Southern Californian training for the PCT in 2017 with my German Shepherd, Max.
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“Hiking and happiness go hand in hand (or foot in boot).” ― Diane Spicer
I started of on February 8th with a dull ache in my left foot. A trip to the doctor confirmed I had an old bone chip floating around. There was nothing they could do, and they recommended I stay off of it, wrap it, ice it, and ultimately....rest. That's counter-intuitive to a training thru hiker. REST? Ha.
I did hobble around at work for the remainder of the week and much into the next, but eventually the pain began to subside. I purchased a pair of Vasque Breeze boots, the ones I planned on using for my hike. They seemed to keep my foot stabilized while at work. Thankfully, the pain began to subside toward the end of the week. Crisis averted!
Living in socal, we've had quite the storm in the past week or so, with more rain on the way. That leads to gorgeous seasonal waterfalls and the streams the feed to be very plentiful within the San Gabriel Mountains. I took my days off to do two short hikes to test my boots and my now pain free foot. The first trail was located in Tujunga Canyon, and I was no prepared (foolishly) for the deeper water crossing that turned me around about 2 miles in. But a short 4 mile hike after 2 weeks off was enough for me to realize that my foot pain was in fact gone, and not going to flare up on short hikes. The next day, Max and I explored a more popular trail closer to home, with much more shallow water crossings. He was definitely happy to be out and about instead of cooped up at home with me. Again, we only did about 3 miles that day as well, but i'm easing back into mileage again. I'm hoping, weather permitting, to get a good 10 miles in hiking Saturday, with a moderately weighted pack.
I can definitely feel a little pre-hike anxiety kicking in. Will I have enough money saved up in time? Will I be ready, physically, mentally? Will everything work out? Will Max be ok? It's more of his hike, than mine, after all. I feel like I have so many loose ends to tie up before I begin, and time is ticking. With my permit officially approved, it all just seems so much more real. This is happening, and I can't wait. Time to fine tune my gear list and start logging miles!
Training hikes I attempted Mt. Wilson, a fixture of the San Gabriel mountains. From every area of the San Gabriel valley, the large towers and observatory are visible.
But the trail, it's gruelling and not for the faint of heart. My first attempt was a success a few years ago for my birthday, despite the cold temps and hail that began at Manzanita Pass. I've hiked it in it's entirety 3 or so times since.
A 7 mile climb with 4,000'+ elevation gain is sure to help you figure out where you stand fitness wise. Needless to say, this past Sunday was a certain reality check for me.
Max and I hit the trail at 6:45 Sunday morning. LA had quite a bit of rain the week before and Sunday was clear, the pollution levels finally down a bit, also. Water was flowing through various seasonal water fall and canyon streams. It was an ideal day to tackle my favorite trail.
Max did great, as always. I did not have him wear his pack for this trek, as we've both been slacking on training. I carried my pack, with a few items to add weight to 20lbs including water.
This trail kicked my butt this past weekend. I made it to Manzanita ridge before the familiar twinge in my back started to make an appearance. I figured instead of pushing myself and potentially injuring my back, I decided to call it a day and head back down. I was very happy to tackle 10 miles and a considerable amount of elevation. I work all weekend this week, but plan on trying again the next. We'll see if there's any improvement.
I'm worried. I can hike 10-14 mile day hikes with a 30lb pack on, but frankly I am out of shape. Please bare with my novel. Backstory:
In 2014 I moved to California. I got a job as a vet assistant full time, and a groom for a horse barn 2-3 days a week. I loved it. I was active and finally losing the weight I had packed on. I was 210lbs when I moved, and dropped 15 in probably the first 3 months.I was eating healthier, stopping after one serving. I was too active to sit at home and eat all day, haha. I was happier, more confident and felt like I was figuring myself out.
I started hiking more, something I had loved when I was a kid. Some of my best memories are of my dad taking me to the waterfall in Monrovia Canyon when I was younger. I started adding on miles as I became more fit. The weight continued to drop. I started running a few nights a week, a three mile loop in my neighborhood.
It got to the point where I was doing 10 mile day hikes close to my home on my days off, and more if possible. It was great! The weight kept coming off. At the height of my fitness level, I was a healthy, muscular (even if I still had some areas I wanted to improve) 165lbs. I remember going on my first multi day trip and my pack weighing 35 lbs and realizing I had carried that extra weight around for years, without a second thought. It was an epiphany for me. Until I broke my back.
In June of 2015 there was a stupid accident riding horses. Helpful hint, don't fall off a 16.2 thoroughbred at a full gallop down a hill. Involuntary dismount or not, I was pretty badly hurt. I could barely drive to work without my back spasming and being in pain. Backpacking seemed like a distant memory. I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to cover distance like I was, much less with a full pack.
I also switched jobs to a different vet clinic, as a receptionist and was wayyyy more sedentary. I couldn't ride. I couldn't hike. I couldn't run like I used to.I got depressed, I turned to food. Today I am presently 218lbs and hate it. I have very little stamina.
I told you that, to tell you this.
I am trying to hike on my days off, usually just a 7 mile up and down with some good hills by my home, but have only been able to squeeze in weekend trips 3 times in the last year. I did a trip with some fantastic ladies at San Bernardino peak and was exhausted. But I was able to summit the next morning, in icy/snow, and make the full descent and kept up. My legs were shaking at the end of it, but I made it. I did my first overnight solo up and down devils backbone at Mt. Baldy in SoCal and was wiped out when I reached the summit. In September I did an overnight at cottonwood lakes....and realized I get altitude sickness around 10,800 feet. Needless to say, I plan on taking elevation climbs painstakingly slow.
I realize I am not in the best shape. I still try to eat well, but I am staying off horses for the time being. I am trying to squeeze in hikes whenever I can, but have trouble with anything really over 10 miles right now. I have 3 months give or take before I set off for the PCT.
Is there hope that I will be able to work up to 15 mile days? 20 mile days? I just feel downtrodden and depressed. I feel like I'm counting myself out before I even start. Are there any "plus size" hikers out there? I feel like every hiker I see is way more ready fitness wise. I feel foolish. And yet I'm still hopeful. I need this. I need to prove to myself that I can make it. That I can push myself and rely on myself. That I'm capable. If I only make it 2,000 miles, 1,000 miles, or 500 miles, that's more than if I had just stayed home. That's more than if I never tried.
I just needed to express my anxiety that I have right now.
And on that note, time to pop in that Insanity workout and dream about being on the trail instead.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” ― John Muir, Our National Parks
I try to spend my days off hiking as much as possible, away from people as much as I can be. Being a receptionist and a veterinary technician for small animal hospital puts me in many different, sometimes difficult situations with clients. The only way I've been able to defuse after a long day or week is with hiking. It's my escape.
Max, well, he's a whole other story. He loves people. Relishes in each new encounter and forever full of energy. He's the yin to my yang. We compliment each other in that way. While I enjoy my time alone on the trail, he does make me come out of my shell and talk to people. Something I wouldn't normally do on my own.
We're planning our PCT thru hike. Our tentative start date is April 8th. I wanted to start in March, but my brother is getting married April 1st, so plans are adjusted and we will adapt. I know this is more of an introduction than a checkpoint, but I hope to use this journal in the next few months to share my thoughts and plans for the trail.
Our gear is selected and fine tuned, and I've started inventorying what can be sold before I head out for our little walk. I hope to minimize my personal possessions and just let the trail lead me to my next step in life. Will that mean coming back to California? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows. I have 2,660 miles to figure that out.
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