Saturday, January 30, 2016

Day -89 : Living The Squeaky Sausage Life

Saturday, January 30, 2016
Miles to go: 2,663

Eleven days since my last post. Eighty nine more till I hit the trail. It seems like time is moving so slowly at certain levels but at others it's moving fast. A lot has happened in my life in the last eleven days. We were supposed to be moving today. We are not, instead I am writing a blog post. What happened? Life happened. Basically, the buyers backed out of the deal. After weeks and weeks of innumerable inspections they decided to not follow through. It doesn't make sense to me. It has been emotionally exhausting. I feel like I have been squeezed and pressed, like the meat that goes through a sausage grinder and then finds itself stuffed in a sausage casing. Trapped, surrounded by pork intestine, stifling and confined. I want to break free, break out, but I am being wadded and swaddled and stuffed into a tube.

The bizarre thing is that if I step back and look at life objectively, I shouldn't feel this way. We have a great house! We love where we live, we can afford it. It's more space than we need so our whole reason for selling is to get a smaller place with less overhead living expenses. It's funny to me that I feel the way I do when reality is so opposite. We have more physical space now then we'd have if we'd moved. I often don't understand my emotions, it has taken years to even recognize that I have them. Anyway, so there's that.

On the hiking track... Shelly and I have gotten our donation site up and available. Shelly has ALS. Shelly is my friend. I don't like seeing her slowly atrophy away and I feel powerless to do anything. The best that I can do is to give my readers an opportunity to help Shelly. I am planning to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican Border to the Canadian border in a single season, tracing a continuous footpath the entire way, not skipping or flipping any of the sections. I plan on blogging here using my iPhone 6 on a daily basis. (Though some days I may not have coverage so posting them on the site might take a few days). I will be carrying a Spot Gen3 GPS Messenger that will be updating my position in almost real-time. I will have a map available so that my readers will be able to follow along. I will be inviting my fellow thru-hikers to post photos and videos to #ShellysPCT on Instagram so that Shelly can see the adventure and experience it vicariously through them. Click this to read more about Shelly's PCT.

Have you ever made the mistake of placing too much trust in a person? I have. It's especially difficult for me when a stranger invokes the name of someone that I trust implicitly. For some reason I get emotionally attached and attribute my trustworthy friend's character to the stranger. I just did that during these last eleven days. I feel ashamed and foolish. Why would I trust someone with whom I have no history and no indication that they are worthy of any trust? Yet I did. I trusted someone and they have basically called me a liar. They have made me second-guess my own thoughts. I think I am way too introspective and I put too much value in what others think and say about me. I don't admire much about Donald Trump, but one thing that I do is his ability to say what he thinks without any introspection or second-guessing. I find it's rather easy for people to say things about me and I immediately think, "Am I really that way? Did I really say that? Is that what I meant?" The reality is that I need to stop doing that and trust the people who know me best. Strangers don't know me at all, why should I trust that their observations about me are true or accurate? I won't! However, if my wife Kelli says something about me, it's a very reliable indicator that there is something that I need to pay attention to and think about. So then there's that.

Wow! I am YouTube. Ha, I have one video. I made it early one morning while I was out preparing for my 2,663 mile PCT hike. The lighting is horrible. The audio is annoying. The content is of questionable value. It describes pretty well the way I've felt the last few days. You can view it above.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day -95 : A Philosophical Idiot

Full moon in the cold clear sky this AM

Sunday, January 24, 2016
Miles to go: 2,663

I read the beginning of Matthew this morning. I am appalled by the way God allows tragedy to strike the town of Bethlehem. The Magi leave secretly, causing Herod to be furious. This sets off a string of events. Including the 'slaughter of the innocents'. This disturbs me in that God appears willing to sacrifice those innocent babies while protecting his own Son. My falleness makes me feel like this isn't just. That those poor families ought to have been protected.

This causes me to feel exposed and vulnerable. God is not squeamish or sentimental in his preferences. He shows grace on those whom he chooses to show grace and he lets evil men's sinful rebellion destroy and pillage fellow men without any apparent action on His part.

I have heard the case made that we are all sinners and under a curse. I believe that to be true. Yet, I am still struck dumb by God's lack of interference in the evil plans of the powerful.

This, more than anything else, convinces me of the after life. If justice is never resolved then God is not good. Since I believe he is good, then it is with a flawed sense of justice that I see the workings of the world. I know my sense of justice is flawed because it doesn't take much for someone of a philosophical bent to tie me up in my own words when I try to articulate my own moral beliefs.

For most of my life, my lack of moral certainty has caused me to keep my beliefs to myself. I think that I have been wrong most of my life, and prideful. I would rather have people think me smart than to reveal my own philosophical idiocy.

One of the cool things about being human is our ability to live with logical contradictions and paradoxes. I don't have to have it all figured out in order to experience life and feel the wonder and transcendence of a relationship with a good God and his magnificent creation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Day -100 : Let The Adventure Begin

El Nino in California
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Miles to go: 2,663

April 28 is one hundred days into the future. April 28 is my planned Pacific Crest Trail start date. I have one hundred days to prepare and plan. I feel very unorganized and scattered. I have begun to realize that this trip is way outside of my normal planning capabilities.

I remember when I set the goal to hike the entire PCT way back in 2013. I set it because it was a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I had never really set any personal goals that were outside of the capabilities that I thought I had at the time. By definition, a BHAG is something beyond your comfort zone, a huge daunting goal, perhaps beyond your abilities. Now as I arrive and the one hundred day marker, I am really beginning to feel the reality of it.

Way back in 2013 it was far enough into the future that I didn't really have much to do to prepare. Now I am starting to feel, "Oh man, there are a lot of things that I don't know!" I think that is the hardest thing for me; dealing with the unknown. While I think that this aspect of my goal will be 'good for me' as far a personal growth, I feel strangely unhooked from my normal self. I am having to make decisions without understanding the ramifications. I am finding I have to operate from a different part of my brain.

I am a very routine oriented person, I love routine! I like my life and the routine of it. Get up, make coffee, drive to work, work, drive home, eat dinner, sleep, repeat. Over and over. It becomes a habit and requires very little thought. That way I have time to focus on and think about the small things that fit into the niches in my otherwise very structured existence. It's how I am wired and when I feel the most comfortable. This trip, even the planning and preparation for it, is throwing my routines out of kilter so I am having to learn to live in discomfort.

In addition to planning for my trip, we are in the process of selling our home and that is creating an even bigger sense of dis-location. For months we've had strangers tramping through our home evaluating and judging how we live (at least that is how it feels). Now we have buyers that appear to be serious so we are in the escrow process and working on getting rid of lots of extra furniture that we no longer need. Everything in my world is shifting and changing around me.

The only things that seem stable and comfortable right now are my relationship with my wife and our practice of  remaining in fellowship and connection with our friends at church. Everything else is being tossed around and jumbled into something new. Something that I don't even have a very clear picture of. This is definitely starting to feel like a real adventure!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Meat, Its What's For Dinner

Let them eat meat!
Cans of meat! Really? Cans with meat in them? Beef, Chicken, Sausage, Ham! Woo hoo! What? How is that ultra-light?

One of the problems I face while considering hiking for five months is the monotony of eating out of a plastic bag for weeks on end. Especially dinner. I like lots of different foods and variety in my everyday life. Pizza, fish and chips, hamburgers, pot roast, salads, enchiladas, Thai chili stir-fry, and on and on. The thought of sitting down to another bag of tasteless pre-packaged freeze-dried food is probably the biggest hurdle I am mentally struggling with as I prepare.

Last year on my two-week hike through Southern California I tested alternatives to weeks upon weeks of Mountain House dinners. Don't get me wrong, I am not bashing Mountain House. Their dinners are far better than some of the other suppliers of light-weight food. In fact, of all of the different ones I have tried, Mountain House is my favorite. If the trip was only going to last for a few weeks, I'd do Mountain House. But, this is not just two-weeks. We are talking months and months, it's enough cause a person to start throwing out the food that they have purchased and carried and start eating snacks. This problem affects morale and energy levels. It becomes a serious drain on mental fortitude if I can't get enough calories because the taste has become so repulsive that  that I can't eat it. So what's the plan?

Like I said, last year I tried something different. I don't know if it's going to work for my entire trip but it is a strategy that I believe will at least get me to Donner Summit. I have read through Brenda L. Braaten's PACK LIGHT, EAT RIGHT research over and over. I have coupled that information with my own testing to come up with a plan that I hope will keep me looking forward to eating my dinner. I did a ton of web searching looking for light-weight meals. Most of the readily available options, such as the side-dishes that you can buy in the supermarket contain lots of sodium and boring flavors.

 Last year I discovered Harmony House Food' TRAIL READY Gourmet Soup & Chili Pack. What I like about this is that there are twelve different flavors in one pack. The challenge is that they are all vegan/vegetarian and low fat. I am not a vegan/vegetarian and according to Dr. Braaten, I need fat. So my plan is to use these meals as a basis for my meals but supplement them with other ingredients, such as meat. I found meat in cans! Thank you Honeyville. It's freeze-dried so most, if not all of the water has been removed. I plan to open the cans at home and re-package single serving portions into vacuum-sealed bags. The bags are just the right size to hold about two-cups of water. I will pour the soup or chili of choice into the bag with the meat, add either minute rice or ramen noodles and I have a nutritious, calorie packed meal ready in a few minutes. That, at least, is the theory. During my testing last year I found it acceptable. I like the fact that there is variety and options. I just bought enough canned meat to get me started. Only one hundred and four days more days to start.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I get to do this

The snow begins to descend from the inky roiling blackness. A few thousand feet above me and a few miles southwest it hits the relatively warm air of California's central valley and turns to liquid. The marine air is blowing a steady twenty miles per hour. I can smell the ocean even though it is over one hundred miles away. I walk right into the teeth of the storm. The rain is blowing sideways right into my face so I bow my head. With my backpack and rain poncho on I am a crazy hunchback to the others, oh wait there are no others. No one is around even though I am walking right through town. The rain soaks the legs of my pants below by poncho and they stick like clammy plastic to the front of my legs. I can feel the cold water sucking the warmth right off my skin. The extra water courses down my legs and into my shoes. My socks are soaked and the water squishes through the mesh uppers of my running shoes.The rain that manages to hit my face beneath my hood stings like icy needles, Dripping off the end of my nose and mixing in with the rest of the gravity-fed moisture washing down the streets. I am a head-bowed humble supplicant bowing before the awesome power of nature. The wind roars above my head. The stark empty branches of the trees swing wildly. Street lights sway, causing the shadows to dance eerily in the periphery. "Spirit come like a mighty rushing wind." I've heard that phrase used at church and I wonder how many people actually have felt the awful, dreadfulness of walking exposed in the path of a storm.

It's four-thirty am and I am surprisingly warm under my poncho and mostly dry. The contrast is striking to me. My core temperature is maintaining a comfortable level as last night's dinner provides the fuel to keep the furnace burning. Why am I by myself? I am thoroughly enjoying myself as I train for my coming epic trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. Why are there so few no others out this morning enjoying the nature that El Nino is sending our way? One of the things that I am looking forward to discovering on my hike is the fellowship of others out on the trail that feel the same way. In town, in my everyday world, I feel like I am out of place. That I don't really belong here. Oh sure, I can cope with it all. I am a well-adjusted average guy. For the last thirty years I have raised a family of five awesome kids with my wife and love of my life. I go to church, pay my taxes, root for my favorite politicians. Deep down though, there is always the call of the trail inviting me out into the real world. I feel alone in this. I don't have anyone that I know who feels this haunting in their soul. It compels me to get out of bed in the dark and tromp out and through the puddles and driving rain. What a treat! What fun! I have the thought, "I get to do this!" Thank you God for the gift of life,

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Closing in on the one hundred day count-down

In a little over one hundred days I will begin my attempt to hike a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada following the Pacific Crest Trail as much as possible.

Click Shelly's PCT to join us!
I am really excited to partner with Shelly Hoover to increase awareness and raise money to find treatments for ALS. Shelly is a friend of mine and was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. That's the same year that I was inspired to hike the PCT and begin writing this blog.
In some ways our journeys have paralleled, hers in the valley, mine in the mountains. We share a kinship and connection that is hard to explain except to say God has brought us both to a deeper understanding of him and the life he invites us to live. You can learn more about our partnership and ways that you can join us by clicking Shelly's PCT under Pages on the right.

Things are hectic in my life right now. The anticipation of leaving for the PCT at the end of April is coupled with the selling of our home. We have lived here since two thousand nine. We have thoroughly enjoyed living here. The reality though is that as great as this place is, it is in the way of things that my wife and I really want. So the house is going. We also are making other lifestyle adjustments as we arrive at that stage in life called 'empty-nesters' with our youngest now twenty-one and making his own choices and beginning his own adventure.

PCT related things to do:

  1. Get PCT permit
  2. Get Campfire permit
  3. Get Entry to Canada Visa 
  4. Signup for ADZPCTKO
  5. Buy food and supplies for first third of the trip
  6. Package food
  7. Sort gear and make final decision on what I'm starting with
  8. Label the gear I am leaving behind so Kelli can ship it if needed.
  9. Continue / expand physical training
  10. Contact trail angel in San Diego for assistance getting to trail-head
There's probably more but they slipped my mind. More to come...