Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Reasons for Hiking the PCT

Prioritized PCT Goals:
1. Have a great time living in some of the world’s most beautiful areas for 4+ months.
2. Test out outdoor gear and techniques for our Midwest Mountaineering customers.
3. Hike the entire PCT.

Please Note:
Goal #1 and Goal #3 are sometimes in conflict. Hiking through the brutal hot desert sun, across massive snow fields and on cold wet Washington trails in the fall, does not equal a great time. To still accomplish my primary goal of having a great time, I am hiking some of the hot deserts in November when it’s cooler, I’m taking the month of June off from hiking while the snow melts off the High Sierra and I’ll bounce up to Washington in August to hike southbound to the middle of California, to eliminate the cold wet trails. My re-supply car, which I am shuttling myself by hitch hiking and paying for rides, gives me the freedom to do this plus have additional items of equipment to test.

380 Miles Hiked in May

Look for my next entry in mid-July. I'm waiting for most of the snow to melt off the High Sierra.

Gear Testing Report

Rated On a #1 to #5 Scale - With #5 Being the Best

-Western Mountaineering 16 oz. HighLite 35 degree sleeping bag = #5 rating, wear clothing to bed for extra warmth.
-MontBell 6.5 oz. W/B Sleeping Bag Cover (Bivy Sack) = #5 rating, it has not rained so I haven’t tested it in the rain. If it started raining I would seek shelter for the head opening under a dense tree or rock overhang. I would only use this shelter if rain is unlikely. If it is likely to rain a little, I would use my tarp. If it will rain a lot or the bugs are terrible, I would take an ultralight tent.
-CCS 7.6 oz. Pack = #5 rating, I’m going to have a gusseted hole added for a hydration hose. The silnylon is not super durable.
-Erik the Black’s PCT Atlas, ultralight, pocket sized map booklets = #5 rating, costs about $200.
-END Sumptown 12 Hiking Shoes =#5 rating, the lightest hiking shoes I’ve seen, the flexible sole and light weight make for a blister-less glove like fit. The sole is not super durable.
-END Wow Hiking Shoes - #3 rating, light weight and extremely well ventilated, but a lot of trail dust comes in and grass spears poked through into my foot.
-GoLite Hiking Shoes – #4 rating, lots of toe room and they are light, I like the adjustable insoles, the large sole lugs are good for snow, but I think this shoe company has gone out of business (different that the GoLite equipment company). I did get a heel blister because of the stiff sole.
-VestPack – #2 rating, not room for a Jet Boil and way too minimalistic for most hikers.
-Bubble Wrap for Sleeping Pad – #5 rating, so light it almost isn’t there. The trick is to contour the ground, so you really don’t need a sleeping pad at all.
-Altimeter Watches – I could not get them to work accurately. I will continue to test them.
-Esbit Cubes for Cooking = #1 rating, don’t get hot enough for me.
-JetBoil Stove = #5 rating, my favorite stove! There is a boil-over problem if you don’t watch the stove like a hawk.
-Smartwool Liner Socks = #4 rating, these socks are thin for coolness and are merino wool for limiting odor. They wear out fast and come up on the ankle too high.
-Band-Aid brand Blister Pads = #5 rating.
-Princeton Tech EOS 1 watt Headlamp = #5 rating, just the right brightness levels, waterproof, and it is a reasonably price.
-Kodak Digital Camera – #3 rating, a good small light camera, but certainly not water resistant.
-Casio Exilim Camera – #4 rating, light and small, but the sound didn’t replay well on the video clips when transferred to my computer .
-Canon PowerShot SD780 IS Camera - #5 rating, I love this camera. It is the smallest, the lightest, has 12.1 megapixles and has the most features. It even downsizes pictures for my blog site.
=Carbon Fiber Hiking Poles – #4 rating, I made them with odds and ends. I ordered an even lighter pair from Titanium Goat.
-OP Sak Odor Proof Food Bags – #4 rating, I put my food in the bag, then put the bag in my pack and use it for a pillow. There is a quality control problem with the bags. One came un-welded, the Ziploc failed on the second bag, the third bag is working fine.
-Houdini Water Resistant Wind Jacket by Patagonia, #5 rating, it hasn’t rained so I don’t know how waterproof it is.
-Dust Gaiters, #4 rating, great for the desert where the trail dust is especially bad. Dirty Girl makes a good pair.
-Merino Wool Tops - #5 rating, my Icebreaker short sleeve 140 weight ventilated zip tee GT or Velocity top was perfect for hot backpacking. It protected me from the sun. My 200 weight Icebreaker long sleeve zip tee worked well layered with the short sleeve top, for cooler weather.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Technique Development Report

-Cooking with an Esbit cube, pop can stove and using the freeze dry pouch to warm your dinner in. This technique took too long and did not get my food and coffee hot enough. I switched to my JetBoil, which is one of my favorite items.
-VestPacking – I switched to a regular pack after 3 days, because my VestPack can’t hold my JetBoil.
-Avoid the brutal mid-day heat of the desert by waking up at 3:00 AM and being on the trail with a headlamp by 4:00 AM. Take a mid-day break in the shade. Hike until dark.
-I love my re-supply car. It gives me freedom! I especially love taking the winding mountain roads in my sports car. It does take extra time to get a ride back to my car.
-Not sleeping in a tent is wonderful! You can lay you bivy sack in a great many places that are too small for a tent. I saw two brothers lay their sleeping bags right on the trail. I have had the most scenic camps ever. Beautiful panoramic views with alpenglow from the setting sun, stars for my nightlight and best thing of all is being able to cook and do all my camp chores while sitting in my sleeping bag.
-Preparing the ground I sleep on. Whatever sleeping system a person uses, scooping a depression in the ground for your butt and hips to fit in, makes your sleep much more comfortable. For me, it’s just as comfortable as my bed at home. I suggest sitting and laying in the depression you have scooped for your butt, to adjust the contours for perfect fit. Then you can lay your ground sheet, bubble wrap or tent down.
-Bubble wrap for a sleeping pad. It weighs almost nothing. It serves as a ground sheet. It takes up little room, especially after much of the air leaks out of the bubbles. Your comfort comes from preparing the ground to fit your body. For cooler weather, I would take extra bubble wrap.
-Navigating – I found my GPS of almost no use, so after a few days I left it in my re-supply car. It is extremely important that you don’t miss any water re-supply stops in the desert. Careful dead reckoning on your map by writing down what time you reach each landmark is important. Calculate your Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) to the next water re-supply, so you don’t miss it.
-Carefully calculate how much water to carry at each water hole. A rule of thumb is to carry a liter for each 3 miles if the temperature is between 85–100 degrees, a liter for each 5 miles if the temperature is between 65-85 degrees, and a liter for each 10 miles if the temperature is below 65 degrees. A fellow PCT hiker suffered heat exhaustion and had to be brought water, because he had failed to take enough with him. My backup plan in case a water hole is dry is to wait in the shade until the sun is low in the horizon, then hike by headlamp slowly to the next water supply when it’s cooler out. If your urine is clear while hiking in the desert, you could consider carrying less water to lighten your pack. If your urine is light yellow, you are probably drinking the right amount of water for desert backpacking.

Kennedy Meadows

I'll be back to Kennedy Meadows in July, after most of the snow melts off the High Sierra.

Top Photo=Many Miles of Burnt Forest - Bottom Photo=Alpenglow on the Mountains from Camp

Last Camp Before Kennedy Meadows

Exposed Granite Mountains

Pines on the Way to Kennedy Meadows

Gathering Water at Fox Mill Spring

If you can get the water to drip into your container, it is less likely to collect floaters. I have been using Aqua Mira chlorine dioxide tablets. I have been giving the tablets 20 minutes to work before drinking, but 4 hours are required to kill cysts. Katadyn has a new silver ion tablet that I am going to test.

Grass Prickers Poke Into My Foot Through My Mesh Shoes

Purple and White Lupine

I See More Lizards Than Any Other Animal

Camp, with Me in My Sleeping bag

I usually manage to camp on a ridge with a world class view.

A Joshua Tree

Water Not Safe for Drinking?

They mean not safe until purified, filtered or boiled.

Century Plants

The century plant or agave blooms only once in it's life. Fire-roasted agave is distilled to make mescal.

Indian Paintbrush

The Chaparral Zone

Lots of shrubs with little shade.

Heading Towards Kennedy Meadows

I'm tired of the hot desert. There will be some shady pine trees in the upper reaches of this section. I skipped a few of the lower hot desert areas, to come back and do in November when it's cooler.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Celebrate My 60th Birthday on the Summit of Mt. Baden Powell

The 330 Mile Mark

Looking at the Summit of Mt. Baden Powell

1,500 Year Old Tree

Snow Covering the Trail

On the way to the summit of Mt. Baden Powell.

On the Trail


With my bivy sack I can make camp just about anywhere, and cook while in my sleeping bag.

There Still is Some Snow Up Here

Playing Golf with a Mushroom and Hiking Pole

Ponderosa Pines

Another Rattlesnake

This one is coiled and hissing and rattling at me.

Beautiful Hiking

I Love the Pine Trees that Appear at Above 6000 ft.

Trail Names

I started out as VestPack Rod. My VestPack didn't have room for my JetBoil so I became Minimal Rod. I have started to call myself Creaky Knees. When a fellow hiker named Fix-It saw my resupply car he said my new trail name has to be Hot Rod.

My Ultralight Pack Contents

Empty Pack = 7.6 ounces
Western Mountaineering HighLite 35 Degree Sleeping Bag = 16 ounces
Bubble Wrap for Sleeping Pad = 1 ounce
MontBell W/B Sleeping Cover Bivy Sack = 6.5 ounces
Total of empty pack, sleeping system and shelter weigh less than 2 pounds!

My Re-Supply Car on a Mountain Ridge

Creaky Knees

My knees start out OK in the morning. They deteriorate during the day. When I come home during the month of June while I wait for the snow to melt off the High Sierra, I'll see if my doctor can do something for my right knee like a cortisone shot.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Knee Problems Knock Me Off the Trail

After hiking just over 300 miles, my right knee hurt enough to force me off the trail. I'll rest my knee for a couple of days and try again. This knee has given me problems in the past. I had hoped it had healed. It hasn't. It will make hiking the entire trail in one year impossible. Many parts of the PCT are equal in beautiful to anywhere in the world. I'll be sure to hike them. My left knee which was replaced last October has not totally healed, but is functioning OK.

Deep Water Creek Gorge

Deep Water Creek Bridge

I stopped here for water. I almost brushed up against what I think is poison oak.

Creekside Camp

My right knee was bothering me, so I stopped hiking an hour early and camped here.


Snow Flowers


I almost stepped on this rattlesnake sunning in the middle of the trail! He rattled his tail at me. I'll look out for them more carefully in the future.

Burnt Forest

There were many miles of hiking through this area where there was a forest fire several years ago. There is no shade in this zone from the hot sun.

My Favorite Kind of Hiking

Beautiful Pine Forests

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The First 252 Miles

Bear Story and Another Lizard

I was hiking at night when I heard a ferocious bear bellowing. He was right ahead of me. I thought of camping for the night, but thought he might attack me. I made lots of noise so as not to surprise him. His bellowing became so loud and ferocious, I beat a hasty retreat back to my re-supply car via paved road. I later found out he was in a cage which I couldn't see at night.

A Lizard on the way to Big Bear City

A Hiker Runs out of Water and Suffers Heat Exhaustion

He left his pack and stayed in the shade. His brother in the red shirt brought water back up to him and helped him down. This picture is at the end of the San Jacintos.

The Sleeping Bag Completes My Sleeping System

Next Goes a Layer of Bubble Wrap and a Bivy Sack