We started late on our first day. My hiking partner didn’t pick me up until around nine and we had to stop for some supplies on our way, so we didn’t get on the trail until almost eleven. Luckily, everyone else was lagging even more and we were able to get a good parking space right next to the caretaker’s trailer. We got our packs on and adjusted and got moving. Pretty much right away, my buddy realized that he forgot his poles. This was a bit of a disappointment for me, since it meant that I would feel like a bit of a jerk using my poles when he didn’t have his. The jaunt to the base of the Ruckel Creek trail was quick though, so I really didn’t have long to wait before the climbing began.
A while back, I set a pair of goals for my summer backpacking: to hike a 40 mile loop in the Columbia River Gorge and to hike the Timberline trail on Mt. Hood. The trails I wanted to use in the Gorge finally started clearing up in June, so that is where I headed first. I didn’t go backpacking last year, so I had a lot of preparations to make and since this was the first time that I was going to carry a pack while wearing my FiveFingers, I had a lot of conditioning to do. Oh, and of course there were last-minute changes to the route that had to be made on account of the weather. A lot to do.
Next week I am going on a long hike. The plan calls for forty miles over four days and three nights. I’ve never spent that much time on the trail before and though I am looking forward to it, there is a certain sense of dread that accompanies the anticipation. As I go about my preparations, fretting about food and gear choices these sensations continue to grow. To be honest, I suspect that they will continue even as I set foot on the trail and begin my trek.
I really enjoy gear. I like to spend time comparing the merits of different brands and analyzing the performance of the kit that I take out on the trail. I might be a fetishist, yet I think that many hikers would agree that having good gear can make all the difference between a miserable slog and an invigorating hike. Gear can also be the only thing that stands between an inconvenience and a disaster. As such, I am always on the lookout for good books about gear. Trail Tested was written by Justin Lichter, who probably wears out more gear in a year than most people ever own. He hikes thousands of miles a year and he knows a thing or two.
It seems apropos that around the same time that I have become obsessed with the Pacific Crest Trail, Mountaineers Books has released their two volume Pacific Crest Trailside Reader. Separated into a California volume and an Oregon & Washington volume, the readers are anthologies of writings about the trail. The selections range from personal journals, to historical accounts and trail poetry.
I’ve started to firm up my plans for backpacking next year. I have a pair of loops that I want to do and I have the months picked out. The next thing is to start revisiting my gear. I’ve backpacked with a buddy before, but I want to be prepared to do these trips solo. That means that I will need a few necessities that I don’t already own. In addition to that, I have a couple more ‘luxury’ items that I would like to have.
I managed to do some great hikes this year. I also pushed my range and hiked farther and climbed more than I had before. I’ve started running so that I can be a stronger cyclist and hiker. On top of that, I’ve ditched my old hiking shoes and started using Fivefingers on the trail. Now I am ready to sit down and start thinking about the year to come.