Thursday, February 25, 2010

The First Trail Hiccup!

I already hit my first trail hiccup, which is remarkable when you consider the fact that I don't start my hike for nearly two months! =)

This morning, I flew from Seattle to San Luis Obispo. My hair is growing rather wild and I needed a haircut. I don't know about the rest of you, but I like to get it cut here in San Luis, so I booked a flight and off I flew!

It wasn't until I started approaching the security checkpoint that I realized something was very, very wrong. My driver's license was not in my wallet. I emptied that wallet, going through every card and piece of paper, but it just wasn't there. What the heck happened to it?! My driver's license is ALWAYS in my wallet!

Now if you've spent any time in an airport, or read a newspaper, or heard the jokes about the underwear bomber, you know they take things like security seriously at places such as airports. And the lack of an ID can be a bit of a issue with those in charge of security. I once heard, many moons ago, that you don't actually *have* to have an ID to fly. They'll screen you a lot more rigorously if you don't have a valid ID, but they'll still let you through. So I walked up to the lady checking IDs and shamefully admitted that I did not seem to have mine.

She took me aside, in my own private "line," and called a supervisor. The supervisor comes by a few minutes later, and the original woman tells the supervisor about my lack of ID, who then asks if I have anything with my name on it--credit cards or whatever. Oh, yes! I have lots of those! I pull out credit cards, my REI membership card, and then I remembered an old photocopy I had of my passport that I had in case it happened to get lost, stolen, or damaged while I was out of the country, so I pulled that out too. It's just a photocopy, however, but the woman seemed pleased that it did have my photo on it and appeared somewhat legit. But it certainly couldn't qualify as official ID.

She wrote a bunch of S's on my boarding ticket--a series of four of them with a bright orange marker, and I knew that that couldn't possibly be good. She did it twice--once on the ticket stub and once on the ticket itself, then told me to go through security like I normally would, but the guy at the metal detector would "take me aside" for further screening. Sounds like fun.... not!

She kept my ticket, then walked over to the guy at the metal detector giving him my ticket, and I could hear her pointing me out, so I turned around and waved at him so he'd have no doubt that I was the dumb idiot without an ID.

I went through the usual process--taking off my jacket, my shoes, my belt. Taking my laptop and bag of liquids out, running them all through the x-ray machine, then stepped through the metal detector. I didn't set it off, but they whisked me away for a pat-down anyhow.

A team of four security personal (four of them--obviously, I looked quite dangerous!) picked up all of my items and escorted me (and my belongings) aside so they could further invade my luggage. They wouldn't even give me my shoes back yet--it had to be tested for explosives first--even though I know they saw absolutely nothing suspicious in the x-rays.

They tested the shoes, then gave those back to me. The laptop was returned next, then my duffel bag. My backpack they looked through, then decided to run it through the x-ray machine a second time, rummage around its contents some more, and finally returned that to me as well saying that it was now okay for me to go on my merry little way.

And the whole time, I was thinking, "What the heck happened to my driver's license? Where is my driver's license? Why is it not in my wallet?!" I tried to remember the last time I used it for something. It's been eons since I've been stopped by a cop--that hasn't happened since I hiked through Alabama. I haven't had to renew it.

As I was walking to my gate, I finally remembered the last time I used it. To get permission to hike into Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, I had to send the authorities there a photocopy of a driver's license or passport. So I took out my driver's license, scanned it on the computer, printed it, and mailed it off to the
Canadian authorities. And there's where my driver's license must now be.... sitting at home, in the scanner. Out of sight, out of mind.


If there's one piece of advice I can suggest--never go to the airport without a valid ID. =)

Oh, there's the best part. I still don't have my ID on me, and I still have to fly home..... I'll get to go through this process all over again. =) Curse the trail! It's already making my life miserable!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adventures on the Trail

Now most people reading this blog probably think, "What kind of INSANITY must a man suffer from to choose to hike 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada? This is the 21st century!"

It's true, there aren't a lot of us crazy folks out there. But it's also true--I'm not the first to decide to hike this hike. I thought I'd share a few books that previous thru-hikers of the PCT have written. Some I've read, some I haven't. Some I might read while hiking the trail. =)

This first book is called The Cactus Eaters, alluding to an event when the author, after running out of water, decided to try quenching his thirst by eating a cactus, allegedly plump full of water. It didn't work out well for him, but the book is very well written and highly entertaining.

Next up, A Blistered Kind of Love: One Couple's Trial by Trail. I'm not really sure the trail is the best way to test a relationship. The whole concept seems like those couples you see on the Amazing Race who say they hope to "test" their relationship. If you have to "test" your relationship, it's probably not going last! Fortunately, for those two folks, it actually does. =) This is also a very well written book. Many thru-hiker books I've read, while often entertaining, have a very 'amateurish' feel to them, but these first two recommendations were written by solid, well-grounded writers. (Or they have heck of a good editor!)

Next up, Zero Days. A zero day is a day of rest, when zero miles are completed on one's thru-hike. I haven't read this book (not yet, at least!), but is intriguing since it was written by a family who thru-hiked the trail, including a 10-year-old girl--the youngest person to ever thru-hike the PCT. The thought of a 10-year-old thru-hiking from Mexico to Canada astounds me, and this would certainly include a perspective you'll never see in any other accounts of thru-hiking the PCT.

Another book I've never read is Dances With Marmots. I have no idea if the book is any good or not--I just found it mere minutes ago with a search on, and I really, really liked the name of the book. =) Apparently this one was written by a guy born and educated in the UK and now lives in New Zealand. I suppose a non-American might have an interesting point of view of thru-hiking the trail, but I will admit--I'd never heard of this book before and have absolutely no idea if it's any good or not.

And finally, last but not least, another book I'd never heard of until I just did a search on, A Thru-Hiker's Heart, Tales of the Pacific Crest Trail. This book, from what I can see, seems to have the feel of a "I'm not a writer, but I'll turn my journal entries into a book anyhow and self-publish it." I could be COMPLETELY wrong about this, however, and even those types of books have their place. In a strange way, some of those well-edited "professional" books seem less real and authentic. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, so don't diss those. They have their place too. Not to mention that if I ever turn my adventures into a published book, it'll likely fall into this category. ;o)

That, and I find the picture on the cover appealing. =)

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why is not about the PCT. When you search for a term on, they also provide a list of stuff saying, "Other customers suggested these items," and I thought this was a pretty morbid but kind of funny suggestion. I hope to land in the "lives" category, but if I were to unfortunately wind up the "dies" category, it'll make the hairs on your back stand up to read this blog entry after the fact. ;o) (In all seriousness, it's extremely unlikely I'll do anything that will get me killed. I tend to feel more in danger walking around in cities than I do in the backcountry.)

Happy trails!

-- Ryan

Still Testing....

I'm sending this blog entry on February 23rd, but if everything works as
expected, it shouldn't show up on my blog until shortly after midnight on
February 24th. I'll be checking back then to make sure it worked as
expected! =)

-- Ryan

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Blog Work....

As most of you know, my last long walk was the Florida Trail. One of the
major reasons I chose that particular trail was because it was relatively
accessible from populated areas. There would be very frequent trail towns,
many road crossings, yadda, yadda, yadda. If something went wrong with Atlas
Quest, I'd probably know about it within a few days in most cases, and
getting off the trail to a computer to fix problems would be relatively

The Pacific Crest Trail, however, is far more remote. I might go for a week
or more without any contact with the outside world. Getting on or off the
trail to handle problems would be considerably more difficult. I'm
considerably more confident leaving AQ unattended this time around, however.
Wassa--despite his reputation--does a remarkable job of getting AQ back up
when things go wrong. Atlas Quest is also a lot more stable than it was when
I hiked the Florida Trail. I remember that first week when I was hiking and
AQ suddenly kept hanging for unknown reasons. (It would be well over a year
before I finally figured out that issue.) Oh, I worried. I worried a lot.
Wassa was smart, but he was still fairly new to how AQ was set up. I
definitely didn't want to be more than a day or two out of touch--at least
early on in my hike.

This accessibility affected my blog as well. I was usually able to post blog
entries every two or three days--if not daily along certain sections. That
won't be the case along most of the PCT. There will likely be times when I
won't be able to post blog entries for a week or more at a time. Unless I
did something, you'll wind up reading an avalanche of a dozen or more blog
entries in one or two days, then hear nothing from me for a week or more
until the next avalanche when I get back into town again.

So I've been thinking about how to space out the blog entries into a more
regular posting schedule. =) I'm working on that system now.

This is how it works: Each of my blog entries, which I type in on a
PocketMail device, will be e-mailed to a special e-mail address I created on
Atlas Quest. I've set up Atlas Quest to automatically check this e-mail
address periodically, and pull the messages into a special table in the
database for storage. Then, once each day, Atlas Quest will check from this
pool of blog entries, pick up the oldest one, and forward it on to my blog
for all you readers. Basically, it gives some of my blog posts a "time
delay" of sorts, to even out the posting schedule.

And the reason I'm telling you about all this.... is because I needed a post
to test the system. =) Yes, this long post is a test. Nothing but a test.

My expectation is that once I get into my hike, the blog entries will likely
get posted to my blog about one to two weeks after I originally write them.
On average. But you could expect to consistently get a new blog entry every
single day (or pretty darned close to it). They'll post shortly after
midnight, Pacific time, giving you something new to look forward to reading
every morning while drinking your morning coffee. =) Or save it for later in
the day.

Anyhow, I'm still hard at work preparing for my hike--which also includes
preparing my blogging system for you all to enjoy! =)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Where in the World...?

Nothing new to report about my hike, but I did update this blog since my last post with a new color scheme and photo. Nice photo, don't you think? I took it myself. The question for you is.... where is it? Any guesses? =) Who are those strange people in the photo?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

PCT Frequently Asked Questions

Well, you've guys certainly are anxious to hear more about my upcoming hike. =)

A quick summary--I expect to start at the Mexican border the weekend of April 23-25. I'll attempt to slip through all the illegal immigrants and border agents, face off with rattlesnakes and the Mojave Desert. I'll be hiking alone, as usual, although there will likely be hundreds of other prospective thru-hikers also beginning their trek that same weekend. I'm going alone, but I won't necessarily BE alone.

After a month or two of that, I'll head into the High Sierras, including a slight detour to head up Mount Whitney--the highest point in the continental US at over 14,000' above sea level. I'll likely hit lots of snow in this section. =)

Then I'll meander close to Lake Tahoe, through Lassen National Park, eventually landing along the Cascade Range through Oregon and Washington which will take me past Crater Lake, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, and lots of pretty other mountains.

And finally end up at the Canadian border, about 2,650 miles from where I started. From there, the quickest way "out" back to civilization is to actually hike through the border and into Canada another seven or eight miles until I reach Manning Park, at which point I can find transportation to Vancouver, BC, and back to the United States.

Last Saturday, Amanda and I had lunch with Wildflower--for those of you who read my AT adventures, you might remember her from there. That was where I first met her and we hiked through much of New York together. I wanted to quiz her with a few questions I had about the PCT since she had hiked it several years ago, figuring out what sort of gear I might need for the snow in the Sierra Nevadas. (She recommended the MicroSpikes and an ice axe.) These are sorts of issues I've never had to concern myself with on previous hikes. =) Bear canisters are also required in some parts of the Sierras, which is an item I've never bothered to make use of in the past. I'll be needing all sorts of new gear for this hike. =)

Many sections of the trail require permits to camp in or hike through, from a variety of land managers, but the Pacific Crest Trail Association has been thoughtful enough to provide a "super permit" of sorts for anyone hiking more than 500 miles of the trail that is good for any section of the trail--or the entire thing. Saves a lot of effort of having to pick up permits for all the areas I go through separately.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's Alive!

I've gone and done it--I bought a new domain name. This one, as you can see, is called I used to have that I blogged to while thru-hiking the Florida Trail, but after that hike ended, it seemed kind of useless to keep the old domain name and I let it expire. (Last time I looked, it appears someone hawking drugs bought it. Go figure.)

Anyhow, I've started preparing for a another long hike—this time, the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada. About 2,650 miles of adventuring. I'd need a new blog, and a new domain name. Rather than buy, I decided to go with the more generic name so I can reuse the blog over and over again. =)

I'm still tweaking this new blog to make it look like I want. For a hiking blog, I need more earth tones in it. A few PCT photos. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

This afternoon, I filled out the paperwork to get all the permits I'd need for my hike. The biggie is the permit from the PCTA that allows me to legally walk the entire length of the trail from start to finish. I filled that one out and mailed it off this afternoon.

The second piece of paperwork I filled out was an application to enter Canada on the PCT. They want to know all about me, my passport, any crimes I've committed, an explanation of why I'm going into Canada (I thought that was self-explanatory?), and include a photocopy of my ID. I haven't mailed that yet--I didn't have the right postage for mailing it to Canada. I'll go into the post office tomorrow and get it mailed off properly.

And the third piece of paperwork is a fire permit. That was the easiest of the bunch. Basically, you print out an online form, put in your name, and sign it. Presto! You're done. Put it in your wallet and get on the trail. I don't actually have to mail this one anywhere. I'll probably lose it before I start the trail, though, so I'll probably have to print it out again. =)

Good times! =)