The Precipice

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With nine days before we hit the trail, I feel like I’m leaning out over the edge of a precipice, held back by ties to our apartment,  a dozen little administrative tasks we have to attend to- and as I cut through each of those ties, I’m closer to an exhilarating free-fall into the unknown. SLICE as a project at work wraps up. SLICE as we’ve set up mail forwarding and canceled our utilities. SLICE and the movers are booked for next week, and we’ve got a whole apartment full of stuff to pack. Continue reading

Five Pre-Hike Questions: Tim

We decided to record some thoughts and expectations of our experience before we set out, as a reference point while on trail and after. We both answered the same set of five questions. Betty’s answers are here.

1. What made you decide to thru-hike the PCT?

My parents were both avid hikers, and some of my most magical early memories were of the bleak beauty and profound silence of the English Lake District hills. Waking up in a tent on top of a mountain, smelling the camping gas and the first sizzles of bacon; seeing a crow flying below me as I stare down into a valley. I treasure those memories. There’s something so right about being outside, wearing sturdy shoes and carrying my entire home on my back. I didn’t appreciate this enough when my parents were still able to hike with me. My dad died right when I was just beginning to understand that my time with him might be limited; in fact, he died just when I was starting to plan our first hike in years. In a way, I feel that a thru hike will be a tribute to his legacy, and will give me some closure on all the opportunities to spend time with him that I never took.
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Me in the Pyrenees in 2004. So young; so ignorant in the ways of hairstyles.

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Five Pre-Hike Questions: Betty

We decided to record some thoughts and expectations of our experience before we set out, as a reference point while on trail and after. We both answered the same set of five questions. Tim’s answers are here.

1. What made you decide to thru-hike the PCT?

The earliest conversations Tim and I had about thru-hiking revolved around the Appalachian Trail. We’d done a couple sections, and Tim was itching for a real long-distance adventure. I had less hiking experience under my belt, however, and was much more ambivalent about the idea. Then, in 2014, we did an overnight hike in the Desolation Wilderness section of the Sierra Nevada. The scenery and scale of the geography had me yelling cusses at Tim in astonishment.

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Lake Aloha, 2014. Or, as I said at the time, “Shiiiiiit, look Tim!”

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Trail Eats

“Do you have to carry all your food for the whole trip?!”

“What do you eat, like nuts and berries?”

“Will you be living off the land, foraging for roughage, fishing in mighty rivers and fashioning a bow from found branches, like our hunter-gatherer ancestors of yore? Or just eat, like, Hostess snack cakes.”

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A backcountry kitchen.

Almost all of these are real questions I’ve heard when I start to describe our hike plan to people. It’s understandable, really. My childhood outdoors experience was limited either to the kind of luxurious car camping where my dad would bring an electric griddle to make us pancakes in the morning, or 4H and Girl Scout camp, where daily activities were capped off by classic Americana meals at the dining hall. On our first distance hike- a five day, four night trip- I really had no idea what we were going to eat and how we could carry it all. After five years of trial-and-error, we’ve come up with a pretty good system.

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The Elephant on the Trail

trmpWe first decided we were going to thru-hike the PCT three years ago, on an overnight trip to the Desolation Wilderness in September, 2014. We set 2017 as the year to make it happen, as it seemed sufficiently distant that we could certainly coordinate the logistics for such a trip by then. We definitely weren’t thinking about who was going to win the 2016 presidential election, and what that might mean. Of course, everything’s different now.

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Who Are You Wearing!?

Hikers love to talk about gear. At least, some hikers do, but those who do will talk about gear A LOT. In the planning stages, this makes sense. We’re trying to choose equipment and clothing that’s lightweight, sturdy, and will keep us alive for six months. There starts to be a charm of magical thinking around finding exactly the right hiking poles or rain jacket. If I can get the exact right balance of waterproofing and breathability and weight I will suddenly be capable of hiking 2600 miles!

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Planning for the PCT, or, Unknown Unknowns

The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” – Virginia Woolf

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Photo by flickr user David~O

Part of preparing for a six-month long-distance hike is clear necessity. What will I eat? What will I wear? Where will I sleep? There’s no way to strike out into the wilderness without planning for the rudimentary basics of survival.

Another huge part of planning, though, is just mitigating anxiety about things I don’t know, and the things I don’t know I don’t know. Continue reading