T-Minus 4 Hours… (Day 1)

 

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Jean
We’re driving to the trailhead now…a 5-hour drive from Tucson to Campo. Thanks so much for the lift Brandon! And thanks so much to all of our friends and family for supporting us on our way out there. Early morning 3:30 am wake up and we plan to hit trail at 10 am.
We went for a 5-mile walk along the Romero Trail in Catalina State Park yesterday to get warmed up. Hiking in the desert is really amazing I can’t get over how great it is – the rock exposures, views, warmth, dry air, cacti, plants, and desert life. Our start got pushed back by a day (thanks to Mexico) but we’re on our way now.
Next stop: PCT. Our first leg is a 7-day hike from Campo to Warner Springs. We will be hiking through dry, hot desert. The day 1 goal is to set up camp at or a few miles before Lake Morena. Doing it!

Jared
Over the past few weeks we’ve gone through this process of reducing our possessions down to essentials. Things that aren’t coming with us for the next few months have been steadily getting packed into usps flat rate boxes and getting shipped all over the place. At this point we are finally driving to the trailhead and the only thing left is what’s in our packs. The only clothes I have are the ones I’ll be wearing for the next three months. My wallet has been left behind for a lightweight nylon satchel which – let’s face it – is a backpackers man purse.

Despite it all, this feels at once like it’s not really happening and like it’s happening forever. In other words, I clearly haven’t really gotten my bearings in terms of what this experience is going to be like and I’m not sure when it will really sink in.

What I can say is that I’m excited. Yesterday we hiked through the desert a bit and I carried my pack – with food and water for the next week, 42 pounds. The weight was surprising but after an hour or so it felt great. T minus 3 hours…

6 Days…

6 Days left before we hit the trail. We’re on our way to Jared’s cousin’s wedding in Mexico this morning. We stopped over in Tucson (thanks for housing us Mr. and Mrs. Kofron – John and Beverly). Mountains are on the horizon in every direction and the trails sound inviting. I’m incredibly enchanted by the desert – the smells, the dust, the sounds, endless cacti, and lore of snakes.
I’m very happy to have most of the logistics and planning related meltdowns out of the way. The next few days in Mexico will be a perfect respite before Campo.

Gear!

So the most exciting thing about getting ready for our PCT trip has been gear. Lots of gear. Buying new, fun gear. Squishing things into stuff sacks, sporting lots of patagucci, climbing in and out of sleeping bags, testing out the new water filter, packing the packs, firing up the camp stove, marveling at lightweight rain gear, etc.

Some of our favorite gear that we have to tell you about:

JEAN

Pack: ULA Circuit Pack

I bought this a few years ago while I was hiking the Long Trail in VT and it has served me well. At the time, another hiker told me this pack was all the rage on the PCT. Little did I know I would be taking it there myself. Super comfortable. Super lightweight. Specs: 39 oz, 68 L (4,200 cu in) capacity

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Camp jacket: Feathered friends Daybreak

I’m excited for this camp jacket. It’s 900+ fill down, weighs next to nothing, also made in Seattle! is really really warm and looks pretty sweet. Specs: 8.5 oz

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Sleeping bag: Feathered Friends Egret UL 20

This bag is amazing. And sexy. And one of the best sleeping bags out there (according to the sales guy at the store, but it’s a legit statement). Made in Seattle! So lightweight. Compresses down really tiny. Continuous baffles mean warmer is possible on those cool nights. 900+ fill down amazes me.  Specs: (small bag for 5’3″ or shorter) 27 oz

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JARED

Pack:

My Elemental Horizons Aquilo.  Never before have I been so psyched about a piece of gear… 

Matthew at Elemental Horizons is awesome and built this bag to order for me after I ordered it about 5 weeks ago.  Super thoughtful attention to detail, super light (2.1 pounds), and super comfortable.  Carries a load like a champ too – the other day Jean and I were working out on the Howe St. stairs here in Seattle.  She asked how much weight I was carrying and I guessed somewhere less than 10 – the real number was 25.

Sleeping bag:  My Western Mountaineering Caribou MF.  It’s been with me for… almost 9 years now, which is crazy to think about.  It’s warm, compact, and very light – less than 2 lbs.  It’s been on the Blue Ridge mountains, the White Mountains, the Cascades, the Diablo range, and a bunch of other random camp sites.  Time to add the Sierras to the list…

Camp jacket: Feathered friends daybreak.

a 9 oz jacket that keeps me warm all the time.  this winter when it was 25 degrees I would routinely wear this jacket over a t-shirt and I was plenty warm – too hot some times when I was walking.  Pretty awesome.

BOTH/SHARED

Water filter: Platypus gravity works

Originally we were going to use Aquamira drops instead of getting a filter. Pro’s being: lightweight and inexpensive. But then we did the math. In order to treat or water for 3 months of use at 3L/day minimum, it was going to be over $200. And so an easy to use filter with solid capacity just made way more sense. Platypus is made in Seattle! And this is one of the best filters on the market right now. It’s amazingly easy to use. And pretty lightweight. Specs: 11 oz, 4 L

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Sleeping pads: Gossamer Gear NightLight Torso pads

We’re both carrying two of these a piece. Reasonably priced and super super lightweight. We have the option of sending one home to shave some weight if needed too. Specs: 4.7 oz each, 19 x 29.75 in

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Tent: Big Agnes

Umbrella: GoLite Chrome Dome

The chrome dome is ultra light and serves to keep rain and sun away. Key in the dessert and Sierras. Specs: 8 oz

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Stove: Soto Microregulator OD-1R

Our original thought was to use a homemade tin can alcohol stove, but after learning about the alcohol stove bans in dry CA and some of the explosive possibilities of alcohol stoves, we opted for a canister stove. And it’s really great. We’re digging it. This one is really tiny! And has had some great reviews and backpacking awards. It is also reasonably priced at $60. Specs: 2.6 oz

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Solar charger: Suntastics sCharger-5

Solar charger to charge anything by USB. It’s small (looks like a small book), folds up, charges quickly, and is lightweight. And is made in the US. We’re bringing a laptop (Jared is ‘working’ while hiking), we’ll be able to charge our phones (good for emergency contact and location), and headlamp for starters.

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And a link to our complete gear spreadsheet might be HERE soon

Training

So what have we been doing to get in good physical shape for a 3-month trek on the PCT, you ask? A few different things!

First, we have been hitting the trails in the Cascades. Our goal is to hike in WA every weekend (for 3-4 weeks) leading up to our early May departure. The April 12-13 weekend we did back-to-back Mount Si-Bandera Mountain hikes. We (Jean and Jared) hiked Si on Saturday with our trusty companions Tyler and Sid. The hike was 8 miles roundtrip with a 3,150 ft elevation gain. Fairly crowded, great weather, some clouds, decent views. We opted out of climbing the haystack because it was too crowded (Tyler and Sid scrambled up). http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/mount-si. We did Bandera on Sunday with Alan and Megan. Bandera was a 7 mi roundtrip hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Not very crowded, and BEAUTIFUL views of Ranier and the entire landscape. Super steep, sketchy descent, trekking poles a must (I’m a convert after this hike). http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/bandera-mountain. We cancelled our hike we’d been planning this past weekend in favor of prepping for the trip. Next hike? An overnight in the Cascades next weekend…stay tuned.

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Us at the top of Bandiera

Second training activity: walking and stair climbing. Seattle is a walking city. Especially in Capitol Hill, where you can and do walk anywhere and everywhere. Our stair goal: climb the Howe Street Stairs (388 stairs and the ‘longest stairs in Seattle’) several times, increasing in number every day. Our latest workout was 4.5 climbs (1 hour) plus walk to/from the stairs (another hour) for a two hour workout. http://www.yelp.com/biz/howe-street-stairs-seattle

All of this training has been with a weighted pack. Jared’s latest weight for stairs: ~ 22 lbs. Jean’s latest weight: ~18 lbs. Our next stair training feat? Carrying our loaded packs with gear and more weight…

And stretching. Or at least thinking about stretching. And talking about stretching. Imagining ourselves stretching. Actual stretching is minimal, but a great thing to do! We plan to do more…stay posted for the riveting details…