Sunday, March 6, 2016

One month to go - then we walk

One month from today we start our thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. We both now have that pesky working for a living thing out of the way, and retirement is awesome! Training hikes, birding, wildflower peeping, and resupply packing are all our new vocation. Other entries in this blog detail our outdoor adventures with more to come before we depart.

Getting to the border for most PCT hikers is an effort, but we will have it easy. Our wonderful friends Ron and Nancy have offered to drive us there. We will leave home on April 5 to drive down, ultimately stopping at Lake Morena for the evening. This is the 20 mile point for the trail and has camping available. Early on the morning of the 6th, Ron and Nancy will deliver us to the border and then meet us back at Lake Morena in the evening. They will hold on to all our camping and cooking gear making the first day a much lighter weight hike. We couldn't ask for more generous and helpful friends - thanks Ron and Nancy!

Speaking of resupply packing, that has been a monumental effort so far, with plenty left do do. Resupply strategies for the trail vary widely among hikers. Some buy all their food at towns along the way, others send almost everything from home to points along the trail, while some use a hybrid of the two. Opinions on these strategies vary widely too. The send it all from home strategy requires a ton of work up front, much estimating of what, where and when, and putting it all together. The downside to this strategy is the potential for buying a bunch of food that you grow to hate later on in the hike. The buy as you go strategy requires time away from the trail, finding stores with food you want to eat, and making boxes to send ahead to spots on the trail with no or poor food choices. The obvious advantage is being able to have things you know you want (if you can find them) and the amounts necessary for the upcoming miles.

We have chosen to do the mail from home strategy and pick up fresh items (like cheese, tortillas, bread, CHIPS!, etc.) at easily reached stores. Neither of us are super picky eaters, we know what we like and can eat regularly, and are pretty good at planning ahead. Variety is important so we've purchased a lot of different things and tried most during previous backpack and day hikes. The effort to put it all together has been overwhelming and stressful at times, especially at the beginning. Imagine grocery shopping for 5 months and dividing it into weekly allotments. And of course all these groceries have to be suitable for mailing, long-term storage, and be of backpacking weight. 

Cooked Jasmine rice dehydrated into a great
tasting "Minute Rice"
Pre-made freeze dried backpacking meals are readily available, and we do use them sparingly. They can cost between $5 and $10 per person, per meal, and would be prohibitively expensive for a thru hike. So, my dehydrator has been running constantly for over a month. Some things like tomatoes, onions, spaghetti sauce, and rice dehydrate beautifully. Others, not so much. Freeze drying works far better for most vegetables and meats so I've bought those in bulk. Once a recipe is chosen we bag it up in quart freezer bags several at a time. We've come up with many great tasting recipes and will be able to keep our dinner diet varied throughout the weeks ahead. I've even come up with a killer recipe for my beloved Thai Green Curry. Did you know you can get Coconut Milk in powder form?  You can, and it's great! I took green curry paste, dehydrated it, put it in the food processor and ground to powder.  I added dehydrated brown sugar, chicken bullion powder (salt - to replace fish sauce in normal recipe), onions, green beans, chicken, coconut milk powder, and dehydrated Jasmine rice.  To "cook" all we do is add boiling water to the ziploc bag, wait 10 minutes, and EAT!  

Bulk foods for dinner recipe assembly

My spreadsheet tells me we've created 25 or so different dinner meals. That hopefully is plenty of variety. Once the dinner meals are chosen for a resupply box, all of them are put together and sealed in a vacuum bag with a couple of oxygen absorbers. The ones we won't need until later this summer will go in the freezer for now.

Vacuum sealing one box worth of dinners
Lunches will be a variety of things like crackers, cheese, jerky, summer sausage, meat sticks (think Slim Jims), shelf stable pepperoni (awesome!), and caffeinated powdered drink mixes for that afternoon boost.  Breakfast is things like Carnation Instant Breakfast, Nido whole milk powder, hot chocolate, powdered peanut butter (PB2, killer good), granola, cookies, and cereal bars. Snacks throughout the day will include a wide variety of energy bars, cookies, SNICKERS BARS!, nuts, and dried fruit.

We are fortunate to be able to easily come home about one-fourth the way to Canada, living just a short distance from mile 702 at Kennedy Meadows. This is the last stop before heading into the High Sierra and will be a good chance for us to assess our food strategy to that point and make adjustments for the miles ahead. 

We've packed our boxes to get us to Kennedy Meadows. Planning this out takes logistical resource, and there's a great one available on the internet. Former thru hiker Craig Giffen is a software programmer and made available an outstanding tool for planning the hike. It's called Craig's PCT Planner. You can view our plan for the trail at this link. Of course this is always subject to change, I keep fiddling with it constantly. And the farther you go into the future, the more uncertainty there is. But, it's a start and allows us to rough-in our boxes. 

Putting all this together takes space, and lots of it - something in short supply in our little house. My office is the "warehouse" and our living room is the box assembly line. Currently that "living room" looks like an 18-wheel semi full of backpacking food crashed in the middle of it...

Putting boxes together

Stuff everywhere!
The Warehouse
Getting the boxes to us at the right time will require help. We need the box there before we arrive, but not too far into the future as these post offices and business will hold packages for only 30 days in many cases. Our good friend Terri has selflessly volunteered to be our "trail mom" for the summer. Terri will adjust the contents when we ask and mail our boxes on time, generally just keeping us supplied. THANK YOU Terri !!!!!

Many more of our friends have volunteered to help - from rides to water drops to hand delivered resupplies - and we will surely take advantage of these generous offers this summer. Thank you to all who have offered, we really do appreciate it very much.

There is still much to do in these few days remaining, but we're in a good place now with our first 700 miles packed and the rest estimated and procured. We will make more dinners and rough in more boxes in the coming days. And hike! We must keep our training miles up to be ready when we start.

Thanks for reading and coming along for the ride. It will be an adventure!

1 comment:

  1. I love that kind of planning. Flow charts, lists, lists of lists; it's all fun for me. Hope your foot stays well. Hiking in pain is miserable.