Monday, June 20, 2011

Training for the JMT

After a long 3 week break from hiking, I'm back in full training mode. It wasn't very good timing, but we moved right at the time when I should have been training hard for my upcoming JMT thru-hike. Although moving is good exercise, it's definitely not hiking.

Fathers Day, 4:40am, my son and I leave the house heading to the meeting place where he will depart for Boy Scout camp on Catalina Island. I was supposed to be going with him, but crazy things at work made it impossible. Sadness starts to overwhelm me because I've never missed one of these trips in his entire BSA career, so I bug out before long. My first free day in weeks, I head up to local Mt. Charleston to get back into training mode.

Just an hour in and it's like I never left. Damn it feels good to be up here. The cold morning air smells so fresh, and the Aspens are in bloom, waving in the gentle breeze. It's great to be out of the triple digit valley hustle and bustle.

A quick stop to take a glance across the valley, this is a beautiful camp site on a cliff just off the trail. Hmmm...maybe I'll camp here next weekend.

A hour later I find the perfect spot for a break by some lucky Bristlecones...

I stay longer than I normally would and enjoy the peacefulness of this beautiful place. As I gaze up at 11,918' Charleston Peak I realize there's far too much snow on the north face that I am approaching for me to reach the summit. I wonder how far I will make it.

Snow in mid June at about 11,000' elevation is not unheard of, but this year there's way more than normal, that's for sure.

Less than a mile from the peak, Hiking starts to turn into climbing, and I'm uninterested. After making my way over several snow drifts, the wall to the right and the drop off to the left turn me around. A 16 mile hike turns into about 14, and the 4,300' elevation gain turns into some 3,500'.

My MYOG cuben pack filled with all my JMT gear, bear canister included, takes a break on the way down. I'm glad to be back on the trail and am at peace with my world. I have a 200 mile hike just 5 weeks away, so the training now gets more intense. And I love every minute of it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Skywalker: Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail [Kindle Edition]

By Bill "Skywalker" Walker

Skywalker's trail name undoubtedly has something to do with his 6'11" stature. In 2005 the self described average hiker successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, then he wrote the book "Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail" which he published in 2008. The following summer he thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, and the experience turned out to be quite different than the AT.

I love reading books written by thru-hikers, probably because I aspire to be one some day. Skywalker does a nice job of describing the feeling of life on the PCT, and it isn't always a John Muir love affair of wilderness. He makes some pretty amateur mistakes along the way, and his fear of snakes, bears, icy cliffs, etc. become apparent. This may not be your vision of a mountaineer, but it does show what an average person can accomplish when he puts his mind to it.

Since he successfully thru-hiked the AT, you might think the PCT was just another long trail, but it proved to be much more difficult for Skywalker. In the end he did start and finish the PCT, but there were some large sections that he was forced to skip along the way due to injury, fire, and inclimate weather.

For me, this wasn't one of those books that's so intriguing that you can hardly put it down, but it is recommended reading for anyone who aspires to hike very long distances. Hs honest, and sometimes self defacing writing style gives you a good dose of the reality of life on a long trail, which I think is an important step in preparing for a thru-hike.