I’m a backpacker.

Home.

Home.

I am ready to embark on a long journey. One step at a time, I will work my way north. From Mexico. North. I will continue to walk until I reach Canada. I will hike 2,650 miles through dry desert and sagebrush, while stepping over rattlesnakes… over mountains, fording freezing cold rivers, and traversing over steep, snow covered mountain slopes as I kick steps in the snow to continue forward. I will endure rain, snow, wind, heat, and cold. I will get blisters on my feet, I will chafe, and my muscles will hurt. I will carry everything to survive on my back, the whole way to Canada. My shoulders and back will ache. I will be hungry and tired. I will try to sleep, knowing there are animals that want my food as much as I do. I will drink water from still pools with dead lizards floating in them, crystal-cold mountain melt-off rivers, ponds and lakes and even pipes. Along the way I will endure this and more.

Each time I sweat profusely, shiver uncontrollably, pop a blister, choke down trail food that I’m tired of eating, drink brown water flavored with Gatorade powder, or lie awake wide-eyed because I hear twigs snapping… I’ll know where I am and why I’m there.

Adventure. Experience. To feel alive. Pain, fear, beauty, happiness and love are all things that will help me feel alive. And I’ll get all that on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I will be offered blessings. Sunsets and sunrises. Mountainous views. New friends, laughs, strength and confidence. I will be shown skies of amazing, unspeakable beauty. Clouds, lightning, snow, sunshine, moons in all phases and blankets of stars. I will be in the wild. I will touch tree bark, smell pine, rain and wildflowers. I will listen to my footsteps rhythmically on the trail. I will remember to look up and around me. I will enjoy soft breezes on my skin and in my hair.

For the pain, the joys, the fun, the laughs, the decisions, the guilt-free eating, the views and more…

This is why I’m a backpacker.

This is my happy place.

Home.

Q & A from you!

I’ve received some great questions from people about the upcoming adventure, and I wanted to share them here. If while reading through these questions, you think of one, please email me (robin.grapa@gmail.com) — I might do another Q&A entry a little while later if I get enough questions. Here’s what I’ve gotten so far:

Why? Because I can’t get enough. I’ve dreamed of doing long hikes pretty much constantly since my first in 2006, so I might as well just do it again. As much as I love my weekend hikes, as well as the few extended hikes I get a chance to take, it’s just never enough. I could list a hundred reasons why that is… it’s good exercise, the scenery is awesome, the people are awesome, I can eat what I want and possibly still lose a few pounds, get dirt under my fingernails, swim in streams, smell the fresh air, laugh a lot and smile even more, it’s an adventure… I could go on. I love it. It’s my passion.

How long will it take? Somewhere between 5 and 6 months. Our tentative schedule is for a solid 5 months from April 22 – September 22.

How many miles do you go each day? The plan is to average about 20 miles/day over the entire trip. Mileages could range anywhere from 0 (zero day) to 30+. It’s common for thru-hikers to do a few 30-mile days in Northern California and Oregon.

Is your  mom hiking with you again? No, she won’t be thru-hiking the PCT with me. I knew this trail was going to be pretty intense, and I know that my mom has the stubborn determination to do it (it’s where I get it from, after all!), but for the mileage I planned on doing, I don’t know that she’d enjoy it and probably eventually want to toss me off a mountain… especially if I made her climb that mountain! However, even though she isn’t hiking with me the whole way, her and my dad are going to try to come out and hike a few days with us. They are also deeply involved in the trip because they will be shipping our resupply boxes to us… which is HUGE.

She has expressed how much she wished she was going with me, though. And I wish she was going, too. We were great hiking partners and always will be. Since the ADT hike, my mom AND my dad have gone on a couple of EPIC trips with me. We thru-hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail in two awesome weeks, and they came with me and a group of friends to the Absaroka/Beartooth mountains for a challenging cross-country backpacking trip. Her and my dad are currently working on sections of the Superior Hiking Trail on their own, too, so backpacking is in their blood. Who knows… maybe we can all do the AT together some day! Will this be my next trip!? Hmmm…

What if you and your hiking partner start hating one another? Hate is strong word, and I reserve that for very specific (and very rare) situations, and I don’t know that I could ever use it when talking about another person. So I can say confidently that I will never “hate” my hiking partner, no matter what. However, we’ve discussed the possibility of finding out we drive each other bonkers after a couple weeks on the trail in each other’s footsteps… or maybe we just won’t be able to tolerate each other’s stink. We know these things are a possibility, so we are going to try to communicate that as soon as we feel the need for a little solo time. It shouldn’t be too tough to get some solo time, which is going to be important for both of us on this journey regardless of what we think about each other. We both have plenty of things to think about and work on in our heads, so on those days, we’ll just plan to hike a little ways apart and catch up at intersections, a lunch stop, or maybe even camp. We are both prepared to hike solo – we have all the gear and the means to do so. So, short answer? We won’t hate each other. But we are both willing to adapt as we go.

What portion of the hike are you most excited about? And, conversely, what part do you think will be the biggest blah? I feel like this answer should be a specific place, and I do have a few places I really look forward to seeing, but I’m mostly excited about feelings and experiences that I have no idea I’ll have until I have them — the unknown. I am really excited about living out of my backpack, as simple as it gets, and being IN my surroundings. I see pictures of the mountains and forests, streams, trails and lakes and all I can think is, “I want to dive into that picture and never come out.” Of course I will come out… I’ll need to see Adam and probably get a shower every once in a while! But I’m mostly excited to just live inside all that beautiful scenery – being a part of it — for 5 months straight. Oh, and another bonus of a 5-month thru-hike (in comparison to the several smaller trips I’ve been on) will be NOT having to say, “I wish I didn’t have to go back to work on Monday.”

As for the biggest “blah?” I think it will have something to do with a trail food I’m sick of eating but we have tons of. Also, I suppose there’s going to be a day here or there where walking just feels monotonous, or my feet hurt, or we wonder “how in the hell are we still in the desert?” but in the end I don’t think “blah” will come into mind much. But when it does, it will be about something small and temporary – and we’ll move past it quickly.

How many pairs of shoes will you need? I think we’ll each go through five pairs of shoes. Maybe six. We’re both starting out with the Brooks Cascadia 7 Trail Running shoes, which is what we’ve been training in all year and LOVE! We will start out in the same shoes we’ve been training in, as they still have plenty of miles on them, and we have our 2nd pair bought already. From there we will buy as we go, having them sent to Post Offices along the way for Adam to pick up for us. We chose to wait on buying ALL of our shoes after reading suggestions from past thru-hikers. Many peoples’ feet changed size, and then they had 5 or 6 pairs of shoes that didn’t fit. The Brooks Cascadia Trail Runner is the most popular shoe on the PCT for both men and women, and with how happy we’ve been with them so far, I don’t see us finding they won’t work, but we could get out there and not like how they feel on new terrain or something, too. So with these variables in mind, we decided to purchase as we go.

What’s Adam going to do while waiting for you between pick-up points? In addition to helping us out with our town chores and trail support, he’s got all kinds of things in mind to keep himself busy. He wrote an entry explaining his role in his blog at mobileoffic78.blogspot.com.  Read about he’s going to be doing by clicking here!

What (besides people) are you bringing with if any to keep you from going insane? Like a stuffed animal or something? I’m not going to be carrying a stuffed animal with me, as I’ve tried to ditch most of my unnecessary gear to save weight… but I have added a few comfort items, and I suppose that’s to keep me from going insane… for example, on a long day or when I just need a distraction, I am bringing my iPod Nano. That way I’ve got some upbeat tunes to listen to if I’m getting cranky, tired, sore, or a combination of all three. And it’s got a radio, which could be fun if I’m able to lock in a local station. I may also carry a mini deck of cards. Oh, and Snickers. Those will help my taste buds from going insane.

What meal are you looking most forward to eating on the trail? Snickers and Jelly Beans are my favorite snacks. Other than that, everything. Seriously. I love to eat, always have, and eating will probably be one of my very favorite things to do while on the trail. It probably won’t even matter what it is half the time. Peanut butter, cheese, jelly beans, Sriracha sauce – all rolled into a tortilla? Maybe… everything tastes better on the trail!

As for when we get off the trail? That’s a whole new ballgame. Milkshakes are always my go-to. Burgers with bacon and cheese on them, brewed coffee, beer, steak, pizza… that’s a few of the things I think I’ll be getting in towns.

What’s the story on the pickle? Ah, Disco Pickle! Rachel, Adam and I wanted to come up with a unique name for the 3 of us on this hike. We had a lot of different ideas, but it was tough to come up with something that really wrapped up our three personalities as one. Disco Pickle is eventually what we decided on… after a night out and a few drinks. It’s silly, like us. The “Disco” comes more from Adam because he does this awesome dance (usually to a Bee Gee’s song), which he calls “The Grr Dance.” If you haven’t seen it, you totally should. It’s spectacular! The “Pickle” is more about me and Rachel. There’s a backstory, but I’m going to give you the short version: Rachel snuck a giant pickle into my backpack on one of our trips and I carried it the whole day before realizing it was in there. It was a great prank that we wanted to carry on, which we will… but in a lighter, less-food-smelling way… which you’ll see eventually see. ;)

Oh, and those giant, pre-bagged pickles? Nasty-tasting. Even on the trail. Gotta’ get a fresh one. The fresh ones are awesome.

Will you guys be tracking your weight gain/loss along the way? We will definitely weigh ourselves before and after and maybe take a few measurements. It’s definitely not something we’re going to focus too much on, but we are curious as to how our bodies will change. I can tell you for sure that we are both looking forward to dropping a few pounds, though! Where else can you eat as much as you want and still lose weight? Just another reason to love long-distance backpacking. It’s really all about food.

Gerbil? Livvy and Kandi, you crack me up and I love you. Thank you for asking this important question. Gerbil is a funny word, always has been, and always will be. That is all.

Does your budget take into account fluctuating fuel costs? Also, does your conscience bother you that you’re doing the LEAST GREEN thru hike ever? Thanks for the question, Adam! Ya’ poop. :)

But I’ll answer it anyway! I guess we sort of took into account fluctuating fuel costs, because our budget for gas is really high so we were sure to be covered. As long as it doesn’t go over $5/gallon, we should be okay. And no, my conscience doesn’t bother me at all about the least-green thru-hike having a car trail us… I get to see my husband regularly. And he’ll bring food. Two words: worth it.

What bug are you most afraid of? It’s always been the centipede. I hate them things and hopefully I won’t see any on the PCT. I honestly think I’d rather see a scorpion. As for spiders, I don’t mind them unless they surprise me. I admittedly do the “crazy-dance” when I run into a giant spider web and feel paranoid that there’s a giant fuzzy 8-legger running around on my back for the next hour. But my biggest bug fear is still those damn centipedes. I’ll let you all know if that changes along the way. Let’s just hope I don’t find something nastier than a bug that is named for having 100 legs – even though they have only 30-34 legs… it was named for having 100… because that’s what it seems like. Damn creepy 100-legged-looking nasty bugs. *shiver*

What are you doing after the hike? I have a blog entry that kind of explains it, but I’ll throw it in here – a short version. After the hike is done, I am going to school to earn my CDL (commercial driver’s license). Adam already has his CDL, so we will find a trucking company that is a good fit for us and team drive. It’s something we’ve always wanted to try, and we figured it would be a good transition from living out of a backpack and car for 5 months. We plan to drive truck at least until we have all of our debt paid off. From there, we don’t know yet, but we have lots of time to think about it and come up with a plan. Life is fabulous.

That’s all for now, folks! If you have any other questions, email them to me at robin.grapa@gmail.com or post it on the Disco Pickle Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DiscoPickle. I’ll try to collect them for another entry if I get enough… or at least get an answer to you!

Random stats for today:

We are 54 days from hitting the trail.

I am in my last week of work – my last day is this Friday. Crazy.

Adam and I leave for our road trip in a little over 2 weeks.

It’s happening!

Planning for the PCT – Part 2

The Magical, Funkalicious, Giant Disco Pickle Resupply and Schedule Spreadsheet

Okay, so maybe I’m a little too excited about a stinkin’ spreadsheet. Hey – when it’s all about backpacking stuff – it doesn’t take much!

Rachel and I had all of our resupply-strategy materials spread out around my nearly-empty apartment to get this thing goin!

Rachel and I had all of our resupply-strategy materials spread out around my nearly-empty apartment to get this thing goin!

It’s a big, but fun project to come up with a tentative schedule for a 5-month hike with so many variables. And if you dig around online, you’ll find several spreadsheets that other hikers have put together already, so it would be pretty easy to just pick up someone else’s work and run with it. I looked at a few of them, and I was able to sort of make sense of them, but there are a few benefits we would get from creating our own from scratch… besides an excuse to get together and share our excitement on a Thursday night!

The first thing we did to get started on this project was to list all the towns that are potential resupply points along the trail. We certainly won’t stop at every single one, but they are all potential places we could meet up with Adam. Listing the towns also helped us become familiar with the names of places we’ll hike past, and since we also listed what PCT mile each place is at, we know where they are located along the way and about how far apart they are.

Next to the towns, we listed the distance from the trail each town is and how to get there. It tells us whether we would need a ride into town from a road, if it’s a short enough distance to walk, or if we’ll need to take a side trail and then catch a ride. Once we decide what town we’re going to resupply at, this will tell us how to meet up with Adam to get there.

Random bacon. Because it's bacon.

Random bacon. Just because it’s bacon.

Once we had our towns and mileages down, we were able to mark our resupply schedule. Our resupplies are roughly scheduled to hit about every 210 miles, or 10-15 days. This is when my parents will send us a package with another 10-15 days’ worth of food and supplies, which we’ll keep in the car. Rachel and I will only carry about 3-4 days’ of food at a time while hiking, on average, and when we meet up with Adam, we’ll grab another 3-4 days’ worth and get back on the trail.

Next to resupply, we marked a few “zero days,” which are days we hike zero PCT miles. There were a few towns and places we knew we’d like to take a whole day off, so we marked them right away. We have room for more, so we’ll take those when we need or want them, and when our schedule allows it. Sidenote: In addition to zero days, we’ll be taking some “nero” days, which are days of low mileage… or “near zero.” On a typical “nero” day, we might meet Adam at a road early, head into town, resupply, get some dinner, get a hotel and shower, then in the morning have Adam drop us back off on the trail where he picked us up. This way we’re still getting everything done we need to get done in town, but we’re still getting some miles in each day.

In addition to getting resupply, we have maps bundled in sections that we’ll have to get along the way. This is also marked on our spreadsheet, so we know at first glance about when we’ll need to get a new pack of maps for the next section coming up.

Our last column lists our tentative schedule. These dates are ROUGH. We started by picking a start and finish date to shoot for, figured out our overall average hiking pace to hit our tentative finish date, and from there I called Adam in. In about 10 minutes he had an Excel formula created that filled in what date we’ll be in each town listed on our spreadsheet… all based on our average miles/day. Thank you, Adam!

A lil' sampling of our spreadsheet.

A lil’ sampling of our spreadsheet.

So our exciting end result is a spreadsheet with all the towns along the PCT from Mexico to Canada and what date (roughly, on average, based on a tentative finish date) we’ll be at each one. It’s funny because we know these will all change. The important thing we’re getting out of this reference is when we need to be to a few major points along the way to stay on schedule. Staying on schedule is pretty important if we want to finish… because being in Washington, in the Cascades, in October can be dangerous. So our goal is to finish before the major snowstorms hit. The rest of the dates are super-flexible.

“Now all we have to do is hike.”

And that right there, in my opinion, is the magic of a having a rough plan. If we can comfortably say that, then we’re ready to go!

Planning for the PCT – Part 1

Planning for a 5 to 6-month hike is no small task. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, either. I’m sure we’ll see people that successfully thru-hike the PCT this year that have been planning for years, as well as some that just woke up one day in early March and decided to hike it. But however one decides to plan, the best advice is to “plan and then adapt.” Thanks to Ken and Marcia Powers, who gave this exact advice to me when I began to plan my ADT hike back in 2005. You can plan as much as you want, but those plans will change the minute you hit the trail, and that’s okay. You just adjust as you go. It’s all part of the adventure.

With that being said, why plan at all, right? Well, I think it’s still important to have some sort of plan down, as long as you can be comfortable with it shifting around… having something to follow… knowing what things might happen… what we might encounter…  Okay, I guess what it really comes down to, is it makes me feel like I have my crap together. That’s good enough reason for me!

The first list... of many! (created on Feb. 23, 2012)

The first list… of many! (created on Feb. 23, 2012)

The planning strategy for this thing started out pretty basic, and slowly became more and more specific, but never quite systematic, if that makes any sense. I never had a laid-out plan from start to finish. It started with thinking, obsessing, researching, watching YouTube videos and reading books… just basically getting to know the trail and become familiar with some of the sights along the way, as well as some basic stats. In between all of this, we did some basic training, which involved Rachel and I going on some long training hikes ranging anywhere between 10 and 30 miles in one day. We were able to get out for at least one long hike each month – sometimes we squeezed in a second one. In between those long hikes we kept up our fitness with our regular workouts on our own – running, fitness classes, muscle conditioning, etc.

Rachel and I feeling success after our longest hiking day - 30 miles!

Rachel and I feeling success after our longest hiking day – 30 miles!

As time passed by, we started to take on some more specific tasks. One night in June, Rachel and I met at her house with all of our current backpacking gear and a digital kitchen scale. We inventoried and weighed everything we had and came up with our base weights. Our results?

Robin: 26 pounds, 2 oz.

Rachel: 24 pounds, 3-1/2 oz.

We were okay with this, but figured we could try to widdle away at that base weight a little in the next six months. We haven’t reweighed our gear since then, and I honestly don’t know that we will have time to before we go. But either way, if we had to leave for the trail today with those weights, we’d be okay with it. And besides, I’m sure we’ll adjust that even more once we hit the trail.

(Left) Rachel weighing a Croc/campshoe (Right) My gear all laid out

(Left) Rachel weighing a Croc/campshoe (Right) My gear all laid out

A little later on, I ripped the pages out of a guidebook into predetermined chunks and printed the 28 coordinating sections of topo maps for Rachel and I to carry, then we got together and organized them into individual Zipock bags so they would be easy to reference and pick up as we go.

We also gathered food throughout the year. And that is a special story I will save for another blog entry… because first of all, it’s food, so it deserves its own entry. Second, we managed to gather a lot of it and I’d like to share how. And third, if you follow my husband’s blog, you know there’s a very recent twist to the story of our food loot, and I don’t know the exact outcome of that yet, but it’s quite the story!

Then it got down to the nitty gritty. We applied for permits, discussed resupply strategies and zero days. We thought about bacon, milkshakes and ice axes… foot care, miles per day and cheeseburgers. Technology and on-trail blogging… and more. Most of this stuff was discussed over a beer on some random Thursday “PCT meeting,” or on a long day hike… we made a lot of our decisions this way, in addition to sending hundreds of emails back and forth discussing things we read online, or saw, or whatever.

Maps and a strategically-ripped-up guide book.

Maps and a strategically-ripped-up guide book.

Quite surprisingly, having a support vehicle acting as our bounce box delivered us a challenge in planning. You wouldn’t think it would complicate things, but it raised all kinds of questions:

What do we send in resupply boxes and what do we keep in the car?

Do we have room in the car for all this stuff?

How often do we send resupply?

Where will we meet Adam along the way?

Will the roads be in good condition to meet?

What if none of us have cell coverage and we’re not on schedule?

There were all kinds of questions like these running through our minds that aren’t a concern when you don’t have a support car, but we know that the final outcome is going to be worth it. The best part for me is getting to see my husband on a regular basis! So even though we won’t have all the answers to our questions, and we’ll be required to do a little more guess-work with our planning — we have a guy willing to do our stinky laundry for us, scope out the best place for a milkshake when we get into town, then pick us up off the trail and bring us to that milkshake.

So with those questions in the back of our mind, we started a spreadsheet… a spreadsheet that would turn into 86 rows and 9 columns of magical information that became our Disco Pickle PCT Resupply Master Spreadsheet. It was a rough guide that we can glance at and say, “There’s our trip. It’s all gonna’ change, but it’s written down and it’s the best we’re gonna’ do.”

The Magical Disco Pickle PCT Spreadsheet in the works.

The Magical Disco Pickle PCT Spreadsheet in the works.

So… in my next post, “Planning for the PCT – Part 2,” I’ll talk about this magical Disco Pickle Resupply and Schedule Spreadsheet in a little more detail. It’s cool stuff. Okay, I think it’s cool stuff. Maybe you will, too. :)

A series of “lasts”

“This might be the last time I ever do this…”

I’ve been saying that a lot lately!

I don’t know if I’ll ever return to an office job. I might end up right back where I am… who knows. But either way, my roughly-planned future doesn’t include sitting in front of a computer 40 hours every week. I’m not shutting out the idea completely, but it is weird to think about. So… this might be the last time I ever work in an office.

Last month I picked up a specialty catalog project – one of my very favorites to work on. As I started to work on the layout – my favorite part of my favorite project – I thought to myself, “This will be the last Business Gifts Catalog I ever work on.” Right now I’m working on a flyer. I have 2-1/2 weeks left of work. This one will probably run me into my last day, so it’s the last flyer I’ll ever work on.

Monday night after kickboxing class I felt really sad. I LOVE that class, and I’ve been going pretty faithfully for 8 years. EIGHT. I was talking with Heidi (one of my greatest friends, fellow box, and workout buddy!) when class was done, and I shared with her my sudden realization that next week Monday will be my last kickboxing class. At least the last kickboxing class with Erin, who is the toughest instructor I’ve ever had for a group fitness class.

Last night I taught my last muscle conditioning class at the YMCA. It’s been a really fun run, and I’m going to miss all the awesome people I’ve met at the Y… especially my group of regulars!

4imprint features their employees modeling the products we sell in our print pieces and online, which is really fun. I just received a sample of our latest catalog – I’m on the cover wearing our Hanes Tagless T-shirt… and as a bonus, my marketing peeps all signed it for me with nice messages wishing me well! Lordy I’m gonna’ miss all these 4i people!. So anyway, this is the last catalog cover I’ll be featured on.

I will be attending my last Fox Valley Backpacker’s Meetup meeting on Feb. 25th. I’m excited about it because Rachel and I are going to talk to the group about our hike. But again… I’ve met so many great people through this group and I’m going to miss them all!

Pretty soon I’ll get my last paycheck. And I’ll sleep in our little cozy studio apartment for the last night. And I’ll experience my last day at work. There’s a lot more “lasts” coming, too, but each one gets me that much closer to what’s coming up next… because seeing something end always brings the start to something new. And boy, oh boy, is there ever some new stuff coming at me! Bring it on! I’m ready!

catalog

The last catalog cover I’ll probably be on. And my marketing coworkers signed it for me! How sweet! :)

(A couple of blog drafts I’m currently working on are one on planning and one with Q&A – so if you have any questions, feel free to send me a message and I’ll try to include it in my Q&A entry!)

My hiking partner!

Rachel and me on one of our early training hikes. South Kettle Moraine, April 2012.

Rachel and me on one of our early training hikes. South Kettle Moraine, April 2012.

I forgot I wrote up an entire entry to post for when Rachel made the announcement that she was hiking with me. With all the excitement of that happening, I totally forgot to make my post! Well, better late than never, so here it is!

RACHEL IS GOING TO THRU-HIKE THE PCT WITH ME!

So you already know that my husband, Adam, is going along with me on this PCT journey as my super-awesome vehicle support guy/bounce-box on 4 wheels. Well, he’s actually OUR super-awesome vehicle support guy! He’ll be supporting both Rachel and me as we hike north from Mexico to Canada. How awesome is that!?

As I’ve probably mentioned, Adam and I have been planning this for quite a while, and Rachel is the very first person I told when we finally came up with our ‘plan in phases.’ I told her about the PCT and truck-driving afterward. I mostly wanted to get the opinion from a trusted friend to see what their reaction was. Were we nuts? Did it matter if we were?

When I told her, we were in the beginning of an overnight 32-mile hike — I was training for the 2012 Frozen Otter at the time, and she agreed to go on a couple of crazy training runs with me (I should’ve known right there she was as crazy as me and would be going along! Haha!). She was totally supportive of the hike and the career change — she thought it was a cool idea. We had lots of time to talk, and she had lots of time to think. What I didn’t know was that she would decide to go with us!

We all decided it was best to keep this all a secret at first. It didn’t make sense to raise a ruckus unless we were sure we could pull it all off. Big things had to happen before we were certain… between the three of us, there was a house to put on the market, money to be saved, downsizing to do, collecting of gear and food, debts had to be paid down, and pets had to find new homes. For me and Adam, once we were at a point where we were pretty sure we were going to make it, we told our parents. That was last summer. Then as we got closer to our goals, we told our employers and our close friends.

I gave my notice at work a little sooner than Rachel did, since Adam and I were taking off a month before the hike to take a giant road-trip.  So we “spilled the beans” a little before Rachel was ready. So it was challenging to keep that secret while wanting to shout our excitement! Now it’s all out there! Yay!

I’m so excited to have Rachel hiking with me. We’ve been really close backpacking buddies for a few years now – we met through the Fox Cities Backpackers Meetup Group at meetup.com (look it up! It’s awesome!). We went on a lot of trips together, and found that we had a very similar sense of humor, and just got along really well in general. I feel very close to her after this past year, as we found we can talk and laugh at just about anything. Mostly ourselves, but that’s one of the great things about our friendship. She has definitely become one of my very best friends.

Since she decided she was going with us, we’ve been on a whole bunch of training hikes. We’ve done long day hikes anywhere from 10 miles to 30 miles. Our biggest training hike was our “Pictured Rocks Crazy Hike,” which was 42 miles in two days. It was awesome. We do a really good job of pushing each other when we’re feeling down or tired. When we’re both tired, we somehow switch off bursts of energy and positivity. When we’re both excited and energetic, it’s kind of scary how jittery and silly we can get. But that’s what makes it so fun.

Hiking as a team on such a long hike has its pros and cons, and we’ve discussed these all openly. Pros are obvious – having someone to share the experience with step by step, company on low days, company on high days, safety in numbers, a person to share some of the weight with, help with navigational decisions, etc. The cons are mostly related to the fact that there is a chance we could be forced to split off for any number of reasons. One of us could get injured, we could need some solo time, or we could just get plain old sick of each other. We’ve discussed everything we could think of, but we’re going to do what we can to stick together as a team. Plans can change, but we all know that and are willing to “roll with it.”

The bottom line is this: We make a damn good hiking team and we have a lot of fun!

We’re excited! Have I mentioned that yet?

Overwhelmed

I wrote up a blog draft of all the stuff I’m overwhelmed about, and then I reread my last blog post, which I felt weird about posting anyway… it’s all kind of weird and random and unorganized, and I realized that I’m at crunch time and my head is a mess! And my current draft wasn’t any different. It was a rambling of all the things – in GREAT detail – that I’m overwhelmed about. I still wanted to share some of it, since it’s a big part in getting ready to go, so I decided I’d write this entry instead. Even though it’s long, it’s still shorter than my last version… and hopefully more organized.

I decided to turn the rambling into a list, because when I look at a list of things I feel happy. Even if they’re things I need to do. Even if I don’t get to everything (which I rarely do) it organizes my thoughts. I really think once I’m hiking it’s going to much more simple, and you’ll be reading about things like pretty flowers, mountain peaks, tough climbs, snow cups, food, holey socks, Snickers, hot weather, cold weather, hikers, stink, and probably more about food. I can’t wait for that. So bear with me… this is prep time, so it’s probably not quite as exciting as what’s to come. For now I’m sort of a scatterbrain… if you haven’t already been able to tell!

Anyway, lists… to give you an idea of what’s going through my mind before taking off on such a life-changing adventure. Okay, wait… confession: to give MYSELF an idea of what’s going through my mind before taking off on a life-changing adventure. It’s crazy, man.

I’m overwhelmed about:

Moving: We have to be out of our apartment by the end of this month. The big stuff has to be out soon because we have my dad’s pickup truck for a week while they’re vacationing in Florida – we plan to take care of that tomorrow. We also have to finish packing, taking trips to Goodwill, organize and clean.

Budget: We are in the process of transitioning our budget of saving as much as we can, to spreading that savings out to last us a year. Adam is taking the bulk of this job, and he’s doing a really good job! Thank you, Adam!

Vehicle: Will our 8-year old Vue hold out for us? What are our options? Alternatives? Backup plans? *cringe* Is it worth getting a new, guarantee-reliable car at this point? Will budget-fudging allow it?

Training: I haven’t had as much training time recently as I’d like for a couple of reasons. One is laziness. I need to get off my booty and work out more and run more to keep up my cardio. I’m going to be needing it! It’s also winter, and it’s been a cold one. It takes me an hour to drive to good hiking trails. Hmm, what else? Doesn’t matter. These are all excuses and I need to turn them off and get it goin’. I think I’ll push for a hike this Sunday.

Insurance: Health Insurance companies won’t cover me because of my health history. I’ve been so spoiled with my awesome insurance through work, so this has been a tough transition. But thankfully we’ve found a pretty darn good alternative with a travel insurance. Nobody is going to cover my “pre-existing condition” without us using our entire savings, so we’re going to have to go on the hopes that I don’t relapse this year. I’m confident I won’t. I’ve kicked Aplastic Anemia’s ass and it knows it. I just wish that counted when looking for health insurance!

Saying Good-bye: We’ve been trying as best we can to get together with friends as a last “hurrah.” We’re have a going-away party we’re planning in Oshkosh (to be announced soon!), and my parents are in the thought stages of having a family get-together with a typical Laatsch bonfire. Boo-yah! Exciting! But, wait… sad, pouty face. I love my friends and family and I’m going to miss them a TON!

Work: I will miss the work I do. I really enjoy laying out catalogs. I won’t miss sitting at a computer 40 hours a week, though. Honesty there. I will miss a consistent paycheck and benefits. But the tradeoff is worth it to me. From an ad I saw in a magazine a few years ago – and has been hanging on my cubicle wall since:

“This is a freak. He eats nature. Sleeps nature. He drinks nature in. His highways are trails. His cubicle is a peak. And the best part of his day is his commute.”

This will be my new existence, and over the next year you’ll get a taste of the happiness it brings me — because I’m going to share the love out of it through this blog!