Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pacific Crest Trail - Backpacks and what works:

I am still working hard organizing and deciding on gear, so I will be ready for the Pacific Crest Trail in April of 2008. Backpacks are the subject of the week. And more than that, weight is a huge issue for me and many other hikers.

When I started hiking as a kid, external frame packs were the only way to go, and I have had an assortment of them. For the most part they have always worked well. Most were easy to pack with lots of room, durable, and that is all I have used for the past 25 years.

I have on occasion used rucksacks for my climbing gear, or just for day hike use, but I have never used them for serious backpacking. They are hard on the back and uncomfortable on any kind of long haul.

I have noticed that over the past five years that the internal frame packs have become the main stay of many serious hikers and that includes me. With the advances in waist belts and shoulder straps combined with an internal frame with more adequate padding and support, I personally feel that they are more comfortable than any external frame pack I have ever used.

Internal frame packs are more versatile, easily adjusted for all kinds of terrain. They are more compact, fitting snug against your body, which makes the pack bend and move easy with you instead of against your body movements. In this way the pack doesn’t sway as much or throw you off you balance, especially on rocky and or steep terrain where falling can be very serious.
Loading gear into internal frame packs can be tricky. Most of them have only one large pocket with maybe one external pocket. Some of the newer packs have three, like my Palisade Backpack.

Packing for me is fairly simple. The least used gear goes on the bottom and then I work my way up. Normally rain gear and food are at the top. In the external pocket if you have one, I pack my stove fuel, snacks, first aid kit, bug spray, bug netting, and just the stuff you don’t want to dig for.

Last year I used a Palisade Back Pack by Gregory, from rei It is a great pack, built to last and very comfortable. It is also outstanding for hauling heavy loads. I did three sections of the PCT using this pack. I love the Palisade Pack and would recommend it to anyone. But now the whole deal has changed.

I am doing the entire PCT and weight is the issue, and the Palisade Pack weighs 6 pounds. So, I had to make a decision, and I will be using the Catalyst Backpack made by ULA Equipment This ULA Backpack has gotten great reviews and weighs half of what my Palisade pack weighs. That is huge!

I ordered mine from Mt Rogers Outfitters in Damascus, VA. They are at Mount Rogers Equipment They had one left in a large, so I bought it. I could have waited until after December, but I really want to try it out. I hope to keep my weight down to between 30 and 40 pounds.

Any one out there that has this pack? I would love to hear from you.

Thanks again for reading!

Pacific Crest Trail – Southern California Wild Fires

The tragedy that is happening in my county of San Diego is terrible and overwhelming. I know parts of the PCT have been affected. My heart goes out to all those who are going through this, and to the many firefighters, police, volunteers and medical personnel. We went through this a few years back and with the climate changes, and drought and the Santa Ana’s this appears to have set up our area for what they are calling the perfect fire storm. This may go down as the worse fire in recorded history for our part of California. I hope we can learn something from this, so that we do not lose all of our beautiful wilderness areas, not to mention the horrible loss of life and property.

I know I will be out on the trail in different areas, as soon as it is possible. I want to get an idea of what I will be hiking through. After the last fire here; the Cedar Fire the entire area was like walking on another planet, a dead planet. Nature is amazing though, and I know things will grow back, but it is still very sad.

Again, thanks for reading and God Bless

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pacific Crest Trail - Hiking / Trekking poles

TRASHED! I have put about 800 miles on my REI TRAVERSE hiking poles, and they have never let me down; but now they are almost trashed. I could put new tips on them, but instead I went out and bought a new pair of BLACK DIAMONDS at REI in San Diego. They have the flick lock and the contour grips. They are a little lighter, but still strong and they should last my entire trip on the Pacific Crest Trail; or at least I hope so. Yesterday, I hiked about 28 miles, training and they worked great.

Though hiking has become part of the air I breathe, I was so into rock climbing for such a long time, I really didn’t give too much thought about the use of hiking/trekking poles. I would see some people using them, but again never thought about them as a crucial part of what I would someday be using. Well, someday is here, and guess what, I use them.

I had always used something in the way of a hiking stick as a kid. I usually just looked around, found what would work, and that was it. Back then it was just for fun. I remember hiking with my folks at a very young age. I wanted to find out what was under almost every rock, and I think my mom or dad were worried about what I might find, so hence, the hiking stick. From then on I was never without one.

Because I have always used a hiking stick and carried it in my right hand I found that over the years when going on long treks it sometimes threw my rhythm off. The more serious I became about hiking, I noticed that when I got a certain rhythm going, using just one stick wasn’t enough, so I decided to try the poles.

I started with hiking/trekking poles about two years ago. I bought my first set at REI; REI TRAVERSE poles. At first I admit they felt a little awkward, but the more I used them the better they felt and now I never go hiking without them.

I can’t tell you all the times they have saved me from falling. It’s not that I’m clumsy, but when going up a steep grade poling with my arms and pushing with my legs, the poles really help me out. Going down hill they help slow my pace, which takes some of the strain off my legs.

I know I will not be the first or last hiker that has slipped while crossing a river, and the poles have really given me that extra balance. I have used them in deep snow, and as added security traversing across slushy or icy sections. A section of trail doesn’t have to be steep to take a tumble after slipping, and a twisted ankle is not on my agenda. I have been there. They have also been my (shelter from the storm) tarp tent poles. They are like having another pair of arms and legs, and because I hike alone I need all the help I can get.

I know from everything I have been reading concerning the Pacific Crest Trail, and others, that the equipment hikers’ use is a real personal choice, but the hiking/trekking poles do the job for me.
Anyone out there with experience using poles pro and con, I would love to hear from you. Which ones have worked for you?

Thanks again for reading!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Training for the PCT

Even with all the backpacking I have done over the years, when it finally comes down to being serious about the PCT, I know I have to get into shape. I started out going to a local park, Mission Trails. Marines trained there during WWII. The terrain can be steep and rugged, which is great. The problem has been mileage; so I ended up doing laps which became boring.

With some research, trial and error, I started to hike up in the Laguna Mountains, which has many trails, including the PCT that runs along the ridge. The trail I finally decided worked for me is Noble Canyon. I begin in Pine Valley and hike up to a very high elevation, about 9 miles one way where it ends at the Sun Rise HWY. There it connects to the PCT. Round trip ends up to be about 18 miles. I also add miles on the Big Laguna trail. I train as often as I can, and it is starting to pay off. My feet are tougher, my legs stronger and I feel I have much more lung capacity. I now have to work extremely hard to feel the burn.

I carry an old North Face rucksack and last week I was able to train out at Joshua Tree.
I use to carry 20 pounds of water, but now I am up to 30. I also carry a first aid kit, knife, cell phone, power bar, and some kind of fruit. I like oranges, apples, and kiwi shooters are great. Keeping your energy up and staying hydrated is important. Taking care of your feet can be a huge issue out on the trail. I am trying to break in boots, Lowa trekkers and a pair of Scarpa’s. I switch off and on. I still bring running shoes in case my feet can’t take it. What ever works.

I do believe it is so important to train not only to get into shape, but to familiarize yourself with what your body can and cannot do. Example being, how much weight you can carry comfortably and what kind of mileage you can hike each day without being too fatigued, where you might injure yourself or make a mistake. Just as important, is testing your gear. What works for you and what doesn’t is vital, so that once you are out on the trail there won’t be too many surprises.

Training in all kinds of weather is the key, especially in the rain. There is nothing worse than a pack full of wet gear. It not only weighs a “ton”, but you have to find a way to dry it all out. I have been there and it really sucks!

Finally, you are not only training to get your body into shape, but you have to train mentally. For me it is crucial. It can be pretty lonely out on the trail, and you need to focus. So, setting goals are way up on my list. Right now, I read everything I can get my hands on, study maps and I also like to log on to PCTA and read all the trail journals to see what worked and didn’t for others that have done the PCT. I admire each and every one of them.

For now, I am increasing my training, deciding what gear to take, and planning the enormous job of the packing boxes to be mailed along the trip.

Making friends along the trail.

Thank you for reading.