The training is done today. Well, the training as it rang this year is NOTHING like the training I had last year, or moreover one the year prior...you get the point. Every year my body's "return to running in the Spring" gets shorter, slower and lasts less. This year took the cake! It only lasted all of 3 weeks - and my long run - get this! - went a WHOLE 8 MILES! Damn! Once! And one more time I managed 7. Oh, well...you know what June looked like for me in terms of traditional running training? One 3 M shuffle and one - yep, a long run - of 4 miles, so twice a week for the last month (I think I still did 5 at the beginning of the month once). That's it, ladies and gentlemen.
You know what it also meant? More backpack walking - earlier starting (in terms of months in advance) and more times a week (a solid 3). And I did more quality there too - Mt. Bonnell 100 steps/200 feet repeats of 20 each Tuesday in the heat of the day, Great Hills streets loop 8 M on Mondays (the name implies hills, and it does), and River Place trail 5 M loop on Thursdays with its own stairs (best, most well engineered and with most elevation change and highest steps trail in Austin, albeit, yes, only 3 miles, so I entertained my own loop, and that last mile where all the steps seem to be concentrating always kicked my behind). Alas, the distances speak volume too...not because I couldn't muster more, but because I chose living over training this year, a.k.a. no double workouts (unless it's a yoga class once a week thrown in) and no more than 2.5 hrs away from home at any time for that. Yep, where was I with this kind of balance and kindness to myself years/decades before? Well, whatever. I am banking on the fact that I have experience - both in backpacking/hiking and ultra-distance running, that I carried a 40 lbs pack for the last almost 3 months, and that I hiked without poles - an added bonus to leg training (but a suffering while in the process for sure!). My gym visits dropped from 3 x week to twice as well. Come to think about it, I was so fed up with my gym (Pure Austin, The Best Gym in town for the last 7 years!), I am happily awaiting my last 2 visits to have my membership expire next week - yes, you heard that right, all that wonderful, personable, clean and less-populated highly expensive gym annoys the heck out of me by now, and I will be taking a break - for the summer (I am hiking anyway, and recovering in-between) and the beginning of the Fall as well. Then I will decide my next move.
But for now - I am packed! And I am thrilled to have been learning along the way as I backpack each summer on what I can do without. As of this trip's prep, my pack weighs 35 lbs at the start (without water)!!! Which is, like, a full 10 lbs lighter than my last 2 years (granted, last year I carried more food for a longer outing). No water filter, only one bottle (contemplating on the second one still), yet I am adding a sleeping pad - not so much for comfort, who cares, as for the warmth, as last year in Oregon I was freezing every damn night, and I believe it was going from the ground into me.
(an addendum of sorts to prevent questions and thoughts on the items I packed, as I happen to have to answer those every year: my gear works, so I am NOT buying/replacing it with lighter/better/newer in terms of weight and performance, and that goes for pack, sleeping bag/pad and tent, and YES, I am carrying a tent, I am not interested in sleeping under the sky/in open tent with a pole/hammock/etc. Please do not offer suggestions. I like it the way it is. End of story. I am tired to defend my choices.)
So, let me backtrack. The original thing with flying to Reno staying intact. What changed (ever since mid-May, as Larry has been intently "watching" and following all the real PCT through-hikers' journey online) is the direction. That section from South Lake Tahoe through Sonora Pass and North High Sierra into Tuolumne meadows is the most remote, has a few bad passes, but most importantly, even on a good year has a huge number of creeks that would be better described as rivers. This year it is covered in snow more-so (navigation) and with the melt JUST beginning the creeks, a.k.a. rivers, are raging - and freezing. Let me be honest, it is NOT impossible to get through, and some do get it done (although so far about 90% at least of this year's through-hikers are skipping this section), BUT it means most of the time hiking up the stream for a mile or two to find a less deep and less swift crossing, then backtracking to trail - and repeating it many, many times (still getting wet and dangerous a lot). The thing is, this section does not offer bailing-out points or cell reception, and I am on a time strain - Larry and Harrison are flying to explore Kings Canyon and Yosemite Valley and hike Half Dome, and they are expecting to pick me up on a very certain precise date to fly back together. If I am stranded in the middle of the section, taking longer to find all the crossings, trail and being slow in general, I will not have a chance to let them know - even if I do, I won't be able to retrieve myself out.
I thought about an option other than original, but felt bad asking Larry to accommodate me and drive a long time for the pick-up. But he is my husband, and he thinks for me better than I think for me sometimes:) He offered it! And it became clear - best thing to do for me is to go from North Lake Tahoe (Twins Peak mile 1130 on PCT I passed in 2015 during TRT hike) in the North direction to the parts of Lassen Volcano National Forest, sort of just about to half-way of PCT and may be a bit further (mile 1338 on PCT). All the raging creeks in this section have bridges, the snow melts at the same rate, so the trail is already almost 2/3 clear (even if sloppy in places), and there are PLENTY of bailing points/road crossing/cell phone reception! So, if I can't make the mileage, I can hitch - or sit and wait for Larry and Harrison at some random road to arrive. Bingo!
I kept it quiet besides sharing with the closest people who care about me and my well being. But I am super-excited this hike is going to be exactly what it was meant to be - me being in the mountains, just walking, hard, but not death defying. I felt like a failure at first, but it lasted only a couple of weeks, if not less. I am past the point I feel the need to prove anything, whether to others, or to myself. As it turned out with my training, it was even wiser decision than when it was made. I am ready to go!
My journey with training and packing is documented here, browse if you'd like. The Big Plan is for something like 200 miles in 8 days (wow, I didn't even know the number until I looked, it sounds more than I can handle at the moment!), and I'll see what it transpires to be. Whatever it is, it'll be absolutely awesome.