Moms Thoughts

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Writing is a very slow and labor intensive job, thus I do not do it often. I wish I was one of those people that was blessed with the talent to be able to put their pen down and the thoughts effortlessly come flowing out onto the paper (or computer screen) in a clear and concise way. Instead my thoughts become tangled together and a gobbly mess comes out.  It is even more daunting task knowing that others, especially the ones that do know how to write, will be reading my words.  Nonetheless, I thought I should write down some of Mom’s thoughts about hiking.

I love to walk, and the longer the trail, the happier I am!  So, what about walking that makes my happy?   I am a firm believer in the concept of less is more, therefore, I fault the human race of bad design. The day to day life that they have created, is too complicated.  It is over designed. Thru-hiking is living in its most simplest form.  It is nothing more that eating, sleeping, walking, and reveling in natures beauty.  The burdens of day to day life dissolve away.  I wake up every morning on the trail feeling that this is the best day of my life.  This is why I love hiking!

Before Will and Joon were born, we said we wanted to someday hike the Pacific Crest Trail with our kids.  Over the years, every excuse came up as to why we should not do it.  The number one consideration was always financial.  How do you just quit a job for half a year, face the uncertainties of unemployment, upkeep mortgage payments while we are gone, receive no unemployment, and face the financial fees for no longer having health care.  It sounds like a bad decision.  Nonetheless, smart idea or not, we are throwing caution to the wind and taking our family on a hike from Mexico to Canada.  In fact, there is something in that very wind telling us to go.

In a week, the ravens are “going off the grid”, and thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  We are all excited.  We are a little nervous too.  Last fall, when we began planning for our trip, my biggest fear was huge river crossings during spring melt in the Sierras.  Once again, California has had another winter with exceptionally low snow fall,  therefore my anxiety of river crossings has faded away.  It has been replaced with rattlesnakes.  Since Southern California experiencing a forth year of drought, it is expected to be a record year for rattlesnake bites.  I do not know why drought increases rattlesnake bites, perhaps it is causing the snakes to move away from their territory looking for food and water?  Nonetheless, I have been telling Will and Joon when they are hiking, not to look at their feet, instead look in front of them and to keep an eye out for any snakes.  Also, assume that any large rock in the the trail can have a rattle snake on the other side.  Look before you step!  I recently gave Will a home school assignment to learn to identify the different types of rattlesnakes in California and to research what to do if bitten by one.  Hopefully, that will be useless information for Will.

The only other real concern I have is for Joon and her speed of walking.  She is slow!  To use Joon and slow in the same sentence, is an oxymoron.  Joon is all about speed:  she has to swim and run the fastest, she has to do her math drills the fastest, she has to eat her dinner the fastest, brush her teeth or even sharpen a pencil faster than anyone.  Everything she does, becomes a race.  However, when if comes to walking she is a snail!!!  I think this is because she has a very vivid imagination, and when she walks, great stories are unfolding in her mind and she is concentrating more on her stories than walking.  As she is trudging along on the trail, you can see her get slower and slower with each step she takes.  Tim and I have to keep reminding her to step it up.  I suppose if this is the biggest hurdle to overcome, we are in pretty good shape.

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A Quick Update

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It has been crazy around here for the last few weeks.  We have been pushing very hard to get ready for the trip.  Ann is working from early morning until late at night; I help out where I can, given my work schedule.  We now have all of our food needed for our five month adventure; it has been dehydrated, packaged, and sorted.  Our 30 food drop boxes are nearly complete.  They are still missing fuel, replacement clothing, and a few odds-and-ends.  Some of the equipment we need to pick up is socks, shorts, water bags, and camera memory cards.  The UPS and FED X trucks have been making daily stops to our house, delivering the last of the needed equipment we have ordered.  New raincoats, tablet (to make viewing photographs and writing blog entries easier), MP3 players, and a Spot device which is a personal locater beacon used in case of emergencies.  I will link the blog to the Spot location tracker, which will show where we are on the trail.   Ann’s Sony camera also came last week.  She has been practicing using it to film Joon during her diving lessons at UCSD.    With only two more weeks to go before we leave, we still have a lot to do, however there is an end in site.  Most of what is left to do is cleaning and preparing the house (which includes repairs from the tree falling on it) for the new occupants.  Ann and I are looking forward to the day we leave to put an end to all the preparations.

Ready to Walk Away

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On Friday (March 6), Santa Ana winds came through our town of Fallbrook and a huge banyon tree fell onto our house.  The roof was damaged.  Repairs have to be made before we leave on our PCT hike.

Will breaks wrist.

Recent drama and trauma at my kid’s school has resulted in a sudden and bitter divorce, from the school.  Will and Joon have been going there for 10 years. I have been thrown into the world of homeschooling with no preparation.  I desperately need to be working on our up coming hike, but instead, I am trying to learn pre-algebra so I can teach Will.  Curriculum for science, history, math and language arts need to be implemented.   I have been busy researching alternatives for Will and Joon’s schooling next year.   It is difficult to find a school, private or non-private in the state of California, that has not taken on Common Core and does not start in early August.   I am a traditionalist, school starts after labor day and I am vehemently against Common Core!

We are in the process of refinancing our house, and Tim is working hard to get the house painted on the outside and to refinish our master bedroom shower that has been unusable for the past six years.

My dad, who has severe dementia and living in a memory care facility, has not paid taxes in years.  We have to resolve his taxes and ours before we leave on our hike.

My dad had a fall in the memory care center recently and hit his head.  He was fine, but they still took him, by ambulance, to the emergency room to make sure he was OK.  He is on medicare, but they say he has been dis-enrolled despite monthly payments being made.  The hospital says there is no record of my dad even being at the hospital however I am getting medical bills from the hospital that claim his benefits has been denied.  I received a bill for him being air lifted to the hospital.  The most maddening bill of $190, was for the use of a wheel chair plus mileage.  My dad was charged fifteen miles for wheel chair use!

My husband’s job is coming to an end very soon, and so does our health care insurance.  In the good old days that would not be a problem.  But today, hefty fines are given if even one month goes by that we are uninsured.

My Mom passed away last spring, and I really wish I could talk to her!

Tim and I have decided our starting date for our PCT hike will be April 13th.  That date cannot come soon enough.  I am ready to walk away!

Will Breaks His Wrist

It is official, Will, who has broken six bones in the past thirteen years, can now add a seventh one to his collection.  His recent acquisition is the scaphoid bone in his right wrist (he is right handed).  The break is a result of a skate board accident.  All other fractures of the arm take an average of 6 weeks to heal, but Will had to break a bone that takes on average 8 to 12 weeks to repair.   The reason for the lengthy healing process is because it is a bone that gets very little blood flow, especially for breaks that occur on the inside of the bone, deeper inside the wrist, like Will’s.  We were suppose to leave April 3rd for our PCT hike, but that has now been pushed back to some time after his next doctors visit.  The soonest they would x-ray it, to see how the healing is progressing, will be April 10th.  Depending on the results, the cast could be on for another four to six weeks.  Tim and I are hoping that it heals enough by April 10th so that a simple splint can be worn for the remainder of the time.  If not, we will have to figure out a way to have his cast removed somewhere up the trail.   This would take place somewhere between Wrightwood and Kennedy Meadows.

Joon’s Thoughts about Hiking the PCT

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My name is Juniper Jubilee but everyone calls me Joon. I am nine years old and in the 4th grade. My favorite subjects in school are math and science. I like to play sports. My favorite sports are swimming and springboard diving off 1meter and 3 meter boards. I also tumble and do trampoline. Another sport I do with my family is backpacking. Every summer we go on a backpack trip. This summer we are going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, starting at the Mexican border and finishing at the Canadian border. There are things that I am looking forward about the PCT and there are things that I am not looking forward to.

The things that I am most looking forward to see on our hike is snow and lots of different animals. We live in San Diego where it does not snow. On our PCT hike, I want to find a patch of snow and have a snow ball fight with my dad and I want to build a snowman. On past hikes, I have seen a lot of different animals: marmots, pikas, a bobcat, grouse, pheasants, wild turkeys, deer, chipmunks, rabbits, coyotes, snakes, frogs and banana slugs. I want to see all these animals and more, especially bears, elk, and mountain goats. Other things I look forward on our hike is watching Will, my older brother, trying to catch fish with his hat. It is really funny. He has never had any luck. Another thing I want to do is to stand on top of Mount Whitney again. I was seven years old when I first made it to the top while we were hiking the John Muir Trail. I am always the shortest in my school classes, and for once, I felt really tall. I can’t wait to fly home at the end of our trip. I have never been on an airplane before. There is one more thing I am really happy about, and that is my dad gets to stay with us for 5 months with out having to go to work.

There are a lot of things I am not excited about our PCT hike. The biggest one is missing home. I will miss my warm, comfortable bed with all my stuffed animals. I will miss my friends who are Aurora, Alysha, Malia, J.D. and Sabrina, my cats Ollie and Oggie, my hamster Patches, and my room that I share with my brother. I will miss watching Gilligan’s Island and I Love Lucy. I will miss my diving friends and my coach Terry. I love home! I am afraid I will not get to have chocolate cake on my birthday or that I will not even have a birthday. I am not looking forward to mosquitoes, especially the ones in Oregon! They have super long stingers that go through clothes and even tennis shoes. I always get hundreds of red, itchy bumps. The thing I am most afraid of is thunder and lightening. The loud booms scare me and I am afraid the lightening will set the trees on fire and will burn us.

Even though I’ll miss my friends, my cats, my house, and being afraid of thunder and lightening, hiking the PCT is still worth the challenge. The PCT is going to be fun and scary at the same time. One thing I don’t have yet is a trail name and I would like to have one.

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Will’s Thoughts about Hiking the PCT

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I am Will Holston and I am 13 years old and am in seventh grade. This summer I will be hiking with my family on the Pacific Crest trail. Besides hiking, some of my favorite things to do is to be with my friends, play basketball, go to the trampoline park, have air soft gun wars in the neighborhood, and ride my skateboard. My mom will not allow me to ride my skate board again until we come back from our PCT hike because she suspects I have a broken wrist from skate boarding. She is afraid I will hurt myself worst which will prevent us from from hiking.

I am excited to hike the PCT, but there are things I am not looking forward to about the hike. The biggest one is not seeing and playing with my friends. My friends are David, Park, Tyler, William, Addison. I also am not looking forward to hiking in the desert. Hiking in temperatures over 100 degrees day after day does not sound fun, especially with backpacks that are really heavy with water. The water that we will be carrying to drink will not even be cold, it will be as hot as the air. Sometimes hiking can get to be boring. This usually happens on long, slow ups. While I hike, I usually think about things I want to do with my friends, make up stories, or figure out, in my head, how to make things. For the first time, on our PCT hike, I get to have music and books on tape to listen too. I am also nervous about all the possible things that can go wrong that we can’t plan for: rattlesnake bites, mountain lion attacks, poison oak and poodle dog bush encounters, snow storms in the Sierra Nevada’s and the Cascades, big river crossings, running out of food and water before the next food drop, hiking when hunting season’s begins, and trees falling down and hitting us on the head (this really happened to my mom).

There has only been five other kids that have hiked the trail. I like knowing that what I am about to do, not many people have ever done. I wonder about all the people I will meet and things I will see. I want to see wildlife like bears, elk and the salamanders of Northern California. I get to see a river where all the rocks around it and the river bed is obsidian. I will stand on the highest point in the continental United States and walk behind a waterfall. I want to catch a fish and have it for dinner. I look forward to eating the huckleberries and black berries of Oregon and Washington. I am going to witness and experience many amazing things. I have learned that in hiking, sometimes things get really hard to do, like climbing up a long steep miserable pass, is always worth the effort because it usually results in something good, like a view. I like mountain top views that go on forever. They are beautiful and they make me happy.

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PCT Permits and Passports

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Our PCT Permits came!  That was fast.  We applied for them on the 4th of February and received them in email two days later.  Now we just have to wait for April to come.  However, obtaining our passports was another story.  We have never had passport before, so all four of us had to go to the passport office to apply and be photographed.  After the application process is completed, it takes 4 to 6 weeks to get the passports.  We tried to get an appointment, but the first appointment was a month away which would be too late to get the passport before we leave on our trip. We found a place that would take walk-in appointments, so we were at their door 9 o’clock in the morning when they opened. The line of people was out the door.  We did not get out of there until 2:15, five hours later.  Nonetheless, we now have both permits and passports.

PCT Communicator

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We just found out that a photograph of Will crossing the suspension bridge of Woods Creek in the Sierras made the cover of the PCT Communicator!  It is not known yet if it will be the spring or summer issue.  Either way, we will miss it because we will be hiking the PCT.

Preparation Update

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We are working hard on getting our food together.  So far we have half of our dinners, almost half of our breakfasts, and a long way to go with lunches. We are hoping to finish all the food well before our departure date.

On Sunday I was loading the dehydrator with trays of wild rice, chili, and sausage when I noticed that it was only blowing cold air.  Upon closer inspection, I found that the heating coil in the dehydrator was not working.  I emptied all the trays while Ann looked on line for a new dehydrator.  We found one through Amazon for about $100 and ordered it.  When it arrives we can get back to finishing the food for the trip.

We received some bad news, The Hikers Heaven will not be opening this year.  Hikers Heaven is run by a family in Agua Dulce who would let the thru hikers stay at their house, pick up their packages, do laundry, and get showers.  It was a very important location for everyone hiking the trail.  It seems that the people who run it were accused of causing thru hikers to bunch up.  Which is not true.  The KOP does that.  So instead of causing alleged problems they closed their doors.  Now we have to come up with other plans.  Instead of a food drop at Agua Dulce, we will be having one at Lake Hughes.  Normally we would not go near Lake Hughes but the Powerhouse fire two years ago closed a section of the trail and to get around it we will hike right next to the Lake Hughes Post Office.

We filled out the paperwork for our passports cards.   Next we will file them.  For kids under 16, both parents have to go the filing office.  Hopefully we can get this paperwork finished before we leave.  We need the passport cards to get back into the US after finishing the PCT in Manning Park, Canada.

How do we get our food?

One of the most common questions we are asked is how do we get our food?  There are several ways thru-hikers do this.  They can buy their food along the way in the towns along the trail or they can mail their supplies to the towns that are too small to have a good selection and buy it at the towns that have full size grocery stores.  Another way is to mail all your food.  The last scenario is, hikers can resupply out of the hiker boxes along the trail.  A hiker box is a surplus of supplies and food that other hikers have discarded.  All towns along the trail provide one.

We will be mailing all of our food.  There are four of us and buying that much food in the small towns would be very expensive.  We can get exactly what we want, in the quantities we need at home.  Some hikers buy prepared meals from hiking supply stores however, this becomes terribly expensive.  We prepare our own meals from ingredients we buy at Walmart or Costco.  Some of the meals are:  spaghetti, basil orzo, vodka pasta sauce, egg and sausage burritos,  rice and bean burritos, chili, chicken salad wraps.  It is a lot of work to do this, but it is far cheaper.  We have friends that will be mailing our “food-drop” to us as we hike.  Since we live on the west coast, the mailing cost is a lot lower than for those who live else where.  An advantage to mailing is that we can make changes to our boxes as we go.  All it takes is a phone call.

The Work Begins

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Spaghetti sauce ready for dehydrationSincre

Since there are only three and half months before are departure date,  we have begun the laborious job of food preparation.  We try to dehydrate as much as we can ourselves to save money.  The first thing we are working on is spaghetti sauce.  We bought large quantity of Prego sauce at Costco that we pour onto drying trays.  Overnight, it dries into a leather that we grind up into a course powder.  This makes reconstituting with water easier.  Next, the dried sauce is divided up with pasta noodles and vacuum sealed.  The trays in the photograph, produced enough for ten dinners for our family of four.  We have a lot of food to collect: 147 breakfasts, 151 lunches, and 137 dinners for 160 days of hiking.  There are only 137 dinners because we are expecting to have access to restaurants on food drop days.  Our dehydrator will be running nonstop for many weeks.

Down Jackets

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Uniqlo Ultra-Down Parkas

For years, we have carried fleece jackets which have served us well.  But this year we will be taking light down coats on the PCT.  Normally these jackets cost $200-$300, but we have found a source where we can get quality down jackets for $70 (they are on sale right now for $50).  Paul Magnanti from The Trail Show pod-cast wrote an article for the The Trail Groove online magazine about the Uniqlo Ultralight Down Parka.  These coats are made of 850 fill down, come in both adult and kids sizes (trying to find light weight backpacking clothes for kids is difficult), and are well designed and made.  On Black Friday, these parkas went on sale, so we bought one for Ann, Joon, and myself.  They were out of Will’s size.  Ann and Joon got coats with down hoods, I did not.  We received them in the mail a week later.  They are really nice and we have used them during the abnormally cold weather we have had here.  I ordered the wrong size for myself,  so we drove 1-1/2 hours to the nearest store  in Irvine to exchange it.  The other day, we discovered that they had gotten in the size for Will, so we ordered one.  Now we all have a good cold weather coat.  Next we have to replace our worn out rain gear.

The collection begins

We are starting to collect the food and equipment we will need for the PCT.

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The gathering of food is the easy part; there is just a lot of it.  From our itinerary, we know how many days we will be gone, therefore we know how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners we will need.  It is just a matter of buying all the food, dehydrating it, and vacuum sealing it.  It is a lot of work.  A few weeks ago we started to buy some food when we saw it on sale.  Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart have low prices and a good selection.

One of the problems a lot of thru hikers have is they bring the same food for the whole trip.  Food is what keeps you hiking and if you cannot stand to eat the food you brought, it makes the trip that much harder.  Dinners are the most difficult meal for us to come up with good recipes that we all like on the trail.  Our problem child is Will.  He is one, annoying, picky eater!   Over the last 3 summers of hiking, we have been testing as many dinners as possible. We have found only 6 or 7 dinners that we all agree upon.

This is a good time to buy equipment with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas sales abound.   We have gotten a Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack for Will, Uniqlo Ultra light down jackets for all family members, and a camera for Tim.  There is still  more equipment to purchase, like socks and shoes and a lot more food!

Can we do it?

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Can a family of four hike the Pacific Crest Trail?   That is the first question we had to answer.  Next came the following questions:    Are the kids ready?   What about the kids schooling?  Will we be able to finnancially afford such an endeavor?  Can Tim take that much time off from work?  Our bodies are older now and have various health issues, especially Ann’s feet . . . can our bodies still hike that far?    What do we do with our kids pets:  two cats, hamster, five tortoises and two frogs. What do we do with our house?   The only question we have a definitive answer for is the first one. Yes, our family can hike the PCT in 2015!  The following are some answers to questions we have. The rest of our questions we will resolve as we go along.

Ann and I are very confident in Will and Joon’s ability to hike  2,650 miles .   At the ages of thirteen and nine, they are experienced hikers, with over 1,000 mile of hiking trails under their belt.  The past two summers of backpacking, they have hiked over 20 miles a day, for consecutive days in a row.  However, there are other concerns Ann and I do have:  If the snow levels are above average in the Sierras, will Joon and Will be able to cross the swollen rivers with the spring snow melt?  Joon is a homebody, and gets terribly homesick.  Will is very thin and does not eat a lot. Can we keep his weight up for the needed strength and endurance required for this hike?    As for their school, they would miss roughly six weeks at the end of  the school year and two to three weeks at the beginning of the next year.    Yes, there would be some impact on their education.  What they will be missing, will have to pick up later, but what they will be gaining from such an endeavor, will be priceless.

What will this cost us?  That is a hard question to answer.  Some thru-hikers say it cost between $4,000 and $6,000 for one person to hike the whole trail, and there are four of us.  A big part of that cost is equipment, which a lot of, we already have.  We still need to get a camera for Ann, spot device, Ursa bags, down parkas, lots of tennis shoes and socks, and a variety of other misc, items. Purchasing the amount of food we will need, will be expensive.  We will have to make sure there is enough money for the mailing of our food, and for towns to enjoy a few luxuries:  restaurants, groceries, laundry and hotels (if the towns are large enough) to get an occasional shower.  The single biggest expense for us, is up keeping a mortgage while we hike.  We thought about selling the house, but with two kids, the thought of being homeless when done did not appeal to us.  Renting produced too many headaches.  At the moment we are thinking to have some one house sit it and the pets, while we are gone.  However it would be nice to have a little rent to help with the mortgage a bit.  As you can tell, we are still struggling with this issue.

Can I take the time off from work?  That has been the largest concern for many years. I had been working at my job for many years and I was getting 6 weeks vacation a year.  That is a hard thing to give up.  I could ask them for a leave-of-absence but you never know what will happen.  The first time Ann and I hiked the PCT in 1996, I asked for a leave-of-absence and got it.  Then a month into the hike, I found out, my entire department was laid-off.  In June 2013, I was laid-off after seventeen years at Motorola.  It was too late to hike the trail in 2013.  However we agreed, if I got a temporary contract job for while, the year 2015 looked possible to hike the PCT.   Consequently, that is exactly what happened.  I was going to take any job that came along whether it was contract or a regular hired job with a company,  We were not in a financial situation that we could be picky about what job came along.  A contract job was the first offer to come along, so I took it knowing that by the end of February 2015, the contract will be done.   Nonetheless, I have enjoyed working for Cymer, and will be sorry to leave it.  Ann and I are whole heartedly committed to our families adventure of hiking the Pacific Crest trail.