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!

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!

Buescher State Park New Year Hike

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Ian, Court, Biff, and Finn

6.1 miles

Vultures near the cabin

We went out to my parent’s cabin near La Grange over the weekend and took the dogs out on one of our favorite hikes nearby at Buescher State Park. Part of the park burned a few years back and the trails haven’t been completely restored yet, but it’s still a good 6 mile loop.

It wasn’t much of a training hike, as I just had my regular day pack, but it was good to get out in the nice January weather and get a hike in regardless. Every mile counts!

Starting off a little chilly
Pond in burn area
Burn area
New growth

I also got my first hike with my new insoles (Superfeet Green) that were recommended by my sports doctor when I went to get my feet x-rayed to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture. All was clear, but he told me my feet are a bit flat and those insoles should help in the long run. They felt fine, but I think I’ll have to size up when I get my new pair before the PCT. Hoping my feet don’t swell too too much because I think La Sportiva doesn’t make the Ultra Raptors in anything bigger than 47.5 and I’m at 47 now.

I’m also riding and working out on our Peloton at home 3-4 times a week, as well as doing core, lower body, arm, and full body work outs. I’m going to start adding some meditation. I bought Court the Peloton last Christmas and it really is awesome. We both use it almost daily. Highly recommend.

View
End of trail pic
Pond back at the cabin