Monday, April 27, 2015

Pacific Crest Trail Section A: The End of the Trail

The last day of hiking was enough to make me wish for more. It was what we had wished for in the San Felipe Hills, large expanses of golden fields, a trickling stream, live oaks. Were we giving up too soon? I knew I had to go home, but a part of me wanted to keep going, to not even stop at the community center.

Love.

But you do what you must, and we hiked in to find a center of wonderfulness: food, outdoor showers, other nice hikers, and even a laundry service. I retreated to the loaner clothes closet. Typically on the trail you must do laundry sweating in your rain gear, but the community center had an odd assortment of clothes which you could wear for the duration. I selected an Amish looking flowered dress and emerged much to the amusement of Shepherd and Herro, who had arrived that morning and were on their second meal of the day with no inclination of leaving. "Monkey Bars has got it going on!" they hooted. Flash and I were inspired to take an American Gothic photo in our dresses. I haven't seen a copy, but I am sure we look amazing.


HikerTrash (and a wonderful volunteer) at the community center. Wild Card, Guy Waiting for a Tent, and Shepherd.
I felt the familiar tug of war inside. I wanted to stay on the trail. Sitting there with the other hikers, I felt like I had found my tribe. It didn't matter that I was considerably older than most of them. They got it. They got me. But at the same time, I knew I had something to go home to. I could never leave my husband and my pets for five months. I wish I had known about the PCT when I was younger and with no ties.

But at least I get to do some of it. We gathered our laundry and piled into the shuttle. Soon we would be back in San Diego, at the trail angels', amid a fresh crop of hikers who hung on our every word about Section A. They rushed to the store to get more water bottles. We looked at their packs and shook our heads. Those packs were huge! A bear canister in the desert? I didn't have the heart to say anything. They would learn. The miles have a way of teaching you things.

Eagle Rock. Every single person takes a picture of this.
Ever hiked in the desert? Here are some things I have learned:

  • Figure out your mile per liter ratio. Mine is about 1 liter per 5 miles. Yours could be more. It probably isn't much less.
  • Dry camping is not something to be feared. It's freeing to not be tied to a water source. Pick food that doesn't take a lot of water to hydrate and plan on an extra liter to liter and a half.
  • Stop. We stopped every two hours or so to take off our shoes and socks, clean our feet with a bandanna and apply body glide. The result? No blisters.
  • Beware the wind. People without free standing tents were out of luck. We had to pass up campsites due to wind. Know how to set up your tent in the wind.
  • Thinner socks!
  • Bolt energy chews! And all you sugar free people, yes in everyday life simple sugars should not be consumed in high doses. Even most backpackers, who cover maybe 8 miles a day tops, don't need much. But try a prolonged effort for at least ten hours a day, day after day and see how you do.

17 comments:

  1. Your section hike sounds amazing, it makes me want to try more backpacking. Although I'm not sure I could survive the heat of the desert....

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    1. I didn't think so either but strangely enough heat was not the issue...wind was! I have discovered anything is better backpacking wise for me than wind. There's just no escaping it and it grates on the nerves. The desert gets surprisingly cold at night also.

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  2. Your experience in Section A would be so helpful for those unprepared beginning hikers.....bear canisters?????? Nice photos...esp. liked the trail across the golden fields. A good balance in a life still pulls us in different directions at times....good on you and Flash for this Section hike.

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    1. I unfortunately was reading a blog and the hiker described finding abandoned gear, including a bear canister...so I wondered. He took it all and gave it to a ranger. You have to wonder.

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  3. So much truth to your statement, "the miles have a way of teaching you things." I keep learning in so many ways. On my next trip, I'm going to be logging my water use so I can stop carrying too much. I had a mixed reaction to the wind on the AZT. I felt like I was one with nature, but got tired of fighting it and thankfully didn't have to deal with it at night.

    You are a great mentor for those young inexperienced ones, at least those who want to learn. Others like my niece insist on finding their own way.

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    1. I'm still learning, but I wish there was a way to help others avoid mistakes. However, that's how you learn I guess. I was honestly a little frightened by all the people starting thru hikes with no prior backpacking experience.

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    2. Those scare me also (and piss me off a little). It's the old syndrome of "they don't know what they don't know." Choosing ignorance is never an option in my opinion.

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  4. I think it's wonderful that you are section hiking the PCT. I'm hoping someday to section hike the Oregon portion. A pipe dream, but someday....

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    1. Flash and I are thinking about doing part of Oregon in October if the weather is decent. Maybe 100 MI worth. Not sure what part though. Thought about starting at Cascade Locks but then someone told me it would be 40 miles of uphill? Hmm.

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    2. I've hiked a small portion of the PCT from Cascade Locks to Dry Creek Falls, and it was relatively flat. But I can tell you, as with all Gorge hikes, there's quite a bit of climbing to get up and over the Gorge's steep cliffs. But I don't think there's 40 miles worth. I've hiked some of the PCT around Mt. Hood and it wasn't too bad either. But I've never tackled the entire stretch from Cascade Locks to Mt Hood.

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  5. There is a really good weather related app that you can use for planning those hikes. You can set in parameters such as temp. wind etc and be alerted when it is forecast. www.islikely.com

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    1. Oh nice! Good to know. When I left town on 4/19 the weather looked very stable. As the week went on, it showed signs of the approaching storm. So I was aware it was coming but not soon enough to pack differently. Luckily I had all the right gear except for, arguably, the type of tent.

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  6. Mind if I ask you a gear question? What do you use for water purification? I'm still stuck on the Katadyn Hiker, and not interested in a fussy Steripen. Lately I've used chlorine tablets more and more, but in the desert it's nice to filter water. Any suggestions?

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    1. Sawyer Squeeze all the way! Love it, love it, love it. I haven't met anyone using it that doesn't. Some people get sucked into the Mini, but I've found for the flow/clog rate it doesn't pay to save a few ounces, get the regular one instead. You can do all sorts of fancy things with it like set up inline systems, but mostly I just do the gravity feed/squeeze or drink right from the filter.

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    2. Thanks so much! I hadn't heard of this one before, but it seems to be exactly what I was looking for.

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  7. I think it's relevant to mention that there's a significant difference between the type of simple sugars found in typical energy chews and the kind found in typical candy. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say!

    I know from your pics that I would never be able to hike the PCT because it's perfection from a mountain biking standpoint would just chafe on me!

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    1. Well, you are right, I do munch candy sometimes but try not to go overboard. It's a fine line and hard to get all of the calories you need. I often go into a deficit. I hear you on the bikes...it's a big ongoing debate and some people just aren't able to resist

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