Sierra Trek 2012 – Update 1

On Friday, June 1st, 2012, I’ll be starting my 400+ mile journey into the Sierra. I want to take some time to update you on where I’m at in the process of planning such a major journey.  As I’ve discussed in my 2012 Goals, my plan is to hike a good portion of the Sierra, from Walker Pass to Twin Lakes, covering more than 400 miles by both trail and unmarked route. I’m estimating that the trek will take me more than 60 days to complete. Speed is not my desire. I hope to take my time to enjoy trees, flowers, and mountains. To “make its acquaintance,” as John Muir put it. As I’m out there, you are welcome to follow along online. I hope to post updates here as well on Twitter. (@TheHikeGuy).

Gear
I’ve noticed that the more time I have for planning a long-distance hike, the more I think about upgrading my gear. I’ve replaced my long-trusted yet terribly-dilapidated North Face Vector 22 tent with an REI Quarter Dome T2GearGone is my broken Gregory Baltoro 70, which I replaced with a newer model, the Gregory Baltoro 65. Thanks to their 1-year guarantee, I’ve got a new pair of KEEN Targhee II Mid but I’m hoping to wear the KEEN Pyrenees on my trek, as soon as KEEN gets a size 16 in stock.

What to pack is a battle between Wants and Needs. I need to have essential items such as food, shelter, and clothing, but do I need to have a camera? A journal? Art supplies? An mp3 player? Hard decisions have to be made on what I am to carry on my back for so many miles over tough terrain. Lucky for me, I was built like an ox and can carry heavier loads than most, but every ounce takes a little more energy to carry, which could potentially lead to less enjoyment, more pain, and injuries. Even now, with two months until my departure, Gear 2I’ve laid out all the items I want and/or need for my hike and have begun inspecting each one, pondering how important it is for the trip. Some items are not being questioned: I am carrying a journal, that is certain. I’m definitely carrying a camera as well.  Art supplies, such as my ultra-light watercolor pencil palette, for painting while on the trek?  It’s still on the chopping block.

Knowing I’m carrying a journal, a camera, and other heavier “wants,” I’m cutting down on any other ounce of weight that I can. I removed the spool of dental floss from its bulky dispenser, sharpened writing pencils down to nubs, and purchased travel-sized toiletries such as toothpaste and sunscreen.  I hope to do a hike here soon with my loaded backpack, including 5 liters of water and 6-7 days of food, to see how it feels.

ResupplyResupply Boxes
Then there are items I’ve decided not to carry all the time, such as repair parts, replacement gear, MICROspikes, and extra journals.  These are items I know I will eventually need, but the question is: when will I need them? I’ve worked out a schedule of where and when I’ll be detouring to civilization to resupply with food and other items, but my concern now is sending the right gear to the right resupply stop. Luckily, I’ll be hitting Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the High Sierra, in the first week of my trek.  There I will be able to give myself a shakedown,  or re-evaluating my gear, getting rid of extra weight, and sending home items I’ve decided aren’t worth carrying.

Permits

I spend a day in February investigating my permit situation. I was on the phone for hours, talking to rangers in Wilderness Permit offices, explaining my route and asking which permits I needed to cover my trip. I Sierra Permittalked with Sequoia National Forest Wilderness Office for a permit, who directed me to Inyo National Forest Whitney office, who directed me to the Bishop Permit Office, who directed me back to the Sequoia National Forest! But I got it all straightened out, and I was issued a permit. Despite the fact that I’m entering so many forests, climbing Mount Whitney, and camping in three national parks, all I need is a permit issued through the agency where I enter the Sierra (the Golden Trout Wilderness) and that free permit will be recognized by all other agencies I visit. It’s a big relief to have figured out this aspect of my journey!

Training

I hope to get into shape by hiking as much as possible prior to my departure.  “Sierra Trek 2012” is my big goal for the year, but my first goal is to hike 170 trail miles before I depart on May 30th. I should be averaging about 2.4 miles a day to hit that goal, but I’ve been behind since the start.  As of today (April 7), I’ve hiked 42.4 miles since I started this goal on March 13th.  I should have hiked  58.1 miles by now to be on schedule.  Thankfully, the weather is getting better here in Central Oregon and I should be able to get out more often. I hope to get in a few overnight backpacking trips as well, which should push up my mileage quickly.  At this point, I have no doubt that I will be able to reach my goal of 150 trail miles by May 30th.

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