Rescue at Hauser Canyon

While re-reading my Trailjournal from my 2010 thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, I started looking around the Web for anyone starting out early this year. Blondie’s all set to go, and is posting on |Blondie Hikes.   I stumbled upon her remarkable post about a unprepared hiker-wannabee who might have died if not for Blondie’s help.

Hauser Canyon is a location that one passes through on the PCT .  It is located at about the 15 miles north from the US/Mexico border in California.

Hauser Canyon coming up

Hauser Canyon coming up

Apparently Blondie was day hiking the 21 mile segment that most hikers complete on their first day on the PCT.  Hikers try to make the 21 in a day because there is so little water in that section, punctuated with heavy border patrol that would invite a look-see wakeup from Agents if they detected a tent up in that section. If you make the 21 miles you arrive at Lake Morena State Park, a safe haven.

My campsite and tent- NIght #2 PCT

My campsite and tent- Night #2 on PCT

Knowledgeable trail angels have suggested that this will be a record year for PCT thru hiker attempts. “1,000 people on the trail this year” is popping up. Hopefully there is some sense out there,  Some say it’s the Wild effect, thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s best selling book about hiking a portion of the PCT in 1995.   Here’s my review of the book.

Check out the full story here–>  Rescue at Hauser Canyon.  Sheesh!

Be sure to read the comments, too.  Feel free to leave your own comments here and I’ll join in the discussion.

 

After the trail: The return of the existential despair

Occasionally I repost material written by others that I feel a connection with. Carrot Quinn has given us one of the best post-thru hike accounts of how it feels to stop walking after exercising 12 hours a day, for day after day, and months at a time.

photo by Carrot Quinn

photo by Carrot Quinn

It’s a bit long, but has good photos and deserves to be listened to.–> After the trail: The return of the existential despair.

I experienced some of this post hike depression in 2007 after I completed the AT. I was better after the 2010 PCT hike, and am almost back on track after completing the CDT this past September. I do have a great place to live, and a family and friends that love me.

It still feels feels selfish when I whine after being on “vacation” for 5-6 months a year, but thru hiking was definitely not a vacation. My MeGaTex buddies and I used to joke about how nice it would be to just be able to “camp” and walk a bit each day, but we were generally asleep after boiling up a pot of food, and staring at the campfire until the tiredness took us away into the darkness.

PCT Hiker Survey: Meaningless Numbers From Meaningful People

I’m reblogging a “report” of what appears to have taken considerable time and has good data. I was surprised that the completion numbers were this low, and like the concept of the composite “typical hiker”.  This is interesting for any long distance hiker.

PCT Hiker Survey: Meaningless Numbers From Meaningful People | Halfway Anywhere.

Uncle Tom in the Bangor News- Lincolnville retiree completes Triple Crown of hiking

 

Click to check out Aislinn’s feature about my backpacking life in today’s Bangor Daily News–>

Lincolnville retiree completes Triple Crown of hiking, nearly 8,000 miles on the trail — Outdoors — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

I liked this DVD- “Mile, Mile and a Half”-my review

Three long-distance backpacking DVD projects were released in 2013 while I was away thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail: “Mile, Mile and a Half”, “Embrace the Brutality”, and “Tell It On the Mountain”.  I’ve secured all three, watched them, and will review each on separate blog entries.

The first-  “Mile, Mile and a Half”,  is a gorgeous production by the Muir Project.

DVD cover

DVD cover

It’s their collective record of a 25 day thru-hike of the 219 mile John Muir Trail, in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada Range. Lest one think that this  8.75 mile per day schedule was chicken feed, it’s important to consider that these individuals not only carried their own backpacking gear and food, but also their respective artictic tools. Some of these folks were packing weights up to 75 pounds. No joke.

Here is the trailer for the video.

The John Muir Trail is considered to be the premier hiking trail in the United States. The trail starts in Yosemite National Park, and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park, and ends at the highest peak in continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 ft. ( from http://johnmuirtrail.org/). With the exception of the first 9 miles at the northern end climbing out of Yosemite Valley, the elevation of the JMT seldom dips below 8,000 feet. The trail crosses seven mountain passes in excess of 11,000 feet; from north to south, they are: Donohue Pass, Muir Pass, Mather Pass, Pinchot Pass, Glen Pass, Forester Pass and Trail Crest. At 13,153 feet, Forester Pass is the highest point along the Pacific Crest Trail and the second-highest pass along the JMT ( -from WiKiPedia).
It is estimated that, when hiking north to south, the amount of ascent of the JMT is just over 46,000 feet and the total descent is over 38,000 feet, for a total of about 84,000 feet, or almost 16 miles.
I pledged financial support of this product as a Kickstarter project when it was in the formative stages, allowing me to receive my “Special Edition DVD”, as well as a drink flask and sticker for my bear canister.

Five hikers, who were also accomplished artists in their own disciplines, were inspired to carry additional video and audio recording devices, still photography tools, musical instruments, and graphic materials for the purpose of producing a multimedia production of their journey.

I have watched it twice to date.
The second viewing revealed details I didn’t recall from the first viewing- a pleasant surprise that is not often the case with lower budget productions of this nature.
These are not accomplished backpackers- all these individuals are primarily artists, who happen to be backpacking in order to carry out this unique task.  For some individuals, it was their first time walking at elevations over 10,000 feet, or walking on snow.
These folks suffered- you will see the standard “horror-show-of-my-feet” images of tumescent toe blisters and gushers from strategically lanced areas of the foot with subsequent audience groans guaranteed.
There was one drop out- it was that tough.  We see the punishing ascents, post holing parties, and experience the unique frosted terrain that greeted these hikers in 2011, where the snow pack was off the charts.
I hiked 160 miles on the JMT in 2010, where it shares the path with the Pacific Crest Trail.
The segments that show the group getting up over the high passes were definitely thrilling and possibly scary, especially my personal horror show at Mather Pass, the site of my most terrifying traverse.
The footage of the notorious Bear Creek ford will put a lump in your throat.

This is a five star production that will be interesting to both hikers and non-hikers alike.

Four Dog Stove sponsors Uncle Tom’s CDT hike

Don pitching to the hikers at Trail Days 2011

Don pitching to the hikers at Trail Days 2011

Four Dog Stove is the major sponsor for my upcoming ( April 17, 2013) attempt to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail, AKA “ King of Trails”.
I will be using Four Dog’s Bushcooker LT1 multi-fuel stove kit. In addition, Four Dog Stove has provided financial support for purchase of maps, solid fuel tablets, and 55 days of Mountainhouse freeze-dried meals for the remote sections requiring food drops.

My connection with Don Kevilus and Four Dog Stove goes back 15 years, when I purchased one of his 11 x 11 x 22 titanium Ultralight tent stoves. I still use it to heat my 9 x 12 Egyptian cotton wall tent in the winter and fall on toboggan/snowshoe and canoeing trips.

Four Dog stove, winter setup

Four Dog stove, winter setup

Since then, I’ve purchased saws, books, titanium pots, as well as the only titanium tent stakes made in the USA.

I first met Don in Vermont at the Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous. He gave a couple of stove and fire building workshops and tended a vendor table, where he sold his handcrafted stoves, as well as a variety of survival and outdoor skills-related tools, strikers, books, videos, and knives.

I was intrigued by his newest creation, a small titanium backpacker’s model. I inquired about a purchase and Don encouraged me to make my own, and try it rather than purchase his $100+ creation. I liked him immediately.

I enrolled in his half-day workshop, where I had fun and successfully built my own twin-walled, secondary-burn multi-fuel stove. At the time I was backpacking with a highly modified ultra-light Sierra Zip stove, where the electrical components were the Achille’s Heel of the unit, and Don’s lure of lure of simplicity and efficiency appealed to me. After I built the stove, I made more of them at home. I was worked up about the little firepots, and gave them to my friends and family for Christmas gifts. I used that stove on my 2007 Appalachian Trail thru-hike.

In 2010 I completed a thru-hike of the 2,700 mile Pacific Crest Trail. This time, Don provided me with a Bushcooker LT 1, a 2.5 ounce single-person alcohol, solid-fuel, and wood/charcoal burning titanium unit that that nested in a Snow Peak Trek 600 ml cook pot/mug. An alcohol fuel cup, a windscreen, and my MSR coffee filter also fit in the mug, capped by a custom titanium lid. Don recommended welding two titanium tabs to the top of the cup that secured a wired bail handle to the pot, for moving it in and out of campfires as well as on and off the stove itself. The stove performed flawlessly, boiling up two to three times a day for 156 days. What convinced me that I had the best unit out there was when my traveling companions used mine whenever they ran out of fuel and were unable to locate isobutane canisters for their Pocket Rockets or Jetboils.

Five years ago, Don presented at Snow Walker’s again. This time, he asked me if I would serve as an assistant in his build-your-own Bushcooker class. I agreed, and learned a lot, mostly what-not-to-do, and how things can go wrong. I also became more skilled at explaining the details of the stove, and learned additional assembly tricks and tips. As part of the course, Don has also expanded what he calls his “Potology 101” talk, a working presentation of facts and table-top examples on the current use of biofuel for cooking on the planet ( over 2.4 billion people), with practical physics of heat values of the fuel types, and the science of heat transfer and efficiency, when the flame meets the pot.

In 2011, I assisted in sales and stove demonstrations at the Four Dog Stove booth at Appalachian Trail Days in Damascus, VA.

I now have 3,000 trail miles on my present Bushcooker LT1 and I’m planning another to use it on my upcoming CDT hike of 2,800 miles. Readers can follow
my daily Trailjournal .

Since then Don, has encouraged me to offer these build-your-own stove workshops here in Maine, where I have sold-out two of the adult-education programs in the past 6 months. I Don continues to provide me with a custom fabricated, titanium base plate that we use in assembling these units.

Simpler is better.

Carey Kish: “His toughest trek beckons”

In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.

Carey Kish: His toughest trek beckons | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Tiki-man survives near drowning

Dateline: Spring Brook, Camden Hills State Park, Camden, ME

The normally staid water bottle, AKA Tiki- Man, barely survived a harrowing fall into the rushing, frigid  Class V rapids along Spring Brook on March 16, 2013, in Midcoast Maine.

Tiki-man taking well-earned rest on  Vermont's Long Trail

Tiki-man taking well-earned rest on Vermont’s Long Trail


When Tenzing was getting refills for multiple water bottles near the bloated culvert containing Spring Brook, Tiki-man  leapt from his hand into the raging torrent.
While Tiki-man remained  collected, Tenzing became gravely distraught about the situation.Tiki-man was engulfed by the torrent that quickly propelled  him under the multi-purpose road above.  In panic mode, Tenzing scrambled up the embankment, only to become further frantic as he realized that the revered, purple, and ( at times) luminescent head was no where to be seen.

Glancing straight down the side of the road to the surface of the maelstrom below, Tiki-man was sighted, in an  immobilized state  within the backwaters of an eddy, but beyond human  reach.  Stuck inside backwash Tenzing leaped into rescue mode, and quickly fashioned a three-pronged branch,  that he used to dislodge and release Tiki man, only to realize that the valiant water bottle was facing yet another harrowing scoot down the icy water.
Tiki-man courageously traversed at a diagonal across the channel, where he eventually struggled to maintain a tentative hold on the far-side shore.

Gripping on for dear life!

Gripping on for dear life!

At this point, Tiki-man was clearly up against very thin ice.

The three-pronged stick guided Tiki-man past this last challenge into a still pool, where he was airlifted to safety by the selfsame stick.
Most importantly, Tiki-Man lived to tell the tale. He described his dunking as the most harrowing experience that he has ever been through.

Tiki-man is a seasoned, 6 year old water bottle. Tiki-Man has recently become  increasingly despondent at his persistent failure to lose enough weight to qualify him as an ultralight backpacking accessory. He occasionally mumbles about being teased as “a bloated relic” by Platypi and even the young upstart plastic soda bottles.
The colorful character has risen through the ranks of backpacking water bottles through his persistent dedication to thru-hiker hydration.

A veteran of three National Scenic Trails, Tiki man has endured unparalleled adventures on the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and  Vermont’s Long Trails.

The closest the battered water bottle had come to the slag heap of also-ran hiker gear was in 2007, when he was dropped from a day pack on the AT and left for dead in a crevice between a rock and a hard place. Extracted from his impending tomb by a hiker named Big Sky,  the revived Tiki-Man survived a dark passage through the US Postal Service, adorned with a mere one dollar and thirty-two cent stamp and a tattered Uncle Tom address label.

Undaunted by his early morning sub-freezing soak today, Tiki- man bucked up, and settled into place in the backpack, where the wizened vessel  supplied his human partner, Uncle Tom, with hydration on a  long winter day hike in the Camden Hills.

Uncle Tom, why are you wearing boots?

“Uncle Tom, why are you wearing boots? “ – One of the Kiwis, at Third Gate on the PCT (2010)
“I’m curious about your choice of shoes.  Comment please…”- Dennis on tjamrog.wordpress.com (3/2/2013)

You’ll see a fairly regular number of hikers wearing boots on the Appalachian Trail. You won’t see many boots worn by long-distance hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I bet I’ll be the only long-distance hiker wearing boots on the Continental Divide Trail this season.

Here are some of the reasons from today’s Google about boot shunning, mostly from hikers on Whiteblaze.com:
Boots are considered so old-school as to be relegated to the slag heap of slide rulers and hand-held calculators that cost $50.  They are considered unnecessary, and so heavy that they are  a sysiphean drag on the energy required to lift each foot. They don’t dry out as fast as lighter, fabric trail runners. They supposedly “reduce blood circulation” (therefore your feet won’t be as warm than if they were in trail runners). Boots, ”increase the chance of ankle injury by masking features in the terrain that would turn an ankle”.  Boots cost too much to replace when your feet grow on a thru-hike ( compared to trail runners).  Gore-tex and other membrane boots don’t stay waterproof for long (Thru hiking “abuses the membrane” through dirt, sweat, and body oil….in as little as 45 days.)
Here’s an answer (whiteblaze.com) that begs critical analysis – “I thru hiked with boots. I had no issues with ankle support. ..Boots kept me from spraining or injuring my ankle”.  This answer illustrates the generalization fallacy, illustrated by substituting one word to change the statement to, “ I thru hiked with sandals. I had no issues with ankle support. Sandals kept me from spraining or injuring my ankles”.
People do complete thru hikes in minimalist footwear.  In fact, I saw a barefoot thru hiker on September 13 this year on the  summit of Katahdin.  It was this guy:

Look ma, footloose!

photo by Laura Hartenstein

He swears in this most interesting blog entry, “I will never wear hiking boots again.”

Few plusses are found for boots:  Boots provide “ankle support”, “keep feet cleaner”, protect if something heavy falls or whacks against your foot, and  are, “more durable”.  Here’s a durablility dreamer, “Do I want a pair that will see me through this hike and others in the years ahead?”  Obviously from someone who is still contemplating a thru-hike.

     So why buck the current trend?
History–> I started the AT in boots that were highly recommended to me from experienced staff up at Winterport Boot shop. They sold me a pair of Merrill Phaser Peaks20138_366_45
In 2007, I  began to get blisters within a week of hiking in Georgia, and some of the people I was hiking with encouraged me switch to ventilated trail runners, so I went to a pair of New Balance, and the blisters stopped. I then switched to Inov-8’s in Virginia with Superfeet insoles that took me all the way to Maine.  Unfortunately that combo left me with nerve damage and low-grade left forefoot pain.  Despite physical therapy, occupational therapy, acupuncture, medication, custom orthotics, and consulting the best sports podiatrist in Maine, I’m still affected.  It hasn’t gotten any better, but is no worse, even after two more thru hikes.

I was ready to start the PCT in April of 2010 in Asics Gel Trabucos when my brother Roy, who works as a costing manager for New Balance, told me that NB had just acquired a Vermont company, On the Beach, that manufactures military and tactical footwear.
“You are going to hiking in the desert, right?  These are the exact boots worn by Navy Seals in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I can get you a pair to try out.”
Long story short, I received free New Balance Tactical 802  boots for whole 2,700 miles, where I encountered NO blisters.

NB Tactical 802

NB Tactical 802

I did jump up to a size 14, with PLENTY of room in the forefoot, that ensured my toes were not able to rub when I walked.

That,  plus 2 pair of thin merino wool micro-crew Cushion Darn Tough socks that survived the whole trip. There is no finer hiker deal than Darn Tough.  There is NO other manufacturer whose hiking socks last like Darn Tough, and even better,  the $20 that you spend on a pair is a lifetime deal.  Made in Vermont. “If you wear these socks out, we’ll replace them. Free of charge. No questions asked.”  It’s true, I have 2 new pair of replaced Darn Tough socks for the CDT.
People get blisters on the PCT, even General Lee, who is usually blister free, but whose feet succumbed to the volcanic grit that was present in Northern California and Oregon.
I now hike three seasons in the Bushmasters,  now renamed the NB Tactical 802, which also allowed me a blister free completion of  Vermont’s Long Trail  (2011).
I like being free of blisters.  The boots ventilate exceedingly well, and this trip starts in the Chihuahuan desert in New Mexico.  After they are soaked from rain or stream crossings, they dry our very quickly.  The specialized Vibram soles wear and grip nicely. The laces don’t wear. They are fairly light, and don’t have any metal in them, which is a military consideration.  They weigh 1.5 pounds each, where my Inov-8’s with Superfeet insoles weigh 1 pound each.  No big deal.

My beef with the boots continues to be the exposed stitching on the toe and heel cups.  I  went through 4 pair on the PCT and in each case, the stitching rubbed through, and made a hole between the plastic cup and and fabric where debris entered, and the separations increased, primarily on the toe cups. I communicated my concerns back to NB. The primary manager for these particular boots assured me that there would be a design modification in future factory runs of the boot that would recess and then cover these areas, but it hasn’t happened yet.

My brother Roy has helped me to secure five new pairs of Tactical 802′s for this trip. One pair was free, and the other four were sold to me for 60% discount, with free shipping.
This time, I’m coating the toe and heel stitching with a sealant, probably more than one thin coat.  Auntie Mame will send them to me when I need them.
That’s why I wear boots.  These boots work for me, but as Auntie Mame so perceptively put, “You could also call them ankle height trail runners.”  Enough already.

Soon it will time to “Stop Talking, Start Walking”