Final Training Stretch

Sunday, April 16, 2023

I’m currently sitting on my back porch in the morning sun, listening to the birds, throwing Finn’s toy to him, and reading my ultrarunning mental training book. No, I’m not doing an ultramarathon, but the concepts are similar to thru hiking and there’s a lot of crossover.

Yesterday I finished my last training hike. 15 miles out at Lake Georgetown again. It got WAY hotter than forecast (about 95 when I finished) and it was a challenging way to end my training. That said, I feel great today.

I also found out that my Sawyer Squeeze water filter was 100% clogged after being in storage for a couple of years. It is sitting in a vinegar bath right now to try and get it functional again, but after seeing the flow rate on my Katahdyn BeFree (my backup), I think I’ve decided to start with that in the desert and have the Sawyer be my backup instead. The BeFree has gotten really popular on trail in the past couple of years, due to its flow rate and ease of cleaning. Exciting stuff, I know.

I also finally figured out how to keep my umbrella attached and hands free to my pack, which made a HUGE difference in temperature during my hike. That’s a keeper.

Here’s a couple of rambling videos recapping all that.

The rest of this week is finalizing resupply boxes, cleaning gear, and packing for San Diego on Friday!

3 weeks to go!

Sunday, April 2, 2023

I’m writing this on the mobile app about 10 miles into my 15 mile hike on Lake Georgetown today. This is my second to last long training hike before I hit the trail on April 24th!

I haven’t posted from the app in a few years, so I’m wondering how the formatting will come out. This is how I will blog from the trail, so I guess I better get used to it.

I’m currently airing out my feet and eating lunch before I push the last 5 or so miles back to the car.

I feel really good today and am waking up most days really excited now. This coming week is food testing week and next week is setting up resupplies. Then the next week is finalizing everything and flying to San Diego!

Ok, back at home now. I’m feeling it a bit from the 15 mile hike yesterday, but I came through with only one real blister (deep under a callous on my left heel). This spot has always given me trouble, so I’m just going to tape the hell out of it and hope it hardens up quickly on the trail.

When I got home yesterday I took an epsom salt bath and then got cleaned up and went to my parent’s house for dinner.

bath time with my PCT Trials book

The trail itself was great. The wildflowers in Texas this spring are strong.


Pack pic

More flower pics!

I did about 10 miles before I rested, did a quick meditation (something that I will try to do daily on trail), changed socks, and ate lunch. The last 3 miles were fairly tough and I had to stop twice to tape up hot spots. I would LOVE to prevent blisters before they happen and my shoes are great, but I’ve never done multiple 15+ mile days in them in a row, so it’s just going to be a trial and error system for my feet when I get there.

Today, I went on my first grocery store trip to get various backpacking meals and test them out. I’ve decided I’m going to try and only use my stove for boiling water and then adding that to pre-packaged (both self-packaged and bought) bags. I just don’t want to deal with the clean up of a pot after a long day of hiking, not to mention the extra water it takes in the desert. It already annoys me doing it at home. We’ll see if it works, but that’s how I’m going to start out.

I’m going to try out different combinations for dinner this week and then cap it off with a sous vide pork chop on Friday night as a grand finale!

I really enjoy the planning aspect of all of these, even if it’s a bit intense logistically. It reminds me of my tour management days in the music industry when I was in my 20s. I have a knack for it and it’s really fun, even if most of these plans will probably go to hell once I actually get into the reality of trail life. Oh well!

Onward, to the trail!

PCT Class of 2023!

Real quick post today, but I’m feeling really good about the trail today and I wanted to share. First, I am one month out from my start date! April 24th is coming quick!

Second, I got my PCT Class of 2023 bandana today! The bandanas have been around since the early 2000s and they are also used for hitching. One side says Hiker to Town, the other says Hiker to Trail, depending on which way you are going. Also, it has a basic map on it, so for those of you who don’t really know where the trail goes, I figured this is a helpful visual aid.

Training continues and I’m starting to test out meals and get resupplies together. It continues to snow and rain in California, so it’s going to be a really strange year. Hoping for a super bloom in the desert though!

Wilderness First Aid

March 11-12, 2023

Over the weekend I spent two days getting certified in Wilderness First Aid. It was put on by REI and NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) out at McKinney Roughs Nature Park, one of my favorite hiking destinations in the Austin area.

I went Saturday and Sunday, 8am-5pm, for 16 hours worth of instruction. We went over the basics of first aid response and focused on all the bad stuff that can happen when you are out in the wild. It was a fairly high level overview of everything, as the point is really to just give you some idea of what you are doing and how to react so you can stabilize an injured person until highly trained help can actually get to you, if need be. Also, we were trained in determining the severity of injuries and situations so we will know when to evacuate patients or not.

We had classroom instruction supplemented with “scenarios” where we got to put on makeup and fake blood and have people try to diagnose the problem. The first day was a little awkward, but by the second day everyone felt a lot more comfortable and it was actually pretty fun.

the perils of hanging a bear bag

I met some cool people, including a guy that hiked the PCT last year. It was nice being with people who all had a similar passion for the outdoors.

Despite being surrounded by medicine my whole life, I realized I’ve never had any formal training in any kind of first aid. I’m very glad I took this course, though I’m hoping to never have to use it.

In other news, I am continuing my endurance training schedule. Today I just got done with a 5 mile full pack hike around the neighborhood and I am planning on 14 miles this weekend, probably out at River Place Nature Trail, which is the best and toughest hike in Austin.

I also have dug into spreadsheet hell and started really getting resupply strategy in place today. The first few weeks are going to be a little nuts with boxes, as it’s looking like I’ll need to send my microspikes and maybe even my ice axe to Idyllwild so I can get through Mt. San Jacinto. Damn snow just won’t stop. I enjoy the planning aspect of it all, but I’m also glad that trail towns have gotten a lot better with resupply so I don’t have to send all my boxes from home. I’m going to send a few at the beginning and then start resupplying in towns and sending stuff to myself further up the trail as I get used to it and understand the nuances of it all.

Onward to the trail!

Urban Hiking

March 1, 2023

I’ve started a more organized training regimen, following some advice in a great book I’ve been using, “Adventure Ready: A Hiker’s Guide to Planning, Training, & Resiliency” by Katie Gerber and Heather “Anish” Anderson.

This book, along with many others, has been a great training tool for both physical and mental preparation. The other one that I’ve now ready probably 4-5 times is Badger’s “Pacific Crest Trials”.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been hiking with a full pack 3-5 miles roughly every other day during the week and then doing a 12-15 mile hike on the weekends. There’s a structure to it and I’m hoping it will really get me prepared to hit the trail in good hiking shape and make getting my “trail legs” a bit easier and faster.

Despite riding my Peloton and weight training for the last two years, 5-6 days a week, actual hiking works very different muscles and is the only way to really train for an endeavor like the PCT. I’ll train with this regimen for about 9 weeks and then have a full week of rest before I fly to San Diego and hit the trail.

I got a new sun hoody from REI that I’m really liking. I’ve gotten a nice route in my neighborhood down that I can vary between 3-5 miles and even has a nice hill at the golf course that I can climb. It does feel a bit strange walking around with a full pack with my tent poles in my side pocket and I often wonder if the neighbors think I’m a homeless person, but oh well.

AT Sobo Training – Sam’s Gap to Hogback Ridge Shelter

Friday, February 10, 2023

AT Southbound – Sam’s Gap to Hogback Ridge shelter

5.23 miles

We flew out to Asheville for a long weekend with friends and Greg and I got a nice hike in on the AT, southbound from Sam’s Gap to Hogback Ridge Shelter. I brought along my microspikes to hopefully test out, but the weather ended up being really fantastic with no snow at all and quite pleasant and sunny.

We parked at the highway 26 intersection with the AT and immediately started climbing up to the top of the ridge. The trees in the winter with no leaves make for an interesting contrast to the “green tunnel” most AT hikers are used to in the summer time. You get some nice views that would normally be missed. We gained a little over 1000 feet in 5.2 miles. The hike wasn’t easy, but certainly not super hard either.

views through the trees
heading up – no switchbacks for us!

We got to the top of the first ridge and found a sign for High Rock, which we would find out on the way back actually had a nice view. But I just decided to try and find it where the arrow on the sign pointed.

We continued on and got to the shelter at Hogback Ridge a mile or so later. This was my first AT shelter I’ve been to. It had a bear hang and a privy nearby as well.

backside of the shelter

us trying to figure out the bear hang
luckily it came with instructions

We headed back northbound and found the view from High Rock that we missed on the way down.

We got back to the car and headed back to Asheville for some breweries and dinner.

I love hiking the AT, but the PCT has always had a hold on me and I’m planning on starting on April 24th! A little more than 2 months to go!

Training and umbrellas and permits and snow pack levels!

Thursday, January 26, 2023

As I’m sitting at home sick today and not working, I figured I’d update the blog, since it’s been a while. I’ve been training on the Peloton and lifting weights and stretching pretty much 5-6 days a week, much as I’ve done for the past 2 years. Yes, I’m part of the Peloton cult and I love it. That said, hiking works different muscles than cycling, so I’m going to pick up the training hikes in the coming weeks.

Also, there’s some crazy snow levels right now in the Sierra, which I’ll continue to watch this spring. I’ll address that after the hike breakdown below.

I did a training hike a couple of weeks ago out at Lake Georgetown, which is one of my favorite places to hike within reasonable driving distance from Austin.

I filled my pack with a water weight training bag that I got for Christmas, but it didn’t really work as well as I would’ve liked. Pack weight, with water and food, came in at 32.5 pounds, which is probably about accurate for what I will be carrying in the desert to start off.

The weight was all at the bottom of the pack, which pulled the straps back and down too much. It didn’t simulate a true full pack weight, so I’ll need to adjust my system going forward. I may just end up packing my actual gear, where the weight is distributed much better throughout the pack.

Also, for those who followed this blog back in 2020 for my initial attempt, you’ll notice I have switched packs from the Osprey Exos 58 to the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60. This pack fits me much better and the hip belt is much more comfortable for me. GG is also a local Austin company, which makes me happy.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 – my pack for the PCT

I hit the trail and hiked about 10 miles out and back. The trail here is pretty rocky and rooty, which is good to build up my ankles and feet.

Lake view
Roots and rocks!

I brought along my umbrella and rain coat, since there was a slight chance of rain. Video below.

I brought along lunch that will approximate what I will probably be eating on trail most days, at least at first. Tortillas, salami, cheese, and yellowbird hot sauce!

I had planned to go about 15 miles, but the pack weight not being distributed well was wearing on my shoulders a bit too much, so I cut it a bit short. Of course, the longhorns were hanging out as usual.

I pretty much have all of my gear already, which is nice to not have to worry about too much. I’ve been collecting and testing for several years now, but I did get my microspikes in!

Hoping to get to test these out in North Carolina in a few weeks, but we’ll see if the snow and ice cooperates out there. Also, I got a pair of the updated version of my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors.

So far they fit pretty similarly to the old version, but I’m still breaking them in. Hoping I have the same good luck I’ve had with the previous pairs. Hardly any blisters ever in 5 years, though hiking 20 miles a day might change things.

Regarding the snow in California. Man, they had quite a wild December and January out there. From the flooding on the coasts (I was in Santa Barbara right before it hit really bad there) to a ridiculously high start of the snow season, things may be interesting come summer.

Right now I’m planning on starting the trail in mid to late April. I’m more or less resigned to the fact that I will likely have to flip up and skip the Sierra instead of going straight through from Mexico to Canada. This would have bothered me a lot more in the past, but I’ve learned a big part of this challenge is rolling with the punches. If the snow continues the way it is trending, it may be an all time high snow year for the Sierra. It’s just not safe to hike through in those conditions.

Current snow pack conditions as of this writing

I would hike the first 700 miles through the desert, up to Kennedy Meadows, then find a way to get to northern California or Oregon and pick up the trail again to the Canadian border, then back to finish the Sierra after that when the snow should have mostly melted out.

All of this could change, but right now, that’s sort of what I’m planning.

So that more or less catches us up!

I’m heading to Asheville in mid-February for Cat’s birthday and hope to get in a training hike there, as well as see some dear friends. After that, I’ll continue training in March and April, while starting to put together some re-supply boxes and generally start to plan the super detailed logistical stuff that I love so much. Stay tuned!

Solo Overnight – Lake Georgetown 2/1/20

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Went out for my first solo overnight on Saturday and it started off well, but didn’t end in spectacular fashion. I hiked in 4.5 miles from the Cedar Breaks Trail Head, as I have multiple times before. The guy at the gate said I was the only overnighter to have checked in so far when I got there around 3pm, so I was hoping to have my pick of campsites.

Twas not to be. When I arrived 1.5 hours later, there were about a dozen people already setting up camp. I inquired as to where they came from and it turns out they had entered the trail from a non-official trail head a couple of miles back. Not a huge deal, as I still scored a decent site by the lake, but I’m somewhat of a stickler for rules at times. To be fair, this site doesn’t require reservations.

I set up camp quickly and the sun started to go down around 6. My tent was fantastic. Easy to set up and very cozy. I didn’t feel too closed in (I’m used to at least a 2 person tent) and I discovered a few new interior pockets to store gear in.

Pack explosion
Camp shoes

I didn’t end up using my stove for dinner, as I ate a large late lunch right before I headed out, so I wasn’t super hungry and just downed a protein bar instead.

I will say, I was bored. I brought a book (which I will not be doing on trail) and also had good cell signal, so I basically read a bit and tooled around on the internet for 3 hours after the sun went down before going to bed at 9pm (also known as hiker midnight).

I learned overnight that I am a cold sleeper. The temps only got down to the low 40s, but my feet were numb. I am used to sleeping with Courtney and the two dogs when we camp, so being solo, I didn’t have the advantage of those warm bodies and I guess I need a bit more warmth than I thought.

Clearly I don’t have my quilt and sleeping pad system fully dialed in. I’m going to practice this at home over the next couple of weeks. Also, I bought some down socks to wear at night and I’m also going to put my sit pad under my feet for some extra insulation, as well as stuffing my extra clothes sack down by my feet when I sleep. Hoping this will do me well.

I tried sleeping on my side, but I woke up every hour or so with sore shoulders, so on the advice of my PCT buddy Mac, I’m going to practice sleeping on my back only. He said I’ll get used to it. I tend to sleep on my back sometimes anyway, so I don’t think this will be a huge adjustment.

By 6am I was praying for the sun to come up. I was cold and on very little not great sleep. I kept my pack under the vestibule of the tent, so it stayed dry, but my rainfly was soaked and my camp shoes as well. Not a big deal, but I think if I had been further back from the lake, maybe I could have avoided some condensation.

Sunrise out my front door

It’s all a learning process. Even after 7 years of hiking and camping, there is still a ton to learn, especially when it comes to back country camping. I’m looking forward to learning more when I get out on the trail!


January 20, 2020

Did another full pack hike today out at River Place Nature Trail and my hip belt was great. Only 6.5 miles, but a ton of stairs and elevation gain (for Texas). All things considered, I felt great and it was, as the kids say, cake.

I think the last hike I was wearing my pack way too high. It was resting at the top of my iliac crest instead of being centered on it, which I think caused the massive chafing. I should have known better, but for some weirdo reason I didn’t.

I’m also posting this from the mobile app, since I need to start getting used to posting from the trail. So far it is taking forever to load just the first three photos. I’m not on WiFi, but still, not super promising.

The water was flowing a bit and it was a very pretty January day. Luckily it was a Monday (MLK Day) so the neighborhood association wasn’t collecting the $10/person/pet troll toll.

I’m posting this on Tuesday and am actually a bit sore. Gotta keep up the longer hikes. 61 days from Campo!

Starting to Dial it in – Lake Georgetown, Goodwater Trail

Sunday, January 12, 2020

This will be one of the main trails I use for training the next couple of months. The entire thing is a 26 mile loop around the lake. Today I did about 9.5 miles total, out and back.

I went out with a full pack and a couple of pieces of gear that I hadn’t tested yet. The main one being my new Gossamer Gear shoulder strap pocket. I bought the medium one first, which said it would fit iPhone X models, but I guess they didn’t mean X’s with cases. I upgraded to the large version and it works great. Phone with case fits easily and my inReach Mini rides in the front mesh pocket, while my earpods (with their own waterproof case) hang off the side on a carabiner. I also brought my umbrella for the first time, but didn’t use it.

I also tried out a different anti-chafing element on my hips and I don’t know if it was the balm or a combo of other factors, but my hip bones got WRECKED on this hike. I’ve gone 10 miles with a full pack before and never had it this bad. I really hope this won’t be the new normal, as I might have to get a whole new pack. They don’t really hurt now, but they are bruised to hell. I’ll spare y’all the pics.

I’m going to get a pack shakedown this week from my buddy Mac, so maybe that will help some, though I don’t think weight is the problem. Mac might be going for his Triple Crown this year with the CDT (Continental Divide Trail). He’s already hiked the AT (Appalachian Trail) and PCT, so just has the CDT left.

The hike itself was great. It’s a super warm January so far. The high as I type this in my office today is going to be almost 80. Here’s a video and a few pics. Good wildlife on this hike.

My destination across the lake, dead center
Trail guardians
Deer running away – kinda hard to see
Crockett Garden Falls

Oh! Side note, I got approved for my Canada entry permit! Guess I did everything right. So now I just need my California Campfire Permit, which I can get online and I’m done with permits!