Being an adult bites.

Well, I’m sad to say that I’m off the trail.  It wasn’t for any reason that I’d have been able to predict either.  My body was responding well – I was getting my hiker legs.  My gear was great too (except for the MSR Hyperflow water filter).  And after my initial blister fiasco, my feet were even playing along.  Nope – I had to come back to reality.

Each time I came home (unplanned) I was brought face to face with what I’d set aside.  All of my worldly responsibilities reminded me that they were either waiting for me, or being dealt with by another person.  And I felt guilty.

During the planning phase I tried to ignore that faint siren of a warning that the real challenge to staying gone was going to be the mental one.  I tried to be selfish about taking the time; that seemed like the only way I could arrive at a semblance of permission.  And it worked – I successfully left.  But two, unplanned return visits to my home brought the house of cards down.

It would seem that the timing of this hike was not appropriate.  I simply have too much shit to do.  Stuff that you can’t really ignore.  I’m not 20 something and aimless, or 65 and retired.  Nor am I wealthy enough that I can pay others to handle my “day to day” . . . yet.

So, I’m off the trail.  But this is only temporary.  I promise.  I will try again.

In the meantime, I’m going to plan a series of segment hikes.  I’ll be hiking them with the intention of learning the secrets of each segment and passing them along to future hikers/bikers.

See you outside.

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Thank you sir, may I have another . . .

If you want to make God laugh, plan something.

Not surprisingly, I’m home again.  This time it was because of an injury to my dog.  I don’t know how/when it happened, but I discovered a rather alarmingly large gash on my Zuni’s inner thigh.  So, I contacted my wife, and she scooped us up.  After a brief visit with our trusty veterinarian, Dr. Bastek, we’re on the road to recovery.  And, as you might expect, I took advantage of this down time to make some small gear/logistics adjustments.

They’re rather minor so I’m not going to waste time elaborating.  However, I AM going to bring you up to speed and try to pass along a little wisdom to anyone planning their AZT hike.  As you may recall I had a hiccup a couple of weeks ago; I got that sorted out and hit the trail again a week or so later.  Since then, I’ve hiked from Jacob Lake to just outside Flagstaff.  The miles have been pretty easy since exiting the Grand Canyon too, which is nice.

When you get to the Grand Canyon, go to the permit officer and tell them you’re an AZT hiker – they’ve gone out of their way to accommodate us.  You see, they have some campgrounds at Bright Angel/Phantom, and Cottonwood that are exclusively reserved for people that take horses/stock into the canyon.  They’re rarely used and the Park Service puts thru-hikers up at these camps so we don’t have to wait around for days until an opening comes around.  It’s apparently a rather new policy so you might have to kindly guide the ranger.  I worked with Steve Bridgehouse (N. Rim) and he was VERY helpful.

Another thing about the GCNP is that they have a biker/hiker campground that’s “always available”.  Those were Steve’s words – I don’t know if he meant that they will “make space” or that it’s so underutilized that it’s rarely a problem, but keep that in mind as you approach the canyon.  Technically it’s illegal to camp in the park, but outside their formal campgrounds.

Something else I learned is that the trail comes VERY close to Tusayan.  It comes within about 40 feet of an RV park.  DON’T get a spot at the RV park; there are some great spots in the National Forest.  The best spots are on the trail just south of the trail/park junction.  They have a shower, laundry, some sinks to wash dishes, and water.  They’re also right next to the General Store (which will receive packages as long as they’re shipped UPS or FedEx) and a pizza joint.  Oh, and the Stage Stop has great coffee, but you need to get there at 7, just as it’s opening otherwise you’ll wait a looooooooong time for your brew.  It’s popular and they don’t move fast.

Regarding the stretch from Tusayan to CO Bar – it’s as dry as they say.  As of this writing there was water in the trough next to the metal Russell Tank, at Lockwood AND an unnamed tank about 8.5 miles south of Lockwood.  I was forced to strain it through a bandanna and use iodine.  It had a faint smell of “cow” but tasted fine.  A proper filter would go a long way here.  Yes, I had a filter but it crapped out on me AGAIN.  It was the MSR Hyperflow; I can’t overstate what a fickle POS this thing is.  I broke down and bought the Sawyer.  I should have started with that to begin with.

Well, that’s what I know so far.  I’ll report more as I learn along the trail.

Oh, one more thing – Anish is on the trail.  She’s hoping to finish by October 23rd.  In her words: “we’ll see”.  I love it when chicks kick such royal ass.

See you out there, sole 2 soul.

Two steps forward, one step back

I wasn’t expecting to be writing this blog from my office.  I thought I’d be posting from my mobile phone.  I’ve had an unexpected setback.  Blisters, two, huge blisters on the back of both heels.  So, instead of sole to soul, I’m healin’ the heels.

Within the first half hour of the first day my heel started to tickle.  But it wasn’t much.  By the time I’d gotten to camp the blister on my left heel was larger than any piece of moleskin that I had; then the next day the same thing happened to my right heel.  By day three I couldn’t fathom the idea of walking another 9 miles in my flesh eating boots.

Here’s the catch – these boots were an old trusty pair that had NEVER given me a blister, not ever.  I’d had them resoled and even walked around in them for a week to make sure they’d work.  They didn’t.  I finished my third day in my camp shoes – Crocs.

Brian and I returned to his RV, that we’d stashed about 1/2 mile from the trail, just outside of Jacob Lake.  I’d planned on re-supplying there and continuing on; with these blisters I knew my boot days were over.  I  planned on hiking the next 50 miles in my Chacos with the heel strap moved aside, but when I tried that I quickly realized that the straps would rub different holes in my feet if I continued.  I was at an impasse.

I faced a prolonged healing process before I could continue.  I estimated that it’d be at least 4-5 days.  I didn’t want to burn days and provisions sitting in a tent just outside Jacob Lake, not to mention the need for different footwear.  So, I decided to head home and heal.  I’m going to admit, that at first that reality hurt – I’d be returning home after 3 days.  It wasn’t the setback I’d expected.  I figured I’d have some muscular or skeletal issue – sore back, legs, knees, feet, lips . . . anything but blisters from a trusted companion.

The disappointment didn’t stick around very long though.  I received a couple of messages from some close friends and immediately things didn’t seem so bleak.  I could come home, heal and in the meantime take care of a few house/farm-keeping chores.  But most importantly I could take the time to head south and scout the towns and trail heads.  I might also be able to cache some water for myself and other hikers.

Speaking of caching water for other hikers, I had a neat experience.  Brian and I had cached some water along our route; some for us and some for other hikers.  When we’d returned we saw that someone had taken some water.  I felt like a kid again – remember when you’d leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus and in the morning you could tell he’d been there?  That’s what it felt when I saw the water gone.  It was exciting.

Anyway, I’ve decided to turn this issue into the silver lining rather than the cloud.  I get to tweak a few gear choices and still be out there, playing along the trail.  Maybe I’ll see some hikers on their own journeys.  If I do I’ll be prepared to distribute a little love & magic.  I suspect I’ll be just as excited about that as they are.

See you out there.

 

It’s like bootcamp again.

I’m sitting here in my office and in about 5 hours my friend Brian Higgins is going to pick me up to take me to the Utah border.  He’s going to hike the first three days with me; from the Utah border to Jacob Lake.  I can’t help but reflect on my impending journey.  It feels like I’m going to bootcamp again.

In 1986, after I graduated from high school, I went into the US Marine Corps.  I think it was something like 17 days in between graduation and bootcamp.  I had these days to think about what was coming.  I knew that the next 13 weeks was going to be hell, but trans-formative.  I wondered if I had what it took to be a Marine.  One of the last things my dad said to me before I shipped out was that when things got tough, too tough, tell myself that I can quit tomorrow; that I’ll finish this day but tomorrow I could quit.  If I told myself that every time I felt like quitting, I’d at least finish the day.

This hike is a lot like bootcamp to me.  I wonder about the physical and mental challenge and how I’m going to respond.  I know that there will be moments when I’ll want to quit.  But on the other hand I also feel that a person can’t do something like this without it having some impact on your soul.  In truth, I can’t think of a better way to go about a reset.

See you out there.