Category Archives: Pre Trip

How I’m getting ready for the hike.

The Curse of One Last Thing

My time in Bellingham has flown away.  I’ve kept busy with yardwork and accidentally kidnapping the neighbor’s dog several times.  My life has been filled with pulling weeds in cold gloomy weather. Endless amounts of weeds.

But no more.

I’ve got my sister from Holden, and we’re packing to go.

Practicing a new song to a captive audience (perhaps that was my real motive for all the dog kidnappings) One of the dogs already lived at the house, but two make an audience...

Ready to hike the PCT.

My sleeping bag arrived, I finally got a pair of cool shoes I like (Altra Lone Peak). I’ve probably repacked my pack a dozen times (and am still trying to figure out the perfect location for everything that will sustain me for the next several months).

We finished sorting food and shipped our first food boxes.

Just have to put the rest of my things into gear tubs.

And return the neighbor’s dog, again.

I keep thinking I’m almost ready to go. The night is getting late. My two tubs and backpack are full of things. I play a game of tetrus with each new item I find that has to go somewhere.

Sorting food and gear.

Where did all these things come from?

I finally give up on the game and end up with a pile of ‘one last things’.

As I ponder what to do with this pile, it grows, evilly.

And so the night goes. Blaze and I taking turns on her computer with last minute emails, unsubscribing from things, dotting all the t’s and crossing the i’s. Drinking tea. Shoving another item here or there. Deciding if something is really worth putting back in storage. Trying to talk my thirteen year old cousin into being my sherpa for the trip. Buying a bus ticket to Portland. (Where the real last minute getting ready is completed with our dad).

Finally. Everything ends up somewhere. In some kind of container.

In the morning, I glare at the pile of ‘One Last Things’, and it magically disappears.

Stick my spatula in my coat pocket, and away I go.

Whatever it takes…

I fly back to the states to finish PCT prep with the hopes of earning a little extra cash before the trip. Every bit I make equals more pizza at trail stops.

I’m applying for almost any job. 2 weeks and no luck. Avidly searching craigslist every day. I’ve picked up an occasional babysitting job, I’m filling in for family members on the odd job when they’re elsewhere, little bits and pieces. Here and there and everywhere. Might just be enough to survive on til the trip starts.

I stumble on an ad for phone book delivering. Phone books? Well, I happen to have a car at the moment. I can run around delivering books. Sounds like great PCT training.

Why not?

I get a phone call back almost immediately (the first reply I’ve got to a job inquiry). There’s a training that day. I get an address to a motel. Arrive to discover I’m supposed to go to an actual room, not a conference room or meeting space. I begin to wonder if I’ll make it home for dinner- I did tell my aunt where I was going to- right?

The door is cracked open- scary music is playing in my head.  I tentatively push the door,  and am greeted by a smiling woman who has a circle of people crammed into the room all avidly listening to her explain which side of the door you leave the book on.

First day of the phonebook madness... no idea what I was getting into.

Next thing I know the little blue car is stuffed with about 600 phonebooks. I’ve got a delivery route- that starts on the street I live on.  Couple days of delivering, should be an easy way to make some extra cash. $.28 per stop, $.10 per phone book delivered. I’m game.

And then it rains.

So I sleep in hoping the rain will stop. It doesn’t. I still have to bag each phone book. So I start my operation in the garage. Cold work. Wish they paid to bag the phonebooks.

The rain has temporarily stopped- and I begin to deliver books. An easy sounding job becomes miserable very quickly. Finding all the houses is more complicated than it would at first appear. I also have to figure out which side of the house is the front ( a lot of them face two streets). The houses are often far apart on a given street. The cold and rain are not helping me.

I go home to regroup. And discover I’ve only delivered about 115 books- in 4 hours. No way I’ll finish the route before going to Seattle to dance for the weekend.

Think fast.

I have cousins.

One needs extra driving time so she can get her license, the other is usually game for earning a bit of cash. I get my youngest cousin to help me for the hour before dinner. She runs, I drive. There go 40 more books- and she gets five bucks.

The next morning I get the other one to drive while I run. Raining again. I’m soaked in no time, but I think the books are flying out of the car faster. (note to self: fast phonebook delivery requires a team).

Still swamped with phonebooks.

I bail to Seattle for the weekend.  But first- what do I do w/ the rest of them?

I warn my aunt not to come up to the studio while I’m gone. The way is shut.

This was taken halfway thru the excavation. The pile in the back extended all the way down the stairs.

One week after I get my phone book route, I finally drop off the last one. (Well, the last one I was willing to drop off). I ended up with 20 extra books and one lost street (by the name of Lost Creek Ln). Even my little blue car’s navi system couldn’t find it.

Slowly- through rain, snow, and a couple of dogs- the stairwell and the little blue car got emptier and emptier, even though it often felt that for each phonebook I delivered, the pile in the car would grow by 3.

On the upside, I got to try out my new pair of Asics. They ended up killing my right foot, so I exchanged them for a pair of Cascadias and had time to try those out too. (Still happy with them).

When I turned in my finished route and the extra phonebooks I was asked if I wanted another route? It took a whole lot of willpower to turn that offer down. (Although the phonebook boss swore your second route goes a lot quicker).

Next week I’ve got some gardening and yardwork lined up. Playing in the dirt is my kind of work.  Much simpler than trying to place a book on the hinge side while not slipping on an icy porch.


Bellingham Base Camp

It’s time to go stateside.

To remind my body what cold is.

To remember what it’s like to want to go outside to play.

Homeward bound- but where is home?

I moved out of my last apartment about ten months ago, the family farm has been dispersed, and I’ve been mostly living out of a backpack/tent/ranger cabin/aunt’s house/The Cage since then.

I send a message to an aunt in Bellingham. Will she and her family take in a wandering waif?

After the time-warp of another long flight where I arrived in Seattle three hours after I left Kuala Lumpur, I rediscover what cold is.

I don’t know when I’ve been so happy to be cold.

It only lasts a few minutes. Then I’m doing a jumping dance to keep warm waiting for friends to rescue me.

One of my first stops stateside is to my Grandma’s house to collect all the boxes of gear I’ve been sending to her. It’s like Christmas. I’m singing ‘Happy PCT Hike to Me”. Of course the first thing I open is a big box with a lot of tape and packaging. Once it’s all unraveled my grandma’s comment is “All that for a pair of scanties?” But they aren’t just scanties grandma- they are merino wool scanties.


Two months to plan and train at the Bellingham Base Camp.

In very short order I have the studio above the garage strewn with gear.

The joys of playing with gear under the supervision of Finn (who supervises all goings on in the studio).

There’s a dehydrator in one corner. Gear everywhere in different phases of being worn and tested. My PCT to-do’s are taped all over the wall.

It’s nice to be able to buy ‘American Food’ for my test kitchen. (Finding the right food for backpacking is a little complicated in Malaysia. Most things are fresh, or found in versions that only sort of resemble what we would find in a grocery store in the U.S.)

As for training- I get a lot of practice walking in the rain.

I also have full access to a kayak in the garage- I’m just down the street from a paddle in Lake Whatcom.  When it’s sunny- I’m on the water getting a core workout!

There are as many opinions on how to train for the PCT as there are people who walk it.  My thought is- if I’m outside (which usually equates to a big grin), doing anything active (my body moving outside in the elements), life is good.  Activity is good in every and any amount.  I’ll settle for yoga and dancing while looking out a window to a show of wild wind, a heavy downpour and then hail.

My other part of training is eating.

chocolate pretzels?

I am eating in the hopes of giving my muscles some extra calorie stores. I want to hit the trail ahead of the calorie game. I know I’ll be playing catch-up on the activity output/calorie input game with my body pretty soon into the hike.

This training plan involves perusing The Golden Book of Chocolate with my cousin, proceeding to attempt a recipe, and eating the whole of the result (whether it looks like the picture or not)- washed down with whole milk.

Also- a good number of those snickers bars I bought to go into my resupplies aren’t going to make it into the box.

PCT Trip Planning- from Malaysia

It seems a little odd to be hanging out in a foreign country, and not go on adventures, but it just so happens that this is where one of my PCT cohorts lives (also known as my father), and I’ve already used up the foreign country adventure budget.

So my father and I spend our days in The Cage – researching gear and food, planning resupplies, figuring out how to make our route include stops at the best places to eat, devouring the info in Yogi’s PCT handbook…. PCT planning becomes a full time job.

view from the cage
Chilling in The Cage

We wake up, and over coffee discuss what our goals for the day are- what piece of gear I’ve decided to buy, what section of trail we’ll plan, what nutrition articles have been found that we should read. Taking turns on my dad’s laptop and smartphone, we start work on the next piece of the puzzle.

Our day is broken up by playing with the dog, being distracted by PCT videos, running outside to watch the afternoon thunderstorms, and after reading too many nutrition articles, kitchen food forages.  All part of the fun of working from home.

By midday the house (consisting mostly of windows) can become unbearably hot.  We are on a ‘conserve AC’ mandate from The Boss (my mother) so when the fans are not enough, we  move our projects into The Cave (the darkest room in the house, also known as the study). AC on, door cracked open just enough for the wifi connection to work, dog happily laying on the floor (sometimes me on the floor), we revive enough to continue our work.

When I’ve spent too much time pouring over one piece of gear, and nothing makes sense anymore (I even start questioning why I wanted a puffy in the first place) it’s time for a cookie baking break, or a nap.

Getting the right gear (light enough and durable) is a big part of planning a first thru hike.  Sure I already have a lot of gear, but most of it is just too heavy.  I have a gear list that is undergoing a continual editing process of: exact product type, then what brand or model is best, and finally- where I can get the best deal.

The price tag on the gear list is a little daunting. Sometimes it is worth it- for that quality gear created by another hiker, other times I know there has to be a sale somewhere, or I know last season’s version or color will function just the same.

I spend a lot of time (probably more time than I should admit to) searching out the best web deal for a product.  I think of the money I’m saving in terms of the pizzas I will get to eat at resupplies.

In the case of the elusive puffy that almost made me crazy, it took me 3 days to find a discount price in my size.  Luckily for my sister, she gets passed on the deals I find that have run out of my size.  All that time spent saved me enough for 2 pizzas and a quart of icecream.  Totally worth it.

We celebrate the little victories.  When I finally bought the puffy I wanted, I did a happy dance and raced the dog through the house.  When we finished planning our California route, we went out for a beer.   And when a box of gear arrives, there is singing.