T-minus 2 weeks!

Two weeks until the first day of our walk!

I finally did a weekend of test hikes to calibrate my pack load, first at Point Reyes with my friends Allie and Jeremy, then with Seth and Ealish in San Francisco. The results were promising, but not without some important lessons learned.

The plan for Point Reyes on Saturday was to simulate an average day of Coast to Coast hiking. We chose the longest loop described in the park’s brochure: Woodward Valley Loop (13mi). It starts out with a climb up Mt. Wittenberg (1407′), then gradually declines toward the ocean and remains largely flat after that, with a grand total of ~1900′ gain and return. It was absolutely gorgeous, perhaps good preparation so I’m not caught breathless in the Lakes District? At the end of the hike, our various devices were telling us we had gone 17mi that day. Between the optional summit loop, beach side trails, and extra laps around the parking lot we must have forgotten about(?), we earned some bonus miles somewhere. It felt like farther than an average Wainwright C2C day will take us, but we’ll see.

My pack, later labeled “ridiculous” by Seth, included:

  • 3L Camelbak bladder, full and only half depleted by end of hike
  • DSLR with battery grip, 3 zoom lenses, carbon fiber tripod, flash, extra batteries and storage cards, etc.
  • Traveller guitar w/ headphone amp
  • iPhone 6 Plus & iPad Air
  • Various resealable bags of snacks
  • Raincoat, maps, and random small stuff I didn’t bother removing from my pack.

And the verdict?  Carrying my camera in a front holster (aka toploader) pack not only made the camera immediately accessible for fleeting shots of wildlife, and so convenient I didn’t hesitate to take photos of every beautiful thing I saw, but also balanced my load so my backpack wasn’t dragging me backward as much.  I felt great for the first 10+ miles.  That’s when the wheels started coming off the bus.

Jeremy and Allie generously offered me some of their Saltstick electrolyte pills and Clif mocha shots.  It lifted my energy and my spirits and made me stop thinking about the blisters forming on the balls of my feet.  I was having no trouble breathing or carrying my load, it was really just my feet deteriorating underneath me.  Also, I was so desperate for some arch support I would try to land my foot on every rock and root just to get something pressing up under there.  I was walking gingerly the last couple miles, almost limping, but we made it to the end.  And Jeremy also shared his supply of alcohol wipes and blister band-aids. We completed the day with delicious beer and food consumption, all part of the training you know.  I really wish these two were coming with me to England.

So I survived simulated day 1.  But could I do it a 2nd day in a row?  After Seth’s mocking, I did lighten my load: I packed only 2 lenses instead of all 3.  So that saved me a solid pound, bringing my pack down to about 35 lb.  It’s extremely likely that if I carried nothing but snacks and water, I’d practically float effortlessly across the English countryside.  And maybe by day 2 of the actual hike, it will come to that.  But I truly intend to take a gazillion photos and learn a few new guitar chords so I have something to show for my 16 days on the trail beyond the 192 miles of blisters!

On Sunday, Seth, Ealish, and I urban hiked through Glen Canyon Park, up Mt. Davidson (928′, highest point in San Francisco), down and up to Twin Peaks (2nd and 3rd highest at 925′), and then back to Glen Park where again we practiced the beer and food phase of the simulation.  (I think we have that one down pat at least.) Still wearing the same band-aid from the day before, my feet were kind to humor me and carry me the 7-8 miles without further complaint. A solid night’s sleep after Pt. Reyes was enough to prepare me to do it all again, and I could have kept going farther on Sunday if necessary. The weekend of hiking left me confident, but also with a shopping list:

  • alcohol wipes and Band-Aid mole skins and flat-pack duct tape in case a blister is in a hard-to-secure location
  • Clif gel shots, both with and without caffeine, since I’m a recovering caffeine addict (clean since 2001!) and always avoiding relapse, but apparently the 50mg included in these shots enhances their effectiveness
  • fish jerky, which Allie introduced me to at Pt. Reyes to my delight
  • SaltStick electrolyte replacement capsules, which probably work better than gatoraid
  • my trademark trail snacks, Philippine brand dried mango and crunchy peanut butter Clif bars, with some dried coconut thrown in for good measure

I think I’m ready!

(Photo credit: Allie Larkin)

4 thoughts on “T-minus 2 weeks!”

  1. That’s awesome. I am totally slacking. I’ll bring my camera, but you can call me single lens sally.

    You are making me a little nervous about the distance though. I guess this hike will either make me stronger or… Well let’s just leave it at making me stronger.

  2. On behalf of those of us who are at the higher end of the age range, I would like to put a cap on all this macho endurance talk! In his update book, Wainwright was retired, and he broke this walk into bite size chunks. There are some extraordinary peeks and troughs, geographically, but always, that depends on the weather, and there is always the low path that can be taken. So, as we are beginning the walk with the most strenuous, we must learn to pace ourselves! And remember, we always have a good B&B and smashing pub meal to raise the spirits each night. The weather, even if terrible, will always be blowing from behind us, so it actually helps us on our way. But rain is somewhat ubiquitous in the Areas we are going to. That is why they are so beautiful!
    I am currently nursing a bad back from too much gardening and swimming, so off to get that clunked at the chiropractor on Monday. But walking is just the thing for that, so I am happy to share my compass and maps at the rear with the slower pacers, at least in the beginning.
    Here’s to our first evening meal together. Jane

  3. Stop press news! There is a heat wave coming to the UK on Thursday!!!!
    There is a bit of a question mark as to whether it will stretch up as far as Northern England and Scotland, but….. I feel some positive vibes behind us!

  4. I’m way too old and lazy to carry a 35 lb pack, though my personality is often compared to a mule’s. Sloth is the mother of invention.

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