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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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.