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Monthly Archives: October 2011
Options. I hate them. Maybe that’s why living in a small town works so well for me. I may not get the best deal on something I need, but I also don’t have to deal with more options. Picking a pack is proving difficult. Lightweight is a given. Prices vary, along with style. Color, Design, Belt Options, Pocket Options, Options, Options, Options. Until I’m out on the trail for a month, I’m not going to know exactly what’s going to be most practical. So I figure I’ll start with more, and eventually end up with less. The more there is to fiddle with, the more distractions I have.
Although starting with less, leaves the best option for my personality – make minimal work.
Last year, due to the fact that my first pack looked as though it would bust at the seams with all of my toys and useless crap I was packing along with me, I upgraded to a 65 Liter pack that weighs a ton. It has more straps, buckles, bells and whistles than most any pack I’ve seen. Empty, it weighs an incredible 6lbs 9 oz. – That’s crazy weight. It’s time to retire that sucker, because after the PCT, I’ll never want to carry a pack that heavy. I really should let go of the emotional attachment to it, and sell it. $259.95 – OUCH !!!
So right now, these are the options I’m considering.
A) Make my own. Doing it the ‘Ray Way’ and purchase the materials and DVD to make my own. I’m not so fond of this option, although it’s by far the cheapest. I can make my pack for $100. The cost savings may not seem so great if my stitching unravels and the straps all fall apart in the middle of the desert, or high in the snowy Sierras, and 4 days from a resupply town.
B) The 30 oz. (with stays) / $195 (with pocketed belt) / 67 Liter – Six Moon Design’s Starlite.
C) 2lb. 8oz. / $219 / 58 Liter – Osprey Exos
Option B is likely the best choice. Option C, I tried on a smaller size and was shocked at how light weight it was, and it has the arched support, which pushes the pack slightly away from the back, allowing air flow. Keep in mind. I’ll be wearing a dress. Although modifications will be made, the gowns will still be slightly restrictive. The airflow through the back seems like a bonus.
I should be looking at smaller packs, but at points along the trail I’ll need to carry a bear canister, and if I need to take a gown off, due to perilous situations, I’ll need extra space in the pack to carry it.
This really is strange… who picks a pack based on their attire ?? I guess I do.
A hiking26 – SteriPen Thumbs Up -
Last month I dropped my SteriPen while refilling water bottles in a creek just off the Shedroof Divide, in Pend Oreille County. I was a bit concerned that the pen quit working, I had planned on using it on the PCT, but if it’s not impact proof, this is bad. Less than two weeks ago I called the company, discussed the issue, and a few other things, of which I received a few “we’re working on that” replies. I returned the pen, and a replacement just arrived with a note that reads “The tested pen was found to have a snapped lamp. The replacement Adventurer is ready for the waters of the world.”
This replacement came without having to dig up the receipt, or any additional charge, other than the cost to ship it back to them. I’m incredibly impressed.
If you’re not familiar with a SteriPen, it’s a great alternative to the comparatively large water filtration systems that most backpackers carry with them. It’s a light weight (under 4 oz. w/batteries) and a space saver that can easily attach to your pack straps. Although it doesn’t filter sediment from the water, (filters are available) a bandanna or coffee filter stretched over a bottle, does the trick. The pen, when partially submerged in water, purifies 1 Litre of water in 90 seconds by eliminating over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa that cause water-borne illness.
Saying I’m moving, and packing up my stuff, essentially quitting my job (even if it is just a leave of absence, there’s always the possibility that my position as Paint Lead could be filled by the time I return, by someone better than me… ), is easier said than done. I’ve done well at not thinking of the downside to all of this.
I had to clean up the cabin before I headed out to work today, because a couple was coming to look at it. This involves hiding a whole lot of wedding gowns. I’m so tired of packing them up, then hanging them back up. Each time i take off on a road trip, i take a selected few. Before I get them hung back up, I pick out different ones, and for whatever reason, there are always some laying on the floor. I’m not one for organization – and on spur of the moment photo ops, I make a mess of things around the cabin. But back to the point – Someone else will be moving into my comfort zone, as I pack up and move out…. This sucks. I love it here. So, today, I took a break from focusing on the $1700 I’ll save for the hike, by putting my rent in the bank, and working for my rent while living in a barn. Goodbye happy place.
Trying to put this out of my mind as I arrived at work, my boss mentioned that he had a few applicants that could work to fill the position of painter, as I’m gone. I applaud the company I work for, for going out of their way to work around the reality that I may return, or I may not when this is over. I plan to, but this could all be a life changing event for me, that draws me away from the area, or interest in this blue-collar existence that I’ve been living for nearly 5 years. I intend to return. I love my job. But the knowledge of the future is not ours to know. This is all rather frightening.
I’m sacrificing my comfort and stability, to put myself through hell, all because I came up with an idea so crazy, I felt I had to go for it. I’m proud of myself, although there’s surely some questioning my sanity. The trials and tribulations of turning my life in this strange new direction has taught me a lot about myself, and I”m not sure I’m happy with all that I’ve learned. At least I’m aware though, and I’ll have 6 long months to ponder and challenge myself to correct that which I don’t much care for….
Goin’ Country? Ok, so I kind of already am doin’ the country thing but, I’m takin’ it to a new level… Meet my new suite mates – A horse, and three little goats. That’s right, I’m movin’ into a barn.
One of the first realities of deciding to hike for 6 months was that I would have to give up my job and my insurance. With thoughts of moving to Portland to be closer to the Art scene I had already sparked these thoughts, but moving out of my little cabin, I knew was going to be difficult. A relatively quiet, slightly secluded 3 room piece of heaven and privacy that is difficult to find on the rather over crowded Diamond Lake. Moving in here was a delight a year and a half ago, after a few years of living on the hwy, nosey neighbors, and hauling laundry to the ‘mat. My neighbors have become close friends and have actively participated in some of the nuttier early stages of hiking26. I’ve watched the infant Kaylea grow from a baby girl too shy to be near me, to a talkin’ walkin’ two year old who loves my mustache and is smart enough to realize that i’m tall and can reach things for her. So aside from missing my friends while on the hike, I’d be missing out on 6 months of her fast growing little life. I wonder if she’ll notice I’m even gone, and will she recognize me when I return? I suppose time will tell… The point is, I love it here.
Take a moment and flashback to April when I needed a Wedding gown died Red for a fund raiser, which was aprox the time I started promoting hiking26 … The only way to dye polyester is to boil it on a stove… funny thing – I didn’t have a pot large enough to boil a wedding gown in… so with the help of my neighbors that I pay rent money too (landlord is so darn formal), we boiled it big-time – backwoods style.
But… there just isn’t enough money in the bank yet, for me pto feel comfortable that the hike will happen. So I’m going to take the only step I have available, packing up my belongings, putting them in storage six months earlier than anticipated, and moving to a farm. My friend Renee, known for her organic gardening, especially her garlic, has offered me a room in her barn in exchange for a helping hand around the property. It’s her contribution to the Project, and she’s helping out a friend in need, as she wants me to succeed as much as
anyone else. I’m sure when i say ‘barn’ it conjures up all sorts of odd, grungy images, but in fact, I won’t be the first to live out there, it’s a rather nice room. The great downfall – Kitchen and bathroom facilities are across the yard in the house, so it will in fact be, just a room, over the hay bales, adjacent to the horse, and every day when i come home from work, I’ll be greeted at the bottom of the steps by Cloud, Pickle and Jerry. This surely will keep my focus on everything important, as it will essentially be a work room that I sleep in, with little to distract me. I have re-supply boxes to pack, label and prepare for shipping, Wedding gowns to alter, Some of my gear I may have to make to save money and weight. So there’s a great deal of work to do while I’m snowed in for the winter, and the last few months count down to the beginning of this epic journey.
Most likely i’m repeating myself here, so bear with me as I skip back to February when I began toying around with the project out into the cyber world. I contacted a few ‘pro’ long distance hikers with some basic questions. Ryan a.k.a. Green Tortuga in the cult Letterboxing world, replied not only with the easiest understood answers, (or possibly just the answers i wanted to hear), he also continued to correspond with me after I dropped the dress bomb on him. In fact, his reply was “Wow…. I’m… speechless. =) Well, I’ll give you this much–anyone that bumps into you on the trail is NOT going to forget you!”.
In the global scheme of things, His location, six hrs away in Seattle, was local. So He agreed to go on a hike with me, and of course I offered to leave the gown behind, to which he replied “Even if you bring a dress, I’d still consider it. But if you wear a dress, you have to realize, there’s a very good chance a photo of it will end up on my blog.”. I was already posting pics on line of me gowned up, why should a blog post phase me?? I’m very much a hands on learner, and spending time with someone who’s not only hiked the PCT in 2010, but has more than 7000 miles of long distance under his feet, is just what i need.
It’s been a long year hoping to sync our schedules, and the iffy Seattle weather… Over stressed from thinking too largely about what hiking 26 COULD be, I was stressed out and loosing focus. I scheduled an emergency vacation, then hit Ryan up for hike time. I gave him the entire week to work with, and he set forth watching the weather.
As my time off grew close, the weather was not cooperating. We both were interested in the Olympic Mountains, on the peninsula west of Seattle, or Mt. St. Helen, which took me back to my days in grade school, when a teacher showed us a jar full of volcanic ash from the disaster. Hoping for the Olympics, the weather won out south of Seattle. The erupted volcano it was.
I arrived to meet, and pick up Ryan Thurs afternoon, after a trip to REI to buy a water filtration system. My Steripen – an awesomely handy and easily portable water purifier that uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria – quit working on me the week prior. With no time to send in to fix, I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the pro. While Ryan loaded his pack and gear in the truck, I quickly eyed it for things I didn’t recognize, or might need and had forgotten. He climbed in the truck, reclined the seat prepared to relax for the 3 hour ride south. Along the way he explained that he hates being in cars, so much so that he sold his and spends most of his time operating on foot, as everything he really needs is local, other than the trails of the mountains that taunt him from afar.
We stopped in one of those C towns off I-5, for lunch @ Burgerville !!! This place deserves to be mentioned. Only found in Southern WA and OR, their menu is comprised of locally grown, natural food. Yum. (and Ryan picked up the tab, so that was awesome too.) We discussed the possible routes, Clockwise or Counter Clockwise, around the mountain, the first camp spot was going to be 15 or so miles from the Trailhead at the Johnson Ridge Observatory. Most start the Loowit Trail from closer points on the south side of St.Helen, but this additional mileage would provide us with a much better view of the breach, where the side of the volcano blasted horizontally, and the cone collapsed, causing a massive landslide up the Ridge and down the Toutle River, filling the valley, and in the end raising the river some 150+ ft.
Since we wouldn’t make it to the park office prior to closing, I called (the woman who answered and transferred me was named Helen, I wonder if people often ask her if she’s a Saint???) and listened to what advice the woman had to offer. Her advice was rather simple. Don’t enter from the point we wanted to, and go the direction opposite of that which we discussed. Ok, Done. We weren’t listening to her. Honestly, I was letting Ryan handle the decisions anyhow, he’s hiked far enough that I felt I should trust his decisions.
With 15 miles of hiking needed to reach our first camp, the only option was an early Friday morning start.Fast Forward here – stops at every viewpoint along the way. Mystery signs pointing to Elk in every direction. – Astounded by the size of the Mtn, and freaking out that we were backpacking ALL THE WAY AROUND that giant – Bridges – Trees – Parking – Dinner in the parking lot – nice discussion about the incredible canopy of stars overhead, complete with a vivid swath of Milky Way overhead – Sleeping in the truck cab, Ryan in the bed. – Wake up – repack our packs (left the water filter behind, Ryan never uses one… I’ve heard of this, and felt I was safe practicing the same ) – quick round down the concrete trail @ the observatory learning about what we were about to hike on – head out on the trail – stop to take photos and …
This is where things seemingly went awry. I was already hot, and needing to shed a layer. Ryan had mentioned all right turns at trail junctions at some point, which was all I needed to know, as he pushed on. Just to be clear, this was in the first few miles of our 40 miles together. I didn’t know how fast he hiked, if he would wait if I fell behind, if he would hide in what little foliage existed, and play a prank on me…??? I arrived at the first somewhat obscure trail junction, turned right, and advanced out through the vast swath of muddy destruction caused by the breach. There was no sign of Ryan anywhere. It wasn’t long before I realized the map he gave me was in the truck, and we hadn’t officially decided which clockwardly direction we’d hike. My opinion of him was sinking fast, what kind of guy hikes that far forward, in the early miles of the journey, without stopping, or at least slowing until I could catch sight of him. And once on the Loowit, would I be following behind him and rejoin at camp that night? Or would we run into each other on the opposite side of the mountain? Surely he thought I was too slow and had already lost hopes in my ability to hike St. Helen in the 3 days allotted. WHERE THE HELL WAS HE !???
When I reached the Loowit junction, I stopped, relaxed, ate a snack, scoured the mud plain, and saw nothing but Elk, (the elk of course would soon see something noteworth). Once I made the decision to press on counter clockwise, here came Ryan around a bend, and with a wave, my confidence was instantly regained, as I realized that it was HE who was behind. It turns out he’d missed that sharp first turn to the right, then fully knowing that I would be pushing fast in an effort to catch up with HIM, he wondered too, where we would reconnect…
Pressing on, together, COUNTER CLOCKWISE, we stopped for a few photos, and discussed the mass quantities of little frogs that existed in the somewhat wet plain that was supposed to be without water this time of year. His little buddy Wassa, a little stuffed 8” or so backpacking moose ( I hope it’s a moose, otherwise Wassa will be angry with me), enjoyed a photo shoot or two, and as the trek seemed easier, I decided it was time to don the dress stuffed in my pack.
It was a last minute gown decision, not yet modified for trail life, but if fit, and it was HOT, and of course not long after I put it on, we encountered a stream of silt rich water. The issue of crossing the creek didn’t lay in getting our feet wet, rather hiking the rest of our day with shoes FULL of silt. The water was thick with it. So as Ryan made his way across while I scouted out an easier crossing, he began recording video from the banks. I’m happy to say, that although I ended up with a wet boot, I didn’t get the dress wet. Quite possibly one of the strangest things Ryan has ever heard himself proclaim on a trail “ it can be rough, but you kept your hems dry “ … Want to see this video? Check out Ryans version of these antics on his blog
I removed the great white gown at our next break, and it was smooth sailing for a while. An incredible amount of time was spent hiking up and down gullies of trickling, or often dry creek beds. As I walked along the edge of the south fork Toutle River, it’s banks, seemingly alive and angry, blowing dust and ash into the air, I failed to realize this incredible drop off to my left was something we’d soon hike down into. I found Ryan sitting near another trail junction, with a matter of fact look on his face, This was the rough spot we’d both heard of, and that over there, an area untouched by the blast, thick and green, is camp. We were going to arrive at camp earlier than expected, but getting there would be no easy feat.
Surprisingly it wasn’t as terrible as it looked. The only real danger lay near the bottom, where the boulders and steep grade posed a possible threat. I scrambled down, and Ryan leashed the packs, and dropped them down. Standing clear of possible concussion, I waved for Ryan to follow. Once again, it was a difficult stream crossing for me. I was SURE I could make it across with just a few LONG STRIDED, no chance in hell I was gonna be able to land my foot on those boulders, steps. But I tried, and again, Ryan has photos of this. One foot firmly planted at the bottom of, what was more like a stream than a river, and now, both boots were wet. Carry on.
This day all wraps up with ryan lying down in one of the most beautiful and green camp sites I’d ever had the good fortune to stay in.
I ran off along the creeks and played photo-shoot once I found a beautiful vignette.
Once my feet were sufficiently freezing from crossing the water (camera on one side of the creek, vignette and myself on the other), it was time for dinner, where Ryan taught me camp knots I’ve already forgotten, and threw in a good story to boot. To sleep I went, and lucky for you, that also means the end of this entirely too long blog post.