Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Miraculous hot sauce packets pretty much encapsulate this whole project

I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, but I sure should have last week. I’ve gotten so much support, some lucky breaks and one outright miracle in preparing for my Pacific Crest Trail hike, which starts 27 days from now.

There was a point at which I’d decided just to do the hike without any big hoopla. But then I realized that there was no way I wasn’t going to share my experiences, so I may as well set up available media – YouTube, my blog, Instagram and all that rot – for trail access. That’s because in a  way, it doesn’t seem like something has really happened until I’ve told someone about it.

When I announced that I was going on this walk across California the long way, folks began asking how they could help so I needed to establish ways for them to do so. Thinking that through, I realized that there was ambient support to be had, and that some of it could be diverted via the per-mile pledge route to some causes that are special to me. At that point, we were off and running.

A lot of difficult prep issues have resolved themselves, or more accurately, been resolved through the generosity of many folks in the 

Things seemed to really get going when I picked an interim trail name. Apparently people can name you based on some spurious fragment of verbiage, or you can sort of defensively pick a name out so you won’t be named Raccoon Sandwich or something. I thought and thought about it, then as usual it came to me at the periphery of my consciousness. I’ve always felt like I was in a spiral of one kind or another.

One of the current ones is that all three of my Mac computers are old, obsolete and basically dying. So I spend a lot of time looking at the spinning beach ball o’ doom – another spiral. So there it is, then. If you see me on the PCT, just call me Spiral.

Spiraling upward are the donations, to the charities and to my trail expense fund, and the validation that comes with that. The cash contributions have been forwarded to the beneficiaries, and we still more in per-mile pledges.

Going away for four months is no small project. In several cases, major challenges were resolved almost as if by magic. At risk of not listing everyone and everything, here are some key contributions:

First, my old friend, Arcata Union Sports Editor Dirk Rabdau, sent me the food-protecting bear canister he used on his PCT hike a few years back. It was full of goodies and some very wry letters of advice. His wisdom and experience on numerous planning points have been invaluable, and the bear can saves me a chunk of change.

Then, Aaron Ostrom of Pacific Outfitters kicked down an incredibly sweet tent, a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. It’s lighter, tougher, more thought-out and PCT-friendly than my good old, old-school Eureka tent. Another great break.
Aaron Ostron of Pacific Outfitters, me and my new Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent.

Four months’ worth of food is a daunting expense, but Aaron Gottschalk and Amber Madrone (and of course our friend Mr. Ricord) of Wildberries Marketplace came through with a major load of trail mix, dehydrated grub and other delicacies.

Routes to the PCT trailhead at the Mexican border are pretty well established, but complicated and inefficient time-wise. I was fully prepared to navigate all the trains and bus stations at all hours to get there, but it was not to be. One of my friends in SoCal, Scott Chatfield, has pretty much demanded that I let him transport me to the Southern Terminus, arriving right at dawn! (That will allow me several miles of hiking before the desert temps rise and require me to stop and take shade for a few hours.) Getting there at sunrise requires leaving Chatfield Manor (as Mike Keneally calls it) at 4 a.m. or something, and commits Scott to a massive drive, but his calculation is this: “It might be wretched and shitty, but it might be fun!” Well, that’s the kind of reasoning that has basically guided my whole life, so why change now?

Thanks, Dirk, Aaron, Aaron, Amber, Phil, Scott and everyone else who’s kicked in one thing or another.

The warm and welcoming PCT hiking community has been embracing my little effort, with folks I don’t even know, who have a lot more experience, coming my way. A kind fellow whose trail name is Homework came to the office to interview me for the Sounds of the Trailpodcast. That was fun, though I’m not at all confident that my naive insights into trail life will hold up over time.

Oh, about that miracle.

With so many major milestones accomplished, there is still a small army of niggling details that are proving elusive to the end. One was hot sauce packets.

I’ll be able to buy tortillas and string cheese in towns along the way. They will be viable for a few days on the trail, making possible rehydrated bean burrritos. But no one wants a bland burrito. I didn’t get pro enough to dehydrate this year, and sauce packets aren’t easy to come by in the quantities I would need – not a lot, but more than I’d feel comfortable nicking from Taco Bell. I was resigned to carrying a tube of hot sauce; yet another fussy thing to keep track of and manage.

If I told you, “I’m just going to go walk around Arcata until I find a bunch of hot sauce packets on the ground,” you’d doubtless think me daft! The odds of a saucy groundscore are simply impossible. And yet, that’s just what happened.

The ultimate groundscore!

No, I didn’t go out looking for such  a thing, because who would? But as I was power-walking around Sunny Brae one dusky eve, what did I happen upon? A FREE box containing – seriously, this is all but impossible – two bulging Ziploc bags loaded with trail-ready hot sauce packets. And in two flavors – extra-hot and Sriracha!

Now that’s a Christmas miracle, or at least it feels like one. Thanks, cosmos at large. I went back and left a couple of Finnish Country Sauna tub tickets for the person who had set out the sauce.

This week’s grand effort is to finalize all the resupply boxes. There will be 14 in all, as I am going with the hybrid approach of pre-mailed items and buying things in trail towns. I still need contributions, and if you’d like to help with any food or equipment, contact me and I’ll tell you what and where to send it.

This is a huge week for the hike in terms of events.

Wednesday, March 30, Abruzzi is generously donating 10 percent of its net proceeds to hike support. Hopefully I’ll see you there.

Thursday night, March 31 at 6 p.m. is my sendoff event in the Hotel Arcata’s Banquet Room, with pizza provided by The Jam (thanks, Pete Ciotti!). There, as the ad on page C6 notes, check out my awesome PCT hike rig, then talk trails and more with Mark Lovelace, Sunny Brae Forest pioneer; Mark Andre, Arcata Environmental Services director; Rees Hughes, author of the Pacific Crest Trailside Reader and Volunteer Trail Steward; Robert Berg, DDS, chair of the Children’s Dental Angel Fund; and Maureen McGarry, director of RSVP/VCOR. Hope to see you there, too.

Here’s still another serendipitous bonus: Glenn Branch, deputy director, National Center for Science Education, will be in town. He contacted the Humboldt Skeptics about giving a science talk March 31. Since I had the Hotel Arcata venue already booked for the hike sendoff, we just tacked his talk onto that. So, at 7:30 p.m., Glenn will discuss doubt and denial about climate change and how it affects science education.

All this mad whirlwind of events will, within a matter of days, result in my delivery to the Mexican border south of Campo, Calif. At that point, my life’s goals will be reduced to putting one foot in front of the other, staying healthy and making my way to Ashland while communicating the adventure to those wishing to follow it.

Here we go...

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