Sunday, May 8, 2016

Time Out

Day 31 to 33 - May 6 to 8
Miles: 0

Sunrise at our aqueduct camp last week
We will be back on the trail Monday morning, thanks to friends Brenda and Dan. The section we are heading into is the driest on the PCT with the potential for a 40+ mile water-less section. That's where being on your home turf comes in handy. There is road access to a few key spots along this section and we have set an itinerary that allows a couple of key friends to meet us and supply guaranteed water. There are sometimes caches in these spots, but we will take no chances. The itinerary allows us to do the 87 miles at a relatively casual pace. We will be at Walker Pass in the early afternoon on Friday. Trail mom Terri will snag us for a quick drive home. We are somewhat dragging our feet at this point. There is only one small piece remaining after Walker Pass, a 50 mile trek to Kennedy Meadows. After that it's the High Sierra and all that entails. Snow, ice, and high mountain passes must be considered before choosing an entry date in the Sierra. June 15 is considered a safe entry date in a normal snow year. This year has been anything but normal. There are parts of the Sierra with less than normal snowpack, but other parts with over 200%. We will look at it again in a week and have a fairly good idea when we will enter. That is the beauty of being so close to home, we can just wait until we feel like going when other hikers are stacking up at Kennedy Meadows.

Since I have some free time on a Sunday I thought I'd write a little about our food strategy so far, what has worked and what we will change going forward. Nearly 600 miles of hiking in a month has taught us a lot. We have use a nearly exclusive mail drop resupply and purchased almost nothing from stores along the way. We will continue this strategy. What we will do is adjust some of the things in our boxes based on what we've learned.

The biggest fail so far with our boxes are the high-end energy bars we purchased.  Larabars and RxBars specifically. These bars are gluten free, low flavor, and have a very dry texture. We can eat them, just not as often as we envisioned. What Susan and I are not is gluten free. We are CRAVING gluten products so we are mixing in more wheat based items. 

What are we liking a lot so far?

Snickers (never any doubt about this one)

Kind Bars
Fiber One bars
Belvita (or Nature Valley equivalent)

Breakfast in bed!
Breakfast requires a liter of water for coffee, tea, and turbo-charged hot chocolate (Susan) or Carnation Breakfast Essentials (Bob) with whole milk powder. Susan's hot chocolate gets turbo-charged with PB2 peanut butter powder and Nestle Nido whole milk powder. It makes us slow to get out of camp in the morning, but worth the effort. Add in a few bars or cookies and that's breakfast.

Every morning we leave camp with our bottles full of water with an EmergenC. This covers our vitamins and some electrolytes for the day.

Lunch is always high protein with a dried meat of some kind. We've enjoyed shelf stable pepperoni slices, jerkey, and summer sausages/salami. We've had cheese on a few sections and will continue that too. We like the cheap crackers like the Austin flavored Crackers. Add in some cookies and an energy drink (caffeine) and we're good to go for another hour or two.  More bars/snacks fill in the afternoon.

When we arrive in camp out come the nuts - cashews, peanuts, almonds - for some quick energy and salt. Dinner has been hot every night using the ample selection from the many different recipes created before we left. A few of these were purchased Mountain House meals, but the vast majority were mixed from ingredients before we left. We bought freeze-dried ingredients like chicken, beef, green beans, corn, peas, refried beans, and eggs. We dehydrated at home things like cooked jasmine and brown rice, onions, spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, etc. We got some excellent wheat based quick-cook noodles from the local Asian food store. We searched the internet for backpacking food recipes and used the ones that sounded good. We adapted some our our favorite home based recipes, like Thai green curry for backpacking. When it was all done we had over 125 dinners from 25 different recipes ready to go. We haven't found one yet we didn't like.

Every dinner uses a backpacking preparation style called "Freezer-bag cooking." Boil the necessary amount of water, pour it in the freezer bag with ingredients, stir, put in cozy for 10 to 15 minutes. That's it, ready to eat.

Here is the entire production in photos for Thai Green Curry:

The cozy is home-made from a car window shade I bought at Walmart and some duct tape. The shade material is reflective mylar over bubble wrap and makes a fantastic insulator to keep the boiled water doing it's work while the freezer bag full of food is inside. The entire cozy weighs one ounce. Even after 15 minutes the food is hot enough to burn your tongue. We eat out of the bag with our long handle titanium spoons. Best of all, no dirty pot or dishes to wash, and when water is a premium this is a big deal. No, I didn't invent any of this, it's common knowledge in backpacking circles. 

Our go-to desert has been peanut M&Ms. We plan to mix it up by adding regular and Peanut Butter M&Ms later. :-)

Time to update the quiz questions!

1 - How many bird species will we see on the trip? 155 and counting. 
2 -  How many days in California will we NOT see a Raven? Still only 1 so far. 
3 -  How many eBird Lists will Susan do on the trail? 135 to date
4 -  How many new California County birds will Susan get? 33 - 15 in SD, 13 in Riverside, 1 in San Bernardino, 4 in LA, and 0 in Kern. 
5 -  How many feet blisters will we get combined? One! Bob got a wicked nasty one beneath a callus on his heal. Trail surgery was required, performed by the patient. Poke a sterile needle (heated under a Bic lighter) through two sides of the blister and pull a piece of dental floss through. The floss keeps the blister draining for a couple days.  I have photos! :-)
6 -  How many steps will Bob record on his iPhone (includes all trail and camp/town steps)? 
1,327,663 as of Sunday afternoon.
7 -  What day (almost certainly in September) will we finish? TBD
8 -  How many days will we get rained/snowed on?  Still three as we ducked the snow on Baden-Powell by hiding in the tent.
9 -  How many times will Susan eat ice cream? SIX, including a double on the afternoon we hung out at the Acton KOA.  Buckets of ice cream consumed in her easy chair at home this weekend does NOT count!
10- How many toenails will Susan lose? None yet but one is VERY black and still held in place daily with duct tape. It's only a matter of time...


  1. A beautiful summary of lessons learned and challenges ahead, which are obviously both enormous and treacherous. Any failures won't be through a lack of planning. And thanks for the detail on the trail surgery--I think.... Godspeed and good luck. The Martin family.

    1. Thank you my friend! I should have mentioned in this post that this week will most likely be outside of cellular coverage. It may very well be next weekend before I can post again.

    2. We will be sitting on pins and needles til your next post. Wishing you pleasant travels in what seems to be beautiful weather ahead.