Wednesday, January 18, 2017

PCT Section A Here I Come!

As winter drags on in Wisconsin, I find myself increasingly fat and depressed. I've bought bigger pants but if I get even one size bigger I'll be in plus sizes. Plus, the largest women's sizes are made for tall, big women, not short, fat women. The proportions are all wrong. And I was feeling the depression just dragging me down, making me unable to do anything.

In the past, the answer for me to both of these problems was: hike! Well, where can I hike? I suppose around here I'd have to get snowshoes. OK, that can be done. I looked at the options. They bored me. I couldn't make myself get out of bed and drive to the trailhead only to walk around a boring 2 mile circle or whatever it was in the snow. And driving further or hiking further sounded even less appealing. In the end, I just walked the 4 miles to my favorite coffee shop. It wasn't a hike and it involved walking along a road with no sidewalk. I brought my bear spray along not for bears but for potential muggers and rapists. I did it twice. It was cold and it sucked.

I pulled out a map of the midwest and looked for anywhere good to hike at all. Northern Wisconsin? Maybe there would be wolves or moose or something. What about Minnesota's Boundary Waters? There are definitely wolves and moose and beavers there. I'd need snow shoes. I checked the weather report. It was -4 during the day.

What about the Great Smoky Mountains? An 11 hour drive. Doable in a day. Good weather. Trails without snow. Real mountains. Sign me up.

So I went. I hiked a few miles along the AT. It was cloudy and muddy and wet. I slipped and fell and hurt my knee. I had prepaid my hotel so I spent the rest of my time there just driving around the park and getting to know the area. It was pretty. It was a lot nicer than Wisconsin. The area just outside the park was a nightmare though. It was tourist hell. With my knee not better enough to hike on yet, I drove home a day early.

But the Smokies are a real option for me. I have class only two days a week this semester. I could drive down, spend three days there, drive back, and not even miss class.

The thing is, it was so muddy, I couldn't even imagine pitching my tent in all that mud. I know they have shelters on the AT to stay in but you have to reserve them. I like more flexibility than that when I backpack.

I considered all of my options for spring break. The Rockies and Sierras will be covered in snow. The AT just doesn't excite me. I even looked up the Inca Trail, hoping that the cost of the airfare could be outweighed by inexpensive hiking on the trail. (Turns out it isn't, because you can't really hike it without paying a guide or tour company.) In the end, the best option was to just go home. Go home to San Diego.

And in San Diego, the best option in March is to hike the PCT. Because if I do that I won't need a hotel or a car. A bus takes you to Campo to start, and, well, I'll figure out how to get from Warner Springs back to San Diego at the end somehow. And it will be wildflower season! And it's supposed to be a banner year for wildflowers in the Anza Borrego Desert!

So, I'm in. I'm doing it. I booked the flight.

I've got just two weeks in San Diego, so I pulled out my PCT spreadsheet to see how far I could get. I think I can do all of Section A but no more. I looked over the PCT water website (helpfully named PCTWater.com). I looked at when the real PCT thru-hikers are starting. A few are starting before March 15, but most are starting March 15 or later. I'll have company on the trail. They'll be going faster than me, but we'll end up camping in many of the same places. I don't mind hiking alone but I do prefer to camp with others.

I made that decision a few days ago and it's like electricity is running through my veins ever since. The creeping depression is gone. Just like that. Gone. I'm still fat, but at least one problem is solved. I've even been dreaming about hiking.

I have a hunch the surge of adrenaline running through me is not a good thing for my health. I would bet my therapist would tell me to calm the fuck down and let my body learn what it feels like to just be OK. Not excited in a good way (hiking!) or excited in a bad way (stress). Just calm and OK. And, yeah, I'd like to get there. Right now I'm honestly too excited to focus on my homework and that's a bit of a problem. But at least now I can get out of bed. At least now all of my actions have a goal, and that goal is 109 miles of beautiful, wonderful trail in my favorite place in the world.

I'll post my plans on here in the upcoming days. There's a certain amount that just can't be planned until it's clear where there is and isn't water along these 109 miles. There are some seasonal creeks that dry up some time in early spring, and there are faucets in campgrounds that are turned off in the winter. There doesn't seem to be a sweet spot where both seasonal creeks will be flowing and the campground faucets are all on. Thank goodness for the PCT Water website. As of now, I have a few contingency plans based on what is happening with the water in early to mid March when I hike through. But I'll share those with you in another post.

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