Wednesday, June 24, 2015

John Muir Trail Planning: New Training Plan

I've got a new training plan that can be roughly summed up as: "F*** it."

I was very ambitious at first to complete regular short and steep 3 mile hikes with increasing weight in my pack, plus increasingly long hikes at least once a week. I tried doing that. After doing two 9 mile hikes in a week, I lost several days to blisters. Oops. The next weekend, I got back on the trail and hiked up Mt. Baldy. That resulted in a three day long severe migraine and about a week of nausea. And then, the you know what REALLY hit the fan.

I attend grad school in Wisconsin, but I am from San Diego. I am also working on my graduate research in San Diego, which provides a perfect excuse to spend the entire summer here. Only I needed a place to stay. Somewhere cheap. I was going to bring my 3 cats and sublet my place in Wisconsin, and then sublet a place here. But an elderly couple offered me their home for $200 a month (to cover utilities). They were going on a three-month road trip so the house would be empty. I could not bring my cats to their house, so I found a woman to stay in my home in Wisconsin rent-free and watch the cats.

I cannot even begin to list the disasters that began even before last week. Car trouble of every sort, my cat sitter bailed on me, a friend got killed by a drunk driver, the university did not pay anyone the summer funding it promised due to a bureaucratic hiccup, and on and on. Then I had about a week without trouble, the week in which my blisters healed and I hiked up Mt Baldy. Following 3 days of a nasty migraine, I woke up pain-free. That was one week ago. After the nausea came back, I took a med for it and went to bed to wait it out. I was awakened by the owner of the home I was staying in. She had been gone all of 10 days out of her three month trip.

Apparently, three days into the trip, her doctor called to tell her she has melanoma and she needs to come home. She decided to surprise me instead of giving me advance warning so she could find out how clean I was keeping her home. Let's just say it wasn't up to her standards. I had my bear can and resupply buckets out on the bar, with all of my food and maps sorted between them for my resupplies. I hadn't done the dishes during my three days with a migraine. My hiking gear was strewn about, from when I came home from Mt. Baldy with a migraine. When she saw that, things got a little ugly.

I am no psychologist, but I can tell you this woman is a raging narcissist. She's definitely unpleasant to be around. I agreed to stay in her home because the price was right and because she would not be there. The plan was for me to never see her again. Ever. (Her husband, by the way, is the sweetest old man ever.)

The stress of her return led to two more severe migraines... and no hiking. It also coincided with a heat wave that has no end in sight, making hiking more difficult and less fun. I've checked, and even the mountains are hot. To avoid the heat, one can hike at night or head to the coast. Both Catalina Island and the Channel Islands would offer great hiking paired with great weather right now.

I'm now resettled at a friend's place a bit further east than I'd like to be. It's heaven to spend time with a good friend and to be out of that toxic atmosphere I was in. But the weather has not abated, and I have obligations that are keeping me from taking a big trip anywhere cooler like the Channel Islands. There are also financial constraints, of course, since you have to pay for the boat to get there, and that costs a lot more than it costs to just hike locally.

My new strategy involves daily three-mile hikes with 800 feet elevation gain and carrying weight. I've got my sleeping bag and tent in my pack, and tonight I'm adding my bear can and all of the food. This will be my 3rd day in a row carrying my pack up the same mountain. I'm doing it after dark, when it's cool. I'm also doing yoga several times a week and have been for a month and a half.

If I can, I'd like to do longer hikes too - or at least one longer hike - before my big trip. I've got a 12 mile hike planned for this weekend. We'll see if I go through with it. In the meantime, if you are wondering "exactly how little training can one get away with and still do the JMT?" stay tuned. You might find out.

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