Monday, February 8, 2016

I don't leave until April, but my PCT journey is already well underway

I've had so much stressy fun over the past few weeks, setting up the hike this April. The highs and lows, tedium and exhilaration, the plodding along and trying to remember to look up once in a while are a bit like traversing the many peaks and valleys of the Sierra.

The donations are rolling in, and I'll have some spectacular figures to report in the next post.

First, we have two events coming up:

Next Tuesday, Feb. 16, Plaza Grill is generously donating 10 percent of its lunch and inner proceeds to support the hike! Please consider eating out at the Grill, and maybe I'll see you there!

On Thursday, March 31, we’ll have a special event in the Plaza View Room. “Trails with Teeth” will highlight local trail, and progress and plans. 

Speakers include Fifth District Supervisor Mark Lovelace, reflecting on the history of the Sunny Brae Tract since the days of SANA (the Sunny Brae Neighborhood Association) and the citizen buy-out from Sierra-Pacific Industries. Arcata Environmental Services Director Mark Andre will give an update on the ever-growing Arcata Ridge Trail. Pacific Crest Trailside Reader co-author and Volunteer Trail Steward Rees Hughes will talk about the Pacific Crest Trail, so all ye local PCT hikers, this is the time to come hither!

There will be other speakers, including a short explanation about the Dental Angel Fund, which saves poor kids’ mouths. Maybe we’ll have a panel discussion of trail talk. Plus the usual noshing and vibrant social interaction. It sounds like a good time to have a silent auction to raise funds for the charities. If I’m brave enough, I may even bring my pack and PCT rig for more experienced hikers to shake down.

Here's the latest ad in this week's Union:

The 1,726.6-mile hike will take perhaps four months, which requires all kinds of planning. Unplugging (mostly) from your regular life for that long requires you to address some things you could otherwise put off – like setting up bill autopays, simplifying all your passwords and getting a security app and getting new glasses.

But the real planning challenge is, of course, the hike. There’s replacing and updating equipment, learning how to use it (that’s the fun part), training (also fun), getting medical clearance, figuring out food resupply, getting the right navigation and media apps, working out the electronics and so much more. I keep making lists, crossing things off and then making more lists.

I love planning projects, as do other PCT hikers now getting ready for an April launch. Conquering the known variables is part of the fun. There are some things I simply won’t know until I’m on the trail – like how I’ll handle the Mojave heat and Sierra altitude gain and loss. Those unpredictables will affect my rate of travel, which in turn affects the cost. 

How many “zero days” will I need to spend in towns, to do resupply, laundry and various chores – one a week? Two? I just won’t know before I hit a stride. Layovers can get costly, what with lodging and indulgent restaurant meals. My plan is to stick to the trail and stay in hostels or cheap motels only when necessary, because after all, I could do that here. I do plan to stop for a few days off trail at South Lake Tahoe, where we spent family getaways when I was a kid. That being after a 1,092 walk over deserts and mountains, a few zeroes might be justifiable at that point.   

I’ve never set up a charity hike before, so it’s OJT. Figuring out how to properly solicit and channel pledges and donations took some work, and audaciously asking people for support isn’t my comfort zone at all.

As with anything, fear of failure can have a dampening effect if you let it. Or you can boldly go, split infinitives and accentuate the positives and hope that others find value in it. Much to my relief, the pledges and donations have come first as a trickle, then a steady wave. That and all the rain have been enjoyable to have going on. 

The excellent new lightweight equipment available today is simply amazing in its technology and thought-outedness. Oddly, for things like sleeping bags (I’m actually taking a quilt and thermal pad), tents and backpacks, you pay more to get less – and less weight. Materials science has transformed some of this gear, with tough but lightweight items like Cuben fiber and titanium cookwear.

But what really buoys me are the donations I’ve received in per-mile pledges and flat sums earmarked for charity. It’s seriously motivating to complete the hike (not everyone goes all the way on their planned journey). It’s becoming some serious assistance for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, Arcata Ridge Trail (Forest Fund) and Union Labor Health Federation Children’s Dental Angel Fund, as you'll see in the next post.

Even beyond that, the moral support has been fantastic. Everyone is so encouraging and supportive. I’ve heard from people I haven’t had contact with for years. Turns out they’ve been quietly reading my stuff all along, including the recent hike announcement.  

It turns out that there are lots of people locally who have hiked the PCT as well as the John Muir Trail (the two overlap in parts). They want to meet, and we shall. Every time I talk to an experienced PCT hiker, I learn things. Especially helpful and inspirational has been my old friend Dirk Rabdau, former Arcata Union sports editor. He’s even sending me his bear canister.

Thanks to all the donors, sponsors and encouragers! 

It was also illuminating meeting with Michael Kauffman, who is helping establish the Bigfoot Trail, The 360-mile Bigfoot Trail also overlaps with the PCT in spots, and links Crescent City with the Klamath Mountains with parts south. So maybe next year I can hike the Bigfoot, or complete the PCT by starting at Manning Park, Canada, and ending in Ashland, Ore. where this year’s hike ends.

So when does all this strenuousness begin? Probably April 22, 10-plus weeks from now. I’m waiting for them to announce the date of the annual kickoff event, which I wish to attend.

Oh by the way, we need someone to do my newspaper work while I’m gone. Call Jack or me at the Union at (707) 826-7000 to inquire. Things are starting to happen fast, so stay tuned!

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