How Long Could You Hike With Me?
While it's easy to say that people are compatible over the internet, it can't hurt to know more facts before diving in. If you assume that all web conversations are at best half-truths, stop now and zap yourself elsewhere.
The following traits describe my tendencies, typical days, and demeanor on the trail. Keep these in mind before deciding a week with me sounds like a good time!
Daily distance: 6-10 miles
While I do not consider this to be a mean pace, it does imply that most daylight hours before 4PM are spent moving. If you prefer long rests, fishing for lunch or taking it easy, I may be awkward to have around. I definitely like a shorter day on occasion for laundry or relaxation, but an entire day off is quite foreign to me!
- Full Pack: 45 pounds
I aim for forty pounds and have carried as much as fifty. I am clearly not a part of the ultra-light crowd, neither do not I carry large amounts of creature comforts. I picked up an internal-frame pack in 1999, but nothing seems to have changed the final weight.
- Photographs: frequent
I carried an SLR on my trips until 2000, and pause often for photos. In 1998 I added a digital camcorder, allowing for audio and panoramic imaging. While I enjoy standing and absorbing the event, I also have family members who are unable to visit the high country; for them I always try to bring back as much of the experience as possible. The 2000 trip found me with a capable substitute for my SLR - a compact 35mm Pentax with a 28-80mm zoom lens. This camera has treated me and my images very well, but I do miss some of those creative touches that automatic cameras take care of .. well, automatically.
- trailside demeanor
I'm a visitor. When I pass people I say hello, and if they seem willing to talk I'm willing to listen. Information about my route is always handy, and general opinions interest me as well. I'm also glad to share whatever I've discovered on the trail. Some of my companions are pretty quiet out there, but I'm not.
A typical day starts with oatmeal and cocoa, or more recently a cocoa-coffee combination. A quart of lemonade or punch gets me through the day, supplemented by a pint or quart of filtered water. Lunch is a meal I usually take standing up: a whole-wheat roll and trail mix that is often just M&Ms or sunflower seeds. I'm not a gorp kind of guy... Dinner is one of several varieties of freeze-dried foods; until I see a bear eat freeze-dried foods I will always think that it's less suceptible to their intrusions. Aside from that, they are always much better than I expect them to be! In 2001, however, I introduced some tortellini and ravioli to my larder, and I won't be giving them up any time soon!
- Campfire: optional
I do not light campfires as a rule, but enjoy one when available. I am comfortable turning in at dusk and rising at dawn. If the Perseid meteors are showing off I may stay up later, but my frostbitten hands often complain under such circumstances. I always use a stove to cook even when a fire is burning. My brother is quite a fan of campfires, and those in '97 were memorable; Scott and I had none in '99 and that too was memorable!
I have never been in a group that does base camps with daily loops. I don't have anything against the concept, yet I haven't planned and executed such a trip. Until the two-day camp in 2000 I have always had a moving camp. I've also never been into climbing peaks to justify a trip, yet an occasional climb has often been scheduled (and seldom executed). I now own a fly/spinning rod that breaks down for packing, so under the right circumstances I might slow down more often in the future. The 2001 trip utilized two base-camps to good effect, but I'm a slow learner: 2002 again found me with a moving camp.
- At Camp
I have become a consistent rainfly-only user lately. In both 1979 and 1989 I did not carry any shelter, preferring to rest beneath the stars. I got away with it both times, but barely. In '93 and '96 I used a tarp pitched randomly, but found that many tents are subtantially lighter than that tarp! I now own a tent whose rainfly can be pitched separately, saving lots of weight and turning the vestibule into usable interior space. If bugs are a big deal I can bring the whole tent, but especially in the Sierra the weight savings are worth the risk in most cases. My snoring has kept me alone in my shelter, so sharing space is increasingly unlikely as more people discover my unfortunate sleeping habit.
My early packing trips were with people who prided themselves in their bear-bagging technique. This was good and bad news, since I never got a chance to do much more than watch; besides, I like to relax after dinner, and bypassing the twilight rigging was all right by me! When the Sierra began implementing new policies that preferred canisters to ropes, I thought no more than thrice before buying one. I bought an oversize aluminum one that holds quite a bit, and the simplicity of stashing and resting comfortably all night appeals greatly to me. While the price was more than I had hoped, the benefits were worth it to me. My companions still rope up, so relax: I don't give lectures by the campfire.
The '97 trip with my brother brought two things along that were unusual for me: nightly fires and Yukon Jack. While I do not drink much while in the wilderness, I have enjoyed an evening shot of alcohol and have continued that practice in his absence.
A Perfect Day?
I guess I would wake up just before dawn and capture a spectacular sunrise photo, eat my oatmeal &cocoa-mocha breakfast and head out by 8AM. With short pauses to shoot the scenery and an occasional 10-minute break, I would make miles toward my goal at a decent but not frantic pace. Unless the view were truly riveting, luch would last 1/2 hour or less. By 4PM my goal would be in sight, leaving time to see the neighborhood, do necessary cleaning and cook up dinner. At twilight I would watch the stars come out, check for meteors until just before I get chilly, then crawl in for the night. Every third day, camp would be up earlier so I could wash and air-dry my clothes (and self). Of course, it would be a sunny and bug-free day, with a few friendly people met along the way, and a valley to myself at night.