Each morning (except for Fridays) I wake up and follow my training plan.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I do hills for about 8 miles. In Austin this means hiking up 300-400 feet in about 1/2 mile followed by some flats and repeating this multiple times. On Saturday I do long distance for about 12-14 miles typically following one of my old running routes. On Sundays I join the “Austin Crack of Dawn” hiking meet-up group for about 6-8 miles and do trail hiking somewhere around Austin. Uneven trails help to strengthen my ankles. Fridays I take off. All the other days I do about 4-6 miles. Right now my weekly mileage is about 40-50 miles. And then it starts all over again. I’ve been doing this since September 1st and I’ve hiked over 350 miles so far. I always wear my pack. Sometime I bring my hiking poles especially when I’m on uneven trails.
In September I started with a ten pound pack and for two weeks I keep it the same. Then I boost it by five pounds and again keep it the same for two weeks. After four weeks I always have a recovery week where I drop the weight and distance down about 20-30 percent. Every five weeks this repeats. That is, I start back up again with five more pounds for two weeks, then another five pound boost for the next two weeks followed by another recovery week. Right now I’m at 25 pounds. I’m continuing to boost the weight until I get to 35 pounds, which is a lot of weight in my humble opinion (my base pack weight about 13 pounds). This should happen around the first of December when I’ll hold the weight constant at 35 and begin to increase mileage by 10 percent for each two week period. And like before I’ll have a recovery week every fifth week. This carries me through April where I’ll be doing 80 miles per week. It’s not the 140 I’ll need, but it’s a good start.
Since the PCT is 90% hike and 10% camp my preparation focuses on hiking, mileage and weight. To prepare for camping I go on a camping trip each month (still maintaining the mileage and weight if I can). Starting in October I went with the Austin Backpacking meet-up group to Lake Somerville State Park for a weekend backpacking trip. On Saturday of that trip we had a tremendous rainstorm, and I survived but learned a number things. Trips like this are great gear shakedown times. In November I’m going with friends to Ink Lakes State Park. Then I’m going solo to Colorado Bend State Park in December, and Lost Maples State Park in January. Finally I’m going to Big Bend National Park in February and solo hiking the Outer Mountain trail over four days. Kathy, my wife, is coming too and staying in the Lodge while I’m out in the backcountry.
This is the best I can do to prepare for hiking the PCT.
So I was hiking the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin this past weekend. Over the past few days we’ve had large rain storms and the creek was flowing swiftly. Normally it’s barely a trickle. I especially liked the sounds of the rapids flowing over the rocks. I started my hike at the Barton Pool end at about 7 AM and went in two miles. I had intended to make it all the way to the Hill of Life (the other end), but I got a late start. So after 1 hour of hiking I turned around and headed back to my car.
On the way back I had to climb down an angled flat rock and when I did I slightly lost my balance and leaned backwards. With the heavy pack on I suddenly was on my back and unable to grab anything. I was “turtled”. What a strange feeling that is. So I rolled on my side, but for a minute I was waving my arms and legs in the air without touching anything. Awkward!
Then at another spot I made a slight mistake and turned right instead of going straight. Within two or three steps I realized it. My feet began to sink in muck. Suddenly I was in trouble and stopped, but not before my left foot was 4 inches into the muck. When I tried to pull out this foot the shoe stayed behind and I had to step backwards on my nice clean sock, then I turned around, reached down and pull out my sunken shoe. Next I sat down and I put back on my hiking shoe, dirty sock and all. Ugh.
Returning back to my car I drove to the Hill of Life and meet the others who were to climb the hill. This was my first Sierra Club meet-up and the group was disorganized. Maybe that’s a bit strong in that it was listed as an independent hike. So instead of meeting people and hiking together I hiked the hill four times by myself. Boring! On the last time I continued down the Greenbelt for 3-4 miles and then turned around, because I needed more miles. All together I did 13+ miles, I “turtled”, and I got stuck in the muck. Lots of firsts for that day.
Why do I want to hike the PCT? Here are my top ten reasons why…
- Get to see and hear a rattlesnake up close and personal.
- See how many times I can twist my ankle and still hike on it.
- Grow a beard to see if I look like Santa Claus.
- Lose weight while eating crap food.
- See if I can drink awful looking water through a filter.
- Challenge and further my hatred of mosquitos.
- Pass as many 20 year olds as possible.
- Acclimate to hiking on sketchy trails at precarious heights.
- Take pictures of neat people and places.
- Pet and frolic with bears and mountain lions.
So I’m camping this weekend with good friends at Inks Lake State Park. Doing more shakedown of my gear. Had to remember how to step up the tent – ha! Have a new ground cover specific for the Hexamid. Also trying out the solar charger. And I brought my alcohol stove too. Should be interesting.
I got here about 2 PM and got the site. It’s quiet and nice. I drove around the park and checked out other sites and this one is fine. Since I was the first one here and I’ve never been to this park I was worried that my friends, who have been here before, would not like the site, but now that I’ve seen the others I’m OK with it.
There is a nice breeze right now. I have to remember that everywhere else in the US it is probably freezing cold whereas I’m sitting here in shorts in balmy 70F degree weather.
I’ve been checking out the trails and roads because tomorrow I need to hike 12 miles. My plan is to wake early, take down my tent, pack all my stuff up and first do the park trails then the park roads and if that isn’t enough do the trails again. I expect it to take over 4 hours. We shall see.
I find it interesting as I sit here and wait for my friends that I’m antsy. I don’t like just sitting. I want to be active. So many people love to relax like this, but for me it’s so boring. I’m glad that as I hike the PCT that I’ll not hike for a little while and then stop and camp for the majority. It should be the opposite. Instead hiking should take the majority of the time and idleness should be minimized. That’s better for me and my mental and physical stability.
Enough for now.
After a night of little sleep with the wind rattling my tent and one gust pulling out a stake collapsing my tent, I started. I hiked every trail at Inks Lake State Park on Saturday including the green, blue, red, yellow, and valley trails along with road walking between them to make 12 miles. Afterwards I was a bit tired and sore so I took a silly picture of myself.
Great sunset tonight.
Each day I’m up at 6 AM and head out to hike somewhere around Austin. Today was four laps road-walking up and around Mt. Bonnell for 8 miles. The weather was in the mid-50s Fahrenheit and maybe fall is almost here. A few trees are struggling to change color especially when it was 90F on Sunday. So I was surprised to see this tree in color.
So I tried a few new things at Inks Lake.
- Pack Liner – tried force-flex kitchen bag, but it tore easily. I need to buy some trash compactor bags.
- Ground Cover – worked well, but it didn’t downpour so that’s only a guess. It makes a crinkly noise when setting it up since the material is stiffer than the previous ground cover. That is, it could wake others. I do like the ability to hook it into the corners. There is a front (with Hexamid label) and back that you’ve got to get right.
- Alcohol Stove – worked OK, but I gotta figure out how to light it better. The first night by myself I used the BIC Mini-lighter to light a stalk of grass which I could reach down into the alcohol reservoir. On the second night it was windy and the grass kept blowing out. It is hard to hold the lighter upside down and reach down into the alcohol reservoir. I also didn’t fill it with enough alcohol – it needs more than 1 oz. so it shutdown before the water boiled. Wind shield worked OK and got real hot so much so that it became discolored with the heat. Top and bottom aluminum were a bit awkward, because they needed flattening. Need to work with it more. I’m worried that carrying so much alcohol is a burden. Jetboil is definutely easier.
- Solar Charger – worked great. Needed direct sunlight, but charged the phone without problem.
- Food – better this time, but still need to keep working at it. I have ordered a dehydrator to see if I can create some meals which has a familiar flavor profile. For example, spaghetti, teriyaki chicken, fruit, etc.
- I need a pillow! I unload my down vest from my stuff sack to make it softer, put the vest on top but it still isn’t high enough and isn’t soft to the touch. I’m a side sleeper now and I need help with this.