Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Swamp Stompin

21 days left  at Amazon Acre, Oh my.
It feels like it has been raining for about 13 days non stop. Amazon Acre (The .94 acre field I live on) has gone from a nice grassland to frolic in, to a shin deep swamp land. Tashi wont even play ball with me out there because its so wet. Since I do melt in the rain, my only training in that 13 days has been enjoying fermented barley and hops, and stair repeats at Otter Rock when I have to get from the beach to the car after surfing. I mean it is like 112 stairs!

After neglecting my training for the duration of rain, yesterday (it was still raining) I finally motivated to walk somewhere. I figured the trails would be to muddy and I might get my feet wet, so I walked on the road in my worn out shoes. A little more than two miles to my parents. I got bored waiting for the UPS guy to deliver my replacement shoes, so I walked back home. I was really enjoying myself,  and my legs weren't tired, but the dogs were being pretty irritating, so I asked Jessica to drop me off at the Ridgeline Trail with out the little monsters. I walked from the Blanton trail head to Foxhollow, then down to Martin street. The trees were looking so beautiful and green with all the wetness. As soon as I got out to the road, the rain started pouring again. Great. I pulled on the Gore-tex and started the rest of the way home, when my phone rang, and Jessica said she was on her way to pick me up! sweet!!! I think it made for about a 10 mile day over all.

 My shoes have been killing me, they are really making my arches hurt, and the lining is torn up so I have been getting heel blisters. I have been waiting for my replacements from Inov-8. luckily they showed up later in the afternoon, and my old ones went straight to the rubbish bin. Inov-8 has been greatly helpful with a bit of a sponsorship for my hike. I will be wearing the Roclite 295.  Inov8 is an excellent company out of England, making light, minimal footwear.  I highly recommend checking them out at Big thanks to John for hooking me up with that.

Not really related, but I have been looking through my photo library lately, and heres a few I like.

Sahaile  Falls

My Favorite Pitty
Billy peeing on the north side of the equator from the south side
My lovely old van, I miss it every day
Evan and I bought this raft at a small gas station in the middle of nowhere in Uganda, then rode it without paddles down the White Nile.  I'm not sure why I'm celebrating, we haven't even hit the wave yet.
A moment of happiness, sliding in Crescent City

And its only six days till Yonder Mountain String Band plays in town!!!!  This is usually the music that goes through my head when walking all day. They play a great live show, and this is one of my favorites songs they do.

Here's one more with the guitar player and the bass player( on the mando). The audio isn't perfect, But its one of their coolest songs. amazing musicians.

Thanks for reading.... enjoy

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thoughts on walking north

In 28 days! I will begin a a journey that has been in my thoughts for years. "Years" sounds silly to say, but I guess its true. It must have been the summer between 7th and 8th grade, or sometime around there, that the romantic idea of a "thru hike" got superglued in my head. My good friend Matt, and his dad had a goal of hiking all sections of the  Oregon PCT before he was out of high school. Or something like that.  If  I recall right, my dad and I were able to join him for a few summers worth of hikes, and it was on one of those fifty milers  that lead me to the ordeal I'm in now.

That summer we were on the southern Oregon section of the PCT that goes through the Sky Lakes Wilderness. It might have been the third day of our fifty mile section hike, and it was hot out. And we were going up hill. And right there in the middle of the trail,was the dirtyist, smellyist, most happiest looking person I had seen. An older greyish hair guy in a dirty shirt and running shoes. Sleeping. Asleep, and directly in the middle of the trail, in our way. Like he lived there or something.

It must have been the heavy breathing, or the smell of laundry detergent still lingering on our cloths that startled him awake. After a quick apology for the road block, he introduced himself. I don't remember his name, but it is not important. He was a thru hiker. Coming from Mexico, headed to Canada. Three three and a half months earlier, he had started walking north, and here we ruined his afternoon nap.

We threw our overweight packs in the dirt, and before we could get out the fruit roll-ups to snack on, this guy had pulled his pack apart to show us all of his cool gear. He was very eager to talk, I think he may have been a bit lonely, but we, or maybe just I, was excited to see how some one walking this distance could be living out of such a tiny pack. His pack was less than half the size of mine. He wore running shoes. his stove was made out of a Pepsi can. The only pants he had were rain pants that looked like they were made of paper.  AMAZING! He told us where we could read about other thru hikers, and gear, and how to plan for our thru hikes.

Before that, I had never even considered a hiking trip longer than 10 days. This was great! We finished our snacks, and heard more stories of the trail. When we left, we continued south, in the direction of the car, only 13 miles away, which would take us a day and a half. The tennis-shoe wearing thru hiker went north, closer with each step to his goal, walking at least three times more miles than we did that August day.
A sweet spot on my Oregon sectin hike. Mt. Washington, Three Finger Jack, and Mt. Jefferson
to the north.

So lots of time passed and the dream has continued to linger. I had a hope of thru hiking in 2008. My lack of planning, and training, and funding, led me from a 5 month hike to a 3 week, 500 mile practice hike. Walking the Oregon section of the PCT was a long distance hiking sampler. Turns out walking is hard, and sometimes lonely, and there's lots of mosquitoes. and it was one of the best experiences I have had. Nearly every thought in my brain since then has been of this thru hike.
I have spent the last six months planning and training and dreaming and passing the time. So now I sit here with under a month until I actually get to do it.

I feel very excited. And very nervous. And I think feel sure and unsure at the same time. I guess I cant quite describe what I'm feeling with 28 days left at home.

couple links to enjoy:

Robert from Robert's Northwest Surf Boards and Pura Vida Surf Shop (my surfing sponsor) just got me some killer shirts to hike in.

And since I just got back from five days of surfing in Newport, here is a clip of the smoothest surfer ever. Joel Tudor

American Long Distance Hiking Association

Spirit Eagle has some good thoughts on thru hiking. See the Thru hiking Papers

Friday, March 12, 2010

And the days roll by

3/11/10 this meas 41 days to launch pad.

I'm writing this today, because I'm not walking on a trail that more resembles a small river with snow covered banks, with a ridiculous amount of rain falling on my head. No, I'm not doing that, bacause I was doing that earlier today.  So after aborting an over night gear test on the McKenzie River Trail, I'm back home, being warm and dry, and reading trail journals (and possibly enjoying a soda pop).  The forecast called 100% chance of rain and I was very excited to spend the evening under my new tarp. The problem wasn't all the snow we were heading up in to, but the temperature. And I guess I wasn't really excited about sleeping on snow either.

 Eugene and I stopped for lunch  where the trail crosses Deer Creek Road. Like a couple of hobos, we sat under the bridge out of the rain, and there we passed the moon shine and contemplated life, and if we should continue walking. We had gone five miles and I was still cold with all of my clothes on. For fear of Hypothermia and being wet and uncomfortable, and I can't remember the other excuses, we decided to head back and end the journey early.

Don't worry though. My ventures aren't all falling through. I did just get back from skiing at Mt. Hood. Monday  was full of wonderful lift served skiing at Meadows. Aside from a steady 30 mile per hour wind with gusts up to 70, It was a sunny day with great friends. And the wind might not have been quite that much, but it felt like it when the chair almost swung into one of the towers. Very fun.
 Derrick and I gettin a lift.   Photo Seth Swallen

Shreadin' the groomers! Photo Seth Swallen

Tuesday was all about training, or something. We skinned into the backcountry on the north side of Hood. Stopped at the Tilley Jane shelter for a snack, then continued to treeline. The avalanche hazard was minimal because  there's only about two feet of snow at  6500 feet, where we took the skins off and headed down.  The skiing at the top was mostly good, and due to very inconsistent snow I had a lovely crash. And I sure made it count. The fall left me cold and confused with snow in all of my bits (this is good for a person every so often). The last mile of descent back to the car was miserable. The trail was frozen solid, offering only an icy path down. Unskiable. Walking down was the only option due poor snow coverage, and lots of death rocks to ski into. With helmets still on our heads, and the skis on our packs, we slipped, and stumbled, barely in control back to the car. Then day made for about 2800 foot ascent, 3.5 miles each way. Awesome day!
Thanks  for the great visit Seth!
Making preparations for descent. Photo Seth Swallen

The search for anything to jump off will never end. Photo Seth Swallen

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Over the last week, I was able to put a new roof over my head. I spent two days cutting, and sewing and getting all sorts of tangled in silnylon. After all the work and frustration, I think I got something I can sleep under and stay mostly dry if the rain is falling. My new tarp is about eight feet long, and six feet wide. With its guy lines and stakes, it weighs 14 oz.  This makes it not the lightest tarp out there, but it sure offers plenty of room.  I'm hoping to take it out for an over nighter in the rain later this week to find out if I will want to use it as my primary shelter for the trip. Hope it doesn't fall over in the wind

45 days. AHh!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Things in my pack

It's hard to decide what pieces of gear I should call my home for the summer. One goal of my Oregon section hike was to get an idea of what things might work for this long journey. Really all I learned in that 450 miles was what I don't want to carry.
I do know some of the gear I like to use, but I have been feeling that I need to dial in some of the little things. So last week, with a miserable forecast of rain and an overnight low of 37, it seemed like ideal gear testing conditions.  On thursday, my  friend Eugene and I drove east on highway 126 to the McKenzie river trail. When we arrived at the Buck Creek Trail Head, the rain stopped for a moment, and we we headed upstream. The temperature was cold enough to hike in long sleeves and a wind shirt, and of course I only brought  shorts. I did not warm up until the first short climb. I have practiced walking so much lately, I was afraid I forgot how to set up a tarp. The 12 miles up to Carmen reservoir went by very easily, and I was excited to finally practice camping again. We found a campsite in a bush near the river, and with wet, frozen hands, I stumbled around my pile of nylon and tyvek, and finally put up something to sleep under that might keep the rain off.
Not sure what I'm doing with my hand here, but at least my tarp is up. Ten minuets later the rain came pouring down.

I slept terribly that night. Not sure why, usually I sleep better in the woods than at home, but I think I was cold, and the rock under my back probably did not help. From this trip I learned that I need more clothes to sleep in, and I can still set up my tarp to stay dry in all night rain. Oh, and I need to move all rocks. It was good to finally be out for more than just a day hike, and I hope to do a few more over nighters before the end of April rolls around.

So as I continue pulling my hair out over things like what tent pegs I prefer, you can look at what will might  be in my kit.

 -Pack: Granite Gear Vapor Trail (the grey and blue one) 2lbs. I will use this from the start until after the sierras. It will handle the heavy water loads in the desert, and a bear canister in the sierras. It has more of a frame, and It's a bit bigger than the ULA Conduit (my favorite).  I hope to switch to the Conduit for OR and WA.The conduit has no frame and weighs 17oz! woo!

-Shelter: I'm planning on starting with my poncho tarp (shown in the first pic) and a bivy sack. At Kennedy Meadows (about mile 700 and the start of the sierras) I will switch to a bigger tarp that I'm in the process of making, and use a bug net with it. Both systems weigh around 13oz

-Sleeping Bag: Ultra 20 from Golite, and silk liner.I sleep cold, so I will bundle up at night and the liner will help alot. weight (with liner): 27 oz
-Pad: Thermarest Z-Lite. Or other closed cell foam pad. I cut them down to torso length.
-Ground Cloth: a piece of Tyvek, it weighs about 4 oz

Clothing Packed:
-2 pairs of Darn Tough wool socks
-260 weight wool top From Ice Breaker
-Light weight wool bottoms from Smart Wool
-Mont Bell Down Inner Jacket.
-Patagonia Dragonfly wind shirt
-Rain shell: Dri ducks
-Beanie from Icebreaker
-Fleece gloves
All of this comes to about 2 lbs. Not to bad

-Stove: I made it out of a cat food can, it weighs less than half an ounce
-Fuel: Heet (gas line antifreeze) or denatured alcohol
-Pot: MSR Titan with foil lid. 4oz
-Spoon: Plastic to-go spoon. This doesn't even register on my postal scale
-Dish Washer: cut down pack towel
-Ignition: Mini Bic
Kitchen total is about 7oz before fuel is added in.

Hydration: This will be a large capacity in the desert then probably cut in half after Kennedy Meadows.
-Two 2+ liter  platypus bottles. 1oz each
-Two 1liter Gatorade or Aquafina bottles. 
-Aquamira chlorine dioxide treatment. 3oz

All my little bits: Whistle, Ibuprofin (vitimin I), sun-block, Lighter, bag-balm, hand sanitizer, soap, knife, Photon light, Aquamira (water treatment), compass,first aid kit (the one with the super glue), repair kit, E-lite, Fire starting, Mosquito net, Earplugs, radio (my luxury item), and I will probably throw in a tooth brush.

Clothing worn: Rail Riders Eco Mesh Shirt, Patagonia running shorts, Tilley hat or visor, who knows. Darn Tough socks and probably Inov-8 running shoes .

Minimal gear is important to me. My base weight (the weight I will cary before consumables  like food and H2O) is 9.5 pounds. Efficiency in gear systems is key, and I think the parts of my system work very well together. This gear list will vary as I walk north week after week. I will find I don't need it all, and I will need and want things I don't have. What is great is I will be near a post office or store about every five days, and I can make changes when I need too.

Im not sitting next to my countdown  calendar  at the moment, but I think its 50 days until we fly south, just so I can walk back home.