Friday, April 2, 2010

The Prep Work Continues....

A thru-hike doesn't require anywhere near as much prep work that most people assume. You'll hear stories of people "planning" their hike for years, but what they really mean is that they've been "thinking" about doing the hike for years. When I got it into my head to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I had about two months before it would be prime thru-hiking season... or wait another 12 months after that. And remarkably, for most of those two months, I did more "thinking" than I did actual "planning."

Some people will create an itinerary for their entire hike. Every campsite, every town they plan to stop in, and every post office they plan to check for mail drops. They'll have meals carefully prepared, shipped to strategic points along their hike, with military precision. At least they have a plan, I suppose, but it typically only takes a couple of days on the trail before the best laid plans thrown in the fire. A blister might slow you down more than expected, or a remarkably sunny day pushes you on to the next shelter because, hey, it's a beautiful day! Use it or lose it! Things happen, you know?

Even maildrops become somewhat unreliable. I had prepared quite a few meals for myself before I started the AT, asking my mom to ship them out to me when I asked. Turns out, after about a month on the trail, I grew to absolutely loathe those meals. I also discovered that I hated trying to time my visits into town when the post office would be open. I started relying on them less and less, and most of the food I prepped ahead of time I never did use.

I didn't make that mistake on my next thru-hike.

But that's not to say there's nothing to prep. I'll be hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail for about five or six months, so I figured it was a good idea to get myself into a dentist before starting the trail. I remember one story I heard about a thru-hiker who had a tooth problem while hiking the AT and ended up pulling out his own tooth with some pliers. That's an extreme, to be sure, but I wanted to make sure my teeth would be happy and I'd have no need of a dentist during the hike. Being waylaid by tooth problems is not on my to-do list. Admittedly, I haven't done this with my two previous thru-hikes, but I felt it was probably a good idea this time around because I knew there was a problem with one of my wisdom teeth. It didn't hurt--not yet, at least--but you didn't have to have dental school to know there was a problem with it. And I didn't want that problem to become a Problem while hiking the trail. So off to the dentist I went....

It was, alas, as bad as I feared, and the tooth needs to come out. (He also recommended that another of my wisdom teeth come out as well.) And found a cavity on top of that. Well, better to get all that taken care of now than in the middle of my hike. =) I never liked those wisdom teeth anyhow. Stupid teeth. (And my next visit there is going to be even more unpleasant than usual. *sigh*) On the plus side, however.... it'll lighten the load on my feet. Cutting the handle off of toothbrushes is so old fashioned. The cool kids are just removing their teeth completely. ;o)

The prep work continued today. One thing I've never grown tired of on the trail is strawberry leather. So I walked over to Costco this afternoon with the intention of buying lots and lots of strawberries. I took the pack I sewed for this trip--much like the pack I used for my West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail hikes, but with fewer mistakes and a few tweaks--to give it a test run as well. I planned to load it up, primarily with strawberries (though I'd also buy a few other things since I was there), and walk home. Ended up buying nearly 50 pounds of fruit, stuffed it all into my pack (it barely fit), and staggered back home under the load. Next up--blending it all up and turning it into leather. Oh boy!

The pack worked wonderfully well. It hurts to carry 50 pounds on your back--no backpack is going to make that feel light or fun--but it carried the weight well and held together well. It fit comfortably. It will do. =)

And, I've been doing a lot of sewing. A lot of my old stuff sacks are severely worn, and I'm not sure that many of them would survive a 2,650-mile hike. So I've been making a lot of new stuff sacks. I've also decided to make a little pillowcase for myself. =) I can stuff it full of clothes and have a nice, comfortable pillow. I've used my clothes bag as a pillow in the past, but the silicone impregnated nylon is not really the most comfortable of cloth to use as a pillow. And I found some flannel with turtles on it--how could I say no?! So I'll still use the clothes bag as a pillow, but now I'll have a pillowcase to fit over it for a better experience. I have no excuse for myself--I'm obviously getting soft.

I've also been getting my "affairs" in order. That sounds seedy, but it's really not. Because of Atlas Quest, I have to file estimated tax payments each quarter. Which is kind of inconvenient for me since I'll be hiking the whole time. Most hikers who are on the trail aren't actually making any income, so they don't have this problem. Atlas Quest will still be running, though, and probably still make a few bucks even when I'm off hiking, and the tax man still wants his cut. So I've been saving money and have set up a bunch of transactions to automatically take care of everything for me. So I need to make sure those payments are made by June 15th and September 15th (both days which I expect to be hiking on the trail). PayPal will deposit money into my bank account, and the government will take out a set amount for taxes, all while I'm blissfully hiking. I'm also setting up an auto-payment scheme to pay for the hosting fees while I'm hiking as well. The only payments that I'll need to worry about while hiking will be when I actually buy food or stay in the occasional hostel or hotel along the way. But I'll be there in person to handle those. Everything else I don't have to worry about.

A week or two ago, I bought some new gear for the trail at REI. Mostly winter gear for traveling through snow and ice--which I'll likely hit plenty of when I get into the Sierra Nevadas. I bought some MicroSpikes for traction, and an ice axe. I don't really want an ice axe, but I got it based on recommendations from previous thru-hikers who said that they didn't really need it, except for a couple of locations when it would have made them feel "safer." Better to have it and not need it than to not have it but need it! So I'm now the proud owner of an ice axe. A bear canister is required in some parts of the Sierra Nevadas as well, so I'll be getting one of those shipped to me on the trail where I'll need it. (Believe it or not, I've never actually backpacked anywhere that required people to carry bear canisters, so I don't actually own one!)

So that's what my prep work consists of lately. A trip to the dentist (part 1 of 2), some sewing, setting up automatic payments, and buying gear. Lots of fun! And just 21 days to the kickoff!


Okie Dog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Okie Dog said...

Sure glad you got to the dentist, nothing worse than a toothache, in my opinion. I thought of you yesterday and wondered if you were getting things ready. I sure wish there were another way for you to update us. That's quite a long time to not hear from you.

Anonymous said...

There's something all wrong with referring to "wisdom" teeth as "stupid". -Rose

Anonymous said...

We are evolving, and eventually humans will be born without wisdom teeth. We needed them in the days when humans were hunters and gatherers....With our diets today....we really don't need them any longer. You are right. They are stupid.

Anonymous said...

About Ryan's sewing: We can attest that he is a consummate seamster! When we saw him in Seattle last month, he showed us the backpack he MADE and it was very hard for me to believe he made it! I sew for a living!! I know seams and zippers and casings and fabric!! Ryan made not just a usable backpack, it was amazing, professional, outstanding!

Will his talents never cease?