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[pct-l] 20 mile days
Craig's PCT planner, the books, the number of thruhikers completing, etc.
all gives us the idea a thruhike is just planning, numbers, conditioning.
Don't be fooled, this is not cosmetic stuff we are talking about.
Judgement and experience helps, I think these two trump planning and
conditioning and equipment anyday.
But even beyond that there will always be a mystical and mysterious
component that will pop up unexpectedly that you will have to deal with.
And perhaps this is precisely the ''draw" of the "hike"
After 30 years climbing and 3 Mexico to Canada hikes, I have now come up
against something that mystifies me so much I can not put a name on it, but
I am here typing and not in the mountains. Just about the time that one
looks on in amazement at a person having a real difficulty and something one
thinks is just so unecessary, and says well, "I sure do not have that
problem", that very problem comes to glare you in the eye and sit in your
lap, seemingly immoveable.
As far as getting down the trail and conditioning. you can never really
condition for all the various things. So resist the tendency to "run" at
the beganning. Probably the slower you go in the beganning, the quicker you
will be able to finish( this theorem seems especially true for the 50+
crowd). Superficial injuries show up in the first 100 miles, but these can
be significant and can stop a hike completely. The deeper problems will
show up 200 to 300 miles (bad knees, shin splints, back problems ) - the San
Jacinto to Big Bear trek will tell you a lot. Deeper emotional issues and
stress issues often surface in North California.
The year before my first thruhike, I decided to climb as many Mountains as
my age. I wondered about this because it was already June when I got this
thought in my head, but I hit the magic number on my birthday in early
September and then added one more for good measure(57 peaks - 23 were in the
HIgh Sierras and above 12,000 feet). My partner for 10 of the Sierra
climbs, kind of threw down the gautlet and said I ought to consider a
thruhike(he was an experienced climber and authored the sierra climbing
This was a relatively innocous conversation, or so it seemed on both sides.
But these things often get started in insignificant ways that seem to
unravel all our best intentions and make mincemeat of other worthy goals .
the reason I bring this up - is that it was my intent almost immediately to
give it a good try. AND it was my intent not my conditioning that got me to
the beganning and carried me along thereafter. It might be said that I have
a fiece tenacity - and once I decide on a direction, it takes a lot to throw
me into another direction.
I did about 300 miles of walking 2-3 hours at a time with a pack before I
started from the Mexican border, but really it was the 57 peaks the summer
before that got me going and kept me going. I did most of the peaks alone,
and a good number had route finding problems, false summits, Class 3-
turning into Class 4, exposure - I developed an ability to continue when
obstacles came up, to start to see all the head talk that was doing me in
and to deal with it. I learned to feel when I was building muscles and
strength or when I was taking it out of the bank.
I hiked very slowly. I know now more than ever, that the lighter my body
is, the easier it is to hike lightly also. For me the pounds on my body are
far more significant than the ones in my pack. That realization does not
make it any easier to lose weight. and over the last 5 years, I have found
it harder and harder to lose weight with any method including doing trail
And then I got Horses and they taught me a lot; mostly that it is very
stressful being around a 1000+ pound animals that is hungry, maybe cranky,
that you can't reason with, and that is still a complete mystery no matter
that you are with him 24-7 for months at a time. I learned to worry all over
again,over things that you can't imagine. About the time that I got myself
calmed down and the worry down to sizeable portions, my horse would do
something that really gave me good cause to worry. It was a hard way to
start out with horses but that tenacity can have some serious downsides. I
began to see how i have carried tension all these years, and the effects
that it has ( I had done some serious considering of these aspects in many
other endeavrs - athletics, martial arts, arts, climbing, meditation, Sword
and weapons practice,biofeedback, etc- but nothing brought it home so well
as Hopi Horse)
If you add stress and tension to your hiking, it can have some effects that
you might not consider and that all the hamstring stretching in the world
will not remedy. I think you are probably familar with the Holmes- Rahe
Stress scale and it may be that what you did before your TRT trail trip was
more significant than what you were doing on the trail. Do not let the TRT
trip alone color your estimation of your ability; you have done a lot of
hiking, I have read many of your reports, go forward with what you have been
doing well, seek to get in contact with those aspects that have always given
you joy and satisfaction and that started you on your journey. Belief in the
beauty of the experience and the value of the hike is just as important as
conditioning and planning.
My art started to progress when I found that it was usually not the area I
thought was the problem but the one next to it. ( Perhaps I couldn't get
the light values to work in one area, when in fact it is thedark values next
to them that needed the work - a shade darker here and there the lights
would pop out like magic.)
What would I do differently?? I would take more time to just sit down and
think and ponder and absorb the view( no eating, no reading, no camera, no
writing, just sitting). The thing I have a problem with is that it is so
hard to absorb the whole experience. It seems like nothing really is
happening when you are walking, but there is so much that you want to
remember and get into your bones, and you can't do it. Before I took any
picture with a camera, I would give myself time to memorize the scene
mentally first. For a short period I tried to do some one thing differently
every day, and this was a real challenege(I tried to figure out what it
would be for the next day before I fell asleep). This sounds easy and
simple but it had an amazing and invigorating effect. I wore shorts for a
day after packing them for a month. I stopped and looked around carefully
every 30 minutes( I had a timer on my watch). For an hour, I counted all the
plants that i could differentiate - didn't have to know what they were ,just
had to see that they were different one from another - this one puts your
observer in overdrive. Unfortunately, I let this good thing fall by the
wayside as it became harder and harder to think up something new, but it
could have been an opportunity to get more and more creative.
I would teach myself that anytime things get a little edgey, I should do a
dance, and jump up and down and say "Yes!" Yes!!", happy so happy, happy to
met a old wise friend. Grateful to see him again, wondering what wonderful
things he was going to give me this time, gifts of a lifetime.