Wednesday, March 28, 2012

28 March - Gear, boxes, and hiking (some more)

Charles here. We've been continuing our bodybuilding with backpacks heavy (still 35 lbs, consisting of a mix of weights wrapped in pillow cases, full water bottles, and volumes of the collected plays of Shakespeare).

Christo and Seano on Mesa Trail
Last Friday we hiked 13 miles with loaded backpacks across the Enchanted Mesa; Saturday we did a 7-miler across Sanitas and Flagstaff mountains; Sunday hiked nine miles back and forth across Sanitas, Flagstaff, and the slopes of Gregory Canyon; Monday we did 12.6 miles over the Enchanted Mesa in 4.5 hrs (our pace hasn't increased significantly, but we enjoy the trail more and more). 

The warm temperatures have held up, and spring is really taking on strength. Along the trail it's still the early stuff blooming -- heaps of spring beauty, Oregon grape, dandelions, a few sand lilies, one batch of pasque flowers on an exposed grassy slope, and plenty of yellow violets. 

The black-capped chickadee is singing his mating song (but the mtn chickadee is still holding back); the spotted towhee is singing away, and so's the robin. A western meadow lark was holding forth down by Eldorado Canyon Creek! Nice to hear him back. All the mountain bluebirds have moved up the mountains.

The mountain maples are abloom - the poplars and willows, alder and birch coming along nicely. The aspens here have been in catkins for a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, it's a whirlwind of logistics getting the household into storage and boxes ready to be mailed to us along the trail -- then there's the cleaners, the movers, the window washers, the school papers coming in, the committee meetings, all the insurance and financials worked out (taxes done & refunds deposited), and long lists for "wunderbare Vanessa," who is moving back to Boulder from Germany right after we leave, and who will be watching over our mail and doing logistical support while we're gone. *whew* ...

Yesterday we assembled the semi-final contents of our packs -- not food yet, that project is still waiting. Sean and I have been able to get our base weight down to 18 lbs. now (Chris's stuff is still scattered all over the living room floor -- so the jury's still out for him).   

Since sub-20 was our goal, we're pleased. Long-distance backpacking and lightweight backpacking has been such a paradigm shift for me. So much researching and asking questions to get prepared. I was taught in the 1970s how backpacking involved lugging "necessary" comforts and "what-if's" up the mountain with big metal-frame packs -- some of them canvas -- wearing heavy boots, heavy clothes (cotton and wool), elaborate tents, etc. (Oh gods, now that I think of it, there was even the requisite hatchet that I never once used). [And, in those days, you didn't filter or treat your water -- and we never got sick. We still don't treat -- and we still don't get sick]. Our backpack expeditions in those days involved 60 to 70-lb packs for long trips. Ugh. What torture we put ourselves through. Unlearning the trillion details of preparing has been a real mind-bender, and yet sooooo much fun (I love unlearning, hard as it is). And I know we'll learn more on the PCT. 

A week from tomorrow, Christo has his honors thesis defense -- while working grueling hours until 3am or 4am night after night earning bucks for the trail. All the hiking this past week he managed on successive nights of max five hours sleep. And cheerfully. Geez.

Sean's spending every hour not on the trail writing textbooks. But he's marching along briskly and cheerfully.

On Sunday, I get 28 freshman annotated bibliographies that need grading, and then I launch my students into their final research paper drafts and workshops -- which will be completed before I go. I was up until midnight last night packing up for the movers who show up in two weeks to haul our worldly possessions off to storage.

I can't help but wish we were standing at the southern terminus already. 

PS. Late breaking news: Christo's base weight comes in at about 17 lbs. ~ yay!

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