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!

Alright…we’re back!

My dream won’t die. I called my 2020 PCT attempt off before it even began, but it would’ve been derailed by Covid anyway. In the 3 years since, I’ve continued to train, upgrade and test gear, and work on my mental health to hopefully try again one day.

Well that day is March 8th, 2023 (as of now).

The permit process was a bit different this year and a bit more fair, I think. The PCTA (the organization that issues long distance permits) required everyone who wanted to try for a permit to pre-register an account that they used to log in with on permit day. This stopped people from using multiple browsers and devices to get multiple spots in line. Admittedly, I was one of those people in 2020, with 3 digital spots in line, but I’m glad they found a way to make it work.

That said, they also assigned people who had registered their own specific time to log in on permit day. I got a very late time, so most of the best start dates were already full. March 8th was the closest date available to my preferred early April start date, so I snagged it.

They released 35 permits per day on the November permitting day and will release an additional 15 per day on January 10th. I have an opportunity to try and change my date by getting another spot on that January day, so that’s my plan.

If I can’t, then March 8th it will be. That’s way earlier than I would like, but it also could help me get further down the trail before the wildfire season really cranks up, which has been getting worse every year it seems. I could also get through the desert earlier when the water is more plentiful. If it ends up being a high snow year, I will hit the Sierra very early, and may have to flip up to NorCal and come back to hit the Sierra later in the season. So pros and cons, but that’s one of the realities of the trail. Rolling with the punches.

ANYWAY, I wanted to officially crank the blog back up and as you may have noticed, I changed the URL to reflect the correct year now. I’ll continue to blog sporadically with training hikes and other random musings up until my start date and then try and bring everyone along as much as possible once I hit the trail.

Hike on!