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[pct-l] PCT Musings

Hi all,

I'm slowly getting caught up on all the PCT-L postings from the last few 
months and wanted to put my 2 cents in on a few threads based on my PCT 
experience this summer.  In no particular order, here goes:

Stoves - I used the Esbit stove and fuel and absolutely loved it.  I used a 
1.3 liter pot and borrowed the windscreen from my MSR whisperlite.  I boiled 
one liter of water for every meal and used 2 tabs/meal (about 1 oz of fuel).  
I also used fuel from Coughlans (sp?) that comes 24 tablets to a box and 
requires 4 tablets/liter.  As far as I could tell it's the same thing as the 
Esbit fuel but it's cheaper per meal. Either way it took about 10 minutes to 
boil the water.  I cooked in all kinds of temperatures and humidities and 
never once had a problem.  The system is absolutely foolproof and while 
others had problems with clogged stoves I never worried.  The "stove" is 
really just a fold open stand and could be replaced by something a little 
lighter (one fellow PCTer just used rocks).  The key is the windscreen.

Corn Pasta - I kind of liked it, especially with tomato/pesto/cheese sauce 
but I agree that it's not a wonder food.  I ate it about once a week and 
wouldn't have minded eating it more often.

Misc food - I made up 2 oz bottles of squeeze Parkay for my food boxes and 
then poured an ounce of the stuff into my rice, pasta, and mashed potato 
dinners.  It really helped improve the flavor and fat content of my dinners.  
Parmesan cheese also went well with just about everything.  I also had 
vegetables (dried peas, corn, onions, carrots, zuccini, green pepper, red 
pepper) with every meal and they really helped improve the taste, texture, 
and spiritual satisfaction quotient.  For breakfast I had granola or 
grapenuts with Milkman powdered milk .  I had it every morning of the trip 
and never grew tired of it (OK, I really like cereal for breakfast).  It was 
a sweet, crunchy 1,000 calorie boost that got me a long way down the trail.

Tents/tarps - Not to toot my own horn too much but I made a hybrid tarptent 
for my hike and published the plans for it on my website (the address is 
below) .  It worked beautifully in rain, snow, and wind and weighs in at a 
whopping 18ozs complete (tarp w/netting, poles, and stakes).  I stayed dry 
and bug-free the entire trip.  I also used a Tyvek groundcloth that weighed 
about 5 oz and it lasted the whole trip.

Bears - I know this might cause some controversy but I always felt 
comfortable sleeping with my food in a stealth camp.  The key for me was that 
I almost never camped where I cooked.  On the rare nights that I camped in or 
near an established camp in the High Sierra, I hung my food.  I wont go on 
record recommending the way I did it but all the bears I saw (about 10) were 
truly wild and ran away when they saw me.

Filters - I used a Safewateranywhere inline filter spliced into the drinking 
tube on my Platypus bag.  It was an extremely lighweight, virtually foolproof 
system.  My first filter made it to N. CA and the second one is still in use. 
 At $25/filter it's a great buy and is (I think) the lightest filter on the 
market.  The best thing about the filter is that you just fill your bag and 
go.  Even the slightest trickle will fill the Platypus and then the filtering 
happens as you drink.  No need to stick a contaminated, blobby prefilter into 
a deep pool the way you do with the Pur Hiker or other similar filters.  

Sierra Snow - If I were to do it again, I would wait 'till about June 15 
before attempting the High Sierra.  I think Jardine is right on this issue.  
I left Kennedy Meadows on June 3 and arrived at Vermilion Valley on June 11.  
I spent a lot of painful hours postholing through far too many miles of snow. 
 Yeah, it was gorgeous and I had it to myself but I don't think it was worth 

Rain/Wind/Cold- I had great success with a poncho (homemade of 1.1 oz 
silicone-coated nylon).  My pack and my body down to my knees stayed 
amazingly dry.  No messing around with leaky pack covers or plastic bags.  
There's enough windflow through the side gaps to keep condensation from 
building up and the poncho is especially great in shoulder or head high 
brush.  I never tried an umbrella but I know it would have failed miserably 
in the Washington brush.  I also want to put a plug in for the Patagonia 
Zephur jacket I carried through the High Sierra and Washington.  The 
polyester microfiber shell & fleece lining is phenomenal in the rain.  It's 
also windproof and very warm for the minimal weight.  A great product worth 
every penny.  Finally, I have to stand up and shout for my Gore Windstopper 
fleece hat (mine is made by OR).  Don't leave home without it.

Shoes - My feet suffered horribly in the desert because my shoes (Montrail 
Vitesse) didn't breath well enough in the heat.  I trained all spring in them 
and never had a problem but the weather was cool and not a good simulation of 
the Mojave Desert.  Once I switched to a pair of New Balance 801s the 
blisters went away.  Those shoes have lots of mesh and breathe much better.  
The Montrails would have likely been OK for the cooler climes further north 
but I never switched back to find out.

Camera - I carried an Olympus Stylus Epic.  I shot slide film and am very 
pleased with the results from the Ektachrome film but a little disappointed 
with the rolls of Kodachrome film.  It think it has something to do with the 
electronics in the light meter because the Kodachrome rolls are generally 
overexposed.  I wish I had done some testing with different film before I 
left home.  C'est la vie.

That's all that comes to mind at the moment.  I'm off to go pop some more 
glucosamine for my aching knees...

Henry Shires
PCT 99
Thruhiker Journal (pictures coming soon...)

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