Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The tyranny of packing (a first world problem)

 "My pack without water and the first day's lunch is 33 pounds," Camel reported. Good Stuff did not say, but said he was "going light". I hurried to weigh mine. 27 pounds with one liter of water and four days of food. 

But I fretted. On this trip we have a whole gamut of possibilities. It could be sixty degrees, or it could be in the teens. We will be in ice and snow, and also not. The forecast holds a foreboding chance of rain (or snow). One day is an 18 mile day, some of others not so much. The nights are long, so reading is essential. Tights or pants? A pack cover, or hope for the best? Trail mix or not? (I almost always end up with extra trail mix) "I'm not bringing waterproof socks," Camel declares. But, he reveals, he has waterproof boots. Feeling silly, I pack my down booties, down pants, and down hat, plus handwarmers. There is no ultralight in winter.

Dog is my co-pilot.


 I've  pretty much stayed in this valley for two years. In that time I went on one hike that involved leaving the county. After section hiking the PCT for eight years,  it has been a big adjustment to stay home (I realize that this is a privilege not afforded to many). In that time I have apparently forgotten how to pack. In the end, I stuff just about everything in the rolling duffel and figure that I will sort it out the night before.

But travel is still a few days away, and there's still time to readjust. I have a few days off from work, and so I ski. I meet up with non-working friends on a weekday, an unknown luxury. What would that be like? They are both younger than I am and I ponder my life choices. We ski through the wildlife area, all three of us making spectacular crashes in the soft snow. We laugh and laugh. It feels good to laugh.

Another day I head solo up into the hills. Nobody is around, and my skis cut deep into the snow. Our skating lake is completely shrouded in snow, nobody having the desire to shovel it out again. I ski from the house up the snowed-in road, running into my neighbors, also on skis. I feel sorry for the people here who hate snow. They should probably move to Arizona.

Of course, I sometimes get tired of snow too. Thus this upcoming trip. It's been so long since I felt like life was normal, and I'm starting to think it won't ever really be again. So it's time to hike long trails again. This isn't long, about 50 miles, but I am eyeing some plans for next summer, two weeks if possible. The choices I am pondering are to go back to the Sierra, or to hike part of the Colorado Trail. I want to do these things while I still can, since none of us have any guarantees. 

Sierra: more people, a permit system that is challenging, but logistics are relatively easy. Colorado: haven't been before, logistics more difficult, lightning!! Which would you choose?








14 comments:

  1. I would choose Colorado. For the main reason being "never been". You're a whiz a logistics. Lightning is frightening, but don't let it keep you from trails needing to be explored.
    Can't wait to see what your decision will be!

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    1. I agree with the never been. I'm good at getting up early to put in miles also.

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  2. Colorado...but i'm prejudice :)
    Lightning is a risk on ridge-tops above timberline, but it's manageable if you are willing to start your day early so you can hunker down if needed. The CT is freaking amazing. You won't be disappointed, especially if you do the San Juan Mtn sections...very few mosquitoes and biting flies. :)

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    1. I'm thinking of that or perhaps Collegiate loop!

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    2. They are beautiful, the Collegiates. But Buena Vista has become a suburb of the front range metroplex Denver/Colorado Springs. It's jammed with tourists and peak baggers. The farther you go from the front range, the fewer people encountered. FYI

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    3. Good to know. I've been looking at the Colorado Trail segments 28 through maybe 14. That's a lot of miles though. Maybe need to scale back.

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  3. I grew up in Colorado so I am biased as well, however having hiked part of the CT in 2016 I would definitely recommend it. Lightning is definitely a hazard to be aware of, though frankly I'd take that over mosquitoes any day!. I did have to shelter in an aspen grove for a bit (hiking with a metal fly rod case...dumb), but we encountered relatively few folk and it IS gorgeous.
    Living near the Sierras as I do now, and working on wildfires there, I would caution against the Sierras since all of your time and effort in planning and eventual execution may likely come to naught or at worst a dangerous evac situation.

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    1. Oh crap you are right about the fires. Funny, when I worked there in the early 90s it wasn't as much of a thing. Well, it's not really funny. Interesting I guess.

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  4. I am envious of you skiing out your own door! (I have to drive many miles to do the same) As far as your summer hike, I'd pick the state I've never been to (in your case, CO). I never regret seeing new places.

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    1. You have a point there about new places. You definitely manage to get out a lot even with the traveling piece.

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  5. Awesome co pilot and pristine snow beauty. I have been seeing images of spring / summer in the Aussie Alps where I did my climb. I soooo want to go back!
    Have an amazing time.

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    1. Aussie Alps! Yet another place I've never been. Hope you get to go back.

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