Friday, July 25, 2008

PCT Cottonwood Pass to Kennedy Meadows - highlight: a wolverine spotting

We finished the California part of the Pacific Crest Trail with this trip. Nice hike, though the altitude starting at the high end gave me a reaction somewhat like mild hyperthermia - headache the 1st day and sluggish and slow thinking the second.

At a PopTart break, I was so beat, I grabbed a 2 minute nap in the trail:

The section south from the northernmost crossing of the Kern River could use some trail maintenance. I really hate having to crawl under a tree with my pack on, but it is not quite as bad as pushing or pulling it thru.

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing a wolverine in the upper part of Cow Creek. Susan spotted it first, and asked if it was a bear cub. With that long bushy dark tail, it did not compute. We watched it run straight up the slope from the creek, about 60 feet away. Dark brown and golden brown with a fringe of sunlit hair on the sides. We weren't fast enough to get the cameras out, so another undocumented sighting.

We tried the SticPic a few times, so you can see the two of us:

The last day of this trip sent us thru the Clover Fire area, which has now been opened to hikers. It was a fairly sobering experience to see the devastation. Earlier on the trip, the trail was overgrown, and the brush was giving our shins a beating. Not a problem in the fire area. One thing I had never seen before - the granite boulders literally blew flakes of granite off during the fire, some large flakes went as far as four feet away, leaving a checkerboard appearance on the original boulder, and flakes scattered around. It must have been really noisy when those flakes were blowing off.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Repackaging Backpacking Food, Our menu, and Pilot Biscuits

I've been busy getting our resupply box off to Crater Lake for our Oregon PCT segment in a few weeks. As long as I label it appropriately, I can include isobutane fuel. For the full story on mailing fuel, see Ken Power's writeup.

We've also learned a few more tricks on lightening our pack and reducing the volume. For weight, we have replaced dried fruit with the tasty but pricey freeze dried offerings. You can get them at a discount at Amazon.

We've gained space by repackaging the freeze dried dinners, the gorp and the jerky using Handi-Vac quart bags that we found in the supermarket. It is a hand sized vacuum sealer with special bags. About every seven bags or so, the seal fails due to some problem such as a sharp jerky point, or noodle point puncturing the bag, so check them a couple hours after sealing.

As long as I'm talking about food, some more tips. Those snack sized ziplocks used for kid's lunches are useful. I use them to prepare daily portions of breakfast cereal, Tang, etc. I don't like generating the extra trash, but the multi day bags frequently develop problems that cause leaks after several days of use. Having the daily portions already measured out saves quite a bit of time.

When we measure out the daily Tang (2 liters, 1 per person per day), we add 1/2 tsp. table salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp lite salt for electrolyte replacement, from Kaiser's 1994 health handbook. However, I just found out that they have withdrawn this recommendation and I am still researching a better ratio. Too bad. The one above that we have been using and will use for this trip gives the Tang a fizzy zing and improves the taste.

Re breakfast - We use normal high density cold cereal - i.e. grape nuts, cheerios, granola - snack baggies hold one serving. Also use some instant oatmeal. One serving is two packets, one regular and one flavored. If you use two flavored, by the end of the trip you will never eat that flavor again. We don't bother to premix the Milkman, just dump the desired amount of powder on the cereal, stir & add hot or cold water. Most thru hikers just eat a bar and start walking, but we take the extra hour for a hot beverage, multivitamins and cereal.

Mid morning snack - A poptart wafer, i.e. one two wafer packet for the two of us. Sometimes we also have the freeze dried fruit packet. Otherwise the fruit at noon. Afternoon snack is the same.

Gorp - we munch about every hour at a break. The ratio is 2 mixed salted nuts to 1 raisins and 1 regular M&Ms, so for 2 people 8 days, 16 oz nuts, 8 oz raisins, 8 oz M&Ms. Sometimes we add sunflower seeds - shelled, etc.

Lunch - 1 cracker equivalent per person, 1/2 oz jerky, one bar. On the bars, we look for high calories per weight, but have a variety. The cracker equiv is about 1 1/2 oz and varies from canned potato chips, to stoned wheat crackers to cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers. We get into food a little more on our backpack45 food page.

The cracker equivalent term came because about 20 years ago we used pilot biscuits, which were big, hard and almost indestructible. These are no longer available. You can order things called pilot biscuits from the internet, but they are flimsy imitations of the original.

UPDATE 3/4/2011 - finished the pct last fall. Some changes in above. Milkman not available anymore, but Nido can be found and tastes better. Instead of Tang, we just buy assorted electrolyte packets, chews, and EmergenC packets, just to get a variety of flavors.

An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009