit in with this theme. Still, I'd really love to share these places with our friends and family (the four of you that will read this) and I see no other valid reason to share it somewhere other then here.

So, over the next few weeks I'll share our adventures at each National Park as we make our way back East. Our first stop, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Day 2: What's Important in Life?

Lake Morena to Cibbets Campground
13.0 Miles

What's important in life? Is it how much money you make? How successful you become? The things you own? The experiences you have? The relationships you form? This question and all its potential answers have been funneling through my mind over the past two days. I'm sure for most, the answer to this question is some or all of these factors. Or maybe none of these at all.

I'm a very goal oriented person. I make up my mind to do something and I do it; at all expenses and sometimes regardless of the consequences (both positive and negative). I don't like to fail. So when we strolled into camp tonight and my partner looked at me and said she didn't think she could do this I blew her off. It took her breaking down into tears explaining in between sobs that her heart kept skipping beats and she had pain running through her chest for me to start looking beyond my own selfish goals.

Cori does have a heart condition, Wolf Parkinsons White syndome. Basically her heart has a tendency to race and/or have extra beats. She has a regular heart doctor that she sees annually who believed she would be okay out here despite the heat. She is active and healthy. She's ran marathons, played roller derby, and hiked the Appalachian Trail; all with no heart problems. On most accounts she is a healthy person. Still, the condition exists and she's had episodes in the past that caused her to modify her activity levels.

We knew this coming out here so we were careful to train and prepare ourselves to the best of our abilities. While hiking we've been extremely careful to stay hydrated and nourished. So when she first mentioned that she was in pain, that her chest hurt and she could feel her heart skipping beats which was making her uncomfortable I dismissed her. She needed to drink more water. She needed to realize that this was going to hurt. Thru-hiking hurts. We were going to be uncomfortable for a few weeks until we adjusted. She was fine. We hiked on. When we strolled into camp tonight she was in tears before she could even put her pack down. She hurt. Her heart was skipping beats and she was dizzy and nauseous. She couldn't do this. What do I say to that? OK, go home I'll see you in five months? You're being a hypochondriac drama queen. Get your shit together?

Cori and I have been together for almost six years. In that time I have seen her cry three times. Maybe. This was real. So at this point, what's important? The thought of leaving the PCT is devastating. And we just got started. But what are the consequences if I stick to my selfish goals and somehow convince her to stay with me? Daily sobbing episodes? Constant fights? Or something worse? Could she really have a heart attack? Is flirting with the line of dehydration for the next 700 miles really worth it?

No. It is not worth it. This wasn't some leg pain and sore shoulders. Tight calves and sore feet. Blisters. These things are to be expected. We were about to enter the Mojave Desert, the hottest desert in North America. We would have to hike 15-20 mile stretches in blazing heat daily just to replenish our water so we could keep ourselves hydrated.

I've come to believe that the relationships we form and the experiences we have with the ones we love are going to be what we cherish most in life. For that reason (and a few others) I am choosing to leave with Cori. Sending her home alone with no home to go to, and no job, and three dogs to pick up and take care of is not what a good partner does. I wouldn't want it done to me.

We are trying to make the best of a very devastating turn of events. We have rented a car and are making our way North. We plan on visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Tetons while we make our way home over the next two weeks.

The PCT will always be there. I'm sure we'll find our way out west sometime in the future.

P.S. I almost stepped on a rattle snake today and it scared the shit out of me.

Drying our stuff out in a lunch break

Day 1: Trail Angels on the First Day

Campo to Lake Morena
20 Miles

My alarm went off at 5 am this morning but I didn't need it. I was wide awake with anticipation. How was today going to go? Could I handle the heat? Would Cori be OK (she was full of nerves)?

We reached the Mexican border at Campo around 7:15. It was 34 degrees outside but the sun rising overhead made the cool morning bearable in my shorts and sun shirt. A few other hikers were already at the trailhead, excitedly strapping on their packs and preparing to head north.

We walked over to the southern terminus PCT monument whose light grey pillars stood out against the tall rusty panels of the Mexican border. Streched out in front of me was a seemingless endless stretch of shrubby green wilderness crisscrossed by by dusty dirt roads which were occupied by the occasional passing border patrol trucks.

After signing the register and taking a few photos at the border we were off.

I was heavy under the weight of my pack. The first 20 miles of the PCT are waterless, so I was carrying six liters (roughly 13 lbs.) of water to get me to Lake Morena, our intended final destination for the evening.

The trail meandered slowly along the edge of a small neighborhood and the eventually turned slightly west bringing us deeper into desert. Our climbs were gradual which was nice and the weather remained relatively cool until 11:00 when the heat started to become unbearable. Around 11:30 we took refuge in some shade to let our feet air out and to let our bodies cool down. This became our routine for the rest of the afternoon. We would hike for about two hours, find shade, air out our feet, snack and hydrate.

We made to Hauser Creek which is a dried up creek bed at mile 15 around 4:00. The was a small water cache in the creek that some nice soul had left for thirsty hikers. We didn't need to utilize it since we started off prepared to make it to Lake Morena but it gave us an opportunity to stop short and camp if we wanted to. After some discussion we decided to push on.

The climb out of Hauser Creek was long, hot, and exposed. I began to question our decision to push on as my heart pounder in my chest and me feet began to throb beneath me. We took it slow, drank plenty of water, and stumbled into Lake Morena Campground around 7 pm.

As we made our way towards the ranger station to check in and pay for a campsite a woman came running over to us. "Are y'all PCT hikers? Yes ma'am" we replied back. "We have plenty of food. Why don't you two come on over and get something to warm to eat. Save your dehydrated stuff for another night." Her name was Cheryl and she was camping with three of her friends. They all worked in the education system and were there relaxing on Spring Break. I was in heaven and no longer regretted our decision to move forward. As we made our plates they also offered us to the chance to camp at their site for the evening which was already paid for.

It was a perfect ending to a tough day.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dogs, Maildrops, Tattoos, OH MY!

The trail has a funny way of preparing you for what's to come even of you're not even out there yet. Over the past two weeks Cori and I went from having nearly everything set to leave to questioning our ability to even do the hike.

Between the two of us we have three beautiful fur babies:

Jasmine, a 13 year old cocker

Hershey, a 10 year old chocolate lab

Dudley a 4.5 year old Pyrenees/Lab mix

We had homes lined up for them a month or more before leaving, then one week before we were suppose to move out of our apartment and deliver all the dogs to said homes, all of our dog sitters bailed out on us. On the same day. Are you kidding me?!!? Needless to say, all of our carefully thought out plans were thrown by the wayside. We had one week to find new homes for them or there would be no PCT hike. All of the money and time already spent on the trail (train tickets, food, gear, etc.) would be pissed away along with our dreams of spending the summer out west. It was time to pull together all our resources, and be as flexible as possible with our schedules. We banned together to get everything worked out. In the end, friends and family came to the rescue; the dogs have been placed in (temporary) great foster homes and we can't begin to thank them enough. Having already completed a thru-hike once before we both understand that our ability to complete the PCT will be the result of all of the support we are receiving from friends and family back home. Thank you.

Once the dogs were settled, we loaded up my car with all our gear and maildrops, and I headed down to my parents in Blue Ridge, GA. I spent part of my time getting all of the maildrops and extra gear organized and ready to go.

I spent some of my time Cafe Ink and added to my AT tattoo. I've been dreaming of getting this done for the past three years and it turned out better than I've ever imagined! I plan on having the PCT and CDT tattoo ed underneath the AT as I complete those trails.

After some family time in Blue Ridge, Cori and I headed back up to South Carolina where we spent the last three days with her family.

Then, on Wednesday morning, at 2:45 am we stepped onto the Crescent Amtrak train to begin our journey westward to hike the PCT.

We will spend the next three and a half days traveling across the country to Del Mar, CA. There, we will be greeted and hosted by trail angel Betty Wheeler who took care of Cori last year when she got the flu. I can't wait to finally meet her in person!

Until then, Happy Trails!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's in my Resupply (Maildrop) Boxes?

The thought of putting together maildrops for the PCT weighed heavily on my mind. I tried them in 2009. I was vegan at the time so I wanted to make sure I stayed true to my vegan ethics. I spent hours dehydrating my favorite curry and pasta dishes. I bought quinoa flakes in bulk. I made my own fruit leathers. My food bag was going to be the envy of every hiker on the trail. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. There is something about long distance hiking that changes how you taste food. How you crave food.  I was to much of a newbie to anticipate that. One can only imagine my disappointment when my favorite dishes became hard to stomach. All I could eat were rice dishes, pasta, and poptarts. Needless to say I abandoned my maildrops and began to resupply in town. So when it came time to decide on a resupply strategy I thought long and hard about what I should do. I carefully weighed the pros and cons. Maildrops would help me stay within my budget. They would reduce the amount of town chores I would have to do which meant I would have more time to eat, shower, and sleep. I had more control over what I would be eating, ensuring that my diet wouldn't be filled entirely with junk food. On the downside my hike would be dictated by making it to a post office by a certain time and day. There's the added cost of shipping the food. I had to try and plan how many days it's going to take to get from point A to point B from the comfort of my couch. Not an easy task.

After some discussion with Cori, we both decided on a hybrid strategy; resupplying in town part of the trip and doing maildrops for part of the trip. I'm 95% confident that this maildrop process will be much more successful. We ordered most of our food from MaryJane Farms, which makes all organic backpacker friendly foods. We tested most of these dishes out on a road/camping trip this summer and loved them. The rest of my diet is filled with typical backpacker foods that are lightweight, easy to prepare, and were a staple in my AT diet.

I spent an entire day this past week portioning out food into ziplock bags and  strategically placing them into one of the 16 Priority Flat Rate boxes neatly lined up on my living room floor. It was exhausting, but I know I'll appreciate it when I'm on the trail.

For anyone who may be curious about what exactly it is that we eat out there, below is a breakdown of what I'll be sending myself along the trail.

EAS Complete Protein Powder (Vanilla)
Instant Coffee
ProBar Organic Meal Bar (Original, Berry Blast, Superfood Slam, Superfruit Slam)
Clif Builders Protein Bars (Vanilla Almond, Cookies & Cream)
Pop-Tarts (Strawberry, Blueberry, Wildberry)

MaryJane Farms Organic Black Bean Flakes (Regular and Spicy)
MaryJane Farms Organic Pinto Bean Flakes
MaryJane Farms Organic Black Bean & Corn Chowder
MaryJane Farms Organic Spuds with Spinach & Cheese
Krave Jerky (I plan to eat this with the mashed potatoes to get some protein)
Fantastic Foods Hummus

*For the hummus and refried bean mixes I plan on picking up tortillas or chips at a store in town. I may buy extra if the next mail drop location does not pass near a grocery or convenience store. 

MaryJane Farms Organic Bare Burritto
MaryJane Farms Organic Eat You Veggies Pasta
MaryJane Farms Organic Lentils, Rice, & Indian Spice
MaryJane Farms Organic Wild Mushroom Couscous
Knorr Rice Sides
Ramen Noodles
Primal Strips (I plan on eating these with rice side or ramen noodles to add protein to the meal).

Snacks/Electrolyte Replacement
Clif Bars (Blueberry Muffin, White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut, Pomegranate)
Kind Fruit & Nut Bars (Blueberry, Pomegranate & Pistachio)
Diamond Almonds Spicy Bold Series (Wasabi, Smokehouse Jalapeno, and Habanero BBQ)
ProBar Fuel Bars (Blueberry, Strawberry)
Luna Protein Bars (Chocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla Lemon, Chocolate Coconut Almond)
Jelly Belly Caffeinated Sports Bean (contains electrolytes)
Honeystinger Organic Energy Chews (Smoothie Flavor) (contains electrolytes)
EmergenC Immune Support (Blueberry & Acai with Vitamin D)

PayDay Bars
Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies
Little Debbie Chocolate Cream Pie
Baby Ruth Bars
Oreo Snack Packs

Wet Wipes
Travel size tooth paste
Dental Floss Sticks
Ear Plugs

You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram. More photos will be uploaded to my Smugmug Site when possible. I'm hiking with Cori "Grommet" Holladay. You can read her blog here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What am I Carrying?

First let me say, I'm hiking on a budget. A very, very small budget. All of the money I've saved has been allocated toward the trip itself and paying bills while I'm gone. I really didn't have any money left over for new, fancy, ultralight gear. This means I'm carrying a lot of the same stuff I carried on the AT in 2009...nearly six years ago....when the gear was actually considered light. What I don't already have I've managed to buy cheap or I'm borrowing from my incredibly nice hiker friends.

When it comes to evaluating the weight of my gear, I'm taking a similar approach to my gear as I did with the AT; I am NOT going to go through the painstaking, time sucking, make me want to pull my hair out because I'd rather watch paint dry process of weighing each little item in my bag. I've got far more important things to focus on (like spending as much time outside as possible, spending time with friends and family, get my drift).

What ultimately matters is what the overall base weight of my pack is (my pack weight without food and water). Yeah, yeah, I can already hear some people saying, "but if you weigh each little thing you can decide if its worth the weight.." blah blah blah...

Here's my philosophy; if any of my essential gear (the big four - backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent) weighs 2 lbs. (32 oz.) or more, I seriously need to consider an alternative. As far as anything else  in my pack (electronics, clothes, etc.); if it makes me happy, more comfortable etc., I will more then likely bring it. I do have limits. I believe that lighter is better, more comfortable, and easier on your joints. I believe that things should be multifunctional. Finally, I remind myself I'm going out into the Wilderness where really anything beyond food, water, shelter, and clothing are a luxury. And believe me, I like my luxury bag of weighs two pounds. Ridiculous I know, but I love to write and I'm using my phone for nearly everything (camera, navigation, blogging, kindle) so having an external battery (the brick), to me, is well worth its weight. Aside from my need to lug around this "luxury", I try to keep in mind that one of the things that makes trail life so addicting is its simplicity. I'll do my best to keep it that way.

With all this being said, I've developed a compromise for my gear list. I've listed weights of my "big four" items since this is where the bulk a packs base weight is for most people. Then I weighed my pack (without food and water) to get my overall base weight. Its a little higher than what I was shooting for, but I think I'll be OK.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram. More photos will be uploaded to my Smugmug Site when possible. I'm hiking with Cori "Grommet" Holladay. You can read her blog here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pre-Hike: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

As I near the start of my journey from Mexico to Canada I'm starting to get a lot more questions about what it is I'm exactly doing out there (Read: Are you nuts? What the heck do you think you're doing out there?!!?). I prefer to think of myself as an adventurist, and slightly non-conformist. But hey, if nuts works for you I'm okay with that, because while you're sitting at your desk reading monotonous emails, answering phone calls, and dazing out into the world, I will doing something that most people will only ever say "I wish I could do that".

So, here is my answers to some of the most FAQ about my plans for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Please keep in mind that many of these answer are what I'm planning to do, not what actually happens. My preparation is based on my previous experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2009, consulting friends who have already completed the PCT, reading other PCT bloggers, and watching Wizards of the PCT a zillion times.

What/Where are you hiking exactly?
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,660ish mile trail stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, and traverses through California, Oregon, and Washington. Despite its name, Pacific Crest, there is no Pacific Crest mountain range that the trail passes over. Rather, the trail traverses over several different mountain ranges and through seven different ecozones. To be more exact, the trail is divided into five major sections; the Mojave desert (Southern California), The High Sierras, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

Where do you start?
We start at the Mexican border in a very small town called Campo. We'll be driven there by a wonderful trail angel, Betty Wheeler, who Cori met last year during her short experience on the trail.

View Larger Map

Where does the trail end?
The PCT ends at the Canadian Border at a place called Manning Park. Once we reach the monument at the trails northern terminus we'll have to hike a short distance into Vancouver, British Columbia and catch a Greyhound bus back to Seattle Washington.

View Larger Map
How long will it take you?
We are planning to complete the trail in 5.0 - 5.5 months.

Have you read/seen Wild? If yes, did that inspire you to do hike the PCT?  
Yes, I read the book. No, the book had no influence on my decision to hike the trail.
Do you carry everything you need?
Yes. I'll be carrying a tent, sleeping pad, water, food, clothes, and some other miscellaneous items. I'll be posting my detailed gear list shortly.
What will you be eating (Do you send food to yourself and/or buy food in towns)? 
I currently have about 30 resupply points planned out. A little over half of these will be places I pick up maildrops (food I've boxed up before I leave and my supportive parents are sending to me along the way). The rest of the time I will buy food in town. Most of the food I'll eat will be quick food like refried beans, hummus, dehydrated rice meals, pasta, and jerky. I plan on writing a more detailed post about what my resupply boxes consist of sometime in the next week or two when I finish buying all my necessities (so stay tuned!).

Do you (or often) will you reach a town?
Time in between towns will vary but typically we should reach a town every 4-7 days. When we get into town we'll be able to grab food, do laundry (sometimes) and shower (sometimes). We plan on taking a zero day (a day we hike zero miles) about every 14 days.

Do you ever need to swap out gear? 
Yes. The PCT is the trail of extremes. We start off in America's hottest dessert (the Mojave), climb up to one of the highest (and possibly snowiest) mountains in the lower 48, volcano hop through Oregon and tread through the lush green remote forests of Washington. We will need to swap out gear. We''ll have additional gear mailed to us along the way.

Will you be going alone?
Nope. I'm very excited to be sharing this journey with my best friend in the universe, Cori "Grommet" Holladay. You can read about her journey here.

Will you be carrying a gun? 
 No. I'm more likely to hurt myself than protect myself with a gun. Plus they're heavy.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram. More photos will be uploaded to my Smugmug Site when possible. I'm hiking with Cori "Grommet" Holladay. You can read her blog here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Blog Stickers!

Over the past few months I've found myself repeatedly writing down my blog information for anyone who learns about my upcoming journey, so I decided to get stickers made with my blog information. 

I debated for awhile about which company to use until one afternoon Cori caught me staring at my Nalgene bottle which is full of stickers, many of them Appalachian Trail stickers made by lowrider press ( "Why don't you just contact him for a quote?" she asked. Brilliant!!!

Lowrider is a fellow AT hiker and I loved the idea of my money going toward a fellow hiker rather than some mega company. His stickers are high quality,  vinyl,  and outdoor resistant. 

I designed the stickers myself (to match my tattoo). Once I sent him the files, the  turn around time was about a week. The price per sticker was far under what any local company was quoting and also beat some other online competitors.

I'm very happy with how they turned out and would recommend him to anyone looking to do something similar.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

PCT Training

I'm Uncomfortable....
Thru-hiking is tough on your body and while many argue that the only way to prepare your body for a thru-hike is to thru-hike, I disagree. The degree of pain and discomfort I went through on the AT is a testament to how ridiculous I believe this paradigm of thought to be.  Yes, I successfully finished the AT, but I think it could have been a lot more enjoyable in the beginning had I been better prepared. Let's face it; most of us spend the majority of the day sitting, and maybe an hour or two exercising, 3-5 days a week. Admittedly, I barely even meet this typical standard. Before starting the AT in 2009 I was a graduate student consumed with research papers, classes, and field work. I was struggling to keep my head above water and working out was not a priority until six months before I left for my journey to Maine. Transitioning from this typical lifestyle to walking 20+ miles a day with roughly 30 lbs. on my back is a rough adjustment. I've come to believe that the fitter and healthier you are before starting your hike the easier time you will have adjusting to trail life.

I am not an expert in personal training. I just know what didn't work for me in the past, and I'm using that knowledge help me better prepare for hiking the PCT. Thru-hiking the AT changed my life in many ways one of which was becoming a fitter, healthier person in my off-trail life. Now, I workout rather regularly and I'm lucky enough to live in some beautiful mountains which provides ample opportunity to hike. My current job also requires me to be on my feet 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. As a result, I'm already use to being on my feet for long periods of time which will make it easier to transition to a life of walking northward everyday.

When I'm not living on the trail I spend a lot of time in the gym. I do total body strength training 2-3 days a week, as well as cardio 2-3 days a week. About three months prior to leaving I spend my non-gym days out hiking (weather & personal health permitting) with my fully loaded backpack and put in 6-10 miles once to twice a week and do one long hike a week of 10+ miles a week. I'm currently striving to increase my long hikes every week by 2-3 miles so that before I leave I will have hiked a few 20+ miles days on terrain similar to that of the PCT with my pack on.

Thru-hiking hurts. There will be sore legs, possible blisters, and definite ass-chafing. There will also be incredible rewards, plenty of laughter (mostly at myself I'm sure), and lots, and lots of eating whatever I want. My training plan isn't a perfect substitute for thru-hiking but it's a start to creating some unforgettable (and less pain filled) memories.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram. More photos will be uploaded to my Smugmug Site when possible. I'm hiking with Cori "Grommet" Holladay. You can read her blog here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PCT Resupply Strategy

Please note: I've had several friends ask about sending care packages along the trail. This resupply list is for my personal planning purposes, and I'm choosing to share it in hopes that it may help other aspiring thru-hikers plan their resupply options. Please see this post if you're looking for information on sending care packages.

I am planning on using a combination of in town purchases and mail drops to resupply along the PCT. I used a combination of Yogi's PCT Handbook, the PCT Pocket Guide, and suggestions from fellow thru-hikers to decide where to send mail drops to and where to resupply in town. I found Yogi's book to be the most useful since it has the most details about options in town, and provides a chart of how former thru-hikers would resupply in each location. In total, I'm planning on having 15 mail-drops and 13 in-town resupplies.