Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflections on this Weekend & the Month Ahead

Well, I figured I should do a bit of a post-trip analysis for lessons learned and adjustments that I'll be making.

For gear changes, lets start with the boots. I was disappointed by the leaking I experienced through the mesh on my Merrell MOAB gore-tex boots. This led to the freezing and perpetual wetness, which was extremely frustrating through the weekend.
Those have been reassigned to the Oregon/Washington section and removed from High Sierra duty in favor of a new pair of Asolo Powermatic 200's. Depending on how the Asolo's feel, I may just stick with them from the Sierras all the way to Canada. The month ahead will be just enough time to break these in. Probably the first 'real boots' I've had since early HS, so its going to be a bit strange to get used to them. On the other hand, they feel fantastic on my feet, and I expect no trouble tearing it up over the snow in June. I've added a sleeping bag liner to my gear to help simplify town stops by eliminating the need to wash my sleeping bag. I picked up a new pair of sunglasses after I learned that my other pair isn't actually polarized (I swear they were when I bought them...) It was pretty clear that they weren't polarized though for two reasons. 1) My eyes were aching at night after hiking over the snow 2) My face was tanned under the sunglasses - clearly they weren't stopping much sunlight. Its really too bad, since I liked how they looked on me with the lime green highlight. Picked up the snow baskets for my trekking poles, so hopefully I won't be embedding them down to the handle in the snow next time. I figure I'll just use the snow baskets the whole way so I don't have to fuss around with swapping them out somewhere along the trail. I also finally got around to swapping out my large carabiners for the mini ones, so thats was about a 1.5oz saving on each one. I've never been huge on counting ounces, but this was just a no-brainer for the $1.50 it cost me. I'm also going to try out the Coghlan's version of esbit tablets to see if they work any better/worse.

Food went really well out there this time. I ate nearly all of my food by the time we left, though I did have to force myself to make it through the final bit each night. I was a big fan of the instant chocolate mousse, but was shocked to realize I had bought cheesecake flavor instead of vanilla. Julie observed the fact that the expression on my face made it very clear that it was not very appetizing. I went shopping for more of those mixes this evening and was very careful to make sure I bought the right flavors this time. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to make it through the whole 12oz can of bacon-spam (yes, BACON!!!) the first night, and the waste tin didn't bother me at all in terms of weight or bulk. I understand where people are coming from with trying to minimize the packaging they have to haul out, but on the other hand, this is probably comparable to the weight of all the packaging from the 3oz foil packs... As I get further in my resupply planning I'm considering the idea of packing one heavy meal for the first night out so that I have more variety in my diet but don't suffer a huge weight penalty for an extended period. I was very happy with my Caldera Cone stove on this trip considering the low temperatures and decent wind. The only trouble was that the aluminum wind screen / pot stand would sink into the snow as it heated up, blocking the lower vent holes. I had to hold it up off the snow to get a decent burn rate, and I was able to find a hot spot where it really roared. Good to know that the stove has a 'fast' speed by adding a touch more air. I also tried doubling up tablets for the first time, and I probably won't ever need to do that. Not only did it bring 700ml to a boil in about 5 min, it blackened the bottom of my pan with a nasty gunk everyone associates with esbit. When I only use one tab it isn't an issue, so I think I'll stick with that method from here on out.

In terms of mental changes, I think the course was a huge factor in my preparedness. First of all, I had to get all of winter gear ready for this trip, so I have all of that set now rather than waiting until the last minute. Also having a chance to step foot on the PCT already was nice, as it gave me a taste of what is coming. I think that will help with the nerves when I get to T-1 days. Another big change is my feeling towards the snow. I've completely changed my opinion on the snow level this year, and I no longer see it as a curse on the trip but rather a mixed blessing. On the one hand it may slow me down, but on the other, it frees me up from following the exact trail, instead giving me the opportunity to find the easiest route across the snowfields to my destination. Postholing is now less scary now that I've experienced it, and I'm much more confident in my ability to safely traverse snowy slopes. I'm working on an interesting strategy for maintaining my high mileage through the Sierras, and I'll elaborate once I've had a little more time to go through all the elements in my head.

This weekend I'll be printing out my maps, packing all of my resupply boxes and finalizing my itinerary. I'm also trying to figure out a good point for my dad to come visit me on the trail, so that should be pretty exciting after a couple weeks out there. Everything seems to be coming together well, only 30 days to go.

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