Aug. 5, 2014

My trip was postponed a year for a very good reason — my second grandchild was born! AND she’s named after me! My goal is to thru-hike the entire PCT, so I don’t want to go there knowing that I’ll have reason to come back without finishing. And the birth of Eva definitely would have been reason to come back! I wouldn’t have missed her being born for anything. And she’s beautiful, just like her big sister, Lane.

As is the circle of life, my mother-in-law died shortly before Eva was born. I knew she wasn’t well, and, again, I did not want to be hiking if I had opportunity to spend time with her in her last few months. She was a wonderful woman, and although, technically, she hadn’t been my mother-in-law since 1984, we were very close and I loved her dearly. She did not do well with insects or the sun, so she didn’t understand my desire to go hiking, but she supported me.

I’ve done a lot of research, and I mean a LOT! I’ve answered so many questions that came up along the way. I’m a planner and have been planning like crazy–you should see my Excel spreadsheet. Oh. My. Gosh. That said, I still feel rather ill-prepared. It is amazing how much expense and time is required. (It’s probably a good thing I had the extra year to prepare.) When my gear list is complete, meaning decided upon and purchased, I will post it for any of you who are curious. I’m trying to go as UltraLight as I can afford. I’m not in tip-top shape plus I’ll be carrying some supplies for my dog, so I’m trying to save ounces where I can. Yes, I see the irony–why don’t I just lose a few pounds myself, then worry about my pack? Well, that is the plan, Stan, but it isn’t all about how much I weigh. My pack definitely has a limit since it is carried on my hips and shoulders. With the trouble I have with my neck, trust me, there is a limit. So far, so good…I think.

About a week ago, I had a sleepover with my granddaughter Lane. I wanted to introduce her to backpacking, so we loaded up her cute little owl backpack with a drink, a snack, and a spare pair of shoes/socks. I put the dog’s pack on the dog, complete with water and snacks. Then I donned my backpack stuffed with pillows so it wouldn’t appear completely empty and, of course, a drink and a snack. We walked about two blocks from my house, stopped at a little island in the neighborhood, sat down and enjoyed our snacks–all part of the game plan. After a “rest”, we got our packs back on and headed home. Meanwhile, a couple at one of the nearby houses had been watching us as they prepared to head out somewhere in their vehicle. As we were walking back, after our snack, they stopped to ask us if we needed a ride somewhere. Now, that’s being neighborly! We must’ve really looked the part for them to assume we would be on a serious necessity hike–me, a dog, and a toddler in cute little purple suede boots! I explained that we were “on a backpacking adventure,” lived just down the street, and thanked them for the offer. My first trail angels, and I haven’t hit the trail yet. Cool.

I’ve secured a lot of my gear. I almost said “most” but each time I turn around, there’s more that I think, or discover, I need. I have two tents. Why two? I bought one and am satisfied with it, but then found a super deal on another one. I tested the first one in the living room. I’m awaiting delivery of the second one. I’ll decide, then return the one I won’t be using. One is $400 and 3 lbs., and the other $150 and 4 lbs.–plus there are a few other differences.

I bought my sleeping bag, twice. I bought it on eBay at a great price, $300. Then, once I won the bid and paid for it, the seller told me they’d already sold it to someone else. What??? Is that even allowed on eBay? (Actually, no.) Nonetheless, the time spent waiting for the auction to end cost me a similarly good deal on another website. However, the silver lining in that cloud is that, I learned, in spite of the added insulation in certain areas for the women’s bag, it isn’t really long enough, so I’ve ordered a men’s bag. There goes another $400. It had better be light! and warm! and comfy!

Other gear I’ve managed to secure: my pack (got that first), my back-up stove (maybe my main one, undecided), a minimal weight folding spoon (that I seem to have lost already), a torso CamelBak that my son and his wife gave me for Christmas (that I’ll wear turned around backward for extra water in the desert, then buckle it around my pack when it’s empty), my headlamp (2.2 oz.), rain jacket (super discount for last year’s color), cold weather jacket (ditto, and I like the color better than the current year choices), and a few other items.

I also have for Brooklynn: her pack (got that even before my own–$130, can you believe it?), her snow booties, her travel bed and travel dishes, plus some Doggles–that’s Dog-Goggles, and she looks mah-velous, darling, simply mah-velous. She actually gets excited when I start messing around with my pack or hers, and she is eager to get her backpack on and go walking. So far, I’ve kept it fairly light–just water and a few treats. We’ll see how much dog food she can carry without being weighed down. Oh, I also got documentation to get her through certain areas along the trail hopefully without hassle. Now, to snake-proof her. I understand there are rattlers out there!

All that gear, and I have so much more to go. But with what I have, we went on a semi-training hike—me, Brooklynn (the dog going with me) and Beighbey (the dog who can’t make the trip). We started at Winfrey Point, hiked along the lake’s edge until we got to the pier, then came back. B’bey is an older German Shepherd Dog and has a few signs of hip dysplasia, which is why she isn’t going on the hike and why we had a short training trip that day. Because of her age, I often leave her home for long walks, but it was a beautiful day, and I wanted her to go with us, as did she. Besides, I was just testing to see how the backpack felt with more stuff in it. All was fine, plus we ran into an older couple who had hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail (AT). They knew immediately what we were doing and wished us luck. Cool, again.

The AT is a 2200-mile trail heading NE from Georgia to Maine. It is an entirely different trail experience, mostly hiking through woods with designated shelters to camp in or near each night. It probably would be easier for Brooklynn to hike since there is no desert, but it isn’t the trail that inspires me. The PCT inspires me.

Ready or not, here I come!

Hi, I’m Bella.
I’ve never really hiked, much less thru-hiked, but I am inspired to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, affectionately known as the PCT. Call me crazy, but I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

I decided on Sept. 8 to hike the PCT April-October 2014. I’m over 50, not in prime fitness, and I haven’t a lick of training or experience.  I haven’t a bit of gear, either, but, I DO have desire, dedication, and determination. The rest will come…with lots of hard work and money. I’m ready to take on the challenge!

Since deciding to take on this 2660-mile hike, I have researched quite a bit (more than I have trained, so far). Much of what I find is from the perspective of seasoned hikers/backpackers, mostly male. This has been quite helpful in many, many ways. And yet, it would be even more helpful to have the insight of female hikers, to understand the trials and tribulations of what has been learned along the way–especially those first lessons and “aha” moments, to learn how a woman packs differently than a man, and to better understand what it’s like to be a rookie thru-hiker and a female hiker on the trail.

Oh, and did I mention my dog Brooklynn will be joining me? She’s a 3-year-old German Shepherd mix. She doesn’t yet know what awaits her, but I assure you, I will take the appropriate precautions and will prepare her as fully as possible for 6 months on the trail. And don’t worry, we’re very conscientious. The first piece of gear I purchased was her pack–$130 for her to carry her own food & water and bare necessities. Next gear for her: booties and liners. Yes, yes, much more…all in good time.

I will keep a journal of activities such as training, purchases, contemplations, lessons learned, and progress in getting to the trail. Once on the hike, I’ll journal experiences of the day, people met along the way, and various prices I expect to pay–you know, mishaps, blisters, and bears, oh my! Once complete, well, let’s face it, I’ll weep like a baby, I’m sure–from pure exhaustion and from accomplishment.

Like I said above, I’m not 20-something nor am I in prime condition. I am a realist. I understand that my knees may not support 2600+ miles; I understand that Brooklynn may need to end the hike; and I understand that there are any number of reasons I may not make the full hike. BUT, that’s the plan, Stan. So, stay tuned and let’s find out together.

Hopefully this journal will inspire, intrigue, and entertain you. At the same time, I hope it will help me, as well. If you have helpful advice, feedback, suggestions, encouragement, please pass it on! After all, that is the basis of this site.

Happy Trails,
Bella