Friday, June 27, 2014

PCT Diaries: A Day in the Life

Of course every day is slightly different, but this one is pretty typical of a day spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. I'll do five or six of these in a row and then hit up a small town for resupply of food (beer) and a night or two in a hotel to rest up my feet and mind (beer).

• Awaken around 5:30 to the sound of the birds welcoming the dawn. 
• Depending on how cold it is, get out of the tent around 6:30. If it's super duper cold like that night cowboy camping by the Kern River then I'm already up and on the trail trying to warm my ass up. And no, I'm not using a donkey to carry my gear. 
• Eat a Clif Bar or Pro Meal Bar for breakfast. 
• Hit the trail around 7am. If I'm planning to hike around 20 miles then it'll likely take me 10 hours to accomplish that, including appropriate rest and one good foot soak in a cold lake or stream. 
• Second breakfast around 9 or so. I'll stop for 5-10 minutes, eat something and rest my feet for a bit. 
• Keep on hiking, snacking, occasionally resting and admiring the gorgeous views until mid-afternoon, say 2ish. Food consists of sausage, cheese, Triscuits, nuts, dried fruit. 
• I've probably got a good 15 miles in by 2ish and the dogs are barking. It's time for a nap. Find a lovely spot preferably next to a babbling brook or singing stream and lay down. Shoes come off, socks come off and get hung in a nearby bush to breathe, and I spread eagle it out on my back and feel the fatigue flow out of me. Remain here for 60-90 minutes. 
• Crank out the last five miles with my rejuvenated body and search for a good campsite. Above 10,000 feet I'm more selective because the nights can get cold -- stay away from water and avoid geological depressions. For the past week I've been at low enough altitude that that hasn't been an issue. I'm using a 35-degree sleeping bag while most hikers are using more like a 15-degree bag. That means mine is smaller and lighter but I need to be more thoughtful about where I sleep. So far I've only had two nights that were too cool for comfort (see Kern River above) and the high mountains are behind me. Every night I wear long underwear, my puffy down jacket, rain jacket atop that, and a balaclava on my head. Maybe gloves. 
• Make dinner around 7pm. I'm eating one hot meal per day and that's normally at dinner. Beef Stroganoff is my favorite and the scrambled eggs with bacon are horrible. Note to self: try to trade rapidly accumulating bags of freeze dried scrambled eggs for beer or cheap liquor at next town. 
• 8pm hit the sack and read for a bit. Right now I'm reading "Lonesome Dove" and enjoying it very much. I've struggled to appreciate fiction over the past decade  so I'm happy when I find one I can get into. 
• 8:30 lights out. I'm beat. But twice tonight I will arise to empty my bladder and enjoy the glory of the Milky Way, the stars, and the moon when she is shining.  I think there has only been one cloudy night out of more than 30 so far. 

What Do You Think About?
That's 10-12 hours of hiking every day. Doesn't it get boring?
What do you think about?

The answers are, quite simply...
  it can
  mostly useless crap. 

Allow me to explain...

When faced with hours of contemplative time day after day, I've found that mostly my mind thinks of worthless crap like "how would I describe this experience to someone who might ask me about it in the future" or "would I rather own a ski condo at Bridger Bowl that has no cell service or internet or own a condo at some bullshit Colorado faux resort where the ski terrain is lame?" Actually getting a song stuck in my head is a relatively good thing. Recently I've been reminded of amazing Minneapolis summers courtesy of Semisonic's "Sculpture Garden". 

Perhaps half this hike I've been hiking with other people and that can provide occasional stimulating conversation. When alone, I'll put on headphones about half the time and listen to music or podcasts that are good at energizing my brain. 

What I've found about myself is that left to its own devices, my brain is a long ways from solving world peace. It loves to ramble on and on about worthless crap. Perhaps it is self-indulgent crap. 

So far I have had two lucid thoughts:

1. See the prior post about abortion. Ha! You may not deem it lucid and it's only semi-formed and to be clear I still love abortions, but I think it makes a sound debate point at the very least. 
2. Upon my return I will be a sign spinner for SuperCuts DU. Yaaaay SuperCuts!!

Given what I've learned in my recent practice of mindfulness and meditation, I take this to mean that I have simply not yet reached the point where I'm able to clear my mind of all the noise and clutter that come with being a part of modern American society. It is also my understanding that few actually achieve this but I believe it is something worth striving for. I've read the blogs of other PCT hikers who talk about all the demons they are trying to overcome and I'm thankful that I don't have demons. 

So yeah. That's what I think about. Or don't think about. 
When I solve world peace you'll be the first to hear about it. 

p.s. Nice marmot. 

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