Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Doo!

Maybe I'm taking this whole "lightweight" thing too far!  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who needs Gore-Tex?

This is how we did it back in the day!

Monday, April 21, 2008


I have a big glass of ice water in my hand as I sit down to write this post.  I'm taking time to fully enjoy it because in less then two weeks it will be a rare and treasured resource.  Living in the desert we have become very mindful and responsible in regards to our water usage.  Even though we pride ourselves on not being wasteful, the fact remains that we can still go to the tap and drink water to our heart's content.  On the trail, particularly in Southern California we may hike up to 20 miles between water sources.    Weighing in at 8 pounds a gallon, water quickly becomes the majority of our pack weight.  Something we can take for granted now will soon consume our thoughts and energies.  Our hiking strategies will be dictated by the location of water.  Often we will stop and cook our main meal at the water source even if it isn't dinner time.  By doing this we will avoid having to carry the extra water required for cooking and cleaning up.  Here is the fun part, when we finally reach these water sources they are rarely the pristine springs pictured on so many designer water bottles.  We have put many a water filter to the ultimate field testing.  I think there may still be a filter lodged in a murky cow pond somewhere after we abandoned it in disgust and frustration.  We will spend the early part of this voyage daydreaming about the mountain springs we will find when we reach the Sierras.  Until then our only defense is our trusty filter and dehydrated lemons that we will use to mask the flavors that come from the less desirable sources.  Cheers and bottoms up!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shelter from the storm

We are testing a new shelter on this trip.  It is the Superfly from Mountain Laurel.  I say "testing" because we have yet to spend a night, much less weather a storm, in it.  Trial by trail.  We have been using the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight for years, so why mess with a perfectly good system?  The bottom line is weight.  As you can see from the photos, the Superfly is basically a "tarp tent."  It has no floor and uses Lori's hiking poles for support.  It weighs just over a pound compared to 3+ for the Clip.  In 1996, we had almost no rain in southern California.  We are hoping for similar good weather this year.  In fact, we plan to sleep under the stars unless it is threatening rain.  When we get to the High Sierra (and its mosquitoes and afternoon storms), we will trade the Superfly for our trusty Clip.  This will keep my pack weight to a minimum in the beginning (I carry the tent.  Lori carries the kitchen...and now the tent poles).  I'll need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Where we stand

We just returned from a quick trip to San Diego.  We finished our first ten resupply boxes and drove them to Lori's dad's house where he will mail them to us at certain town stops along the trail.  The boxes contain not only our food but also other essentials like TP, sunscreen, fuel, baby wipes, extra batteries, and maps.  The boxes are mailed to us "general delivery."  This means we can walk into the Post Office, show our IDs, and collect our mail.  The system works amazingly well.  For a quasi-governmental agency that almost never receives good press, we are here to sing its praises!  Thru-hiking as we know it would not exist without the USPS.   If you are interested in sending letters or care packages, please visit our official website for instructions and our itinerary.

We are now 15 days from our return to San Diego and 18 days until liftoff.  As I said, we only finished ten of our boxes.  We still have eight more to go.  So Lori is once again making granola, drying fruits and veggies, and generally making sure we are well-nourished on the trail.  I have a feeling we will have many jealous hiking partners!  We are also making a box with extra replacement items that can be placed into a resupply box if the need arises.  These items include a spare stove, camera, flashlight, etc.  

With only two weeks to go, I actually feel good about our current state.  Our gear and food will be ready.  Much of our time is devoted to household items.  We need to make sure our bills get paid, our house and cat are looked after, and our cars ready for a long hibernation.  I have no doubt that these things will be done.  That leaves only our physical fitness to worry about.  Lori and I have both been hit hard this spring with various flus, infections, and allergies.  I can only hope the worst is behind us and hope that the first few weeks are kind!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wild Foods

We are so lucky to be part of such a great community.  Last night we went to a local foods party.  The food was to come from less than 250 miles away and in reality most of it came from backyards and wild foraged from the desert that surrounds us.  Spring is a beautiful time here and that beauty was reflected in the gorgeous meal that was spread out before us.  Cactus, which has been historically depicted to represent desolation and danger was highlighted in many of the creative and delicious dishes.  We were treated to barrel cactus fruit compote, ocotillo tea, nopales (prickly pear pads), cholla bud salad, prickly pear lemonade and saguaro fruit pie with mesquite crust. (  It was exciting to see how many options we have for truly local foods.  So what will we be able to forage while we are on the trail?  If this party is any indication then we should be able to make use of some of the cactus that awaits us in Southern California.  I'm hoping to add some fresh greens to our meals.  We should be able to forage some dandelion greens, dock and miner's lettuce.  In the past I have harvested wild onions in the Sierra Nevada which is an amazing addition to any meal.  Wild raspberries are always cause to slow down and do some harvesting!  So here's to hoping for some fresh wild foods to complement our dried dinners.  Bon apetit.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Because our resupply boxes will be competing with 300 other boxes for the attention of the postmaster, we decided to do a little customization!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Vintage Guidebooks

Here are a few pics of some vintage PCT books we've picked up along the way.  The first photo is of two 1st edition PCT guidebooks from 1973 and 1974 respectively.  One covers the state of California, the other Oregon and Washington.

This next one shows a 1st edition John Muir Trail (JMT) guidebook from 1978 along with a National Geographic photobook from 1975.

This last shot is of a 1971 book titled "The High Adventure of Eric Ryback."  Ryback claims he was the first person to thru-hike the PCT.  Many have disputed his claims but the fact remains that he walked a significant portion of the trail before there were guidebooks or even an actual trail.  The first confirmed thru-hiker was Richard Watson who finished the trail on Sept. 1, 1972.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Foot Health

When planning a hike of three million steps (no exaggeration), foot health is of the upmost importance!  People are often surprised to learn that we hike in running shoes (see picture, right).  This is one of the many misconceptions about long-distance hiking.  When used in conjunction with a holistic approach to lightweight backpacking, running shoes are seen to be far superior to high-top leather boots.  First and foremost, they are much more breathable.  Blisters are caused by moisture and friction.  Eliminating moisture is critical to blister prevention.  Additionally, we remove our shoes and socks at every rest stop and employ the "Shake n' Bake" method.  Lori acquired her trail name from this method of dipping one's foot into a Ziploc bag full of foot powder.  This powder dries the feet and prevents the dreaded athlete's foot fungus that eats away at the all important calluses.  

Some of you may be wondering about running shoes and ankle injuries.  Again, we wear running shoes as part of a holistic approach to lightweight backpacking.  If we were carrying the traditional 60lb. pack of yore, then running shoes would probably not offer the ankle support we need.  Our core pack weight will be closer to 16lb.  As I like to say, "My ankles are strong because I wear running shoes and I wear running shoes because my ankles are strong."  There was a study of professional basketball players comparing ankle injury rates among those who wore low-tops and those who wore high-tops.  There was a higher incidence of injury among those who wore high-tops.  

What about creek crossings?  Leather boots still don't win.  Each foot has approximately 250,000 sweat glands that pump out some serious moisture.  No matter how you slice it, your foot will be wetter in a boot than a shoe.  And, of course, any water above the top of a boot will fill it like a tub.  Running shoes will drain water and dry much faster than any leather boot.

And finally, there is the issue of the weight of the footwear itself.  Leather boots can weigh upwards of 2lb per boot.  Lifting this amount step after step, mile after mile will obviously take its toll in the form of fatigue and injury.  

So what is the catch?  Where is the trade-off?  Running shoes don't last as long as leather boots.  Lori and I will both be wearing through three pairs of shoes this summer.  Our feet are worth it - if they're not happy, we're not happy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Casa de Loco

So it's been a tough couple of weeks around the old homestead.  Lori and I have been laid up with the funk and now we're seriously behind schedule.  I have no doubt that we will have the food and gear ready for departure but our fitness levels leave a lot to be desired.  Several people have asked us if we can simply adjust our hiking schedule to do shorter days in the beginning.  Sounds great!  Unfortunately that is not our reality.  The terrain and water sources of southern California often dictate how far we hike each day.  In fact, our very first day we must hike over 20 miles!  So much for an easy start.  And even if we could do six 10-mile days instead of three 20-miles days, the weight of the extra food puts it's own strain on our bodies.  And even if we had been training appropriately, nothing but long-distance hiking can prepare you for long-distance hiking.  It's just a matter of how much we're going to suffer those first few weeks.  Ibuprofen will be our best friend!